High Times Presents The Cannabis Cup
Koch Entertainment // Unrated // $24.95 // May 20, 2003
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted June 5, 2003
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The Movie

Hardcore dope smokers are the closest thing that we as a society have to comic book Super-Villains.

Now here comes the standard disclaimer: this is not a moral judgment or any kind of censure. Quite frankly, that which free-thinking adults want to do in their spare time and harms nobody else is their own business. Do No Harm, and all that goes with it, is a pretty solid ideology that, as far as morality is concerned, far surpasses a lot of which passes for organized religion nowadays. And, to paraphrase George Carlin from memory, marijuana would probably be legalized by now if the proponents for the cause could ever remember where they left the petitions. 

So what exactly do I mean by the Super-Villain analogy? Consider the commonly accepted stereotype of the hardcore burnout: laid-back, forgetful, goofy, generally harmless, rather simple in nature and often intellectually... shall we say, capricious? But the minute they need to improvise any kind of drug paraphernalia, they jump into a telephone booth and emerge as PhD-level experts in mechanical and structural engineering. Hand them a shoe box, a ball-point pen, and a bag of weenies and they'll hand you a fully functioning bong. Give them an apple, a toothpick, and a bag of dried pinto beans and they'll devise a crude but effective cocaine grinder. And if they have to measure their stash and lack any kind of scale or measuring device, they'll calculate, to upwards of two-figures worth of significant digits, the weight of their baggies by making use of a rubber band, the navigational position of the stars, and the gravitational pull of the moon.

In short, if these fine people utilized their extensive expertise for the powers of "Good", we'd already have that 300 miles per gallon automobile engine, flying cars, personal jetpacks, self-peeling grapes, and perhaps, at long last, a decent Star Trek TV series. But to each their own (hell, if I spent half as much time studying stock market trends as I did watching DVDs, I'd roll my own in hundred dollar bills.)  

High Times Presents The Cannabis Cup is an entertaining and certainly eye-opening production. Founded in 1988 by High Times editor Steven Hager, The Cannabis Cup is an annual competition in which numerous blends of home-grown buds vie for the coveted award, a silver chalice that is given to the finest buds of the year. Taking place every November in Amsterdam, this competition attracts bongloads of marijuana aficionados from around the world. And make no mistake: these people are professional connoisseurs, and the buds that are showcased in this documentary are mouth-wateringly impressive. Interspersed among the numerous clips of the competition are scenes from Cannabis Castaways - a "reality show"-style experiment in which several people are chosen to live in a houseboat in Amsterdam for three days, with round-the-clock access to some of the finest weed ever grown. There are many other "shows" included on this documentary, including one that showcases pot-growing tips, as well as the omnipresent Highwitness News reports. Wake & Bake Amsterdam is just a lovely concept: a morning show for the toasted. Numerous musical numbers are present throughout the documentary, including performances from Fishbone and Starship. And, of course, there are endless scenes upon scenes of dope smoking. I got a contact high just by watching.

Let me reiterate: there is a lot of smoking going on in this documentary. Whether or not this intrigues or repels you is a personal matter, but for the professional hophead, the amateur, or even the curious, High Times Presents The Cannabis Cup is a riveting, informative, often hilarious and thoroughly entertaining documentary.



High Times Presents The Cannabis Cup is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Shot on videotape, the overall video presentation is very good, if not overly impressive. There is some noise on the transfer inherent to a lot of videotaped productions, but nothing overly distracting. I noticed some rare pixellatation and compression noise, especially in many of the dark and smoky scenes. (And let us be frank: there are many dark and smoky scenes!) Colors are adequately represented, although flesh tones seemed slightly unnatural at times. Haloing, jaggies, and edge-enhancement is minimal to non-existent, and contrast levels are natural. Overall I noticed few flaws that would seriously detract from the video presentation. The documentary generally looks fine and without major distractions.


The audio is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. The 5.1 mix is obviously the more engaging of the two; you get some serious LFE work, greater depth and spatiality to the soundstage, and some effective directional and surround effects. The dialog levels do sound a little on the thin side, as they are often rendered through the front channels as well as the center, giving it a slightly unnatural feel. The 2.0 soundtrack is generally satisfactory, but you won't find any noticeable degree of immersion, directionality, depth of fidelity or spatiality. What you will find is a decent reproduction of the soundtrack, with clear levels of dialog reproduction and decent if thin presentations of the musical numbers.

The Extras

High Times Presents The Cannabis Cup comes with a surprise smattering of extras. In the Strains section, you can jump to several sections of the documentary that feature various strains of marijuana which were entered into the competition. These strains include "Coffeeshop Strains", "Seed Company Strains", and "Hashish." My only issue with this section is that, although each selection will take you to the appropriate scene in the movie, it doesn't return you to the Strains menu when you are done. The movie continues playing! This is a small but noticeable error in mastering that should have been rectified during QA, but who am I to judge?

The Cannabis Castaways section allows you to meet the six castaways who, for three days, had to be the happiest dope smokers in the universe: Amie, Jeff, Nitro, Dan, Katie, and Jet. Each selection will take you to each castaway's introduction. The same authoring error that affected the last section is present here.

Extra Features includes "Meet The Founder", a fourteen-minute video piece that details the biography of High Times EIC Steven Hager. This piece is equally eye-opening, funny, tragic, and hopeful, and is an amazing companion piece to the documentary. See The Trailer contains the documentary's three-minute trailer.

The Jukebox section contains four musical performances from The Cannabis Cup: "Pass The Dutchie" by Jr. Jazz & The Cannabis Cup Band, "Tru Ganjaman" by Rocter T. & The Cannabis Cup Band, "AIDS and Armageddon" by Fishbone, and "Spell My Name" by Defari. You can jump to any one performance or play them all. The DVD-ROM portion of the disc contains a Weblink which allows you to access High Times on the Internet. And finally, the Credits section displays the credits for the fine folks who produced the DVD. These include such luminaries as Ken Wesmokenow, Ivana Blunt, and Philip DeBowle.

Final Thoughts:

I enjoyed every second of High Times Presents The Cannabis Cup. For those of us who have never made it over to Amsterdam to experience The Cannabis Cup live, the DVD is the next best thing. Truth to be told, the DVD presents a fairly solid argument that marijuana enthusiasts aren't simply the wastoid loser burnouts that society would like you to believe they are. On the other hand, those in society who are fully against the usage of marijuana for any purpose would most likely point to certain scenes on this documentary as motivation for their opening salvo in another pointless "War On Drugs." But no matter where your position on marijuana usage lies, High Times Presents The Cannabis Cup never fails to entertain or inform. This is a fascinating documentary, clever and funny and always entertaining. Perhaps a little envy-generating at times, but this of course depends on the particular preferences of the viewer. Nonetheless, this DVD comes recommended to both the faithful and the curious. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go order a pizza or five...

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