California State Fair Cannabis Awards are “budding” with expansive partnership

california state fair budist

The California State Fair is an institution that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to Sacramento during its 17-day run. As an agricultural epicenter, one of the quintessential fair experiences is perusing blue-ribbon produce, olive oil, and wine.

The Fair made headlines in 2022 when it added a cannabis component to its annual competition programming. Entering its third year, the contest is breaking ground once again by expanding the award categories and adding elite judges to the mix.

For the first time, it’s not just flower front and center at the California State Fair Cannabis Awards. This year, six new categories with sixteen product types are included in the competition. Pre-rolls, concentrates, cartridges, edibles, beverages, and wellness products are now in the mix. 

“This competition is yet another way California and our State Fair continues to lead the nation,” said Cal Expo CEO Tom Martinez in a press release. “We are excited to see the growth of cannabis as an agricultural commodity and allowing our guests to experience all this exhibit has to offer.”

Budist critics set to judge expanded cannabis contest 

Along with the new product categories comes a fresh take on judging. The California State Fair has partnered with Budist, a social review platform dedicated entirely to licensed cannabis brands. The app’s professional panel of Budists, including certified “Ganjiers,” journalists, and connoisseurs, are now the official judges for the California State Fair Cannabis Awards.

Flower entries will undergo a rigorous testing process from SC Labs, whose analysis reveals cannabinoid and terpene levels that factor in for the final awards. The Budists will objectively assess the quality and craftsmanship of each entry in the new categories as well as the top testing flower samples.

As the Wine Spectator or Rotten Tomatoes of weed, Budists use a streamlined system to rate products on a 100-point scale. The new platform is the first to offer thoughtful and objective long-form reviews of individual regulated cannabis goods submitted by subject matter experts.

The app recently launched in the California marketplace, with an initial class of Budists including Jamie Evans, founder of The Herb Somm, Luna Stower, chief impact officer at Ispire, Christina Wong and Rachel Burkons, co-founders of The Clever Root, Jason Pinsky, cannabis producer at VICE, and many others.

budist app california state fair cannabis awards
The Budist app recently launched in the California market. Photo: Budist

The platform is the brainchild of industry trailblazers Jocelyn Sheltraw and Claudio Miranda, who sought to create a transparent and accessible place for people to discover new products and read honest feedback. The founders noted that given the dynamic experience the judges share, the partnership with the State Fair is a natural next step.

“Our team of Budists are the industry’s most passionate cannaseurs and couldn’t be more perfectly suited for this job,” Sheltraw told GreenState. “We’re delighted to have them take on a leadership role in consumer education. There’s no doubt that our Budist’s passion and knowledge will shine and guide consumers at this beloved annual gathering.”

Sheltraw added that the addition of Budist judges to the State Fair is another step toward broader acceptance of cannabis as a celebrated community product, much like they do with local wines and cheeses.

“Excited is an understatement—not only does this partnership continue to bring cannabis to the forefront of mainstream consumers’ consciousness, but it also galvanizes the normalization of the plant,” Sheltraw said. “Cannabis is coming out of the shadows and into the spotlight, and we’re elated to be a part of California’s largest stage for celebrating the state’s agricultural producers.”

Entries in the California State Fair Cannabis Awards will vie for 100-plus accolades, including silver, gold, and double gold medals. A special critic’s choice “Best of California” Golden Bear trophy will be given out in each category. 

Winners are displayed in a dedicated cannabis section of the California State Fair, offering brands prime exposure to curious consumers. Budists will be on hand throughout the duration of the Fair to guide and educate attendees on the wide world of weed. 

“It’s phenomenal to see cannabis celebrated on a mainstream stage like the California State Fair,” Miranda exclaimed. “I’ve witnessed the evolution of the cannabis market for almost 40 years and feel so incredibly proud and fortunate to be a part of this historic event.”

The competition’s entry window is currently open, and submissions will be accepted through May 17. The winners will be announced in June, and the exhibition will take place for the Fair’s entire run from July 12 – 28. 

California is widely accepted as a cultural epicenter for cannabis. Adding diverse plant-based products to the Fair’s competition component cements weed’s position as an important part of the state’s economy. By partnering with Budist, organizers are showing they’re serious about elevating the industry while educating consumers at the same time.


rachelle gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist, Emerald Cup judge, Budist critic, and editor of She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter