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A new show debuting soon on HTTV is introducing viewers to some of the judges who decide the winners at High Times Cannabis Cup competitions. The new video series, Meet the Judges, launches this week with episodes shot at the Michigan Cannabis Cup held in June.

The new show breaks the long-standing tradition of keeping High Times Cannabis Cup judges secret, offering a unique perspective on the individual methods judges use to rate cannabis flower, concentrates, and other products based on established criteria. Jon Cappetta, vice president of content at High Times, says the new series sheds new light on the judging behind Cannabis Cup competitions.

“We wanted to open the curtain a bit to give the public more insight into who exactly these experts judging their products are, and what their process is,” he explains. “One of the most common questions I get about the competition is ‘How does one judge one product against another?’ and as you’ll see in the series each judge has their own technique, so we wanted to give the world a visual into how this all goes down.”

One of the initial episodes of Meet the Judges features Danny Danko, the High Times senior cultivation editor and 17-year veteran of the company.

“After all these years I’ve seen some of the best buds around—from Amsterdam to Barcelona to Vancouver Island and all over the United States and all over the world,” Danko notes.

High Times Cannabis Cups events are held around the world, offering local growers and manufacturers an opportunity to share their passion and quality. And as legal cannabis continues to spread across the U.S. and abroad, new markets have a chance to display how their wares compare with the rest of the world.

“Michigan stacks up with some of the best on the planet,” Danko says. “No one really knows about how great the quality is here, but there’s some amazing cannabis and concentrates here in Michigan.”

Danko then shares his process for rating entries in the flower competition. The first indication of quality important to him is appearance. He’ll even use a magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe at times to get a close look at the trichomes on the bud.

Once he’s sized up how the flower looks, Danko then takes a good whiff to get the aroma, checking to see if the bud is fruity, gassy, or perhaps minty or spicy. Once it’s passed the olfactory test, he grinds the bud to be rolled into a joint. But before he does, he again notes the scent of the flower after it’s been ground.

“That gives you an idea of the scent profile and the flavor profile,” explains Danko.

He then rolls the herb into a joint, but before he lights it, a couple of dry tokes impart the flavor of the cannabis on his palate. Then it’s time to fire up.

“The most important thing is how it tastes and the potency level and burnability,” says Danko. “So, even if it looks good and smells good, if it doesn’t have those things it’s not going to rise to the top level.”

Once the joint is burning, Danko takes note of the flavor and waits a few minutes to experience the nature of the high. He’s also looking for the joint to burn to white ash, a sign that the cultivator has properly flushed the flower of nutrients before harvest. Danko is then ready to rate the entry, providing his input on who should win the weekend’s awards.

Introducing Adam ill

Another episode of Meet the Judges features Adam ill, a radio and podcast personality who’s been in the cannabis scene since he smoked for the first time as a 13-year-old at his bar mitzvah.

“If you give me cannabis, I’ll tell the terpene profile, [if it’s] indica, sativa, or hybrid, let you know indoor or outdoor, just because I’ve experienced it and been a part of it and it’s been a part of my life,” ill say by way of introduction. “So just being able to be knowledgeable about the strains and the effects and what good weed looks like is what helps me qualify to be a judge.”

ill’s process to judge a cannabis flower, like Danko’s, begins with getting a good look at the entry to note color and appearance.

“If it doesn’t look like a winner, I ain’t smoking it,” he exclaims. “Because we only smoking the best!”

Checking the aroma is next on the list for ill, who will sometimes reclose the jar the sample comes and then open it again to give his nose a fresh whiff. Then it’s time for the first hit. But unlike Danko, ill prefers to judge the entries using a bong instead of a joint. A couple of puffs to judge flavor on both the draw and exhale, and a moment to notice the effect, and ill is ready to rate the entry.

Competitions Highlight Industry’s Best

Meet the Judges also gives a sense of just what the Cannabis Cup competitions mean for the winners and the marijuana community at large.

“The beauty and the essence of the Cannabis Cup is the people,” says Danko. “And as you see with the people who are winning, in a lot of cases, it’s people who have small caregiver farms and grow and they end up winning a Cannabis Cup and it’s an absolutely life-changing experience for them. It really is just amazing to see that we can have an impact on the quality of cannabis and also on the community. The beauty of the Cannabis Cup is that it keeps that tradition alive.”

Catch Meet the Judges on HTTV beginning this week. Other installments of the series feature judges including Damien DiStefano of Over the Moon Clothing, former NHL player Darren McCarty of the Detroit Red Wings, and comedian Rob Cantrell.

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