I get stoked every time I see a discarded weed bag on the sidewalk.
Okay yeah, litter is a bummer and the bags themselves aren’t great for the environment, but I can’t help it. Every time I walk past a mylar bag lying on the street I stop to check it out, kicking it around and flipping it over against the cracks in the sidewalk until I can see the art, the strain name, the branding, and every word of text. As cannabis and the cannabis community mesh further into the fabric of American life, the mylar bag has quickly become the artistic bellwether for the industry, pushing creativity, trends, and creating a lasting record of the culture akin to skateboard graphics, album covers, craft beer labels and countless other visual staples of counterculture scenes.
Existing both in concert and completely separate from the weed inside, graphic bags have hit all the early hallmarks of subculture evolution, creating a design language that extends past the cannabis community into its own distinct style of art complete with moral panic, bootleggers and copycats, regional intricacies, and iconic standouts.
The intersection of commerce and counterculture is always contentious, no matter how niche, and while the artistic merits of each particular bag are certainly up to personal interpretation, it is already clear that graphic bags have reshaped the world of weed at damn near every level.
Evolving from RX labels scribbled with a strain name and stuck to black, silver, or plastic windowed bags in California’s pre-recreational medical market, as soon as cannabis sellers turned into cannabis companies the open space on the front of every bag became a billboard for branding and expression, setting strains and sellers apart on dispensary shelves and black market menus.
Fueled by an influx of legalization laws, increased competition amongst distributors, a flood of flower, and tons of custom print shops and pre-printed bags a Google search away, graphic bags grew from the domain of top-shelf brands and exclusive suppliers to a ubiquitous facet of the regulated and unregulated markets. In 2020, with pack prices high, traditional businesses on hold, hustlers and smokers flush with extra pandemic unemployment funds put the bag game into overdrive, turning branded bud into a status symbol, with dye-cut shapes, holographic printing, and wilder subject matter – the more outlandish the bag, the more clout on social media, the faster it flies out of dispensaries and backpacks alike.
Just like limited-edition Nikes and Supreme t-shirts, the exclusive aesthetics were immediately bootlegged, with overseas printers churning out cheap knockoffs of every popular brand and bag under the sun, turning downtown L.A. into Canal Street for trappers, with blocks of storefronts dedicated to fake packaging. It might piss off brand owners, but for the culture as a whole the bootleg obsession is a mark of legitimacy to be proud of.
Outside the culture, cannabis bag art has become a convenient boogyman for prohibitionists, who argue that cartoon characters and bubble letters appeal to kids. Disregarding decades of rated R (or worse) animation holding a significant place in pop culture, a number of legal markets have sided with the prohibitionists on the limits of adult artistic expression, strictly restricting bag designs.
But if the past is any indicator, loud, newsworthy, and eventually unsuccessful protests against rap, metal, controversial movies back to Elvis’ hip shaking and countless other moral outrages aimed at saving kids from deviant art, the long-term odds are in our favor. Besides, you can’t ban cartoon art or bubble letters on the black market, no matter how sick of red eye Rick & Morty we all are.
Like the culture’s cousins in skateboarding, graffiti, and streetwear, the design language that dominates bag art from seshes to sidewalks is highly referential, drenched in parody, nostalgic, psychedelic, obsessed with local flavor, global ambitions, and luxury aspirations.
Be it licensed collaborations with superstar athletes like Cookies’ Gary Payton and 33 by Backpack Boyz, a very unofficial dye-cut Supreme Air Force One sneaker by Shiest Bubz and The Smoker’s Club, a genre-defining run by Jokes Up culminating in the, um, unique, Coochie Runtz bag, hyper-local creations like Chopped Cheese by Buddy’s Bodega, all the way to dime bags printed with hastily photoshopped collages of The Joker, graphic bags are an amalgamation of every corner of cannabis culture, highbrow to lowbrow, political to patronizing, original to bootleg, calligraphy to cartoon and everywhere in between. At the end of the day, seeing a graphic weed bag on the sidewalk – an unavoidable happenstance walking through any American city these days – is saying the same thing – weed is here, weed is everywhere, and you’re gonna see it.
Because bags can be designed and produced so quickly, mylar art is constantly rotating and reacting at the pace of our collective attention span, with print houses like Sticker Farmer dropping new bags memorializing every Academy Awards slap, viral challenge, and athlete, celebrity, or politician to be “turned into a pack,” all dropping days if not hours after the event itself.
The evolution of bag graphics is still in its early stages, and if cannabis giants, small brands, and local trappers continue to put significant creative effort and funding into creating the next bag to set their strains apart, go viral on IG stories, and sell out on menus, weed bags are going to continue to solidify a place in the pantheon of modern art.
I have high hopes, but for the medium to really stick, it is time to start giving respect to the artists and graphic designers behind the bags. Brands, start tagging the artists more frequently on posts, put a signature on the back of the bag, sponsor and host art shows. Smokers, if you like a bag seek out the artist, give them a follow on IG and see if they have any pieces for sale – anything you can do to continue pushing their art as a core facet of the industry and culture.
The possibilities for bag art are endless going forward and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Moving from a position in a consulting firm advising Fortune 10 companies to VP of Retail for one of the world’s leading cannabis brands may seem like a daring career transition for some, but for Crystal Millican, a former U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Mexico, it was a no-brainer. When Millican’s company took on globally-recognized cannabis brand Cookies as a client and the cannabis giant offered her a chance to come on board, she took the opportunity and never looked back.
Founded in 2010 by rapper and entrepreneur Berner and Bay Area cultivator Jai, in 2021, Cookies became the first cannabis brand to be named one of America’s Hottest Brands by AdAge. In addition to boasting more than 2,000 products and 58 retail locations in 18 markets across 6 countries, the company prides itself on its work to help communities disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs. High Times sat down for a sesh with Millican to talk about her journey in the cannabis space.
To start out if you just want to talk a little bit about how you got into the industry, and then how you started working with Cookies and what your journey has been.
I was an executive at a management consulting firm and [I] was the executive who was like “We need to be studying the cannabis space.” Also [I] notice[d] all the intellectual and regulatory hurdles that companies and brands were going to have to jump over and through in order to be successful. I really thought the businesses that could turn those challenges into opportunities were going to get head starts in the cannabis industry. And [I] really felt passionately that brands would win at the end of the day, true, authentic brands. Thankfully, Cookies became a client and, pretty soon after that, offered me an opportunity. [I] knew it was going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to make that leap and [I am] grateful I did every day.
I know that for you—and I know this is true for Cookies in general—it’s really important to make sure that BIPOC people have a seat at the table when they historically have been behind the scenes of cannabis. So why is that so important to you and what do you do to try to make sure things are more equitable?
I think that really starts with [our] founder, Berner, who’s Mexican-American and, thankfully, has one of the most commanding and compelling voices in cannabis. As I think about it—as Cookies thinks about it—I think what we do and how we ground ourselves is all about honoring the plant. The people who grow it, the people who pack it, the people who sell it, the people who experience it, that’s really our focus. And BIPOC people touch every aspect of that seed-to-sale process.
And, of course, I think the same can be said for women and femme-identifying people that were involved with every process in cannabis as well. So how do you try to make sure that’s included as well and how do you feel as a woman in the industry that you’ve been received and the challenges you still face?
As a woman in the industry, I feel incredibly bullish and inspired. Still, there’s plenty of work to do in the future. I see the cannabis industry having the opportunity in front of us to leave behind glass ceilings, leave behind pay gaps, leave behind bias and stereotypes and other constructs that have made it much more difficult for women and femme-identifying individuals to achieve their dreams.
Executive teams, board rooms, investors, we’re all on the hook for growth when it’s not easy in cannabis. I think we have this unique opportunity in cannabis, where there is time to take DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] and put it as a core value. That’s something we grow upon which is an opportunity that we have now versus other industries that have been in play for decades or hundreds of years.
I’m very grateful that, probably for the first time in my career, I can come to work as my authentic self. That’s a big thing for Berner, whether it’s a budtender or me and my role, that you are you and that you’re not trying to be anyone else. What it means as a woman [is] I’m not having to expend energy and time bending myself like a human pretzel to get my voice across.
But I’d be lying if I said I never feel bumps and bruises, because that can exist in every industry. I’ve got two daughters. I have to leave work trips early to change diapers and put my kids to bed. Am I feeling so great and inspired about womanhood that that doesn’t register in my mind as something I’m having to do? No. I think there’s more work for all of us to do. Every woman and femme-identifying person I’ve had the privilege and honor to interact with and work with in the cannabis industry is seeking the same thing, which is to smooth out that path so that, with each generation that comes after us, there’s less bumps and bruises along the way. We’ll just keep that cycle going.
The popular weed podcast First Smoke of the Day recently put on a “Family Reunion” in Los Angeles, inviting supporters of the show and everyone who has appeared on it. Hundreds gathered, coming from all over California and all over the country, giving tangible evidence to the passionate community that has been built around the podcast.
The podcast is the work of its two hosts, Cody and Lance. When First Smoke of the Day first appeared in 2021 it was audio-only. That’s because the topic had to do with the real underground culture of growing and selling weed. The first guests were well-known on the underground scene but would never show their face.
From the start it was clear that the podcast was all about providing a platform for those in the cannabis industry to tell their stories.
Once the podcast turned the cameras on and began to feature big players in the weed game in California and beyond, its viewership skyrocketed. 2022 proved to be a year of massive growth for the pair. The show has so far featured interviews with high-profile brand owners including brands like Doja Exclusive, Insane, Fidel’s, Fiore, Ball Family Farms, Viola, B Eazy Buds, Cookies, the Backpack Boyz, Jungle Boys, Runtz, Connected, Sherbinskis, Alien Labs, Squintz, Blueprint, and many others. The show provides a who’s-who of California weed, plus national and international guests.
With every new episode, there is hype and excitement online. Inside the weed industry, everyone wants to get their spot on First Smoke of the Day. To be a guest confers instant clout.
The show features Cody and Lance, two weed insiders, chopping it up with industry legends. Episodes usually run well over an hour and the unscripted conversation is allowed to flow without constraints. The result is a sense of spending time chatting and hearing stories from big players like Berner, Kenji Fujishima, Ryan Bartholomew, Ray Bama, and Juan Quesada.
The Origins of First Smoke of the Day
What would appear to be the podcast’s almost instant success was in fact a long process that began years earlier, when Cody and Lance became friends in their home state of Florida. Cody approached Lance when he saw that Lance had tried to enter the legal weed market in Colorado, but returned to Florida when he found only corruption and onerous expenses in the recreational market.
“I was just compelled by his drive and his passion, his calling,” Cody said of Lance. “That just spoke to me. And I love good weed. And I could see he had played with a lot, in his mind, he stopped believing in the dream at the time, I could see that. But I was like, I’m a dreamer. I just can’t help it,” Cody said.
Around 2014 the two would regularly meet in the mornings and have conversations while enjoying Lance’s freshly-cured weed.
“The whole time having that first smoke of the day, this goes back to even before we moved to LA, we’d have these five to six hour conversations that would lead into manifesting business and dreams. What are you trying to do? Talking through these motions that then become reality 10 years later, 15 years later,” Cody said.
The two decided first to launch a clothing and lifestyle brand in Florida, which made them feel like a big fish in a small pond. They felt like they wanted to go somewhere where they were “celebrated, not just tolerated.” The lifestyle they were targeting with their brand made more sense in California. So, they moved.
Lance was inspired by Cody’s vision and was ready to follow his lead.
“There are two things we knew,” Lance said. “I knew for a fact, he’s a great businessman, and his branding and marketing is 100% on point. I knew I grew great weed. So, together we’re a good team,” Lance said.
The two came to California around 2015 during the Prop 215 era of medicinal marijuana and started Blackleaf as a weed and clothing brand. They went all in with marketing and pushing their brand, making connections all throughout the industry.
“The whole reason that First Smoke of the Day is popping right now is because we hit the sessions hard and started popping up on the scene and meeting everybody. Literally meeting everybody,” Cody said.
They entered their weed into competitions like the Cannabis Cup, and got a great reception.
“It turned out to be a real thing. We felt like we were really chasing legalization and we’re fucking putting out our own shit. He’s growing it, we worked with a few breeders, I don’t want to say to create a strain but put a few strains on the map,” Cody said. They had success with strains like Dirty Sprite and Fruity Pebbles.
“We were just letting shit happen organically. I didn’t really plan for any of it,” Cody said.
But with the coming of recreational legalization in 2018, Blackleaf began to struggle. Their grow operation was broken into more than once, at one point putting the two in a very dangerous situation. The competition in the industry was fierce. Cody thought about taking another direction in business, and handed Blackleaf off to Lance to maintain.
“Our dream took a hit,” Lance said. “The dream that we had together.”
“You got to work through those hard times,” Cody said. “But we never crossed each other. We never betrayed each other, never fucked with each other. None of that,” he said.
They kept their connection even through this particularly rocky period.
“That’s what means a lot to me about our friendship is that like, we’ve been through a lot of shit. We’ve been through a lot of tests. And neither of us ever buckled. So, that’s really rare, in my opinion,” Cody said.
It was 2018 when a “first draft” of a podcast between the two had a false start. They recorded a few episodes that they weren’t happy with, and then shelved it.
But in 2020, Coronavirus changed things. Cody found himself stuck at home consuming all the online streaming content he could find. He realized there wasn’t enough content for the weed community. He started to hatch an idea for a podcast that would become First Smoke of the Day.
“We came back around, and we went through COVID. And I know that changed a lot of things. And then I saw the need for media and the need for content,” Cody said.
He became determined on the idea.
“This is like my baby right here. This idea is probably one of the first times where I’m like, now, let me figure it out. Let me have the idea. Let me come off and let me create. Let’s see what I can do,” Cody said.
He saw that there was an opportunity in the media landscape.
“What there was out there for us is very little. I love it, though. Marijuana Mania. Shout out to Berner, I love that shit. Shout out to Strain Hunters. I love that. All those shows highly influenced me,” Cody said.
He wanted it to be for insiders but also for a wide audience.
“I didn’t want to make it a grow show. I didn’t want to make it a fucking hustle show. And I wanted to make it for the smokers. If you are on any level, if you smoke weed, you could fuck with our show, you’ll like it,” Cody said.
He brought Lance back in to the picture. Between the two of them, they thought they could recreate the intense conversations they used to have as far back as Florida over the first smoke of the day, but with people that are actually in the weed scene.
The two had a strong idea of creating community and connections through the podcast.
“I told him, we have to just go into people’s stories, everyone loves a story. So, focus on the story. That’s the thing, everybody loves a story because you can relate, you can connect, you have that compatibility that you’re looking for. At the end of the day, people just want to connect, and they can only connect through a community of like-minded people,” Cody said.
Once they created a platform for people in weed to tell their story, it seemed that everyone wanted their chance to appear on the show. After years of hustling in the industry, Cody and Lance had built up a reputation that was trustworthy.
“They really fuck with us now. We put our stamp on shit. We take that shit serious. We can’t play games. My face card is 100 in the streets. It’s gold. So, I don’t waver on that shit for nothing. That means a lot to me. It’s been a lot of years now,” Cody said.
For Lance, it’s an opportunity to give the spotlight to industry veterans.
“We just want to shine a light on their journey and let people hear it because people don’t know what a lot of these guys or girls have been through to get where they are here. ‘Oh, he just started a weed brand.’ No, it’s like, 15 or 20 years or 30 years in the making, the guy had life in prison, wherever their journey started, it’s relatable to somebody,” Lance said.
Cody says that a bond is formed when someone tells their story through conversation.
“When people sit down in that seat and tell me their whole life story, it means a lot. You just gained a relationship with them because who do you know that meets for the first time that they tell each other their life story?” Cody said.
“You feel it. You build a deep relationship and a deep respect. This comes with great responsibility, what we’re dealing with. People really rely on us to keep it real and remain that way. And we’re blessed too because, we get to keep good relationships because people trusted us. We trust them and it’s not to be broken,” Cody said.
Cody realized that with the podcast, he could approach media content his own way, with a vision that he shared with Lance. Beyond that, he lets the episodes happen organically.
“We don’t ever know. At eighty five episodes, I’m proud to say we didn’t premeditate any of those. It happens week by week, month by month, we just do the work. It’s been all organic. There’s no way you could really redo it this way or plan it this way,” Cody said.
Finally by 2021 the two were back together, producing content and going fully forward in a fresh direction, yet harkening back to ideas that they percolated almost ten years prior.
For the two, it was a moment of revelation.
“We can do it our way,” Cody said. “I don’t have to just be another brand and try to chase the shops and do all that, because I was exhausted with that. And I was like, let me let me do this immediately, I will do content and hopefully it’ll work out because people fuck with it, then it could be big.”
The Future of First Smoke of the Day
Cody says that what First Smoke of the Day is and represents is still in its infancy. He and Lance plan to continue to build it up, broadening their scope, doing more international content, staging events, and building an online digital platform.
“I know within a couple of years, there won’t be one place in this globe we couldn’t go to and get love from people who are doing this shit,” Cody said. “It just shows you how many people around the world are living this life too. And they needed a home. So, we are street family,” he said.
Cody says he can’t help but feel that he’s just getting started. He’s pumped about the growth and success of the show over the past two years.
“With all the shit I’ve been facing through this past year, I’m like, man, the growth is crazy and I feel unstoppable at this point. I’m at the point where I feel like, I got nothing to lose. I’m all in, this is it. I’m all in with this vision. The shit got to pop,” he said.
“We got the wheels rolling, now it’s like to really start being able to hit the gas,” Cody said.
While they’ve been applauded by industry greats, they are by no means done with what they started. They have much further to go, Cody says.
“If people really knew like the struggle, this is by no means a success story right now, we’re still in the trenches, we’re digging, we’re marching,” Cody said.
At January’s Family Reunion event, Cody recieved tons of congratulations. He wasn’t ready to rest on his laurels.
“I told everybody coming up to me saying congratulations, I told them, it’s a start. It’s a start. It’s a start. That’s where we’re at,” Cody said.
Even the Family Reunion event is one that the guys see becoming a regular event. They see it growing beyond what was surely a successful night.
“I think that by next year it will be really something special, it’d be something no one wants to miss if you are in this game. If you’re in the weed world, you’ll want to be there,” Cody said.
Cody wants to expand the topics of the show to include other related content, bringing guests from the world of business or entertainment or sports.
To that end, the crew is ramping up to post not one but three episodes a week, with a plan to eventually upload seven days a week.
“That’s what will be a network. That consistency is just going to compound. Content is crazy,” Cody said.
The community being built around the podcast is what Cody and Lance are most passionate about. By gathering people of a like mind, opportunities are created that, the guys say, could have broad impact.
“There’ll be brands built, there’ll be collaborations done, there’ll be people partnering, there’ll be people funding other people’s stuff, there’s going to be real friendships and bonds made out of this community,” Cody said. “It’s going to shape the culture of cannabis, ultimately.”
Financially, it’s a rough business. “But,” Cody says, “as long as we can create freely in the process, we’re winning. We won. We are paid. That’s the money.”
Cody has no doubts about the strength and resilience of the weed community that he’s a part of, that the show puts the spotlight on.
”This community is strong. I don’t think people realize how strong this community is. We’re all freedom fighters. We’ve all been through a lot of shit. Even if you just smoke weed you’ve been through a lot. When we come together, we’re strong enough not to be fucked with, we’re resourceful. We’ve got real motion out here, real power, for real and it’s high up, it’s much higher up than you think,” Cody said.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in Bangkok on January 21 as a major international cannabis brand inaugurated its entrance into Thailand’s marijuana market. The new outlet of Cookies Thailand will be the first US-brand cannabis dispensary in Thailand. “The launch of Cookies Thailand marks a milestone for the brand as it enters its sixth country and becomes the 58th Cookies storefront worldwide,” a company statement declared.
“The fact that my first time going to Asia is to open up a Cookies store isn’t something I could’ve ever imagined and is really special,” said Cookies CEO and co-founder, who goes by the single name Berner. “This store is beautiful and we’re grateful for our partners on the ground in Thailand who helped make this possible. I hope Bangkok is ready for an exclusive menu of fire genetics.”
The announcement adds: “Cookies’ iconic cultivars and products will be available for purchase, along with exclusive Cookies SF clothing and accessories, including local reserve merchandise specific to Thailand.”
Cookies Thailand is partnering in the venture with California edibles company Dee Thai. “Cookies Thailand evolved organically as my relationship with Berner has for more than 20 years,” said Josh Schmidt, co-founder of Dee Thai. “Driven by the right intention, while honoring Thai culture and ethos, Cookies Thailand brings our friendship full circle, bonding my two loves—cannabis and Thailand.”
In keeping with Thai tradition, a Buddhist monk was on hand at the opening ceremony to perform a blessing of the new business establishment. And in compliance with Thai law, the dispensary is operating in full partnership with a Thai-registered company, Cookies Asia Co.
Cookies Thailand in a ‘Legal Vacuum’
This ground-breaking development comes exactly one year after Thailand’s Food & Drug Administration officially removed cannabis from the list of illegal drugs, which amounted to an effective decriminalization when it took effect on June 9. However, a Cannabis Act that was promised at the time to regulate a legal industry has been held up by conservative elements in the Thai parliament. A January 4 editorial in the Bangkok Post, entitled “Pass Cannabis Controls Now,” noted that the bill has been “filibustered by a number of political parties.”
Illustrating the precarious nature of the current ambiguous atmosphere, the Bangkok Post reported January 29 that that agents of the Department of Thai Traditional & Alternative Medicine (DTAM) shut down several dispensaries and vendors in the island resort town of Koh Samui, making three arrests.
DTAM is issuing provisional licenses under the 2019 Herbal Act, passed to regulate use of medicinal plants. But these licenses only cover herbaceous flower—no extracts, tinctures, vapes or edibles. Such processed products are available, but only due to either lax enforcement or extra-legal payoffs (bribes) to enforcement agents.
The Bangkok Post reported Jan. 5 that the Public Health Ministry’s Medical Cannabis Institute issued a guide entitled “10 Things Tourists Need to Know about Cannabis in Thailand” to help clarify the confused situation. It warned that local medicinal use is the priority, and discouraged cannabis tourism. Nonetheless, the report says that despite the “legal vacuum” dispensaries have proliferated, as they’ve been promoted on websites such as High Thailand.
Amusingly, Cookies Thailand may face a situation in the Southeast Asian country not too different from that which it faces at its first store in New York City. The NYC shop just opened in Midtown Manhattan’s Herald Square, a prime location. But until it gets a coveted license from New York state authorities, it won’t actually be selling cannabis—just merchandise and CBD products. So a big move, but still waiting for full legality.
Durant represents thousands of athletes who span a multitude of professional sports across the country using cannabis to deal with both the physical and mental challenges of playing at the highest level. READ MORE.
Anyone who shops for legal cannabis in Michigan knows the name Gage. With 20 current dispensaries and more planned across the Mitten State, the company is perhaps the best example of the industry’s skyrocketing growth during the past three years.
Supplying those stores are a half-dozen cultivation facilities that Gage owns, along with a dozen grow house partners the company draws from.
Gage’s skyrocketing growth wouldn’t have been possible without CEO Fabian Monaco at the helm.
A main driver of the company’s success, Monaco attributes impressively high average customer tickets to focusing on selling flower products and Gage’s partnership with California-based Cookies brand. A pair of Gage’s dispensaries in Michigan are simply called Cookies.
“First and foremost, we’re a flower brand,” Fabian said. “All other products come second to flower. Recognizing that fact and sticking to what we do best has been a huge part of our success.”
This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.
By Benjamin M. Adams, Jimi Devine, Ellen Holland, and Ashley Kern
Brand-building is big business, particularly in cannabis where customer loyalty reigns supreme when it comes to success. Whether it was in making new types of cannabis, growing quality flowers, or crafting terpy and potent concentrates and delicious edibles, here are our picks of some of the brands that defined 2022.
Compound Genetics went into 2022 riding on a high and just kept on sailing along. Massive seed drops and a variety of people taking home trophies all over North America with their gear are seemingly commonplace for them at this point, but it’s still impressive.
We’ve had a front-row seat to their breeding efforts since the move to San Francisco a few years ago and then the eventual partnership with Node Labs where they phenohunt and stress test the new gear to make sure it’s commercially viable. From that work we’ve seen names like Jokerz, Red Bullz, and Pave explode onto the scene.
“2022 has been a year of adapting to my surroundings, opportunities, and adversities,” founder Chris Lynch says. “High levels of success bring new challenges that constantly test your ability to perform and stay consistent. I’m grateful for where I am in this industry and what I’ve achieved with Compound Genetics. Being in my position is something I take seriously, it’s a unique responsibility that’s driven by my passion for quality. I’m excited for the next chapters with this special plant and where they take me.”
Don’t expect anything to slow down in the near future. This year for The Emerald Cup Compound is releasing the Jokerz line. The pairing of Jet Fuel Gelato and White Runtz was one of the strains that Compound used to launch their flower line earlier this year. The community is thirsty for a new round of crosses from it.
It’s also fair to expect Compound’s international profile to continue to build. There are a few factors contributing to that including their collaboration efforts with Green House Seed Co. and their partnership with Paradise Seeds to facilitate European distribution.
As for what strains to keep an eye on, we saw a phenotype of Apples & Bananas x Pave that was batshit heat, but we’re sure you can expect a few more than that in 2023. -JD
As we mentioned in our strains of the year write-up, few have ever had a year similar to the one the Blueprint team had in 2022.
Even a couple months before they hit shelves in the summer of 2022, the hype was percolating hard. A lot of the biggest names in Sacramento, and hence elite cannabis in general, were saying to keep an eye out for what Blueprint had in store. They were not wrong.
The first drop featured names like P90 and Triple Lindy. They are still top of the food chain heat a year-and-a-half later as we noted in our favorite strains of 2022 where we highlighted the Triple Lindy.
One of the things that we got a kick out of about Blueprint was how close they’ve kept the cards to their chest when it comes to genetics. Most of the time lineage has a lot to do with what gets people excited. A lot of the hype we see in weed in general comes from the next generation of something with a known pedigree. Unlike these companies that push their genetics lines and work as the basis of their ethos, the fire behind Blueprint is pure heat. And the community figured that out quickly. Never will you hear anyone complaining because they don’t know the makeup of Blueprint’s genetics, they’re just happy they got to smoke it in the first place.
Blueprint sifts through roughly 140 new flavors every couple of months. We will continue to be wildly excited to try what they find and grow to some of the highest quality levels on the globe. We expect 2023 to see the same level of heat that won them the second edition of Zalympix and what a lot of people thought was the best flower at the industry mega show Hall of Flowers where they could be compared directly against the rest of the pack. -JD
Since its founding as a delivery service in the Prop 215 era between cannabis powerhouses San Francisco and Sacramento, the Backpack Boyz have had a complete dedication to the absolute flame.
“So what I was trying to do at the time, was I was trying to get all of the buds that everyone wanted to smoke but didn’t have access to,” Backpack Boyz founder Juan Quesada told High Times. “I wanted to get that all under one banner and kind of be that one guy that you can see and can get everything from. So, long story short, that was kind of really where it started.”
When he first got the ball rolling he had a lot of deep connections on the cultivation side, but a lot of the product he was moving was white label heat from Sacramento. Eventually, the people coming for that Sac heat started asking Quesada about the flavors he was curating more locally. It was a big confidence booster for him.
Most famously, he would pop Lemon Cherry Gelato from bag seed in 2017. (We go into the full tale in our strains of the year section.) This would catapult the Backpack Boyz into California’s elite. They would eventually open their first retail location in early 2021. Two more would follow by the end of the year.
The brand has done particularly well in making inroads in Southern California after its initial founding up north. Quesada says having the heat helped but he gave his SoCal partners a lot of credit for helping him handle all the local hurdles that came with expanding the company’s footprint across the state.
In 2023, you can definitely expect the Backpack Boyz to keep stocking all the most elite cannabis in the state while continuing to curate a few exceptional flavors of their own. -JD
The third and youngest son of L.A.’s favorite weed family (his older brother Serge is behind Cookies Maywood and his other older brother Aram is behind Gas No Breaks) saw one of the most epic 2022s of just about anyone and his new cultivation facility didn’t even open until the end of the year.
Helping backbone the big year was the rise of the hash hole, arguably the most exotic pre-roll currently available in California. Fidel first encountered the hash hole in Barcelona years ago at Spannabis. The locals would roll up an eighth with some rosin in it to celebrate the weed making it from California—or just to flex.
Back then, Fidel was already growing heat. After spending six years in Beirut from age 12 to 18, he returned to Los Angeles where he spent many years working in a hydro shop. Those years at the grow shop was where he dialed in his game and earned the name Fidel Hydro.
On a trip back to visit friends and family in Lebanon, one of his friends designed the now well-known logo. After that, the race was on. Things have gone so well with his brand that he’s even got his parents in on the act these days. He bought a printer for their house where they do quality control on all his packaging.
Earlier this year at Spannabis, he hosted one of the event’s most popping parties, the Hash Holes and Donuts event at Cookies Barcelona. Later in the summer, Fidel’s would take home top honors at The Transbay Challenge IV: Hollywood with his pairing of Kush Mints and Zkittlez.
And we can’t emphasize enough that all this happened before his facility was even open. Expect to see Fidel’s flower on even more dispensary shelves across California soon. Until that day, you can still get your hands on hash holes—if you see them on a menu, pull the trigger quickly. They don’t last long since they’re worth big money outside the state, they are one of the few packaged products there is true value in moving compared to bulk flowers in big quantities. -JD
The name 710 Labs is synonymous with small batch quality with myopic attention to detail. Every good concentrate must begin with a good strain, and the company’s cultivation operations are steadily growing. 710 Labs attributes that growth to their commitment to integrity in the cultivation process.
“We’ve had a lot of growth in the past year, which wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t stay true to what got us here: quality focused small batches with a wide variety of flavors,” says Richard Sciascia, vice president of cultivation.
Even though 710 Labs has expanded from its homebase in Colorado to California, they still adopt the same principles they’ve observed since the beginning when they launched as a much smaller operation a decade ago. Part of that is allowing the unique and individual traits of cultivars to shine. That can’t happen when producers pump out mass amounts of a single strain.
“We aren’t monocropping rooms with one genetic, we flower rooms with one cultivar per bench,” Sciascia says. “Other companies—a fraction of our size—are growing batches many times larger with one genetic. That doesn’t excite us.”
Some of that quality is lost when companies bank on strain yields alone, or other aspects that don’t necessarily benefit the consumer.
“We love this plant and all her expressions, and want to see cultivar diversity in our offerings to the consumer,” Sciascia says. “Palate is subjective, and if we limited ourselves to the 10 hottest strains of the year, we’d be doing a disservice to the connoisseur and casual smoker alike.”
710 Labs houses a genetic library that varies between 150-200 unique cultivars, rotating between old, new, experimental, and the tried-and-true. Some classics associated with 710 Labs—Ghost Hulk #25, Black Mamba #6, and Randy Watzon—are grown regularly, sometimes shelved for six months, and others are discarded quickly to make way for new additions. Over 80% of their library has been selected by the 710 Labs team from seed. Pheno hunting is part of the agenda and selections depend on whether the end result is hash or dried flower.
Currently the focus at 710 Labs is finding rare terp combos in newer cultivars.
“The never ending terp quest is what excites us, and we hope you feel the same,” Sciascia says.
Beyond flower, 710 Labs live resin pens passed the bar among highly critical vape reviewers. Their solventless water hash, rosin, and rosin sap are no joke, as they begin with flavorful flowers. Persy sauce is also a squishy new addition to their concentrate lineup, as the trichomes are preserved in the first wash to maximize flavor. -BA
“Veritas” is Latin for “the truth,” and it’s all about transparency at this Colorado-based operation. The Veritas team is currently working with Node Labs to produce new genetics, and with that, they will be producing healthy clones set to be released to the public in early 2023.
Narrowing down those clones is a long, meticulous process, and incorporating the right technology is key in keeping things organized and avoiding losing track of special genetics.
“We take about 400 different cuts, and then those have been removed from the mom and manicured [and placed] into our cloners,” says Jordan Plunkett, marketing director of Veritas. “And from there, it takes about 14 days.”
Part of their operations incorporate equipment that is exactly what you’d expect, while other processes are unique to the company. Veritas plants flower in atmosphere-controlled environments under high pressure sodium lights. The crew then adds as many as 100 bamboo stakes to help spread out branches and maximize trichome development.
“We have bamboo stakes that we use in our plants,” Plunkett says. “This is something that we have not seen any other cultivators doing. The reason behind it is that we believe it gives more stability. And then they actually utilize these stakes to track where it’s at in the process. So this is a very unique kind of opportunity to really take care of our plants the right way. It’s definitely not an easy process; We don’t take the easy approach to this by any means, but we do believe that this will give us a better quality.”
Veritas recently released infused joints, containing 1 gram of Veritas flower and 0.25 grams of ice hash. In 2021, they also released a limited-edition half-ounce offering that resembled a drink holder you’d get from a fast food joint and contained a four-pack of eighths. Stay tuned for more unusual products that you won’t find anywhere else. -BA
Al Harrington’s Viola Brands, named after his grandmother who turned to medical cannabis to battle glaucoma, is a blueprint for success in the world of cannabis. You can tell by the company’s high-end promotions, packaging, and most of all—their consistent quality flower.
This isn’t by accident. No spur-of-the-moment decisions are made when it comes to narrowing down cultivars at Viola. The company’s cultivation team will grow new genetics several times over before deciding if it makes the cut.
“When bringing in new genetics, we grade each on bag appeal, yield, and testing both THC and terpenes,” says Tanner Steele, Viola’s vice president of operations. “Generally, we like to grow new genetics three to six times before releasing them to market. This ensures everything we produce thrives in our environments to provide a consistent customer experience.”
Both cultivation and processing take place at Viola’s original 12,000-square-foot facility in Colorado. The company has expanded well beyond the limits of Colorado, however. In Falls City, Oregon, Viola operates an 80,000-square-foot facility. In Detroit, Michigan, Viola operates a 46,000-square-foot cultivation facility as well as a provisioning center. In Detroit, 40 cultivars are rotated each year. The process begins with the seed.
“When we look to bring unique or different genetics to the market, we start with seeds,” Steele says. “Most Viola strains are a result of several rounds of pheno hunting to get the best genetics for our environment.”
Clone mothers are rotated and replaced on a regular basis. “When re-populating our flower rooms we clone from moms whose genetics have already been proven to provide yield, appeal, and testing for THC and terpenes,” Steele says. “We keep our moms alive for two to three months maximum before replacing them with a new mom from the genetic line.”
Beyond cannabis, the Viola Cares community engagement branch works to reinvest in struggling communities and promote social equity inside the cannabis industry. Last year, the company launched the Harrington Institute of Cannabis Education, with the help of the Cleveland School of Cannabis to provide an online curriculum designed to prepare students to work in the cannabis industry. Viola also launched an accelerator to help cannabis start-ups get a foot on the ground, and it has a very specific goal: to create 100 Black millionaires within the cannabis space. This is because they believe Black business owners face the most challenges in this industry. -BA
Pirate-themed Freddy’s Fuego, a Tier 3 producer/processor in Washington state, adopts a more interactive way of narrowing down the finest fire in the state from an assortment of breeders. Freddy’s annual pheno hunt called “The Hunt” is a spectacle, as the public judges new cultivar cuts on the Hunt Scorecard with questions about visual aspects, taste, aroma, and overall appeal. It’s almost like hunting for booty and gold.
“Freddy’s embodies the pirate archetype—the fearless soul of exploration and a loyalty to evolution as we navigate the uncharted waters of the industry,” says Freddy’s Fuego Marketing Director Blake Stango. “Always on ‘The Hunt’ to find the freshest and rarest genetics.”
Freddy’s Fuego was founded in 2013 by Ben Davis and Tim Haggerty. Since then, Freddy’s has won numerous awards including Best Indoor Grown Hybrid Flower for a fire batch of LA Cookies at Dope Cup Washington in 2018 and three awards in one year at the 2019 High Times Cannabis Cup Seattle for Larry Cake flower and pre-rolls, as well as Guava Jelly, named after a sensual Bob Marley song.
“This year in August, we popped 520 different seeds from about 10 to 15 different breeders—40 different strains,” Freddy’s Fuego Director of Cultivation Roger Hale says of the event that generates a fair amount of excitement in the Northwest region.
“Our process for running through the pheno hunt is we pop all those seeds out of the rockwool, grow them for X amount of time until they’re large enough to basically go into flower,” Hale says. “At that point, we take a bunch of clones from them to produce moms stock, throw them into flower, flower those babies out, get strain notes on them: how they grew, what the yield is, the output inside of our environment, how our feed was, everything.”
Judges choose their favorites in the Hunt Scorecard based on flavor, uniqueness profile, all the good things that everybody’s looking for.
The first iteration of The Hunt begins in January every year, with subsequent judging rounds taking place in the following months. “We release all of those flavors to the public right around January and let everybody try them out,” Hale says. “Everybody gets to vote on which strains they want to have go into the next iteration of The Hunt.”
They continue to narrow down strains in subsequent rounds going into the summer. Freddy’s Fuego then takes that information and advances to the next step of The Hunt, the harvest, when the team gets the strain data back. “The last iteration of our hunt, we run those through the end of summer, choose our top four to six cultivars that we’re going to put into finalists based on what the public chooses,” Hale says.
Then Freddy’s throws a big party at the end of the year and lets everybody check out the new strains and vote on their favorite phenos. The company then takes those and begins producing them for the next year under their exclusive Freddy’s Finest label which is basically their black label collection. This allows the public to take part in the cultivar selection and judging process.
Consumers can buy limited edition eighths of The Hunt selections. -BA
Few companies have racked up as many Cannabis Cup wins as Exotic Genetix. This seed bank, based in Washington state, has produced so many classic cultivars that if you haven’t smoked at least one, you better start the roll up right now. A standout includes the 2018 classic Rainbow Chip, a winning combination of Sunset Sherbert and Mint Chocolate Chip. With Kush and Cookies in the family tree, Rainbow Chip has gas.
“That was pre-Runtz people wanted the gasses, the fuels,” breeder Mike explains of the older Rainbow Chip release. “They range in aromas, the gassy fuel to some of the Rainbows are kind of funky, soggy. Some of them have like a nice ice cream/sherby/gas element to it.”
Founded in 2008, Exotic Genetix also gave the world Kimbo Kush and Grease Monkey. In 2022, we tried a lovely version of Funky Charms, Rainbow Chip x Grease Monkey, grown by Wood Wide High Craft.
In 2022, Exotic Genetix released a line of Red Runtz crosses in feminized seeds, a follow-up to the success of a 2021 Red Runtz line release.
“It was super popular, it erupted,” Mike says of the 2021 release. “I told myself after that release, like I’m only going to once, I’m not trying to stick around on Runtz because, you know, it’s the hype thing. And don’t get me wrong, Runtz is hype, but also there’s a reason for it because it’s good shit.”
He says Runtz, when paired with his genetic line-up, gave it a different edge by providing that “Runtz flair candy” taste the market was craving.
“Now, I’m going to try not to do any more Runtz. It’s hard, because people ask me every day like when’s the Greasy Runtz going to drop and I’m like ‘Fuck. I’m not doing Runtz anymore,’ but I do have a Greasy Runtz line-up just waiting to be released,” he says with a laugh.
Working with feminized seeds has been a key in his success.
“When you do feminized seeds, you take an amazing strain in female form and you manipulate a few things and you can reverse that female and make it release male pollen,” Mike explains. “When you do that, and you use that pollen on your receiver, so to speak, all your other strains, it makes all those seeds that you made feminized. So, now you end up with seeds that you don’t get any males from.”
When creating new kinds of cannabis the results generally either suck or are amazing, there isn’t much in between, he says.
“Ever since I started reversing things that started awesome and making feminized seeds with those amazing starting plants, or the starting plant that I reverse, most of the things they come out amazing,” Mike says. “I don’t mean that like I’m full of myself. I mean like when you choose a male that you can’t see how it’s expressed in female form. It’s hard for you to get a predisposition of how that’s going to breed until you do it a couple times and see what your offspring do. But with the female that you reverse, you already know… it’s kind of a cheating step, but it’s there for a reason and ever since it’s been a told that I’ve used I haven’t turned back because it saves you a lot of time of hunting, going through stuff that isn’t what you’re looking for.”
Mike gained the nickname “Big Stimmy” during the pandemic for Instagram live broadcasts during the time of government stimulus efforts in which he was giving away seed packs. Big Stimmy hosted the “Milk Show” which was full of people pouring milk on unsuspecting victims for prizes.
In the future, look out for the next release of Gary Poppins, Gary Payton x Red Pop. -EH
Ask a legendary cannabis breeder what they’re smoking and they’ll likely flip the question around to the one thing that is ever-present in their mind: selecting, creating, and cultivating new types of flowers. That was the case when we caught up with Archive Seed Bank breeder Fletcher Watson as he drove to his grow room to continue sifting through what will become a new line of genetics, the Flavour Pack reversal feminized line. The journey breeders go through to bring new cultivars into our lungs are immense. When we speak, Watson’s getting down to the final stages of selection. He’s taken the Flavour Pack cultivar he created and reversed the plant to produce male pollen. Next, he took that male pollen and combined it with 60 different varieties of cannabis. He’s grown out 30 types from the seed stock so far, this is only the initial run.
“I’ve got about 150 to 200 seed plants of those Flavour Pack hybrids with all kinds of other stuff that I’m literally on my way driving to right now, to go through the samples and start picking through the population,” he says over a phone call in early fall.
Flavour Pack, which is only one of the seed lines Watson is working on simultaneously with others, blends together old and new genetics in the cannabis family tree. It’s a cross of Hollywood Pure Kush, an OG Kush cut, with a newer one of Watson’s creations, Moonbow (Zkittlez x Do-Si-Dos).
“Essentially what we do is try to improve certain cultivars that are either popular in the market—the terpene profile is popular in the market and I just like it personally a lot—and mix it with a bunch of old weird stuff that may not have market appeal,” Watson says. “The reason I breed cannabis is I want to, in one way or another, improve upon a variety.”
Watson was 16 when he started growing weed and career-wise, it’s all he’s ever done. His nickname “ThaDocta” comes from a screen name he chose back in those days, one he gained from his time at the skatepark, where he hurt himself so often he started carrying a medical kit.
Archive was founded in Oregon in 2011 and has since blessed the world with many award-winning strains. Archive’s OGKB was one of the parents of Do-Si-Dos. Rainbow Belts (Moonbow x Zkittlez) came out in 2017 and is still crushing the competition scene. Watson sent out Rainbow Belts genetics to about 50 people in 2020 and once it reached the clone-seller market it exploded. It has the fruity Zkittlez terps that people love, combined with a kushy dankness.
“The reason you don’t see too much Zkittlez on the market is it’s such a difficult plant for most people to grow,” Watson explains. “By expanding a line that has that terpene profile really well stabilized within the population, people are able to take advantage of that market that wants that smell and flavor, but get better plants, with better yields and higher [THC] tests making it more marketable to the broader consumer.”
And when an Archive cultivar reaches that stage it can really pop. In 2022, Archive Seeds released Dark Rainbow 2.0. On its website Archive explains the first generation, Dark Rainbow 1.0, used GMO combined with Moonbow and carried the gassy flavors of the GMO alongside the lime candy taste of Moonbow. The second generation is GMO combined with Planet Purple, the offspring of which is generally not sweet, but “raunchy stank breath rotten meat gas tank stank.” Watson says this one is great for hash, which Archive also makes and carries in its Portland, Oregon shop along with house flowers and clones.
“My breeding is less of knowing exactly what I’m trying to make, it’s more of throwing darts at the wall and seeing what sticks,” Watson says. -EH
Sunday Goods (owned by its parent company The Pharm) is based in Arizona and focuses on producing quality cannabis combined with feel-good vibes.
Although Arizona is often associated with brutally hot temperatures, Sunday Goods and The Pharm’s flower is grown in a 7-acre, 300,000-square-foot Dutch glass greenhouse in Willcox, Arizona. The climate in Willcox is mild compared to other parts of the state and often sees more rainfall than Phoenix or Tucson, making it a good place to grow quality cannabis (although many other agricultural goods thrive there as well).
Some of the brand’s most high-demand products include high-potency THC strains, including one called Bangers x Mac.
“That’s a cross between Headbanger and Miracle Alien Cookies (MAC), and it’s a super dank, very diesely, piney strain,” says Matt Daley, vice president of marketing for Sunday Goods.
Not only does Sunday Goods flower take advantage of the mild climate, the location of the grow is also home to a geothermal well that The Pharm uses to reduce heating needs during the colder months, helping to reduce energy consumption.
Alongside its own flower Sunday Goods offers a wide variety of other local cannabis brands, all of which align with the brand’s desire to offer consumers with the best products to help them feel their “Sunday best.”
Sunday Goods is dedicated to the support of the cannabis community, having partnered with the Last Prisoner Project to raise funds and help the organization continue to fight against cannabis injustice. In November 2021, Sunday Goods joined with Arizona NORML to host expungement clinics for those who have low-level cannabis offenses on their records.
“We’re just looking to provide relief, a pathway to creativity, an outstretched hand to an elevated sense of being because I think all of us here at Sunday Goods believe that everyone stands to benefit from what this plant can deliver,” Daley says. -AK
Wyld is one of the most recognizable and popular cannabis edibles brands. Praised for its consistency across multiple markets (it began in Oregon but has since spread to Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Washington), Wyld earned its place as a top brand by producing a line of fruit-forward gummies.
According to Wyld Corporate Communications Specialist Rachael Smith, there are three flavors in particular that consumers have fallen in love with.
“Our top three national bestsellers are elderberry 2:1 THC:CBN indica-enhanced, raspberry sativa-enhanced, and huckleberry hybrid-enhanced gummies,” Smith says. “Most states follow this same trend with elderberry leading the pack. Recent sales data shows Wyld leading the country nationally with the top six edible products in the U.S. and with nine products in the top 20—more than any other single brand.”
The Wyld supply team goes to great lengths to ensure that each product includes the advertised amount of potency.
“We use a three-test process to ensure a high-quality end product,” Smith says. “Test one: cannabis extract is tested before we receive it to ensure quality and potency. Test two: Our cannabis-infused coconut oil is tested again in house to ensure appropriate dosing in our products. Test three: Once made, the edibles are tested again to certify they are consistent with our exacting potency standards. The last test also includes random selection of products for testing by a third-party lab. All of our third-party testing is conducted by state-certified lab partners.”
Wyld is also dedicated to sustainability, going as far as providing an annual social and environmental impact report (data for 2022 is set to be released during the first half of 2023).
“We’ll be launching our new solventless hash rosin gummy brand in select markets in the fourth quarter of this year,” Smith says. “In 2023, in addition to rolling out compostable packaging in the U.S., our plans include expanding further into the Midwest and East Coast and, as always, we look forward to offering new real fruit flavors with innovative cannabinoid content—keep your eyes on Wyld, we’ve got so much more to offer.” -AK
Montana is known for its vast landscapes, pristine natural beauty, and as of Jan. 1, 2022, adult-use cannabis.
High Road Edibles predates this monumental shift from medical to adult-use sales, having established itself in 2019. The brand was founded by Michael Zens and Ben Miller, two college roommates who enjoy spending time outdoors and sought out to develop a cannabis brand exclusive to their home state.
All of High Road Edibles products are made with full-spectrum cannabis extract. Hybrid cannabis strains come from Sacred Sun Farms, and indica- or sativa-leaning strains come from Collective Elevation, both of which are farms based out of Bozeman, Montana, located in the southern part of the state. High Road Edibles is also partnered with a local dispensary, Dancing Goat Gardens.
The brand features an assortment of gummies, chocolate bars, and mints.
“We started with kind of trying to pick flavors that we thought match the mood state and the strain types we were using,” Miller says. “So more kind of bright, energizing flavors for things like sativa, and more kind of deep, rich flavors for the indica. And then for the hybrid, we kind of just tried to hit those quintessential candy flavors that we all really enjoy, you know, peach and green apple on the gummies, cinnamon on the mint, and then that coffee almond on the chocolate bar.”
Zens adds that their sativa-leaning strawberry flavor gummy sells the best in the Bozeman/southern Montana area, where people tend to be more active. However, in the northern part of the state, around Kalispell and Whitefish, there are more older consumers who prefer the indica-leaning blood orange gummies. This summer, High Road Edibles released a huckleberry flavor, in honor of the berry of the same name that populates the northern parts of the U.S. and is a celebrated summertime ingredient (Zens and Miller joke that huckleberries are a prominent food source for wild bears, as well as tourists).
While the state’s medical cannabis program was restrictive, Montana’s adult-use program has helped open things up. According to Zens, it has allowed the local cannabis community to develop and grow.
“It’s been really kind of fun to actually like, get out there and meet everyone,” Zens says. “Because in the restrictive market, everyone was kind of competing against each other a little bit more. We’re in this wholesale recreational market, everyone can kind of specialize in something and support each other and link up, and kind of create a community that wasn’t there before as much.”
Both Miller and Zens enjoy floating in the various rivers in Montana, but agree that cannabis consumption can be an enjoyable companion for numerous other outdoor activities including hiking. The founding duo alluded to new flavors and products coming out in 2023. -AK
Located in the northeast corner of Las Vegas, Nevada, Aether Gardens’ state-of-the-art facility covers 120,000 square feet divided into numerous sections including cultivation, extraction, manufacturing, and distribution. It was recently ranked #10 on a list of MJ Unpacked’s hottest Nevada-based cannabis brands, which is no surprise since it won two placements in the Cannabis Cup Nevada: People’s Choice Edition in 2021: 2nd place for best indica with Slurricane #7, and 1st place for indica concentrates with Banana ice water indica live rosin. Aether Gardens also has a 2019 High Times Cannabis Cup Nevada 1st place win for hybrid concentrates with Zweet Insanity.
According to Aether Gardens Cannabis Officer Justin Hernandez, consumers should keep an eye out for the popular strain MAC that has been thriving in the facility. Strains like Blue Cheese, Banana, and Blue Java are also popular. Online, Aether Gardens recently showcased its ultra-sweet, flavor-packed strains Mimosé (Mimosa x Rosé) and Terple (Tropicana Cookies x Slurricane #7).
Aether Gardens has been producing cannabis out of its facility since 2018, and, over the years, has continued to develop its tissue culture lab, which now houses 400 cannabis varieties. All of the strains are grown in a structure that takes advantage of sunlight through the use of glass panels. The company also formulates its own nutrient line.
Other areas of the facility are dedicated to the creation of numerous extraction products, from concentrates to edibles. Aether Gardens’ production also serves many other brand partners, such as house brand The Fifty Five as well as STIIIZY, Binske, Huni Labs, Pro Canna, and Hervé. -AK
Mountaintop Extracts has been helping patients gain access to clean, effective cannabis medicine since 2012, but now that adult-use sales is legal in New Mexico (effective as of April 1, 2022), the brand continues to offer quality cannabis products to a wider market.
The Mountaintop Extracts logo features a towering mountain inspired by the Sandia Mountains, which overlooks the city of Albuquerque where the brand is based. Mountaintop Extracts is 100% family-owned, and founder Eric Merryman holds his brand to the highest standard when producing cannabis products for consumers.
“At Mountaintop [Extracts] we really focus on clean, consistent safe medicine and are committed to the educational process so much needed in our industry,” Merryman says. “We are extremely passionate about what we do and have been very fortunate to attract like-minded employees who are making a difference in our industry.”
Joel Krukar, director of business development and marketing at Mountaintop Extracts, explains that the brand utilizes proprietary methods and techniques, which it’s been perfecting for years, to ensure that all of its products are of the highest quality.
“That’s what makes our edibles different. Our vape cartridges are live resin true full spectrum…We don’t cut it with anything. Nothing is reintroduced,” Krukar says. “And our diamonds became a huge success, [they were] really big in the beginning because we were one of the first [in the state] to actually really master growing large grade diamonds. I believe the largest diamond, it was like 7 grams, actually. So we have techniques to really grow very rich, large diamonds.”
And Mountaintop Extracts has the accolades to prove it too. At the 2018 Essie Awards hosted by Kurple Magazine, Mountaintop Extracts took home awards for best infused product, best edible, and best concentrate.
A longtime favorite of medical cannabis patients, Krukar says that the brand’s gummies are one of their biggest sellers.
“Our gummies are by far the highest velocity products we have. We are producing more units of gummies per month than anything else,” Krukar says. “But it’s also sometimes a condition of the market. And I personally love our vapes, and people love our vapes as well too, because we’re the only ones providing that live resin, true full-spectrum, full-integrity vape cartridge.”
In the very near future, Mountaintop Extracts has plans to reveal a new logo, new packaging, and a new patent-pending product to add to its current lineup. –AK
There’s a reason behind why Michigan-based 3rd Coast Genetics calls itself “the swank of dank.” As purveyors of some of Michigan’s finest cannabis, 3rd Coast Genetics focuses on the strange and the unique. The team behind 3rd Coast Genetics are the creators of Smorez, Butterfingaz, and many other strains that are sought after in the Midwest. 3rd Coast Genetics cultivar names will grab your attention, and they’ll stand out from the typical strains that you see every day.
“I am the creative force behind 3rd Coast Genetics,” Max Yields tells High Times. “The 3rd Coast is the shore of beautiful Lake Michigan—the place where I call home.”
Yields is the creator of Oreoz, Pure Michigan, Tagalonz, and many other strains, armed with a passion for breeding and love for pushing the boundaries of quality. “3rd Coast” generally refers to the Great Lakes area in the Midwest. It’s too easy to ignore the fire that comes out of Michigan when it’s overshadowed by countless other brands.
Some of these rare finds include crosses like Walfredo (MAC 1 x Peanut Butter Breath) or Thick Strawberry Goo (Red Pop x Pure Michigan) with 10 beans per bag.
Some other strains that caught our attention—with a little help from the creative names—were Spock’s Brain (Grease Monkey x Peanut Butter Breath) and Wolverine (Animal Cookies x Pure Michigan). But don’t get distracted by the names, because 3rd Coast Genetics retains the quality you want, preserving those subtle traits.
“I feel the most important thing that I do, the one thing at the epicenter of all of my hard work, is the practice of selecting unique and amazing traits,” Yields says. “Everything is dependent upon genetics and being able to recognize the component that makes something so special or unique, even if those traits are subtle.” -BA
What makes Pure Options unique? Perhaps it’s the company’s connection to the local community in Michigan. “Our success ultimately is deeply rooted in our community here in Lansing,” says Pure Options Director of Pro Gro, Jacob Nelson.
Pure Options has been in operations since 2011 and has become a staple source of craft cannabis in Michigan. One of the team’s long-term goals has been to make it into the spotlight and operate a craft cannabis business at a larger scale.
“We built our foundation as a very small team operating in the traditional market taking great caution to keep our heads down and stay focused on this mission,” Nelson says. “It was during this time that we built our culture in preparation for our future. So, when people ask us what makes Pure Options unique our answer is always the same, it’s our team and it’s culture.”
Pure Options’ uniqueness isn’t defined by any particular special process or “secret sauce.” The entire team Pure Options are students of cultivation. Small details matter, and cutting corners for profit is never an option, Nelson says. Every day is an opportunity to learn, refine processes, and improve the final product. This mindset is fueled by passion for the plant.
“Thankfully for us our love for the craft and attention to detail hasn’t gone unnoticed,” Nelson says. “Our team’s passion and culture has helped us deliver high quality cannabis to the Michigan market at scale and along the way we’ve been able to secure some amazing partnerships by proxy.”
Some of Pure Options’ partnerships include collaborations with Archive Seed Bank, DEO Farms, Wizard Trees, and Skunk House Genetics. This has given the team the opportunity to raise their platform with exclusive strains from some of the best breeders in the industry.
“The entire Pure Options team is excited for what the future holds,” Nelson says. “We cannot wait to operate on the national stage next and are thankful for everyone who has helped reach our goals along the way. It was all a dream, and teamwork truly does make the dream work.” -BA
Aerīz, pronounced like “arise,” is the producer of aeroponically grown flower, as well as full-spectrum hash oil, sugar, diamonds and sauce, budder, and many other products. They are “the largest aeroponic cannabis cultivator in the world,” according to their website. The company probably focuses on root health more than most typical producers.
Roots are misted in Aerīz’s custom-fitted tables, where cultivators have full control over nutrient uptake. The closed-loop system helps the team to minimize nutrient waste. While it’s a system that would cause a novice grower to most likely fail, the team at Aerīz have perfected the practice.
“We grow aeroponically, for basically two main reasons,” Aerīz Senior Producer Ian Krass tells High Times. “One is the quality of the flower. And the second is the environment. So the easier thing is the environment, which has an aeroponic growing process.”
Krass went on to say that the grow medium is recyclable, and that they’re not using any soil, so there’s a lot less waste. “Our water nutrient solution that the roots get nested with is recycled in a closed-loop system,” he explains. “So, you know, basically, it’s the least waste you could possibly generate growing cannabis. And, you know, being environmentally friendly is definitely at the core of our mission.”
Aerīz’s aeroponically grown flower is sometimes converted into full-spectrum hash oil, distillate, sugar, shatter, budder, and infused honey sticks.
Aerīz is currently partnering with a company called Pachamama, that does carbon offsets. Quality is achieved using a closed loop, computer-controlled nutrient delivery system. The team is very precise in terms of giving the plants exactly “what they need, when they need it.”
Aerīz has expanded beyond Illinois with operations in Arizona as well. Be sure to check out their powerful cuts of Jenny Kush (generally accepted as Amnesia Haze and Rare Dankness #2) and Pink Kush (King Kush x King Kush). -BA
Helios Hash, a solventless hash producer based out of Maine, rocked the hash world in 2021 with a win at the Ego Clash. The winning entry, a mix of Rainbow Belts with a small amount of Ice Cream Cake, represented a major victory for the family-run brand. After all, they won the well-respected hash event with sungrown plants from their first commercial harvest, and 2022 was only their second season growing.
“It’s your classic Zkittlez,” Stav Anagnost says of the Ego Clash-winning entry. “It’s one of the more sought-after type of terps. We hit it at a good time. A lot of people are growing Rainbow Belts.”
Anagnost runs the company alongside two of his brothers, Alex and Demetri, and believes their Rainbow Belts edged out the competition because of their growing style, which he describes as “West Coast.”
“We grow sungrown and our entire operation is based off of sustainable regenerative farming,” he says. “What we do is we are resin farmers so we strictly grow outdoor plants one time a year, seasonally done for resin and our resin is for hash.”
Hash produced from the resin of sungrown flowers is incomparable and is more flavorful than hash made with indoor flowers, Anagnost says. In sunny California, sungrown flower is decidedly more common than in Maine, where the weather is colder and harsher. But Anagnost argues the weather challenges in Maine contribute to the quality of the hash.
“Resin is a defense mechanism to the plant,” he explains. “So the more that the plant gets certain stressors in its environment allow the plant to produce a better quality and more luscious resin.”
The goal at Helios is always full-melt.
“At the end of the day there’s nothing that can compete with the sun,” Anagnost says. “We’re strictly a hash-based company. Everything we do is sungrown and we believe that’s the best representation of the plant and of the resin.”
Looking ahead, Helios is hoping to start a breeding project. Their hash, only produced once a year, mirrors the successful wine industry model of select year limited releases. -EH
When it comes to building a brand built on hype, heart, and heat, Kolektor’s got it down. The only things this Bronx-based underground cultivator says he won’t put out is the stuff that you can find everywhere. Don’t look to Kolektor for Gelato or Runtz; he came up in the era of Platinum Girl Scout Cookies and started growing after getting tired of seeing the same old flowers. “I feel like the market is so oversaturated with those things. You can get them anywhere so there’s no point in me growing those cultivars,” he says over a phone call. “Everybody else is doing it and I’m trying to create my own lane.”
Right now, his lane seems wide open as he looks towards licensing and continues to mingle with California cannabis elite heading across the country to explore the burgeoning New York scene. He’s got West Coast growing experience and, through Instagram marketing, has already met a few major players in California cannabis.
“California knows that New York is a bigger market,” Kolektor says. “California has always been at the top of the game in production, and New York has been just buying. So now you have a bunch of local growers popping up, which is really cool.”
When we speak in early fall, Kolektor has just got through the last of other breeders’ genetics and popped 100 seeds of his own to grow out. The male he’s currently working with is a Black Mamba crossed with four different female cultivars. The results are just unnamed crosses for now, Candy Cane x Black Mamba, a Honey Banana x Black Mamba, a Grape Pie x Black Mamba, and an unrevealed fourth. Kolektor’s also creating his own genetics with Purple Taipan (Grape Pie x Black Mamba) pollen and says the hope is that the brand can create a menu “fully curated, bred, and grown by us.” When we connect, he’s just harvested a Sherb Breath, Sunset Sherbert x Mendo Breath.
“It’s super heavy on the Mendo Breath so you get a lot of that like savory terps, almost like a beef soup, beef stew or something, it’s real weird,” he says.
Kolektor grew up in the South Bronx and never thought he’d be able to grow cannabis. Serving in the Army in Afghanistan he saw acres and acres of weed growing in the desert and it hit him that growing it himself might be a possibility. After he got out of the Army, he took some seeds back with him to New York and started experimenting. He’s making plans in terms of gaining official state cultivation licensing and wants to stay close to the Bronx.
“That’s where we can serve the community the best,” he says. “A lot of investors want us to go upstate, but if we go upstate we’re just going to service a bunch of white folks, like our social equity plan will be shit at that point, you know? I’m from the Bronx apartments in Yonkers so we understand how bad the communities have got due to the War on Drugs and the Stop and Frisk era so we want to be able to offer some good opportunities to people in the city that we love.” -EH
Solar Cannabis Co. grows indoors in its main facility in Somerset, Massachusetts within a 67,000-square-foot space. Its solar production allows the company to operate completely energy independent; solar panels cover the entire facility roof as well as an adjacent 4-acre lot. The cultivator also utilizes two high-efficiency CHP (combined heat and power) generators, making natural gas the only utility that Solar Cannabis Co. is hooked up to. It cycles through 10,000 gallons of water a day, but reclaims 90% of that water to be recirculated back into their fertigation watering system (a process which adds fertilizer into an irrigation system).
Solar Cannabis Co.’s Director of Marketing and Communications Derek Gould says the company is constantly striving to reduce its energy footprint.
“A lot of these states where you can only cultivate indoors, at least all year round, it’s definitely important to take a look at the energy footprint and the carbon footprint that we’re leaving, because, it’s huge, it’s massive, and we really just want to do it the right way,” Gould says. “We want to do it upfront, and be a model for other operators, whether current or upcoming, to take a look and identify that, hey, we have a corporate responsibility to operate in a sustainable way.”
Solar Cannabis Co. is a vertically integrated company, but they also grow vertically to fully take advantage of their facility space. Cannabis plants are cared for on a three-tier rack system, allowing Solar Cannabis Co. to house anywhere between 2,200 to 2,400 plants per room.
“The way that we have designed our facility is for constant production, we are harvesting a room every week-and-a-half and we’re pulling down. I would say close to 350 to 400 pounds of dried flower per room every one-and-a-half to two weeks. So, you know, we are constantly in mass production,” Gould explains.
Solar Cannabis Co.’s Vice President of Cultivation Brendan Delaney has a background in cultivation in Trinity County, California and has helped make connections with West Coast cultivators like Compound Genetics and Humboldt Seed Company. A few of their current best sellers are recognizable cultivars like Cherry Punch, Gas Truffle, Hella Jelly, Jelly Runtz, Pink Certz, The Bling, Waffle Cone, and Wedding Cake.
“What we’ve brought from the West Coast here to the East Coast, they’ve been game changers, everything’s been home runs, for the most part,” says Gould.
In Massachusetts, vertically integrated cannabis companies are limited to having three retail licenses, and with Solar Cannabis Co. having two in operation and one coming soon to Dartmouth, the brand is expanding its ethos into other markets and holds a retail-only dispensary license in Rhode Island. -AK
Using cannabis as a way to support Black and brown communities that have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs is a worthwhile commitment. Good Green (owned by Green Thumb Industries) strives to sell affordable cannabis flower while also providing funds to worthy nonprofit organizations.
Split between sativa, hybrid, and indica offerings, Good Green is in several markets: Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Earlier this year, Green Thumb Industries was one of seven multi-state operators to participate in New Jersey’s first day of recreational sales which began on April 21. As a vertically integrated company, Green Thumb has its own grow facility in New Jersey that supplies an “ever-growing portfolio of strains.” Strains like Banana Cream, Animal Face, L’Orange, Jack Herer, and Rebel Sour are a handful of popular strains in New Jersey.
Good Green isn’t just a flower producer though, it also offers its Good Green grant program to help support worthy nonprofit organizations (hence the brand motto “Green that does Good”). There are currently eight nonprofits that have been chosen to receive the Good Green grant, based in various locations such as Illinois, New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
Jai Kensey, director of social impact at Green Thumb Industries, explains why it’s so important that cannabis brands give back to the community.
“It’s an obligation and I always say as multi-state operators, it’s our duty to give back to the communities,” Kensey says. “This industry has been built on the backs of Black and brown people, and who have been the most harmed by it. Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis use. And so it’s definitely something where I say it’s very unique for our industry, where it should be part of every bit of our operation in terms of giving back to the communities that have been impacted by it.”
With an extensive, thorough, and rigorous review process, Kensey, along with Social Impact Program Manager Alyssa Estrada and the Good Green brand team, sift through many applicants and score them based on a number of factors. They closely examine each one, scoring them fairly based on three areas: expungement, employment, and education, as well as geographical location and the organization’s financial records to ensure that their funds go toward various programs.
When High Times spoke with Kensey, she shared that they were currently in the process of reviewing over 70 applications for the third round with the intention of choosing four, which will receive a split of $200,000 which was announced in November 2022. This amount helped the brand meet its goal of granting a total of $1.3 million to nonprofits by the end of the year. -AK
Death Row Records, the record label behind many of hip-hop’s biggest superstars for more than three decades, announced today that it’s launching an eponymous marijuana brand: Death Row Cannabis.
Death Row Cannabis dropped a fresh 22-second teaser video on Instagram this morning that featured an updated iteration of Death Row Record’s iconic hooded prisoner logo with a noticeable twist—the inmate is smoking a fat joint. The video is the creation of artist GUAP with a soundtrack provided by Kevin Gilliam, aka DJ Battlecat, the Los Angeles-based producer who’s worked with rap legends including Tupac Shakur, The Game, Xzibit, Snoop Dogg and many more.
According to a statement from the label, the new launch promises to “return Death Row to its former glory, all elements of the former label are being refitted for today’s audience and their evolving tastes.”
Death Row Cannabis Products Revealed
The first products revealed in the video feature eighths of premium flower sold in limited edition commemorative metallic bags. Additionally, liquid diamond-infused .5g pre-rolls will also be available in packs of seven and as individual 2g pre-rolls. Confirmed cultivars include Tropicana Cookies, a Girl Scout Cookies X Tangie hybrid; Strawberry Gary, a Gary Payton X Red Pop; and Runtz, a rare hybrid Zkittles X Gelato cross.
The executive “hand-selected by Snoop himself” to grow the company is West Coast legacy cultivator and industry insider, AK. He’s currently Vice President of Cultivation for TRP LLC, who owns a majority of the Cookies stores across the nation, including their facilities in Florida.
But AK is perhaps best known as being the man behind the IYKYK brand SMKRS and for his role alongside former partner WizardTrees in sprouting, selecting and expertly growing the Shirazi, RS11 (also known as Rainbow Sherbet #11), Studio 54 and strains from exotic cannabis breeder DEO.
According to a statement, “AK’s reputation for ‘fire’ OG weed keeps kids camped out in lines in front of their dispensaries.”
Death Row Cannabis will first be available at select Cookies California stores throughout California in Brentwood (Los Angeles), San Diego and San Bernardino on January 2, 2023, with other states and location rollouts to follow.
Snoop & Death Row Records
The news is something of a full-circle moment for Snoop Dogg, who acquired Death Row Records in February 2022 when he said he was “looking forward to building the next chapter of Death Row Records.”
The Long Beach native’s music career began at the LA-based gansta rap record label. Founded in 1991 by Tracy “The D.O.C.” Lynn Curry, Andre “Dr. Dre” Young, Suge Knight and Richard Gilbert “Dick” Griffey, the label catapulted gangsta rap from being a subculture and placed it firmly into the mainstream.
Snoop’s first appearance at Death Row Records came in 1992 when he and Dr Dre performed on the title track for the movie “Deep Cover.” His debut single “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” was released by the label in October 1993 and became No.1 on Billboard‘s Hot Rap Songs chart and No.8 on the Top 100 chart. The song’s uptempo, funky vibe served as the ideal prelude to the rapper’s debut album, Doggystyle. Produced by Dr Dre, the album debuted at No.1 on the Billboard charts in November 1993 making it the first debut album in history to land in the chats in the covetable position.
Doggystyle sold more than four million copies in the first seven months of its release and it remains one of the most acclaimed and best-selling rap albums of all time.
“I’m thrilled and appreciative of the opportunity to acquire the iconic and culturally significant Death Row Records brand, which has immense untapped future value,” Snoop Dogg said in a statement at the time. “It feels good to have ownership of the label I was part of at the beginning of my career and as one of the founding members. This is an extremely meaningful moment for me.”
Snoop’s acquisition has seen the brand make moves to become “a multi-category cultural platform across music, entertainment and cannabis, all united by the blockchain for a new generation,” the label said in a statement.
Snoop Dogg announced today that Death Row Records—the legendary West Coast hip-hop platform featuring artists like Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur, Nate Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound, and so on—is entering the cannabis game with Death Row Cannabis.
What kind of strains can we expect? Death Row Cannabis will initially launch a trove of OG strains including Runtz, Strawberry Gary, and Tropicana Cookies. The first drop arrives in limited edition commemorative metallic bags featuring the iconic hooded prisoner figure seated in an electric chair on the front—the image found on the Death Row Records logo if you look closely.
Specifically designed for the Death Row Cannabis drop, the new rendering of the prisoner was designed for the launch of the cannabis brand. The main difference between the new and old images is that the new one has one hand broken free and is smoking a fat doobie.
To do this drop, and considering competition, Snoop Dogg zeroed in on one of the top cultivators around.
Who’s Growing Death Row Cannabis?
The man who curates Death Row Cannabis is the one and only, mighty AK—“hand-selected by Snoop himself.” AK is best known for his role alongside former partner Wizard Trees in sprouting, selecting, and cultivating strains such as RS11 (aka Rainbow Sherbert #11), Studio 54, and Shirazi from breeder DEO Farms. (High Times Vice President of Content Jon Cappetta profiled the high-grade cannabis grown by Wizard Trees last August.)
AK is also behind the IYKYK brand SMKRS and he is also the esteemed Vice President of Cultivation for TRP LLC, the company that owns a majority of the Cookies stores across the nation including their facilities in Florida. AK has also developed a reputation for his knack for cultivating fire OG strains.
Death Row Cannabis will first be available at select Cookies California stores throughout California in Brentwood, San Bernardino, and San Diego on Monday, January 2, 2023, with other locations and more states to follow.
Follow Death Row Records and Death Row Cannabis on Instagram for more details about the initial drop. The accounts posted an animation of the Death Row Records logo and revealed a branded pre-roll tube. The teaser video was created by artist GUAP with a soundtrack by Kevin Gilliam, aka DJ Battlecat.
Snoop Dogg and Death Row
Under Snoop’s recent leadership after he acquired the label, Death Row Records is making a lucrative dive into cannabis. Snoop Dogg, under Death Row Records, praised the herb from the get-go, most obviously on albums like Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and The Chronic 2001, or nearly any Snoop Dogg record. (However, Snoop’s acquisition does not necessarily include all the familiar albums.)
At its peak, Death Row Records artists seemed larger than life and defined an era—including the West Coast G-funk sound that was often imitated but not duplicated.
“For over 30 years, through countless chart topping hits and landmark artists, Death Row Records has stood as one of the music industry’s most iconic and culturally significant platforms,” the label said in a statement. “Today, it is under powerful new management. Recently acquired and under the direction of Snoop Dogg and his family, the infamous musical empire has reemerged as a multi-category cultural platform across music, entertainment, and cannabis, all united by the blockchain for a new generation.”
Ahead of the announcement of Death Row Cannabis, Snoop Dogg acquired Death Row Records on February 10. “It feels good to have ownership of the label I was part of at the beginning of my career,” Snoop Dogg said at the time. This represents Snoop Dogg’s next move with his new platform.
Stay tuned for more drops from Death Row Cannabis, soon to follow.
With that being my objective, my week was destined to be a huge win. In fact, this was my opportunity to link with The Yutes, two brothers named Chris and Santris (or Tris) who are making quite a buzz with their music. These youngsters have been on my radar since they landed a prime slot on a SXSW Takeover showcase in Austin, TX. I’ve had my hand in producing this event over thee years and it’s proven to be a valuable platform for artists to develop and break their careers. This was the circumstance for The Yutes, and continuing on their growing momentum, they dropped a single entitled, “Trap Don Dada,” ultimately scoring a deal from Babygrande Records. I had the chance to check all their music out and was captured by their unique way of incorporating their youthful insights and mashing it up with trap and reggae sounds. During my discoveries, I found that they were not only natives of Kingston, Jamaica, but their dad is the iconic dancehall legend Mr Lexx. Needless to say, my mind was blown and they haven’t left my radar since.
While it could be easy to get overwhelmed by all of the events going on during Art Basel, it was a no-brainer to clear my schedule for a night out at SkateBird, who converted their skatepark into a full-blown concert venue featuring performances from none other than The Yutes and stoner rap legend Curren$y—courtesy of Clockwork Music. I knew that this was my chance to link up with The Yutes and get them really really high.
On my way out of town, I wanted to make sure I had some official New York pack on me, so I stopped by The Astor Club and grabbed a few 8ths of the Sour Power for me, and a couple Sheist Bubz to gift to The Yutes. I also snatched a Punch Bar for my flight. After consuming a combination of my goodies, I arrived at the airport feeling like I could float to Florida without the plane.
Somehow, I made it to Miami and the mission was to head straight to the show. I arrived, rolled up some of the Sour Power, and proceeded to find The Yutes and hand over the packs I brought them. We chopped it up, then immediately started to Chong out in their green room. Upon venturing out, we realized that there was a whole other cannabis pop-up event upstairs at SkateBird called Terp Basel. Cookies was in the building; they now have a location in Miami and it’s cool to see them support events like these. My New York homies, 167 Exotics, were there and they hooked us up with some with some powerful Cherry Poppers buds. We also ran into the TerpHogz gang and they let us try two new strains from their latest pheno hunt: Lava Cake X Zkittlez and Hindu Zkittlez x Papaya x Zkittlez #28. Eventually, it was show time. The Yutes had a tremendous performance, gracing the stage alongside Smoke DZA and Curren$y. After the crowd was rocked to its fullest potential, we ended the night smoking some more astounding weed and declared it a successful evening.
Things went so well that we cliqued up the next day and hit the Basel streets together to stop by various events. We pulled up to Coi Leray’s event, launching her new strain with TheTenCo, which was great because we were blessed to obtain a few packs of that delicious Pink Zushie. The rest of the day was spent at an indoor/outdoor arcade venue called FunDimension where an event called Dab Day: Art Basel Edition was held by Dab Day Productions.
As you may assume from the name, it was certainly a terpy affair, filled with hundreds of Art Basel-goers ripping dabs, playing arcade games, and congregating over the love of cannabis. Of course we did even more smoking there: endless pre-rolls from the homies at Blazy Susan, some more fire from Buddies Bodega, and ran into Shaggy Brown with that extremely potent Shaggy OG (which is not to be slept on unless sleeping is a goal).
Casa De Cristal, the headiest location for functional glass art in Miami, had a full-blown pop up with super rare pieces from the likes of Mothership Glass and Toro. This was where Tris took his first dab ever in life, using a Puffco Proxy. Later on, I had the honor of introducing them to one of my cannabis heroes, Richard “Uncle Rick” DeLisi. Rick, who runs his own family cannabis business called DeLisioso, blessed them with some wisdom and some merch from their booth.
As this night was coming to a close, it was time to hydrate, eat, and recharge, because at some point in my haze I needed to ask some burning questions to my new stoner pals.
High Times:I saw Curren$y really embrace you guys. He mentioned wanting to work again. What can you tell us about your song with him?
Chris: Making “High Grade” with Curren$y was an amazing feeling. It’s a stoner song. We live that everyday, so it was only right we tap in. Reggae is also something that we’re interested in because we come from Jamaica. We made a dope vibe and Curren$y added his flame to it. Plus he rapped a different style on it—definitely one of my favorites.
HT: Do you remember how you were turned on to him as a fan?
Tris: When we was 13 or 14, Wiz [Khalifa] put out a video for a Waka Flocka freestyle, called “Reefer Party.” We was tuned into Wiz because he was poppin’ out there, you know, with “Black and Yellow” and all that. Wiz was just going so hard in that video… smoke everywhere and everything. So Curren$y was not on that song, but he was in the video, and so was Nipsey Hussle. There were a lot of cameos, and us being students of the culture, we just soaked it all up. Listening to Wiz put us on to all of that.
HT:What was it like to attend a pure Cannabis event like Dab Day?
Chris: Being able to smoke so free and open like that was an experience for us.
Tris: Whole event was crazy. We grew up with cannabis getting so much bad publicity—a lot of people in jail for the wrong reasons. Just the fact that we are at this point, where events like this exist, is beautiful.
Chris: I was stoned as fuck, that’s why I missed out when Tris took a dab. I’m still mad about that!
HT:What about meeting Rick DeLisi?
Chris: Uncle Rick is a very intriguing and interesting person.
Tris: Everyone needs to read up on Uncle Rick’s story. But basically he was a cannabis smuggler who just got out of prison after 52 years. That is longer than both of us have been alive. It is great that he is free and happy, and smoking big.
HT: With Mr. Lexx being your father, has cannabis always been a part of your life?
Chris: Yes, having a father in the music industry, he would always have his joints around. He would hide it from us, but we knew what it was. We figured out that it was a part of the music and his way of creating.
Tris: And not just the weed, we found his whole lifestyle inspiring: the way he would interact with other artists, be in the studio and go to events, really made us want to go for it. He wasn’t always there, but when we do get to link it’s always an unforgettable experience.