Emerald Cup launches a new Cannabis Classification System for 2022 Awards

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A revolution is underway at Emerald Cup (www.theemeraldcup.com) regarding how they will assess excellence in cannabis. With it comes a new system for anyone – from consumers, budtenders, dispensaries, judges, to growers, that will universally classify cannabis based on terpenes, flavor and effects. Rapidly fading are the days of simply seeking out the highest THC totals as science has converged to finally prove that terpenes are at the root of the entourage effect that consumers are seeking.

Terpenes, however, with their unfamiliar names and mysterious effects, have mostly added another layer of consumer confusion already complicated by overly broad Indica/Sativa/Hybrid terminology, whimsical strain names, irrelevant THC/CBD percentages, and other ambiguous factors that make the process of selecting the best or correct strain, a less-than-satisfying ordeal for even the most experienced cannabis connoisseurs.


In early 2021, recognizing the early signs of this cultural shift and looking ahead to the 18th Annual Emerald Cup Awards, co-Producers Tim and Taylor Blake thoughtfully assembled an advisory committee consisting of testing partners, leading experts, scientists, and previous judges – even founder Tim Blake himself – to implement a new terpene-forward system to serve as the base for competition judging. Sitting at the table of the landmark advisory council is a “who’s who” of the greatest minds in cannabis, including Dr. Mark Lewis of Napro Research, Joe Sullivan of Mercy Wellness, Michael Backes, author of the ‘Cannabis Pharmacy’ and creator of Perfect, ECA founder Tim Blake, Ryan Lee from Chimera and SC Labs’ Alec Dixon.

The 2021-2022 Emerald Cup competition will set the scene as the proving grounds to stress-test a new way of categorizing cannabis flowers. Always looking to level their playing field and eliminate as much bias as possible in the blind/anonymous sampling done by Emerald Cup judges each year, the event organizers and their testing partners at SC Labs decided to break the flower categories down further based on the chemometrics of each cultivar (better known as “chemovar” – the evolution of the term ‘dominant terpene’) evolving beyond last years flower category sorting by primary terpene content.

This game-changing realization led to months of further research, deeper discussion, and ultimately to the implementation of the Emerald Cup Cannabis Classification System based on PhytoFacts® powered by SC Labs.

The all-new classification system builds on last year’s approach of sorting flower entries by primary terpene content, leveraging a combined decade of research into Cannabis phytochemistry between  PhytoFacts®, developed by Napro Research in 2013, coupled with a powerful database over 250,000 terpene tests and aggregated by SC Labs, going back to their launch of terpene testing on Cannabis in 2013. The main class names were chosen to reflect the current vocabulary, and that are used industry wide and feel familiar to dispensaries and consumers. To increase understanding and adoption, each class is further explained using tasting notes, effects and common strains or cultivars.

SC Labs has taken PhytoFacts® to a new level by using it to educate the marketplace on a level never seen before. Alec Dixon has been at the forefront of fine-tuning the terpene-forward classification system and demonstrating how it benefits the entire ecosystem and supply chain, from breeder to consumer. “Together we hope to empower a better way for consumers to understand the range of flavors, aromas and effects within Cannabis, and bridge the gap between what legacy has always known with regards to terpene content defining quality. We need to move away from this fixation that dispensary buyers and consumers have on delta-9 THC, which is currently blurring the lines between craft and corporate cannabis, and is homogenizing cannabis genetics and leading to the loss of biological diversity within Cannabis,” according to Dixon.

The classes of the Emerald Cup Cannabis Classification Based on PhytoFacts® powered by SC Labs include:

‘Jacks + Haze’ Class

  • Mostly ‘Sativa’-leaning varietals
  • Tasting notes – Fruity, Pinesol, Haze
  • Effects – Energizing, Cerebral, Artistically Inspiring
  • Common Cultivars – Classic Trainwreck, Jack Herer, Durban Poison, Super Lemon Haze
  • Terpenes Profile: Terpinolene, Caryophyllene, Myrcene

‘Tropical + Floral’ Class

  • Mostly ‘Indica’-leaning varietals
  • Tasting notes – Sweet, Floral, Tropical Fruit
  • Effects – Calming, Soothing, Relaxing
  • Common Cultivars – Super Skunk, Hawaiian, In the Pines, Dream Queen
  • Terpenes Profile: Ocimene, Myrcene

‘Sweets + Dreams’ Class

  • Mostly ‘Indica’-leaning varietals
  • Tasting Notes – Fruity, Sweet, Woody, Hoppy, Herbaceous
  • Effects – Relaxation, Couch Lock, Analgesic
  • Common Cultivars – Blue Dream, Tangie, Forbidden fruit, Grandaddy Purple, Purple Urkel, Grape Ape, Cherry AK, God’s Gift, Purple Punch
  • Terpenes Profile: Myrcene, Pinene, Caryophyllene

‘OGs + Gas’ Class

  • True ‘Hybrid’ varietals
  • Tasting Notes – Gas, Fuel, Sweet, Citrus, and Pepper
  • Effect – Uplifting, Stimulating, Analgesic, Relaxation
  • Common Cultivars – Classic OG Kush, Chemdog, Sour Diesel, Gorilla Glue
  • Terpenes Profile: Any combination or shifting codominance of Caryophyllene, Limonene, Myrcene

‘Desserts’ Class

  • True ‘Hybrid’ varietals
  • Tasting Notes – Deserts, Doughs, Citrusy & Spicy
  • Effects – Stimulating, Racy, Uplifting, Comforting
  • Common Cultivars – Classic Bubba Kush, GSC, Gelatos, Cakes
  • Any shift in codominance of Caryophyllene & Limonene

‘Exotics’ (Rare Terpene Combinations) Class

  • True ‘Hybrid’ varietals
  • Tasting notes – varied based on chemistry of entry
  • Effect – varied based on chemistry of entry
  • Common Cultivars – rarest terpene profiles entered into the Emerald Cup Competition

The system will first be used at the 18th Annual Emerald Cup Awards by four teams of expert judges covering Flowers, Pre-rolls, Solventless Concentrates, and Hydrocarbon Extracts categories hand-selected for their deep roots in Cannabis culture and their exceptional knowledge of the plant.

This disruptive advancement in classifying cannabis levels the playing field in the Cup’s 2022 competition as well as market competition between brands. With six easy-to-understand classes/names/descriptions the system aims to become an open-source, globally recognized grading solution for Cannabis. Just as in the wine industry, where you wouldn’t judge a Chardonnay against a Merlot, this new system allows strains with similar profiles to be judged against each other. The California State Fair Cannabis Awards in July 2022 will also use this new classification system.

The 2022 Emerald Cup Awards will be presented live on stage on May 14th at the Green Street Festival in Downtown Los Angeles, California. The window to enter cannabis products into one of over 50 different Emerald Cup categories closes on February 25, 2022.

*SC Labs is a registered trademark of SC Laboratories, Inc.

*PhytoFacts and PhytoPrint are registered trademarks of Napro Research, LLC.

Hi-res images of free-use infographics of the Emerald Cup Cannabis Classification Based on PhytoFacts powered by SC Labs can be found HERE


The Emerald Cup is the world’s premier cannabis heritage brand and iconic live events. While advancing the concept of sustainable, sun-grown farming, the 17-year old organization’s reputation is firmly solidified as the largest, most-respected cannabis competition in the world. As a group, The Emerald Cup prides itself in bringing together leading experts in the cannabis industry to educate and inspire our fellow farmers, patients, and patrons each year. The community celebration has grown to become a global movement honoring the year’s finest organic and sun-grown, cannabis harvest as well as the finest cannabis products available. The Cup has stood as a celebration of excellence and over the years, has seen founder Tim Blake recognized as a guardian of the ever-changing cannabis industry.For more information, visit www.theemeraldcup.com


California-based Napro Research, a leader in cannabis innovation and technology has led to the creation and cultivation of completely unique, industry-first chemovars and metabolites; the most chemically diverse, organized, and well-characterized cannabis germplasm collection in the world.  For more information, visit www.naproresearch.com.


Dr. Mark Lewis earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Purdue University in 2007 and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology in 2001. His interest in the science of cannabis spans decades and in 2011, Dr. Lewis founded Napro Research and assembled a team of chemists and plant scientists to create analytical solutions and products across four key sectors: biotechnology, production, laboratory services and consumer education. Over the past five years, Lewis has additionally focused on cannabis breeding and the optimization of a broad range of secondary metabolic pathways within the plant.


Founded in 2010, SC Labs is one of the cannabis industry’s oldest licensed testing labs. Headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, SC Labs is accredited to ISO 17025 in California and by ORELAP in Oregon. The company is a certified hemp testing lab in many states including, but not limited to, California, Oregon, Texas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. SC Labs is a leader in the testing and education of terpenes and the role they play in cultivars’ quality attributes and the consumer experience. For more information, visit www.sclabs.com; 866-435-0709.