Alaska’s recreational cannabis industry has hosted many competitions in recent years where growers and manufacturers went head-to-head on everything from the best indica flower to the best gummy edible. This year’s High Times Cannabis Cup will put a twist on the formula: The public will be the judges.

The High Times Cannabis Cup Alaska: People’s Choice Edition 2022 does away with the select judging panel that most other competitions use by packaging samples — a ton of samples — of the competition into judging kits that went on sale to the general public on Aug. 27, giving customers an opportunity to judge a bevy of products spread across several categories.

High Times has been a pillar of the marijuana industry and began hosting cannabis competitions in 1988 in Amsterdam, holding its first in the U.S. in 2010. Mark Kazinec, the High Times Director of Events and Competition, said they introduced the People’s Choice competitions in several states following loads of requests from the public for the opportunity to be a judge.

“It’s different than the former models we’ve done,” he said. “It’s open to the public and it’s way more democratized. In the past we’d have 200 judge kits, and we’d hand select through an application process about 20 judges for each category. That’d be friends of friends, OG growers and people who’ve proved themselves in the industry. That was fun but so many people want to be judges, so many people ask us to be judges and we want more feedback from different walks of life. From the OG grower to the soccer mom who’s trading out her glass of wine for a joint at the end of the night. Anybody can be a judge as long as they’re eligible to purchase cannabis in Alaska. So, instead of 200 judge kits, we have 2,000 judge kits.”

The logistics of collecting and distributing competition samples is a challenge in a regular competition and the High Times’ People’s Choice Competition is an order of magnitude larger. To get the job done, High Times partnered with Anchorage’s Enlighten Alaska to collect 110 different product entries from 30 different brands across nine different categories including indica, sativa and hybrid flower, non-infused pre-rolls, infused pre-rolls, concentrates, vape pens, gummy edibles and non-gummy edibles.

In all, organizers said the competition entries amounted to more than 72,000 grams of cannabis.

On a Tuesday morning ahead of the sale date, the Enlighten and High Times crews got together to package the kits for indica flower, collecting 11 one-gram samples into a tie-dye pouch along with a handful of other goodies. Each kit also comes with a zippered tote bag branded with High Times and the purchase also qualifies buyers to pick up a backpack once they arrive in Alaska.

The High Times-branded backpacks were expected to arrive by the end of September and organizers hoped to have them in time to go out with the judging kits, but global supply chain issues delayed the shipment. They’ll be delivered to retailers for pickup by judges with proof of purchase.

Enlighten Brand Director Winston Montecillo said it was a great opportunity to collaborate with High Times and other growers around the state and grow the industry by connecting people with products they may not normally have available.

“It’s competitive collaboration,” he said, adding that competitions in Alaska have proved challenging to navigate through the state’s regulatory system but said it’s been continually getting better.

Retailers around the state held special launch parties to celebrate the kits going on sale. Enlighten opened early with a low-fi DJ and a photo booth.

While there weren’t the same long lines that other states have attracted on opening day, there was a steady stream of people stopping by on Aug. 27 to pick up kits. The price of the kits ranged between $119 and $279 depending on the category and the amount of product, which was a significant discount compared to buying each product individually. The deal, though, was far from being the only driver for people who showed up early to take home kits.

“Three years ago when we had the last High Times up here I had a buddy who did it and I have been keeping an eye out,” said James Camp. “Every other time I’ve seen High Times, it seems really selective. It being People’s Choice is nice to be accessible because it’s the whole community and not just the industry itself.”

Camp purchased the concentrates kit, which included 14 half-gram samples totaling 7 grams. That’s the daily limit for concentrate sales in Alaska, and when asked if he was daunted by the task of judging all the kits in the next month, Camp laughed and said he'd be fine.

High Times' Mark Kazinec was at the Enlighten launch, hyping up participants and reminding them to approach the judging seriously because, after all, the growers and manufacturers sure are taking it seriously.

Participants in the competition have until Oct. 9 to submit their scores for tallying. Judges will be reviewing each category of products, ranking them on categories like aesthetics, aroma, taste, effects and overall journey. Competitors, regardless of their finish, will get access to the rankings and anonymized judges' comments. Winners in each category will be announced via an online awards show hosted by Raspberry Roots on Sunday, October 23 at 4:20 p.m.

For more information on the competition, visit

Kits are available on a first-come, first-serve basis while supplies last. Participating retailers include:

· Enlighten—2600 Spenard Rd, Anchorage, AK 99503

· Secret Garden—726 E 15th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501

· The Tree House—341 Boniface Pkwy Unit D, Anchorage, AK 99504

· Uncle Herb's—6511 Arctic Spur Rd, Anchorage, AK 99518

· Uncle Herb's—360 Boniface Pkwy, Anchorage, AK 99504

· Good Cannabis—356 Old Steese Hwy, Fairbanks, AK 99701

· GoodSinse—2604 Davis Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99709

· GoodSinse—29 College Rd #8C, Fairbanks, AK 99701

· Nature's Releaf—503 7th Ave, Fairbanks, AK 99701

· Tanana Herb Company—1200 Well St, Fairbanks, AK 99701

· Uncle Herb's—1213 Ocean Dr #2, Homer, AK 99603

· Rainforest Cannabis—726 Water St, Ketchikan, AK 99901

· Stoney Moose —127 Stedman St, Ketchikan, AK 99901

· Wildflower—158 Alimaq Dr, Kodiak, AK 99615

· The Tufted Puffin—216 Fourth Ave. Unit #2 Seward, AK 99664

· High3r by Bad Gramm3r—1204 Hyer Spur, Palmer, AK 99645

· The Connoisseur Lounge—226 Evergreen Ave, Palmer, AK 99645

· AKO Farms—1210 Beardslee Wy, Sitka, AK 99835

· High Expedition—13465 E Main St, Talkeetna, AK 99676

· Bad Gramm3r—1150 N Helen Ln, Wasilla, AK 99654

· Green Raven—5320 W Parks Hwy, Wasilla, AK 99654

· Laughing Salmon—173 N Rosie Cir #1, Wasilla, AK 99654

Matt Buxton is a freelance writer in Anchorage. Comments about this story? Contact Alaska Cannabist editor Dorothy Resch Chomicz at 907-459-7532 or

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