Humility Over Hype

Within the Sense grow room, Cultivation Manager Rob King slides up along the wall in order not to brush up against the buds. It’s a tight space and reminds me of cultivation facilities I visited before California’s transition to the adult-use marketplace in 2018. That’s not coincidental. This grow, centrally located downtown in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., San Francisco, was one of the first in California to be city-licensed for cannabis cultivation back in the Proposition 215 era. With a room for plants in veg and two flowering rooms with around 100 lights, the team at Sense has the opportunity to be hands-on with each plant they grow. And this attention to detail shows in the flowers they produce, which are consistently some of the most frosted over, absolutely crystal-coated dank nugs out there.

“Because of how long it’s been in operation, this was never an ideal grow space,” King says upon my arrival. “Like you see a lot of these new ventures that are funded and backed in like super pristine lab-type grows and this is really not that. This has a lot of history to it. It’s not an ideal space. We’re in San Francisco, so cost per square foot is at a premium.”

I easily arrived at the grow via public transit on a weekday afternoon and, along with King, meet the company’s CEO Steve Griffith and COO Adam Hayes in a small hallway area. The group seems close and I later find out they’ve all recently had children within the last nine months. Hayes and King were even at the hospital together at the same time. When I ask if they’d ever consider moving out of San Francisco they all agree it’s easier and less expensive just to stay put. Plus, they enjoy working in the city where, before they all had kids, they’d sometimes go out for drinks together after work. In fact, they have plans to expand their current space.

Griffith explains that Sense is a “bootstrap wonder company.”

“We pride ourselves on being the least corporate company you can get,” he says. “We are as small batch as it gets. We’ve got about 100 lights. We’re just under a 2,000-square-foot canopy. We are in the garden every day… we’re grinders. As far as comparing us to the hype machine kind of companies, we’re the antithesis of that.”

Pink Certz

Flowers Over Everything

With minimal marketing efforts and without a large social media presence, Sense’s flowers are what makes them stand out. Their Pink Certz win at the Transbay Challenge III, a cannabis competition hosted by Jimi Devine in March 2022, put the eyes of the weed world on them before they took first place in the hybrid category with the same strain at the High Times Cannabis Cup SoCal: People’s Choice Edition in summer 2022. 

Like many sought-after companies in the cannabis space, the team pops seeds and conducts phenohunts to select which cultivars to offer. When we meet, they are planning a run of testing new genetics with about six cultivars grown out into 10 different selections of each to discover which one is best. Today they have Purple Churro, a cross of Cinnamon Horchata and Apples & Bananas from Compound Genetics, and an unexpected older classic, Headband, among the contenders. Their choices have produced great results in the past, as shown by their competition wins with Pink Certz, a cross of Grape Gasoline with The Menthol created by Compound Genetics.

“That was kind of a kismet kind of situation when we went to the Transbay Challenge,” Griffith says. “We didn’t know [Compound Genetics]. We just bought their seeds. We’ve been buying their seeds for a couple years now and we happened to enter the same strain that they brought. They were selling those Pink Certz seeds at the event and we kind of came together and showed them a jar and they were pretty wowed by it and we ended up winning.”

So what does it take to know you might be growing award-winning cannabis?

“You have to look at things through a pretty wide scope at first,” Griffith says. “So obviously, the first thing we want to look for is bag appeal, aroma, flavor.”

That hits three of the five senses: sight, smell, and taste. But even with all that, the ultimate decision maker is still the amount of THC. Griffith explains that if a strain tests lower than 20% THC, it’s “just not doable in today’s market.”

Marshmallow OG

Sense’s Growing Style 

Within the veg room at Sense, the plants really feel like they are vibing. A vibrant shade of lime green, they all look happy and pretty uniform. The clones are grown in rockwool and are on a drip irrigation system. The advantage of rockwool, King explains, comes in the labor savings. Before adopting this method, they would have to take the time to transplant the clones into gallon pots.

“[Rockwool] is a completely inert media,” King says. “There’s no cation exchange capacity (a measure of soil’s ability to supply nutrients), so whatever you’ve feeding it, it’s very quickly and directly responding to.”

While some cultivators will continue to grow their rockwool clones hydroponically by transferring them into larger rockwool blocks or slabs, Sense places them in a different medium mix with carbon, coco coir, and peat and then adds worm castings, mycorrhizal fungi, and beneficial insects. 

“I would never say we’re [doing] living soil because the guys who are doing living soil are doing something even beyond what we’re trying to do,” King says. “But we are trying to allow room for that biology, and I think allowing room for that biology really sets our quality apart.”

Griffith expands on that idea when it comes to the nutrients they feed their plants. 

“[Our growing style] allows flavors and aromas to come out in the flower that you don’t get when you’re doing the full synthetic. So we feed synthetic nutrients, but we also are adding this proprietary blend we created of kelp, humic acid, fulvic acid, fish hydrolysate, and a few other things to help create some biology in the retail [market],” he says. 

And while indoor cannabis has a reputation for not being environmentally-friendly, all the power it takes to run the Sense grow has always been generated by renewable energy thanks to San Francisco’s CleanPowerSF program. 

“It’s a bit of a premium on our power, but you sleep a little better at night,” Griffith says.

Khalifa Mints

The Sense Selections

While they aren’t about making too much noise, Sense is growing some of today’s most popular and sought-after cultivars. That includes GMO, a Girl Scout Cookies and Chemdawg cross that looks like a real monster in the grow room because thin branches jut out of gnarled colas as the plant continues to stretch for the light.

“It’s god-awful looking,” Griffith says. “Look at the plants. It’s like, ‘What’s going on?’ But when it’s all said and done, it’s one of the most potent and smelling strains even without us growing it, just period.” 

Alongside that dank offering, Sense is growing the decidedly sweeter and creamier Rainbow Chip, a Sunset Sherbet and Mint Chocolate Chip cross from Exotic Genetix. There’s also Khalifa Mints. This one comes from Compound Genetics’s collaboration with Wiz Khalifa’s cannabis company, Khalifa Kush, and has one of the same parents as Pink Certz, The Menthol, combined with Khalifa Kush. My sample smells like a mojito, with muddled mint and fresh lime citrus, and reveals its gassy aroma when ground. The whole eighth is impressively staked in four buds, which are completely frosted with trichomes. Still, while Griffith hones in on Khalifa Mints as a cultivar with growth potential, pointing out the popularity of Khalifa Kush, the team reassures me the hype does not drive them. 

“We’ve entered a lot of things and we’re pretty humble with all our thoughts on our strains,” Hayes says. “Pink Certz kind of came to us as a surprise and we’ve been riding that a little bit, but we’re not the ones to be like, ‘This one is going to be the best.’”

This article was originally published in the December 2022 issue of High Times Magazine.

The post Humility Over Hype appeared first on High Times.

What and Where Is Cannabis Culture Today?

Danielle “Dan” Guercio, a New York-based cannabis writer and creative, felt that cannabis news stories had to focus on “a brand, celeb, political or science angle” to get featured.

“The only culture stuff we get is from the same five dudes and their friends,” she said via LinkedIn comments

“There’s a little bit of an echo chamber happening in the professional space right now—too-similar circles circulating too-similar information,” she told me in a follow-up chat. 

The suggestion was certainly interesting. Were we running into an echo chamber where only a few similar voices speak for millions? I wasn’t sure about the number of representatives. But I certainly agreed when it came to the stories. With commenters telling me they wanted more success stories and relatable topics, is the news playing gatekeeper, or is the public short-sighting the current offering? 

When I pitched the topic to my editor, he told me I could pursue it “only if you go into it realizing you are one of those dudes.” I agreed to the condition despite not fully agreeing with the opinion. Sure, my work appeared regularly on a few outlets. Still, I could name several voices on this publication and numerous others that cover all things pot. And even if only five of us dudes are covering the scene, I can name at least two that probably wouldn’t consider me a colleague they’d want to associate with. 

I get it, if that’s the case. Those prominent writers certainly walk the walk more than I ever could. Maybe it’s the imposter syndrome talking, but I never thought a 30-something who can barely roll a J, hasn’t grown a plant and hasn’t been busted for anything really represents what many in the Western world consider authentic weed culture. Or, maybe it isn’t the imposter syndrome but rather the reality of the current situation. 

Before tackling if it is adequately covered in the media, I needed to unpack what cannabis culture is in the first place. To do so, I asked roughly 100 pot personalities, from underground operators to MSO execs to casual consumers. 

What is Cannabis Culture?

Cannabis Culture is a Canadian weed publication once run by this guy who did some questionable things…

Wait, wrong cannabis culture. That’s a story for another day. The cannabis culture we’re looking to nail down is a bit more ambiguous—just like it’s been for decades. 

Defining culture can be challenging at times. Taking pot out of the equation doesn’t help much, either. Culture’s definition varies depending on the source. Most would summarize it as our shared or collective knowledge, experiences, beliefs, patterns, behaviors, attitudes, religions and other components we’ve encountered as humans over many generations. We shape the world around us through our collective experiences. As time progresses, our culture evolves with it. Our worldviews grow while some once dominant traits or subcultures fade into the background as others gain prominence. 

That sums up cannabis culture throughout the ages, particularly today. While many may have clearly defined views of the culture, others contest that it has always been wide-reaching.

“It is a multifaceted phenomenon encompassing a wide range of social and behavioral aspects surrounding the consumption of cannabis,” said Kimberly Shaw, a 10-year cannabis grower and plant enthusiast. 

Thanks to legalization and expanding access, millions of newcomers are now part of the discussion. Does this make them part of the culture? It depends on who you ask. While many casual consumers are welcomed by most, fear over particular types runs high. 

“Excluding the overlap with mainstream pop culture–movies, music, celebs, etc.—the cannabis culture as it was once known has evolved into “industry” culture,’” said Benjamin Owens, a cannabis event organizer and author of psilocybin recipe book Mr. Boomer’s Magic Kitchen

“The culture has many faces and many independent desires,” said Alex Redmond via Twitter

“From MSOs to ancillary businesses—it doesn’t feel like we’re attracting the best and the brightest,” he added. 

Whether we like it or not, these individuals are part of the cannabis community, a now bloated but still technically accurate term for pot consumers. While some may not like the inclusion of casuals and atypical consumers or operators, there’s no denying these folks represent the evolution of the modern community and its culture.

“Cannabis culture today is evolving and being remixed across geographic boundaries, legal and legacy sectors, and consumer communities,” said Michael Kauffman, executive director of the Clio Music & Clio Cannabis awards.

Until recently, cannabis culture helped describe the few prevailing cannabis subcultures, including medical users, advocates, trappers and the hip hop community. But, some argue that view excludes today’s and past era’s cannabis consumers. 

“I always say the cannabis culture is a subculture of all other cultures,” said Ngaio Bealum, a prominent cannabis writer and comedian, among many other talents. He added, “Whatever it is that people do, there’s a subset of people that like to get high and do it.”

Similarly, Morgan Fox, political director for NORML, told me the cannabis community has always represented more than just its most vocal pot proponents.

“I think it’s kinda difficult to answer because cannabis culture has always been ubiquitous,” he said. Since prohibition has been in place, there’s been a kinship between weed consumers from various walks of life. 

“Even people that were super undercover about their cannabis use…part of the culture of cannabis use was that when they would find somebody else that they know also consumed cannabis, there’d be sort of like an instant rapport and understanding,” said Fox. 

The silent consumers throughout the ages certainly help contribute to the culture. But if you were to ask the general public during those times what they considered cannabis culture, few, if any, would say the silent majority. Instead, they’d likely mention the loudest communities and subcultures. Does that eliminate those not in those groups? It shouldn’t, but the truth is that many in the community, be it media, business or sometimes more sophisticated consumers, practice this approach. 

My hunch is that, like anything people hold dear, they feel responsible for protecting the cannabis community and culture they grew up in. As the world around them changes, they become protective of what they see as the proper culture. Without conflating cannabis into another massive societal issue, it feels like cannabis’ old guard is protective of its remaining culture as cannabis gentrifiers enter the community. While justified and correct in many ways, I do wonder if certain members of cannabis are shutting out passionate cannabis folks because they don’t fall into the standard personalities or perspectives we’ve established as “authentic.” If they don’t look a certain way, don’t know enough about the plant, or haven’t been arrested for it, are they still considered members of the culture?

The Pillars of Cannabis Culture?

The cannabis community has always been wide-reaching, even if consumers often stayed low-key. In recent eras, that quiet consuming approach helped minimize particular consumers as different subcultures became dominant voices. While true that culture varies by country, state, city and neighborhood, a few prevalent subcultures continue to shape much of the conversation. 

Few, if anyone, will deny that the medical community started it all off. While some could have puffed on the plant for fun in the early days, documented history shows that groups stretching across various continents and centuries turned to cannabis for its healing properties. One of the most heavily cited examples is the plant’s inclusion in ancient Chinese pharmacopeia.

“I think cannabis transcends almost everything because it’s biology,” said “Hawaii” Mike Salman about the body’s endocannabinoid system.

Salman, the co-founder of New York-based infused dining events Chef for Higher, grew up in the Bay Area and Hawaii cannabis communities. There, he began developing an appreciation for how the plant fit into daily life and wellness. His professional career saw cannabis converge with one of the most influential cultures of the past 40 or so years, hip hop. Like other genres of music before it, hip hop has continued to help shape cannabis while the plant has done the same to it. Listen to any track from today’s artists, and you’ll soon run into some bars about pot. Those odds increase when the track features names like Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Kid Cudi or [insert your favorite pot-loving hip hop artist here]. The trend is nothing new, with artists ranging from Rick James to Louis Armstrong shouting out the plant over the years, but hip hop has run with it like nobody else. 

As road manager for acts like Mobb Deep and editor for The Source Magazine, Salman was front and center as hip hop and cannabis furthered their bond. He credited hip hop’s influence in promoting both communities’ cultures.

“[Hip hop] is the broadest cultural expression that we have,” said Salman, saying the culture can be identified through music, fashion, vernacular and many other facets of life—cannabis included. 

Until hip hop’s emergence, the counterculture movement of the 60s and 70s was the best example of music and cannabis coming together, at least since the Jazz Era. Some may still argue that the counterculture movement is the most potent example due to drug culture and music helping advance societal perspective shifts. Simultaneously, the counterculture and civil rights movements, particularly for Black Americans, were the two groups targeted in the Nixon-era War on Drugs in an attempt to stop both growing influences in America.  

Whether it’s jazz, classic rock, hip hop or otherwise, the cannabis connection is forged thanks to another crucial subculture: the underground. 

Call them OGs, trappers, legacy operators, your guy or whatever you want. We wouldn’t have cannabis culture without the ones supplying the pipeline. The OGs kept the medical market thriving despite prohibition and draconian criminal punishments for often non-violent offenses. Until legalization, if you saw weed, you knew it came from the underground. They supplied pot to the musicians and club attendees throughout the decades, just as they did for you and I in these modern times. It’s been the same for ages because of the underground, no other way to say it. 

Without their contributions and sacrifices, cannabis culture wouldn’t have flourished. And we for damn sure wouldn’t have the legal market that often turns a cold shoulder to the OGs when setting up licensed businesses. 

These large groups of people help shape cannabis culture in the US and most other nations. Hip hop can play more or less of a role, depending on the country. However, the medical and underground movements are linked to the culture no matter in America, India, South Africa and even more restrictive parts of the world. Still, as legalization and access grows, so does the cannabis community. 

Therein lies the conflict: Are newcomers part of the culture or just the community? And are either of their stories getting told properly? 

Much More To Consider

The above groups have every right to claim a significant stake in the foundation of cannabis culture. However, many participants, new and old, could argue that their communities deserve a place in the culture conversation. 

Advocates and other plant-passionate individuals make up a huge portion of the community. It indeed can be argued that they are pillars just as much as the above groups. With the subcultures having their fair share of overlap, separating advocates from the medical, underground and hip hop communities and calling them their own pillar felt redundant. But others would do so and are correct in that approach. 

The term advocate has become a freely used descriptor as legalization efforts gained steam in recent years. Jimi Devine recently highlighted the concern around under- or uninformed folks calling themselves advocates or framing themselves as experts when they’re far from one. Still, the true advocates, the ones passionate about education, reform and eroding stigmas, are a community that deserve their recognition as cornerstones of the culture in the past century or so. 

Then there are the casuals. These folks like their pot quite a lot–sometimes consuming every day, sometimes less frequently. No matter how often they partake, when they do, they enjoy it. While they may love it, you won’t confuse this group for OGs. 

Some in the group pursue plant knowledge to become more informed consumers, advocates or otherwise. Parents and working professionals are becoming two of the more prominent voices in the casual consumer community. 

“Cannabis offers a safer and healthier alternative to alcohol, which is often the go-to choice for working parents,” said Tara Furiani, CEO at Not the HR Lady.

Other casuals aren’t that concerned about the plant other than how high they’ll feel. For some, all they want to know about is THC percentage or the difference between indicas, sativas and hybrids. Some don’t even care about that. I remember the most significant takeaways I got from the 2021 MJBizCon came from Vegas cabbies, who exclusively discussed price and THC percentages. Whether people like it or not, a lot of casuals just want the basic info or even less. 

While this group’s lack of knowledge and/or zero desire to learn more can frustrate some pot-passionate individuals, we can’t disregard the casuals from the conversation. If we do, the education gap will only grow. But, if we provide them with this type of basic information, they may become more interested, and thus informed than they ever intended. That is where I like to write most of my articles. I feel much of cannabis media has skipped over this group, instead focusing on the experts and passionates or the business community. Plus, everybody knows my ass isn’t OG. 

While casuals aren’t entirely representative of the culture, this group’s massive numbers shape cannabis society. Even if they aren’t impacting OG mindsets, they are the symptom of legalization, helping divide the consuming community into informed, passionate consumers and everyday folks who are helping erode stigmas whether they are aware or not. Should the casuals be leading the conversation on cannabis ethics, cultivation or other important topics? Certainly not. But their experiences and voices are shaping the cannabis community–one that many experts and insiders may not recognize if they stay within their echo chambers. 

This leads to the last question…

Is the Media Adequately Covering Cannabis Culture?

While many differed on what cannabis culture is, most agreed that mainstream media failed to adequately showcase it .

Respondents often told me they consider mainstream media to be traditional TV and print outlets, not including more niche cannabis publications in the grouping. Many felt that depictions in the news and in fiction-based media continued to rely on stereotypes rather than actual consumers.

“There’s definitely still a lot of caricatures and stereotypes that are popular,” said Nadir Pearson, VP of business development for cannabis brand WISECO

While you can find cannabis use normalized in select news and fiction projects, recent examples like Netflix’s now-canceled Disjointed series highlight the ongoing lack of quality cannabis representation in media. Others, like Hawaii Mike, highlighted concerns around the digital news model. 

“It’s skewed because we’re in clickbait culture still,” said Salman, saying that demonization pieces continue to generate clicks. 

Like traditional news, digital media thrives on the “if it bleeds, it leads” model. Meaning, sensational stories win out more often than not. Those that disagree should see traffic numbers for positive articles versus negative or sensational pieces. The model is also rampant on social media, with scores of influencers looking to cash in on “shocking” or informative content “no one will believe,” despite being easily sourced on Google or Wikipedia.

Salman’s argument is valid. When publications like the New York Times run stories about dogs eating edibles instead of more pressing cannabis topics, one has to wonder what’s getting passed over. However, it could be argued that these pieces target the casual consumer crowd, not those in the previously mentioned pillar or advocacy subcultures. While most of us reading this aren’t dumb enough to leave an edible around our dog, tons of NYT readers probably aren’t aware of the effects of pot on their animals–much less the impact of sugar, chocolate and other ingredients in those edibles. Those readers need this sort of information, but without less doom and gloom, ideally. 

On the other hand, most news outlets beyond mainstream TV and digital publications may not cover culture for different reasons. Some respondents felt the media is covering what the public is already consuming.

“People are really focused on news and business,” said Pearson, adding, “Those types of things versus the actual culture.” Pearson’s point can be supported by the vast array of cannabis business publications while many culture-based outlets have shuttered in recent years.  

News coverage also boils down to budgets, bandwidth and public importance. With minimal budgets to hire full-time writers or commission freelancers, media outlets, especially nascent pot publications, may be unable to cover all the stories they want. In that case, editors often go with their gut and/or performance metrics to determine what stories get picked up. In that case, you either need to pique an editor’s interest or prove that this kind of story will generate clicks, shares and comments. If publications don’t follow this model, they risk losing ad revenue and likely commission less work. It’s an ugly cycle that nobody other than Google and social media ad platforms seem to enjoy. 

That’s why I propose cannabis news seekers evolve alongside the culture. Don’t abandon your traditional news. Pot-focused outlets are still producing helpful and often must-know information. But, you may need to bounce around to various outlets to find comprehensive coverage spanning current events, business, politics and culture. I’ve got an Excel spreadsheet if you wanna look it over. Hit me up.

Simultaneously, expand your sources of information. Social media can prove beneficial, like Reddit’s r/trees community, as well as in some groups and conversations found on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Just like traditional news, some of these sources can also produce lackluster results. A certain level of critical thinking and analysis is required. At the same time, Oldheads like myself must also keep up with the times. Branching out to YouTube, Discord and TikTok can all open up avenues to insights from different cannabis community members and content creators. 

Let’s not entirely discount independent journalists, either. While it’s a good rule of thumb to disregard the opinions of nameless, faceless accounts, some are providing excellent news, often on regional levels. Critical analysis is even more important when sourcing news here, but there are trusted names you can connect with and follow for more insights. 

Meanwhile, more cannabis-specific apps and platforms are helping reduce noise while focusing on the culture. Pearson’s Hybrid app cultivates a dedicated following based on a calendar highlighting drops, community events and other authentic experiences. Hybrid is currently available for Apple users. 

And as always in life, it’s good to step out of the digital sphere occasionally. Don’t forget how important it is to show up. I’m not one to talk, with my introversion, disabled dog and pandemic really ramping up my desire to never leave the living room this past year or so. But let me tell you from experience, showing up is the best way to understand the pulse of the community on a local, national and international level. If you can, go to info sessions, meetups, rallies, public forums and anywhere else where pot is in the discussion. I stay in the loop on all things New York State cannabis thanks to Mannada’s Kristin Jordan and The Maze Calendar newsletter. 

At the same time, try to save up the cash to attend events like Spannabis, the High Times Cups and various other national and international gatherings. Find the ones that cater to what you want to learn about and dive in. 

Do these options fix the media’s lack of cannabis coverage? Absolutely not. But I would argue that cannabis culture is covered more often by more people than credit is given. But with the task of covering an already large and evolving culture, some critical stories won’t reach the masses. Be it a hesitation from major media or other limitations facing many smaller brands, it isn’t easy to adequately tell the legacy and ongoing news in cannabis culture or its surrounding, growing community. 

But, if you continue to evolve with the times, you can discover a world of cultural content out there–and most of it isn’t coming from me and four other dudes. At the same time, folks like myself need to keep an open mind and hear out the voices that sometimes aren’t being heard. We don’t need to pitch every suggestion we receive, but there are more voices to consider than the ones we rely on. 

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The Gang Goes to Thailand: High Thaimes (Part 4)

After wrapping up at Tropicanna we headed back to the hotel to shower and change before the biggest night of our trip, the culmination party at Phandee.

Now I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what we were in for with this one. I had no idea what any of our reach was in this part of the world, and other than smoking weed with some Thai locals who happened to stop by the shop at that time, I didn’t have many expectations. I had seen a flyer a few days earlier, but honestly didn’t realize they really promoted it. I probably should have been better prepared, as this was a much bigger production than anticipated.

The Party

When we arrived it was booming. All the seats were filled to capacity with most of the walking space taken up by standing circle seshes. There was a DJ. Several, actually. It was wild to see as by this point it was clear that tourists were toking, but not how many locals were deep into the culture already… and we were fashionably late to our own event.

As soon as we got there people started asking for pictures, which I was not expecting whatsoever. If you know me you know I don’t love taking pictures to begin with, but we felt like celebrities in a city on the other side of the world—I wasn’t about to be that asshole, and I loved every second of it this time. People from across the country came out to bring us samples of their homegrown—one of which even made it into December’s Cop List, which is tough even for Cali cats. Friends from Europe came. One kid spent most of the day on the train just to hang with us. And everyone we’d visited on the trip was there to send us off. It was a really special night. We’re just some random guys who celebrate our addictions, and here we are in Asia doing what we love with dozens of new friends. Life’s a trip, man. 

Some of our new friends! Shot by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

The Mythical Stick

I think I mentioned this earlier, but throughout our trip we asked just about every dealer we saw about Thai sticks. All of them told us they were just folklore at this point, and we’d probably never see them again. Since Thailand’s War on Drugs was so serious, for the longest time even an association to the culture could get you locked up forever, and in the underground there is a real “If you know you know” kinda thing. We had started to believe it was a fool’s errand by this point, but a Thai stick is as classic as Thai weed gets, so we couldn’t stop asking. Imagine our surprise when at this culmination party I’m introduced to an elderly man with a big gold mylar bag.

Now, this guy was beaming before we got there, but even at his age he worked out what was going on and who we were before we did him. Although his family had to basically coerce him into coming to meet us, as he has never done any public press before, his enthusiasm for life was contagious. You could see his light from a mile away. His name was Han Singh, and it turned out, he was the guy we’d spent all week looking for. Han was one of the last remaining members of the original Thai stick family, and he’d basically come out of hiding for the first time to meet us. 

I can’t properly express how special those first moments with Han were. He was smiling so big and kept hugging us and thanking us for being interested in what his family had done. It was surreal. Here we were searching the other side of the world for this guy, and he found US and seemed even more excited than we were. 

I didn’t even realize initially the mylar had a Thai stick in it. By the time I had the stick out of the bag and in my hand all of us were crying happy tears, it was really magical. And while yes, I was very, very intoxicated, I can’t remember the last time I felt joy like that. It was like Jimi and I just found our long-lost grandpa.

Me, Han & Jimi. Sorry for the weird light! Shot by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
Jimi with the Thai Stick. Shot by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
Enjoying the fruits of Jim’s labor. Shot by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

We sat and talked with Han for hours as Jimi broke down and rolled up blunt after blunt of the stick Han had brought us. This dude smoked every single one with us, and pounded beers the whole time. It was incredible. I don’t want to blow up too much of what we talked about as I don’t know what the statute of limitations is like in Thailand, but it’s safe to say that this guy had seen far more work than most could ever imagine, and there’s much more to Thai sticks than just brick wrapped around a stick. Like, for example, did you know that the different colors of the thread used to wrap around the outside used to mean something? Back in the day, certain colors meant the sticks were dipped in… other substances popular in that region. Meaning like an E pill, if someone’s experience with Thai sticks wasn’t a great one, or was more intense than expected, the idea that their smoke was laced isn’t a far cry. Before long it was late and we’d missed most of the party talking in the corner with Han. We said our goodbyes and he called it a night.

Derek enjoying a Thai Stick filled blunt. Shot by Jon

After the Party

After we wrapped at Phandee spirits were high, and although it was getting late and we were ripped we weren’t about to stop there. Some of our new friends, a group of Ukrainian women who recently fled their homes due to the war happening there, worked at a mega club nearby and said we had to check it out. Cue a few additional recreational substances and we were all game. It was called Space Plus, and to be frank, it was the most insane club experience I’ve ever had.

Where to even begin with this place? There were lasers everywhere, performers flailing around the room in costume, this like asian dubstep with an MC ad-libbing. There were at least eight jumbotrons complete with insane light rigs spread out above us across the room, and they were rising and falling with the music. They brought us to a table right in front of the stage to hang out with some people that turned out to be the headliners of the night. You could smoke cigarettes in the club, but you had to go out to the patio to smoke weed. Every walk of life you could imagine was represented at this place, and many of them were wearing gear that had words like ‘SEX’ or ‘DRUGS’ scrawled across them. Erin went to the bathroom and got forcibly massaged at the urinal. His back was cracked, mid-stream and all–-it was, like with many things in this country, insanely unexpected but weirdly thrilling. I imagine, I couldn’t stop laughing about that one enough to ask him.

I honestly had a great time at this place. Maybe it was the drugs, but we were all dancing to shit I would’ve listened to in college, and the people-watching was incredible. Eventually our table-mates took the stage, and one of those Chinese dragons with a bunch of people inside started going around the room. This is where that clip of someone pouring liquor from the stage into my mouth in High Rise’s doc came from. I don’t usually drink but what am I going to tell the guy on stage “None for me, thanks!” ? I’m at least incrementally more fun than that.

Oliver & Ron in Space Plus. Shot by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

The craziest thing though was that this club wasn’t open that much longer after we arrived. We watched our new friends play a few more songs, and the lights just went on. It was extremely unexpected, as we were FUCKED by this point, and we had all sort of assumed we’d hang there all night. We had all taken a fair bit of uppers, and like, pretty recently, so we had hours more in us. Our hosts said they knew of a hip-hop bar nearby, so we headed there. About the same time I decided this was probably a good time to stop taking harder drugs for the night. I wanted to sleep before the sun came up.

After the Club

So we get to this new bar, and it’s packed, but there’s a table right by the door reserved for us. I should mention, Jimi hasn’t stopped breaking down the Thai stick and rolling blunts all night. It’s not slowing us down much, so as soon as we get there the table’s taken over and Jimi’s at work. I realize it’s almost 11 a.m. back home, time for the High Times weekly company Zoom call. I take it from the club, because it seemed like a great idea at the time. They probably didn’t notice. 

This place was open for maybe two more hours, but by the time they were closing and we were headed back to the hotel I was spent, and ready to lay down. We decided to smoke a few more blunts out in front of the hotel first just for good measure. Jimi went live on Instagram because it was a more reasonable hour back home, and honestly I blame that for reigniting my spark, because as we’re all going through all the drugs we received that night I jokingly pull out a bunch of mushrooms like it’s a good idea to eat them right now. Jimi called my bluff, and scoffed down 2 grams at 4:30 in the morning. I can’t remember much besides laughing from there. 

When I got back to my room I fell asleep trying to jot down whatever I could remember.

Day 6

I don’t know what time it was when I finally got out of bed, but it was too early. I didn’t even look at the clock, I just assumed I was already late so I got dressed, threw some water on my face, and headed down to find something to eat. Unfortunately that didn’t work out too well as breakfast was over, so we smoked a few blunts before heading to the pool. 

I was up there in the sun for maybe 20 minutes before I couldn’t handle it anymore. I went back to bed.

At around 5 p.m. I tried waking up again. This time I could feel my legs, and the room wasn’t spinning quite as bad. I called the crew to see where everyone was, as I was for sure the only one still at the hotel now that the sun was setting. The High Rise gang had gone to get another round of massages, and Jimi was back over at Phandee, smoking and watching the World Cup. I called a cab that canceled at least three times but eventually I made it over to hang with Jim until the guys were ready. 

After the crew had finished their massages we set out on our last dispensary tour.

The Final Countdown

The first stop was the Zaza dispensary, which it goes without saying (but I will anyway) was our favorite shop name. This one was a bit more mobile and lowkey than the others we’d seen, operating out of what could have been an info kiosk. Only instead of local information (which honestly, they did provide too) these guys were serving heat. 

We learned that this shop was operated by Guy Gee Gee, a notable rapper in Thailand, and his long-time friends. One of them was actually their plug back in the traditional market days who they became close with. These kids have been seeking out the best weed they could find for years, so it was no surprise their selection looked closest to the wares you’d find back home in California. It’s worth noting that in Thailand there’s no possession or sales limit yet, so these guys could sell us up to a pound if we wanted. Sure it cost $10,000 USD over there right now, but they had it if we needed it. We chopped it up with them for a while, got some good footage for High Rise’s archive, and drank some incredible mixed orange juice (different types of oranges, no alcohol) from the cart next door before heading out to find dinner.

This turned out to be a challenge once again, as it seems like that part of town shuts down with the setting sun, but our next stop was Khao San Road, which is the spot I’m probably most familiar with in Bangkok so I was more than geeked to get back out there. I don’t know if we even ended up eating, but before long we were in the van heading to our final dispensary, Green Head, which was located at one end of the Khao San night markets. 

Khao San Road

Now Khao San is a major party street in Bangkok. There are countless vendors slinging everything from vape pens to alligator meat, and the shops behind most of the vendors have more expansive collections of each pop up. It’s also where they do a lot of recruiting for the ping pong shows, which anyone who hears you’re going to Thailand asks about. Everyone is consuming various substances, and a ton of bars all facing each other are using their sound systems to try and out-party their neighbors. It’s a real trip, and it’s loud. But the place had changed pretty drastically since I’d last seen it. Where there used to be pharmacies there were now dispensaries, and it seemed like they’d cleaned up a lot of the more predatory type vendors. It also seemed smaller, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We pull up to Green Head, which is facing all the action, but just off the actual strip, and meet with their owner. He explains how they’ve been cultivating for years for the Thai government, and while they used to just take all their buds and disappear them, it has now afforded them privileges like selling concentrate and edibles, which is still banned to most establishments in the country unless they’re specifically considered a medical provider. He also tells us that while this shop is great, he’s got something else to show us, and leads us out onto Khao San.

A couple hundred feet into the madness we get to the glowing green ‘Plantopia’ sign. Seeming like a hidden cannabis oasis, Plantopia opens down this bricked incline into a village of weed shops. I mentioned Nana in the last piece—well this was the Nana of weed. An entire strip mall dedicated almost entirely to cannabis and cannabis consumption—though there was a snack shop and a jewelry dealer in there, which I imagine were likely remnants of the center’s last life. Our new friend also had a shop in here, and this is where we conducted the majority of our interview in proper fashion—while consuming. I have mentioned a few times throughout this adventure how the Thai don’t seem to mind having direct competitors right next door, and that was especially true here, as just in the 30 minutes we hung out there I saw several groups shop at multiple stores before ultimately seshing together in the half-outside lounge area.

I should mention, we learned within that conversation that it only costs about $10-30K USD to set up a shop out there. That means with the right packs you could make that back the first day with what Zaza told us they were charging, especially if you sold a few P’s. 

After spending some time in what I consider the best weed destination I’ve seen to date, we ventured further out onto the party street. It was incredibly loud, but they have incredible bootlegs and oddities for sale there, so we spent some time going booth to booth. I was surprised to see how many nicotine vape vendors there were, but they’re illegal in stores there so it’s not that weird if you think about it. The traditional market being traditional. After exploring some of the bar-filled alleys that protrude from the main road, we each got some harem pants and made our way back to the hotel. No ping pong show for us this time, but if you’re curious about what goes down at that sort of thing I’d encourage checking out High Rise’s podcast…

Considering checking out a show…

Day 7 (Mostly Airport)

Our final day was an early one, as we had to head to the airport around noon. We were due back in California for some events in NorCal, and we’d extended as far as we could without being late. In fact, we were due to arrive about an hour before the first event started.

Naturally I used the late departure time to sleep in. I skipped breakfast and although getting downstairs early enough to get a few blunts in, I probably could’ve used the nourishment. I ate a Klonopin instead. We didn’t realize until later we didn’t need to get to the airport so early in Thailand. 

You see, once we arrived and went to check in for our flight, we were surprised (and frankly worried) to find no one working at the desk for China Air. No one showed up for another hour after we arrived, but fortunately a line was forming behind us so we weren’t alone. I will admit though I was chain-smoking, freaking out that the airline went out of business overnight or something. I decided it was probably a good idea to eat another Klonopin.

While we waited I did some writing. That’s where I started this piece actually, though it’s admittedly gotten away from me at this point. But it was at this moment that I realized that here we were in Thailand, afternoon on a Friday, getting ready for a nearly 20-hour flight that would take us to a party ALSO on Friday in San Francisco. I got tripped up in the time paradox for a solid 10 minutes.

After we got through security and customs we ventured around the actually incredible mall they call an airport. It was massive, and filled with art, and I was feeling good at this point. I remember eating some Korean fried chicken, and apparently I thought it was a good idea to buy scarves. To be fair they were nice, but it was SUPER hot over there. Like I said, I was feeling good. I remember getting on the first plane, but not really the layover in Taiwan.

Somehow when we landed back in California my phone said it was only two hours later. It was indeed still Friday, and we weren’t off the clock yet. We grabbed our bags, and headed immediately to Chronic Culture for a different adventure…

Final Thoughts

In case it hasn’t become abundantly clear by now, I think everyone should drop what they’re doing and go to Thailand immediately. While I would’ve probably told you the same thing if you asked me a few years ago, now that they’ve got accessible weed over there it’s a whole different—more fun and less scary—ball game. I don’t say that because Thailand was scary before, but their prohibition certainly was.

Now that Thailand’s legal, its industry feels similar to how Oklahoma felt when it went online. Or like New York does now. People are EXCITED, and while most of the world is currently seeing record-low prices per pound, the getting is still GREAT out there. I don’t think the rates will be sustainable given how cheap basically everything else is, but I imagine, like Vegas, there will be a tourist market, and a locals-only one. Being the Vegas/Amsterdam of Asia seems to be what they’re going for.

Now, I do want to clarify that like New York, it’s very clear that Thailand is excited about this industry and the economic benefits it can provide their community, but I wouldn’t be so fast to think that there’s a quick buck outsiders can make. Though I’m sure the import business will be solid for a while, I didn’t need to spend more than a day there to see how much Thai-original meant to this community. They’re actively hunting for their original landraces from seed around the world, and are championing their own players, rather than international elite. I’m sure there will be international brands entering the scene—as Cookies already has—but I imagine what will really pop off out there will be born there. I could be wrong though, it’s happened before!

Also, and in case I didn’t make this clear enough in the piece, Thailand is GORGEOUS. While we didn’t leave Bangkok this trip, the larger country offers everything from mountain to beach adventures, and the wildlife is incredible. For example, we didn’t see any elephants or monkeys this time, but that was one of my favorite parts last time. Seeing them in the wild and not a zoo is not an opportunity you’re afforded back home. I would also recommend going to Chiang Mai, Pai, and Koh Chang if you go—all places I’ve been that offer very different perspectives of life in Thailand, and spots I thoroughly enjoyed. I look forward to going back soon to see how much better they have all gotten with our favorite girl in tow!

Included again for good measure, this was the gang!

If you want to check out High Rise’s documentary, visit here. It’s age restricted so it won’t let us embed.

The post The Gang Goes to Thailand: High Thaimes (Part 4) appeared first on High Times.

The Gang Goes to Thailand: Learning the Thai Way (Part 3)

Alright, now that the lovey holiday’s over & I’m not ruining anyone’s relationship, let’s get into the weird. I’m treading lightly here, but this is the best shot I can take at explaining the vibrant subcultures of a foreign world while still respecting our domestic political-correctness. Please don’t cancel me.

Nana Plaza

I’ll admit up front, I don’t know if it’s Nana or the NaNa, but what I can tell you is this is basically Bangkok’s strip club strip mall, and it’s otherworldly. That’s not meant as praise. Going several stories up with dozens of small blacked-out storefronts facing you from the moment you walk in, when they say there’s something and someone in this world for everyone, this place really makes you believe it. 

Being completely honest the first floor is a bit hard to hang out on, but dead center in the middle of all the clubs is this beer garden with a smoking section, and anything goes at Nana, so after trekking to three different clubs trying to get high, we beelined straight there and lit up. 

Now, I am not trying to be a pig when I say that the ground-floor of this place is the bottom of the barrel of the universe, but I should probably take a step back and explain a bit more about Thai sex culture before I explain just how uncomfortable it can get. 

The Local Sex Culture

You see, I mentioned in the last piece about some expats I’d seen over there, which I didn’t explain at the time but expat is short hand for expatriate, or foreigners who move from their home for a more… interesting life. Many of them go to become what’s affectionately known as ‘sex-pats’, or foreigners who came to Bangkok, and likely Thailand at large, to participate in the extremely in-your-face sex culture that exists there. You might have heard of the Ping Pong shows. We’ll get there, but this is big business. It’s sex tourism. They’re not unique to Thailand, but there are a lot here. Probably because Bangkok at least is like the red light district of Amsterdam, but everywhere. 

You don’t need all the specifics, but for now you’ve got to know about Kathoey, historically known as Ladyboys. I get that that’s offensive domestically – I didn’t make it up. In America we’d consider these people Trans, but the big difference here is that these people mostly transition specifically for sex work. It’s a borderline career. They’re not shy about it, and it’s just part of life there. The adventurous go looking for them, but more often those not looking end up finding them, as they’ve all had tons of work done and are virtually indistinguishable. Except for downstairs. It’s a fetish. So, of course Nana caters to that fix, among all the others, and there are Kathoey bars intermixed with regular strip clubs, and they’re not clearly labeled.

The boys at NaNa

Back To The Show

Now, the ground floor of Nana is where the people that you’d be surprised anyone was paying hang out. It’s where they keep the crew for the people that are too drunk to make it up the steps to a more premium show. They’ve got someone down there who will take literally however much you have, for whatever you want, and they’re extremely forward about it. This goes for the women as well as the Kathoey. It attracts not only certain talent, but a certain clientele. As you go higher into this towering strip mall the talent gets more and more high class, and the tabs get more and more expensive, as you’d expect. And they’ve got all the bases covered, from leather clubs to those that want to see strippers initially dressed as their favorite World Cup team.

But the smoking section is on the ground floor, and you really can’t consume fast enough to get away from the downstairs action. You don’t want to look at the people grabbing your private parts and offering you satisfaction. If someone were making a real TV show out of this, imagine American Ninja Warrior but with ‘girls’ instead of obstacles and instead of running the course you’re just trying to get somewhere to put some smoke in your lungs in peace. After running the gauntlet and housing a few blunts, the appeal of the venue had worn off, and somewhere around 2:00 AM we headed back home.

Day Four

At this point I’ve completely lost track of time. It doesn’t feel like only the fourth day. This basically feels like home now. If we didn’t have plans now immediately following our return I would stay longer. I am already thinking about the next trip. I roll up, and head to meet the guys.

Downstairs we smoke in our usual spot at the hotel, which I’m not sure if I mentioned yet was inside their Zen Garden, next to the super bougie Omakase. It’s surrounded by glass and anyone passing can see us smoking gorilla fingers, and no one the entire trip asked us to stop smoking here. It was a great way to soak up the morning and start the day. After getting properly baked we headed next door to another giant mall, but this one was a Duty Free one, which as I’m sure you know from traveling internationally means ‘no taxes’. Turns out this spot was still too expensive for us, as every store in there was over the top fancy. That means Balenciaga and Louie in my world. Not for me. We quickly walked through, exchanged some money, and headed to our first scheduled stop of the day.

Photo by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

From Warehouses to Dispensaries

It tickles me that after walking around the luxury mall, our next meeting was basically in the Thai suburbs. The juxtaposition of this country is always funny to me. We go to the warehouse where Oliver runs his business to hear more about his operation and stock up on flower. Everything they had brought for us had been long smoked at this point, but Oliver took the warehouse term literally, so we were in good hands. To our surprise they had skateboards in there too, and Derek did some tricks in Birkenstocks, which makes it infinitely more impressive in my eyes – not that I can do any of them in any shoes. We got some coffee and some lunch and headed for our first dispensary of the day, Dr. Dope.

Dr. Dope’s shop is admittedly dope. It’s next to this underground music venue, which while having always had a bar, built this new addition on a technically separate footprint next door planning for future legislation. With a live keyboardist, who was possibly just there because we were visiting – all the guys were dressed what I imagine is far nicer than what they normally wear – and we had a mini party in their shop for the next two hours or so. I don’t know how else to describe it other than that, as as soon as we got there they started dolling out chronic, we started rolling up, and everyone was smoking and eating merrily. Up front they have a shop, but behind the curtain there’s a little bar area that they’re going to have to shut down for the time being because of the changing laws. This spot had the best weed we’d seen in the country so far, and as Jimi states in the documentary it really lifted the bar for what seemed possible for the country. Their keyboardist could hit a blunt without missing a beat, and their flower was actually Cop List worthy; it was excellent.

Photo by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
Photo by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

A Taste of Home Abroad

After a brief visit to the skatepark next door, we headed to our final stop for the night, Oliver’s shop, Phandee. Out of all the spots we visited I’m not being nepotistic when I say Oliver’s is my favorite. With this transparent film wrapping around the property, minorly obfuscating what’s happening behind the glass, Phandee is more of a destination than just a shop. You see, while they are a dispensary, they also have a bar, and a restaurant on the property. Each shop is surrounding a common area with a large projection screen on one side, with scattered tables and chairs available for anyone to hang and eat at. I imagine this is how more shops will eventually be set up – as a sort of adult community center where everyone can imbibe in their own way. I know people are building places like this in L.A., but it only took Oliver two weeks to build after the laws changed.

We got some pizza before heading back to the hotel from a spot called Soho pizza, and it was admittedly closer to a New York slice than expected. We got a second pie, housed it, then headed to bed.

Day Five

It’s crazy to think that Erin didn’t get here until this point, but on the fifth day we woke up early to head to the airport to finally pick up the last of our crew. Oliver of course knew the security at the airport and they let us into the restricted area to wait for E to get through customs. We hadn’t really had breakfast, so when we pulled in we jumped inside to find some eats.

International airports are always interesting, but it’s not often that you’re there just hanging for a while waiting for your friend. At least it’s not for me. So while we waited Jimi tried to find a 7-11, and I went for the food court outside security. Or so I thought. I go one way down this escalator behind these gates, and they go another. After a loop around what turned out to be a food court filled with things I would never eat, I tried to buy a juice. Turns out I needed special tickets, so after waiting in that line I had to wait in another to buy those, to wait for my drink again. When I finally got it I was like ‘I gotta tell the guys how these people wouldn’t take money!’ – I don’t know why, I was high and amused. 

“Where Are You?!”

I walk back up to where we were, right past the gates with no problem, and start looking for the gang. This airport didn’t seem big when we walked in, but it’s now feeling huge. It’s thin but tall, and I’d walked back and forth from where I thought they’d be. I call Derek and find out they’re somehow stuck on the wrong side of security, and they’re not letting them back across without their passports. We don’t even have them in the car. Fuck.

So as they’re brainstorming ways to get back across security, I’m looking for Oliver while on the phone with them like ‘just walk past the security people I just did it for my fruit punch’, but somehow it’s not working. They try three different gates to no avail. I’m debating just joining them in no-man’s-land since I’m by myself over here, but someone’s gotta wait for Erin. We eventually meet near where we think he’s going to exit on opposite sides of the security barrier. I wish I understood how we got here.

Anyway, eventually they got back over after Oliver called his security friend to come help us, and maybe this isn’t as funny to everyone else as it is to me, but I’m still scratching my head over this one. Erin made it through customs and finally, we were all together, on the other side of the world.

To give him the full experience we pulled out a blunt I believe Josh had rolled and smoked it in the airport’s smoking section.

The Gang’s All Here

To keep the true spirit of the Thailand experience going even further, we went right on with our day and didn’t let Erin drop his bags at the hotel until after the day’s activities. While there wasn’t another MJ Biz style convention to treat him to, our next stop for the day was probably as close to a corporate pop-in we made this trip, over to Speedy Access

Photo by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

Now, I don’t mean to call them corporate as if it’s a dig, because it’s not. These guys are just the most set-up looking establishment we saw from a business perspective – we saw their whole factory, not just their consumer facing business. And Speedy’s team has been growing for years. Originally growing strawberries hydroponically, which it turns out are quite the delicacy out there (with boxes of 8-12 going for 50 Euro or more), since legalization kicked in they’re moving a lot of their canopy into cannabis production. That’s not to say that strawberries haven’t been good business for them. It was, and effective. So effective in fact that they managed to shrink the grow-cycle of a typical strawberry in half, producing delicious fruits in only two months. They aim to do the same with cannabis due to the high costs of energy out there, and of course the ability to squeeze more harvests into a year. But with the insane heat and humidity in Thailand, an expedited cycle would also minimize a lot of the potential dangers of growing in this climate as well. We’ll see if they’re able to pull it off, but based on the technology and understanding we saw from Speedy’s team I look forward to seeing the fruits of their labor. 

Our next stop was another highlight of our journey, Tropicanna. This was an on-camera interview that I handled for a change (Jimi was there, but for the most part I’d let him run these so far, so I figured it was my turn to pick up the slack) and honestly it turned out to be a great conversation. You can see clips from it in High Rise’s documentary, but what made it special was that it became more of a cultural conversation, as opposed to just a legal one. You see, Tropicanna was founded by a half-Thai, half-Italian couple that understand not only the culture they’re operating in, but the aspirational one they’d like to inspire with. On top of having an excellent selection of chronic, they had a cool lounge that they use as a co-working space until they can get a license to make it a consumption lounge. This is where we had our chat, and although we couldn’t actually smoke inside, the vibes are already built in there. 

Photo by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
Photo by Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

More Familiar Flavors

Now, we were hungry before we arrived, so after the interview we were all starting to border into hangry territory. Just as we were about to head out, our friends at Tropicanna let us know they prepared lunch for us. As I’m not a super adventurous eater I’m always a bit nervous when people tell me they’ve chosen my meal for me, so imagine my surprise when they pull out several incredibly delicious-looking-and-smelling lasagnas. The best part? They tasted even better. They also had rice and curry and some local delicacies for us to enjoy, but I honestly can’t put into words just how much I enjoyed this lasagna. I ate close to an entire tray by myself, so let that be a testament to the quality there. I know I was hungry, but I wasn’t expecting to be fully satisfied like that. 

I also have to mention that they had First Smoke of the Day playing on their TVs when we got there. It was very unexpected and particularly exciting, as it was the week before my episode dropped and here we are on the other side of the world and they’re watching my homies… it seemed kismet.

*With that, another 2,500 words are locked in the book, so I’ll wrap up Part 3. Our grand finale is just around the corner, and details not only my recollections of the scene out there, but our wildest nights on the trip. See you next time!*

The post The Gang Goes to Thailand: Learning the Thai Way (Part 3) appeared first on High Times.

The Gang Goes to Thailand: Not THOSE Americans (Part 2)

Welcome back, friends. 

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve returned to the states now, and while the details are blurring, they were never all that clear in the first place. In that spirit I’m going to run the rest of this chronologically, utilizing the handwritten notes I scribed along the way. The last part ended with our first night, and focused mainly on my excitement about being in Thailand… here’s where we start to dig in.

Day Two

Our second day in the country began with a bang. A series of them actually. Let me paint the picture real quick:

It’s 11 am but the room is still dark thanks to effective blackout blinds. You are surrounded by snacks and empty drink bottles scavenged from the night before. It sounds like an elephant is trying to get into the room. You hear shouting and thumps on the door as you awaken from your stupor. 

*Remember, I had just time traveled, and thus hadn’t seen a bed in days. We smoked dozens of blunts after landing, and were on our feet for like a 10 hr day. I was OUT out, and I assumed the rest of the party would be as well.*

Turns out everything was fine, the guys just thought I was dead because I hadn’t woken up yet. [Honestly, how did you? Y’all just did the same journey I did – Jimi’s zeal never ceases to amaze me.] They’ve already eaten, and are ready to explore. All I could think about was needing a smoke, but I wasn’t there yet. I told them I’d come find them in a few hours. I tucked back in.

Upon Consciousness

An hour or two later (or longer, who knows) I finally got my shit together and joined the herd. I met them at the largest outdoor weekend market in the city – I don’t remember the name, but it doesn’t matter. It was a zoo. Like most markets in Thailand, they have some things you need and absolutely everything you don’t. From hilariously bootlegged high-fashion staples to original designs deifying pop culture icons, to “gold” and other precious jewelry, to cell phone cases, to some actually incredible vintage home goods from American brands, it’s all in there. Right across the street was a mall that had more of this that’s open all the time. There was another on the other side. I guess the weekend markets have better wares, but I couldn’t tell the difference. The only thing that felt special about this one was it had a mix of shops every step you took, whereas in the malls for some reason they section the types of shops off. It’s weirder than it sounds – let’s say you’re looking for a cell phone. There will be a village of cell phone shops all right next to each other. They’re all selling almost exactly the same thing, and they all look almost identical. They’ve all got guys out front trying to persuade you to come in. I have no idea how they all stay in business. And it’s like that for everything. The electronics are in one section, the jewelry in another, the clothes in another – each with dozens of competitors lining the walls around them. It made no sense to me then and still doesn’t. 

I was glad to see once I met up with everyone that the consensus was clear: we needed more weed. I always hate to be that guy, so I was glad to be traveling with other addicts. I know I’m going to get shit for that but hey, I’m calling the spades. Regardless, we’re the *fun* kind of drug addict, so piss off. I’m just celebrating the fact that I wasn’t the only one itching. 

Josh admiring the wares. Shot on Jon’s iPhone
Shot on Jon’s iPhone

We scoured this god damned market for weed. People kept telling us (though we’re not entirely sure if they ever understood or cared what we were actually asking for) different directions for a supposed pop up dispensary in the market that we never managed to find, and while one or two vendors did have jars with some more earthy looking buds, we kept looking for something more… acceptable. 

So, over to the nicer mall across the street. For some reason our hosts thought that would be a better place to score than the shanty market, and while we didn’t find a vendor there either, we did find a friend who had some on him to smoke with us. We went to this nice little rooftop coffee shop and smoked a few bones overlooking the city while a man played funny songs on his keyboard from the street below.

Photo credit Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

Adventures on the River

After this it was time for a boat tour. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know Bangkok had a river, but if you’re reading this and thinking that you want to book a trip, make this the top of your must do’s. It is absolutely surreal to see the city from this perspective. You see, Bangkok has EVERYTHING, and there are skyscrapers everywhere. But there are also slums everywhere. Often right next door. So to take in the city from the water is amazing because you can more clearly see just how many influences built this city, and how close everything is to its neighbor, while being entirely different – both aesthetically but also more generally, culturally. There’d be a futuristic looking skyscraper, and then an ancient temple right next to it. Or Louis Vuitton stores next to for-real slums. And you could see the influence from all of the other Asian countries making their mark here. It was such a wild change from what we’d just experienced in the market.

I should probably take this time to introduce our hosts. I mentioned in the first part that this trip was planned by Bangkok Urban Green, but I didn’t tell you much about who they were. This group is a newly formed collaboration between both American and Thai operators that is generally looking to help proliferate the fledgling industry. The group includes Americans Judah, and Ron (of Kingston Royal), and Thai native Oliver, the proprietor of the dispensary Phandee in Bangkok, among other operations. Along with us on the trip was JT, one of Judah’s partners from back in the states, and a slew of Oliver’s friends and employees. Oliver’s gang met us at the dock with a bunch more weed and a homemade mason jar bong to take on the river.

Photos taken on Jon’s iPhone

Pit Stops 

Our first stop on this boat tour was an incredible Buddhist temple. Very little information about this place was provided in English and you could tell by how quiet and respectful everyone else visiting was that this was a special site. We did our best to be polite and not be THOSE Americans, but we got some incredible footage and had a good deal of fun. I will say we didn’t smoke at the temple though, which is I think saying something favorable about us, despite that being the bare minimum for most everyone else.

Photo taken post-mid-water-maneuvers, on a Tuk Tuk boat. Photo credit Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

After the temple we got back on the boat, and after a quick detour jumping onto another boat to take some pictures for our gracious hosts, we started the journey back up river to find dinner. Along the way though one of the super malls on the water seemed to be having an event. We pulled our boat in closer and soon realized there was a full-fledged Muay Thai fight about to go down. We were hyped. It took us about 5 minutes of watching from a distance after the fight had started before we realized it was kids that were fighting each other. Not teenagers, children. I still don’t know how to feel about it but I will say they made it a hell of a show, and it was very well attended.

Photo credit Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

Next we headed to a Chinese village to find a dumpling spot that our host Oliver said was incredible. Unfortunately this was Sunday night and it was already late so after stumbling around this very dark and spooky village we found the restaurant was closed, so we just smoked some blunts about it and went back to the boat. Solid detour if I’m honest – it at times felt both like we were explorers, and about to get murdered. We ended up getting dumplings anyway. Soup dumplings in fact, and they were delightful. 

Photoception taken on Jon’s iPhone


After dinner, and because our hosts were now keenly aware that the jet lag was hitting us, we headed to get traditional Thai massages. In case you don’t know, in Thailand you can get a massage anywhere (remember I said this), and they’re CHEAP. Although usually much more intense and painful than the one we got, the two hour experience cost about $22 USD. They put all of us in a room together on beds about a foot and a half apart. As my masseuse started working on me I briefly considered staying an extra night in Thailand and just getting an 8 hour massage as that would cost about the same as a hotel room. It didn’t take long before I fell asleep. 

I don’t know how many of the others fell asleep, but I know Jim did, and he snored. We were all in such a state at the end that the last masseuse leaving the room turned back before exiting and giggled at the sight of us. It was both humiliating and hilarious.

When we got back to our hotel it turned out there was a wedding happening. We would quickly learn that our hotel was the hot spot for upscale events in town. While it didn’t affect our stay in the slightest, it did just so happen that Oliver knew the wedding party. As such, we crashed this very fancy wedding in tank tops and shorts, and the groom for some reason bowed to us as if we weren’t completely out of our gourds. Soon after I was approached by a woman in a pantsuit who asked me where I was staying tonight. When I told her here in the hotel she told me ‘her room’. It took a solid three minutes for me to understand she was saying she owned the place. I quickly thanked her for the existence of her wonderful establishment and escaped before I could find out if there was an additional meaning there. 

I got back to my room to find candy and a quote from Steve Jobs waiting by my bed. Thailand is cool, man.

Day Three

I think the first thing I said to Jimi when I saw him that morning was ‘Should we stay longer?’ We hadn’t even gotten into the real weed journeys yet, and despite the jet lag I was feeling grade A, and ready to dig deeper. Although we couldn’t extend long because we had to be back for Emerald Cup’s Harvest Ball the following weekend, we agreed to stay an extra night en route to our first dispensary of the tour: Best Budz Bangkok. 

Photo credit Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

Pot Tourism

Best Budz was the closest thing we saw to what I expected a Thai dispensary to look like before arriving. Complete with a bong made out of bamboo hanging across the wall, this spot felt like the Tiki bar of weed shops. The crew that runs it were super excited about the products they could offer and the wares they carried, and honestly, so were we. All of the products they had on display were actually what they were labeled to be – which was the first time we’d seen this in this country, having mostly dealt with delivered and street vendors so far. They even had a Rainbow Sherbert on display that I think the OG’s back home would be proud of. In fact, Jimi and I believe they had gotten the real thing during the highly-coveted clone drop last year, and gave it the proper care it deserved in its new home. While I’ll admit most Thai-grown is still significantly lower quality than what we get in California, these guys gave me real hope for the dispensary scene out there. 

We bounced around to a few more shops that basically tried to custy us, but we bought at least a little something at every real shop we went to. It’s worth noting that Best Budz did not do that to us – in fact, they comp’d us all, and they were actually fun to hang out with and talk to. The first stop of the day turned out to be the best, in my opinion.

Photo credit Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
Photo credit Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
Shot on Jon’s iPhone
Shot on Jon’s iPhone

Dispensary Mechanics

It’s also worth pointing out that most of these shops had a pretty heavy merchandise presence, almost feeling sometimes like a dispensary and a headshop combined. You expect there to be some items to help you use your newly acquired fix of course, but this usually seemed more sectional – the way we’d normally see pre-rolls next to flower, which is next to concentrate, which are next to edibles. 

In dwelling on the different GRAV and Puffco products available abroad in one of our last stops of the day it occurred to me that many of these shops only had 5 or 6 actual THC products available, so this was likely more about filling-out the floorplan. The most unique example of this I saw on this day was a walk-through flower room at the front of one of the shops, directly facing the street. These were pretty small plants, and likely mostly about display, but even here you don’t often get to see living plants in the retail environment, unless someone’s selling clones. And it’s a cool, easy way to communicate to the world that you’re pushing dank.

After hitting another mall, this one even more expansive, where each floor was dedicated to a particular ware – I didn’t bother to look at how big the building was – we sat down for what was my favorite meal of the trip. A wood-fired Korean BBQ spot. These guys treated us like we were children and cooked for us – which was helpful if I’m being honest because we were really, really high – and for the first time since arriving in Thailand I felt full. I wish I wrote down the name of this spot, because I would love to tell you to visit them, but alas, I was stoned.

Taken on Jon’s iPhone

Dipping Our Toes Into Nightlife

We stopped at our hotel to change, and gobble up the new candy they had left in our rooms for us. Although not everyone was feeling the rage, a few of us then went to the coolest bar-type spot we hit that week, Smalls. 

This entire multi-story establishment was like a maze. Or a half-completed puzzle. There were multiple ways to get up to the rooftop where we hung out for awhile, each of which felt like you were climbing an Escher painting, but although our hosts supposedly normally could, it was a bit busy that night and they told us we couldn’t smoke there. Cigarettes were fine though. It was a bit surreal, but they let us roll up at our table while we finished our drinks after we profusely promised we wouldn’t light it there. I eavesdropped on some expat crypto bros analyzing the FTX collapse, and the opportunities it presented. Even in Thailand you can’t escape someone pitching their next NFT project. We bounced from there to light up, and hit two more clubs that we thought were going to be cool.

The weed they didn’t want to let us smoke, shot on Jon’s iPhone

I should clarify here that I used to work in nightlife in New York, and I’ve grown a bit jaded to club life. This admittedly sounds pretentious, but I’m not going to pay a cover charge to get into your bar to pay you for drinks, or weed. I don’t care about your dress code. I’m coming to spend money with you, you should make it as easy as possible for me to do that. Doesn’t feel like asking too much. 

Anyway, at both of these next two clubs my east coast came out a bit. The first place didn’t like Josh’s sneakers, and wanted $10 USD to give him something else to wear. Fuck that, it’s an off night, and only weed is that expensive in this country. I wouldn’t let him pay it, though I should note he was happy to. The next spot wouldn’t let us bring in outside weed, which we had a lot of. 

So, we headed for Nana, which we knew would be happy to let us consume, and take our money as we were.

*Those of you that have been to Bangkok likely know where we were headed. Those that haven’t will have to wait until Part 3 to find out. I’m doing my best to properly explain the experience without risking cancellation, so bear with me. Hope you’re warmed up.*

The post The Gang Goes to Thailand: Not THOSE Americans (Part 2) appeared first on High Times.

The Gang Goes to Thailand: Ganja in Bangkok (Part 1)

I’m sitting at the Suvarnabhumi airport trying to recap the madness that’s occurred over the past week while it’s fresh in my mind. I’ll be honest, my brain is pretty mush after cooking through over 100 blunts in less than a week. We consumed an entire original thai stick in brothers broadleafs & backwoods – which was quite possibly a world’s first, but surely a serious load for my lungs. If that wasn’t though, smoking an entire stick in a night was DEFINITELY a world record. Even the Thai Stick OG, Han Singh, who has been doing this since he was 15 years old (he’s 74 now) was floored to see how excited we were to try his legendary wares, and how much we could smoke. He brought us a whole stick – which they swear were hundreds of grams – but we cooked through that bad boy in basically one sitting (or evening, more accurately). I imagine it was closer to an ounce and a half, and I was surprised at how well Han kept up.

This is a good introduction to the Thai scenery now. Although there are dispensaries every few feet – with even entire strip malls dedicated to housing over 20 different dispensaries and consumption lounges, it’s clear that the Thai market is still getting its feet under them. After all, the sudden legalization left a lot of room for gray area operations that have since begun to become more regulated. For example, they have officially closed down consumption rooms until they can set up a licensing procedure for it, and while it’s technically not legal to smoke in public, it was clear the city’s filling up with that delectable aroma just like NYC. Further, I saw like one cop the entire time I was there, and we were far from the only ones smoking on street corners.

Even more surprising, however, was the lack of true Thai genetics that are available in the market. Sure a lot of Cali genetics have made their way out to the far east – we saw a lot of Runtz and Gelato – and edibles and concentrates are still banned for recreational consumption, but it was immediately clear that it was important to the Thai community to do things their own way. They’ve been trying to hunt down their local genetics that were largely lost during the prohibition days, prioritizing canopy for landraces as opposed to what we’d consider market-viable. And if you ask any of the newly legal operators they’ll all say the same thing: “Oh man, Thai Stick, that’s like the great white buffalo now – we haven’t seen one of them in years.” 

Turns out it only took seasoned road warriors Jimi and I 5 days to find. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

*Flash Backward*

Let’s first zoom out a bit to clarify how this trip came about. This wasn’t some thoroughly planned adventure. Oh no, in fact I didn’t have an active passport or any idea I’d be going the month prior. Sometime in the middle of November during another weed-filled journey my friend Josh, Chief Operations Officer at High Rise, asked me if I’d be interested in coming to Bangkok with him and his crew. I had been hearing rumblings of my friend, America’s favorite pot critic, Jimi Devine’s planned trip, though at the time hadn’t realized it was the same one. Once Josh made that clear obviously I couldn’t miss the opportunity. 

I will disclose here that the trip was planned and funded by Bangkok Urban Green, who requested nothing but to show us around and for us to document our experiences however we saw fit. Basically the easiest way for me to write the real shit, and not just the glitz and glam the brands are focused on you seeing, is to give you the true story of our antics. But don’t worry, there’s a slew of content around our trip for you to dig into. High Rise has released their 30 minute documentary, and Jimi his coverage. But I’m going to take a little bit of a different approach here, having been to the country before.

Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

A Brief History Lesson

You see, I was in Thailand like a decade ago shortly after finishing college, and it was an entirely different beast. While in the past you’d have a much easier time finding benzos and opiates over the counter at the pharmacies of Khao San, it seems all those shops have since switched to dispensaries, making the new school Khao San an entirely different experience than what I was used to. Also worth noting the last trip we only spent like 3 days in Bangkok. Admittedly it was a much seedier place back then. It was impossible to find weed, but pills were everywhere. So you know? When in Rome.

But man, has the game changed in the last ten years. Over the last year, really. Last time I barely wanted to hang in Bangkok – I was ready to explore the jungles, and the islands. But this time we didn’t leave the city, and I’m really glad I got to see a full view of what Bangkok has to offer. That boat tour alone was one of the trippiest experiences of my life – from passing slums to mega mansions to temples to super malls was not what I expected when we got on the boat, but I had no complaints. In fact, I was amazed at not only the sights, but of Jim’s ability to roll a wood on a speeding boat, and the mid-water maneuvers we were made to undertake in order to take pictures in the Tuk Tuk boat, leaving me feeling like a parkour expert.

But maybe I should zoom back out to the beginning for a second to really run down all the shenanigans the boys got into that week. It was admittedly a lot, even for us.

The Details

The cast of characters for this trip was as follows. We had Erin and Derek, the founders of the High Rise Agency, Josh, who I already mentioned is their COO, Jimi Devine, in my opinion the best pot journalist in America, and me, your friendly neighborhood deviant.

It’s worth noting that as soon as we got to the airport security turned Erin’s passport away because it had a very minor rip on it. We tried to get tape from another gate to fix the issue but the friggin airline took it upon themselves to call the State Dept and let them know the passport was damaged, so no luck. Unfortunately Erin wasn’t able to join us on our flight, and missed the first few days. That said, I want to take this opportunity to give a massive shout out to our State Rep, Ted Lieu, for helping sort our documents with the Department of State in an extremely expedited manner. 3/5 passports we needed for this trip were obtained within the last two weeks, and it’s all thanks to our friend Teddy – just so you know brother, you’ve got our votes for life! 2/5 of those were planned, and Erin was a surprise bonus a few days later. All things considered, it worked out.

So we get on the plane sans Erin for what will amount to an almost 24 hr travel day, and given that there’s an almost 15 hr difference between here and LA we lost a solid day on the way in – though we ARE about to have a 36 hour day today on our return, so I guess that makes up for it. But I’ll be honest, this was the longest I was going to go without smoking in recent memory, so I wasn’t entirely excited for the journey. Fortunately Xanax exists and I slept through the vast majority of the flight to Taiwan. 

It’s worth noting we brought absolutely no THC with us on this journey as Taiwan is still one of the less friendly ports to our ilk left in the world, and we didn’t want to take any chances. Thank god we didn’t, because they made us go through security to get to our layover. From there we linked with Jimi, who had taken the first leg of the journey solo en route from SFO, and jumped on the next plane – just a quick 4 hr jump this time. We didn’t sleep this leg – the excitement was really starting to set in. (Remember, I had less than a month’s knowledge we’d even be going – I was fully convinced this wouldn’t happen, so this was still absolutely surreal.) Before long, we landed in Bangkok.

Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

We Made It

Now, before the flight I let our hosts know about how this gap in consumption was probably going to affect me. I wasn’t expecting to be in a great mood, so I politely requested they meet us with some weed so we could expedite the process of getting back up to speed. They obliged, and met us at the airport with a blunt already rolled. We smoked that in the smoking section before leaving the airport. They were surprised, however, when we asked for more. You see, Thailand is still fairly timid in their consumption. With most residents smoking at most a gram a day (approx. $30 USD, or 900 Baht), they had no idea what they were in for with us. We were rolling blunts that would satisfy the whole group’s expected daily consumption every time. 

As it was still technically morning when we arrived they made a call and had more brought to the first stop on our journey.

Naturally, before we went into the first stop we met the guy and rolled and smoked two blunts. As I said, we were getting up to speed, and taking in the fact that we were now on the other side of the world. Though things hadn’t gone exactly to plan, we [most of us] made it. We rejoiced. 

Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise
Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

Starting The Tour

Our first stop was the final day of Southeast Asia’s first Hemp Expo. Admittedly looking way closer to MJ Biz Con than I expected, we were primarily here to meet with the hemp company that the Queen had started – coincidentally the first cannabis license granted after legalizing. Go figure. Well it turns out she’s no longer with the company, but they’re definitely doing a LOT, and over the course of the few minutes we spent with them we learned how they’ve been using hemp for cloth in Thailand forever, and while the war on drugs stopped them from fucking with cannabis for awhile, the hemp game never slowed down. The versatility in the textiles they showed us was crazy, but the fact that they all began from the same source material was the biggest trip. 

Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

I don’t remember much else from the Hemp Expo – I was exhausted and trying to smoke more. I remember joking with the guys that this wasn’t what we expected to see on the other side of the globe, having successfully avoided the showroom floor of the aforementioned convention the month prior. In my lamenting, someone overheard and asked if we were from the States. He was a Cali transplant who was trying to take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself out there right now. He had some work with him, and it turned out to be much better than the local we’d tried thus far, so I stopped the group to get an eighth ($75 USD). We rolled that up and smoked it before getting back in the van. 

From there it was off to our hotel, finally. Although it was still technically our first day in Thailand it had been like 3 calendar days since I’d seen a bed due to the long flight and time traveling, and I was ready to crash. We arrived at the Pullman King Power Bangkok, which seemed to be one of the nicest hotels in town. A night in this spot runs around $100-$250 USD, which is a fortune in Thailand, but standard for roach motels in the states. This was not that. They put us in the ‘executive’ section at the top of the tower, with access to a private buffet and drinks throughout the day. Not that we got to take much advantage of the meals – actually the guys probably did, I was never up for breakfast – but I definitely enjoyed their fresh juices. No one told me until the fourth day that I wasn’t supposed to leave the lounge with the juices, but that says something about Thai hospitality and their desire to please.

Photo Credit: Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

No Rest for the Wicked

Somehow instead of going to bed we were persuaded to join the local gang for a drink at this rooftop bar not too far away. While I’ll admit, I was an absolute vegetable and teetering on passing out, I’m glad I got to check this place out. I have no idea what this place was called, but it definitely made me feel like I was somewhere else. While they had a welcoming smoking section with an excellent view, probably the most exciting thing about this spot was this multi-story glowing jellyfish dancing above the bar. I have no idea what it was for, or if it was some famous art installation, but I was very geeked on it and it kept my attention as I patiently (lol) waited to go get into bed.

Although we’d only just landed it was already clear that the country’s landscape has changed drastically in the ten years I’d been gone. When in the past the only drugs I could reliably find were the type you’d get from a pharmacy, here we were less than 24 hours in and every sort of recreational had already been practically shoved in our faces. I might be exhausted, but I’m already loving the new look of this place.

*When I realized how long this piece would be I posted a poll on Twitter asking if you all would prefer one long mega story, or for it to be broken down into smaller bite sizes. The overwhelming majority voted for chapters, so here we are. I’ll see you in a few days with part two.*

The post The Gang Goes to Thailand: Ganja in Bangkok (Part 1) appeared first on High Times.

Jon’s Stone-Cold Cop List #32: Thai Emeralds

December was a wild one. From searching the streets of Bangkok for the heat, to the Harvest Ball’s premiere of the Dank Tank, to a whole lot of holiday parties, I’m exhausted. I usually try to take the back half of December to try and recover & prepare for the upcoming year, but it never really works out. This year was no exception. I don’t know why I still expect holidays to be relaxing.

But Thailand was wild! I’m working on a piece covering our adventure that you’ll all be able to read sometime next month, but the long and short of it is that the country has embraced legalization like I’ve never seen before. There are independent stands to buy weed in front of dispensaries, there are trucks selling weed like ice cream trucks on every block. I’m not going to pretend they’ve got the highest quality yet, but they’re throwing themselves at it, and I love to see it. There are a few picks from there leading the list this month for anyone looking to experience it. We’ve also got some gems I found while attending the Harvest Ball, which Jimi & I went to the day after we returned to the states. Talk about overbooking.

(Also P.S. sorry to everyone I saw that weekend. It was a whirlwind and I was still coming down from my plane drugs so I barely remember anything, but I’m sure I didn’t get enough time to properly hang with any of you. I won’t make that mistake again – I’m coming well rested all 2023 :))

Anyway, I was hoping to get two more of these out before the year ends as I just turned 33 last week and it felt symbolic, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Guess we’ll start off ‘23 with #33, which is my lucky number so we’ll say we’re starting on a high note. If there’s anything you think needs to be included, or you just want to talk about one of the picks I made in this or previous lists, hit me on Twitter and let’s hash it out!

Thai Stick

Jimi Devine pictured with an original Thai Stick – Courtesy of Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

If you’ve been paying attention to the culture for awhile you’ve probably heard the legend of Thai sticks before. Some of the first Sativas proliferating the states, Thai sticks were basically Thailand’s version of brick weed back in the day. Packed and bound tightly around actual sticks and smuggled to all the corners of the world largely through the help of the military, they’re something of an urban legend today. When we landed in Thailand they were obviously the first thing we asked about, but it became clear that this was an elusive delicacy. In fact, most of the dispensary guys we asked said to let them know if we found it for their own consumption needs. While this might not be completely obvious by the looks of us, but we found it, and the guy who has been packing them for almost 60 years. I can’t give you information on how to find him, but I can tell you he’s out there, and so are modern sticks.

Dr. Dope’s Double Dawg

Courtesy of Derek Fukuhara, High Rise

I try very hard to ensure I’m not duplicating picks that other journalists have already written about, and although Jimi already mentioned Dr. Dope’s Double Dawg in his 12 Strains of Christmas piece for LA Weekly I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the best weed we found at a dispensary in Bangkok. While the game out there is still fresh, and the climate makes it difficult to produce tops, this was some real authentically Thai-grown heat. You could actually see the trichomes on this one, which was not as common as you’d expect in the developing market. That said, Dr. Dope was also a fun and frankly classy spot to hang in, worth the stop if you’re in the area!


Courtesy of Erin Coffey, High Rise

This is less of a product and more of a destination, but if you want a truly unique weed experience (especially in Thailand), you’ve got to hit up Plantopia ‘Weed City’ on Khao San Road. Basically a weed strip mall, this shopping center has a maze of dispensaries and consumption lounges for you to purchase or consume in, and a nice open air smoking patio for you to sesh with the clients of other shops. It’s wild how in Asia having 100 of the same type of stores right next to each other doesn’t seem to bother anyone, but it was surprising for me. That said, it’s a very unique place to hang – everyone gets their own flavor without compromise.

Kasta’s Nam Wah

Courtesy of Kasta

At the party I’ll detail in the last entry on this list, a local friend from the internet pulled up with some of his underground grown to show us. I’ll be honest, this was the best weed I saw that (I believe) was actually grown in Thailand, though it wasn’t through a traditional dispensary experience. He said the farm is just getting set up, and that it’s called Kasta. The group also says the cut is called Nam Wah, which is a cross between Banana OG & Mimosa from Symbiotic Genetics. They do love their sativa’s on that side of the world! Also big shout out to Bbboss for pulling up on us at the party!

Trufflez – Wockesha

Courtesy of Trufflez

Let me start off by saying that Trufflez is taking the branding game to a new level with this one. The pleather stitched mylar was not something I ever expected to see, but it also feels like a better compromise than most of the fancy bag attempts we’ve seen lately. It feels classier than a mylar – and while I’m sure it’s more expensive I’m curious to see how weed will last in this pouch long term. I’m going to do some experiments with that on my own. That said about the marketing, the weed in the bag is actually up to par. In fact, all the samples I saw from Trufflez were what I would consider real top shelf flower.

Turtle Pie Co – Purple Sticky Rice

Courtesy of my iPhone

Anytime I see something new from Turtle I know it’s going to be something that’s going to hit in the streets, but their latest, Purple Sticky Rice is hitting on a whole new level. Redefining the ‘candy’ nose most expect from some purple dank, these were some of the sweetest nugs to ever hit my nostrils. And I’m not just including this because of the Asian nod, this one’s definitely a gelato relative and we all know how the market loves that! All I’ve seen so far are the tasters so I’m not entirely sure if this one’s hit the streets yet, but when you get a chance, definitely tap in.

Life is Not Grape – IDK/IDC

Courtesy of Life is Not Grape

You’ve heard me rave about LING in the past so I don’t need to go into how great his production skills, or brand design, has been thus far. You already know that his flower is killing it all over the country, and that his hash collaborations and donuts are top tier. Well friends, have you tried his new Runtz x Gushers cross yet? Because let me tell you, I am writing home about it. With all the sweet firepower you expect from two of the most popular strains of the past decade, LING’s got something truly special on his hands with this one – do I even need to mention how god damn hard this branding is?


Courtesy of Spoomalack

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with this one. I don’t know if he’s a brand, or if he’s just growing fire, but what I can assure you of is he’s definitely doing that. I met the new homie at Chronic Culture for the first time at their Kalya dinner (which was directly after Jimi & I got off the plane returning to the states) and every single cut he showed me was stellar, and fully rocked me upon deeper inspection (into my lungs). Not knowing if he’s a full brand, I’m not sure how available this flower is, but if you’re in the Bay and you hear someone talking about a cultivator with a weird name (I mean, what IS Spoomalack?), maybe it’s this homie. If it is, you’re in luck, young padawan. 

Flytrap’s Gumbo

Courtesy of Flytrap

These guys have been making a TON of noise down in Florida and I’ve been asked more about Gumbo than pretty much any other cultivar in recent history, so I’m pleased to report that it’s not just hype – the guys are doing something down there in the South East. I was fortunate enough to catch Superfly and El Tay on my trip back from the Bay (shout out to Jet Suite X, the trapper’s choice!), and they broke me off with some of their latest harvest and carte blanche, this is the best weed I’ve seen come out of Florida yet.

Sherbinski & Compound Genetics – Tribute

Courtesy of Sherbinski

Felipe presented this to us in the Dank Tank Jimi and I hosted at the Harvest Ball and I’ve got to say, for a guy who has said countless times he’s over gelato, their new collaboration with the creator himself, Sherbinski, just rekindled my love. This Apples & Bananas x Gelato 41 cross smells and tastes exactly how you would expect, with a natural, yet couldn’t be more dialed in with additive terps if you tried flavor. You can smell the apples, the bananas, and that sweet candy finish Gelato’s known for. And it’s smokin’ too! While not quite as knock-you-out as a lot of Gelato varietals, this one’s a nice sunset smoke.

Bonus: Thai Lasagna

Courtesy of Tropicanna Cafe

If you ever get the chance, you’ve got to try a Thai lasagna. I’ve been dreaming about these freakin’ things. When we went to visit Tropicanna, after sampling their wares the gang let us know they had prepared lunch if we were hungry. I had known one of the owners spent years living in Italy (you could tell, he had style); I didn’t realize he was half Italian. Not going to lie, I never expected to eat a lasagna and curry feast, but boy did we house it. It was the best hospitality we experienced in Thailand, in my opinion. There will be more on this in the ‘the Gang goes to Bangkok’ piece I’m working on, but for now just know I ate close to an entire lasagna by myself.

Nepotism Bonus: Phandee

Courtesy of Phandee

I’m adding this as a nepotism bonus because Oliver, one of the proprietors of Phandee, was our guide for the Thailand trip, but I am not fronting when I say this was my favorite of the shops we saw in Bangkok. While the store itself isn’t all that big, it’s part of a larger footprint that also sells food, drinks and even booze, and has a great little patio in the middle so everyone can enjoy everything together. It’s not only a good setup, it also looks insane because the outside is wrapped in this rainbow translucent glass. Or plastic, I don’t know, but I know I like it. Oliver also hosted a party at the shop for us while we were there and I’ll be honest, I was not expecting anywhere near the type of turnout we got, or the amount of people who knew who we were. It was a great time and will surely be a check-in anytime I’m in the city.

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We’re Making This Too Complicated (An ‘Indicas and Sativas Are For Dummies’ Response)

Earlier this year Jimi Devine penned a piece for this column called “Indicas and Sativas are for Dummies.” While I do, for the most part, agree with his sentiment, I don’t believe his proposed solution of “Afghani” & “Equatorial” to be viable. As it’s the end of the year and I’m not sure what traffic’s going to be like on these final Fridays, we’re experimenting a bit over here. We always intended for WEIRDOS to feel like a public discourse, so in that spirit, here’s my response to Jimi’s idea, and some proposals of my own.

Why Afghani & Equatorial Are Doomed

Let’s face it, America isn’t actually the most accepting place in the world. Although we love to dub ourselves as the world’s melting pot, we’re actually far better at drawing lines than finding common ground. Because of this, I don’t think nomenclature like Afghani and Equatorial will ever be commonly accepted because it sounds foreign to most of our citizens. In fact, I’d argue if many people fully understood what they were saying with “Indica” (Latin for “Of India”) they’d probably use that a lot less too – because most of what they’re cultivating isn’t actually from India, it’s from America. Even further, “Sativa” in Latin means “cultivated” – so they’re both Sativa by definition. And by species, but that’s another story.

It’s worth noting that cultivars that formerly had “Afghan” in their name have all seemed to drop it in recent years. I am willing to bet that started post-9/11, but I wouldn’t know. I was 11 at that point. I’ve only heard about the mythical Afghani varietals, but I know a lot of Kush. Maybe I’m looking too far into it, but assuming America to be a racist place seems to be on the nose.

But more than that, what people are TYPICALLY trying to describe with Indica & Sativa – or Afghani & Equatorial, as proposed – is the effect the plant will provide, not the place it was from. While I get there’s correlation there, aren’t we leading consumers down the wrong path with that type of information anyway, since we know most of the effects are driven by terpenes and the other psychoactive chemistry found within the plant? To me this isn’t as black or white as it is a color wheel. That said, if we have to break it into two specific groups…

Stimulating vs. Sedative

What about categorizing them as stimulating or sedating? This way there’s variance, for sure, but to me, that’s what we’re really trying to say with the forbidden bro-science, right? We’re trying to tell you if it will get you lifted, or stoned. If you’ll be energized or couch-locked, so aren’t these more appropriate terms anyway? Eventually I believe this is what terpene science will tell us, and where we’ll really be able to get prescriptive with effects consumers can expect, but for now I believe this encompasses what we have been trying to say in a more accurate way.

That said, determining which of these categories said products will fall into can’t only rely on the information we’ve had in the past. For example, we know short and fat plants can sometimes present a profile that is closer to what we consider historically Sativa, even though the plant looks Indica, as Todd McCormick suggested for your piece, so there is far more research required for this to become a perfect system. And while we’re here, traditional science today says we pretty much only have anecdotal evidence to prove the effectiveness of terpenes, but any regular consumer knows smoking something that smells like gas will cool you down, so we’re in some degree of a holding pattern while the research picks up.

My only worry here is that these are still complicated terms for some. Not to sound like an asshole but some people need it to be super simple to understand, and we need this to be approachable. So I have another proposal, and this one may be more digestible for that lot.

Uppers & Downers

I choose this because it’s familiar terminology for drug users of all types. While there’s admittedly a ton of gray area here, as most of what we’re dealing with is a hybrid anyway, is there a simpler way to dumb it down? People commonly know most alcohol is a downer, but that tequila riles you up. They typically know that a Xanax puts you to sleep while Adderall will keep you up, so why not lean into what’s already understood? What’s actually wrong with likening our vice to other more common, and today socially accepted, ones? 

Looking past it’s usage across other drugispheres, does it get any easier for the layman to understand? We’re already using things like arrows up and down to describe how products will make us feel, so why not take it all the way? I understand this will be complex for hybrid classifications, but there’s someone out there who’s been saying “This is a 70% Sativa, 30% Indica,” so I’m sure that guy would love to decide just how much of an angle each of those are pointing.

Obviously there’s no clear right answer here, but I think it’s important we keep evolving this conversation, especially as the scientific understanding increases. Not only will this help us to be more accurate, but it will actually help people understand what they’re getting if they’re not as well versed as you or I. We’re not doing anyone any favors by continuing to push the misinformation, and we don’t know the unintended consequences this lack of understanding can have down the line. Look at THC percentage, and states that are now taxing products over a certain limit. It really sucks to have to pay for someone else’s stupidity, especially for something that your consumer doesn’t understand and doesn’t actually want – despite what they may think or say. 


For those reading at home, what are you thinking? Do either of these make sense to you? Do you have a better solution? Feel free to respond below or in the comments on social media to join the discussion, and help us crack this. While I don’t think either of us have proposed perfect solutions, I think any are better than where we’re at today – and being better tomorrow than we were today is the best we can hope to do.

The post We’re Making This Too Complicated (An ‘Indicas and Sativas Are For Dummies’ Response) appeared first on High Times.

Picking a Winning Phenotype

It’s easy to forget, but cannabis is absolutely an agricultural product. That means, like fresh fruits or vegetables, these flowers ripen and reach a peak point of deliciousness in the smoke. From one week to the next in the cure, one sibling plant can edge out another. Growing from seed means each plant has the same genetic make-up, but like sisters, are similar, not identical. Is the winning phenotype #48 or #49? This week it’s #49, but next week #48 could squeeze in as the top heat.

In truth, #48 probably is the winner today as I write about flowers on the autumnal equinox of 2022. The smell from this sample on my desk is so dank, I feel it in the back of my nostrils. Like gasoline on the sidewalk after that first rain, this weed smells fresh, but also distinctly chemical-like. It leaves a rainbow blur in my mind. I’m so high.


The weed I’m smoking is a tester of Gelato #41 and LD-95 from Oakland, California cannabis breeder and cultivator Fig Farms. It’s certainly not the Gelato of five years ago. Back in the equally heady days of Sherbinski’s 2017 Gelato releases, that handful of Mochi Gelato he pulled out for me from a giant plastic bag overflowing with buds tasted sweet. It wasn’t that it didn’t have any gas—after all Gelato pulls its lineage from two of the most gassy and well known strains families of modern time, OG Kush and Cookies—but that it showed off a more fruity, dessert side alongside all that dank. Out of all the various Gelato phenotypes, Gelato #41 (otherwise truly named Bacio Gelato) has proven to be the most prolific. At this point, Gelato #41—a cross of Sunset Sherbet and Thin Mint Cookies which was created in a San Francisco garage by Sherbinski and fellow breeder Jigga—has officially found its way into hearts and lungs all over the world.

“The funny thing is people know [the Gelato strains] as the 25, 33 and the 41,” Sherbinski told Jimi Devine in a 2017 sitdown interview about the success of the Gelato. “Those were just the numbers I put on the pots, they’re not the names. That would be like having kids and calling them 5, 6, 7, 8.”

The Fig Farms creation combines the Gelato #41 we all know and love (albeit Fig’s own version of the strain that they’ve cheekily named after Devine, calling it Jimi #41) with LD-95. The LD-95 part of that comes from a parent that’s all diesel and sour funk. After visiting the Fig Farms grow a few weeks back, I began shopping the two phenotypes Fig Farms is considering releasing into the market with the crew of elite strain experts I roll with. Right now, and possibility forever, the samples are designated by number: the Gelato #41 x LD-95 #48 and the Gelato #41 x LD-95 #49.

“We pollinated a bunch of stuff with LD-95 from Top Dawg,” Fig Farms breeder and owner Keith Healy explains of the OG and Chem type profiles he’s bringing to the Gelato #41. “So it should be like a strong, potent flower… you expect that to bring gas notes and fuel and so, we throw that [male pollen] at a female and we see if that actually translates. It’s almost like an experiment where you’re making a hypothesis and then you’re executing and seeing if your hypothesis is real.”

At a later kitchen table tasting of the #48 and #49 phenotypes with cannabis strain expert Ngaio Bealum, he quite accurately says these dense, heavy, and incredibly sticky nugs “have an undercurrent of skunk” but are missing a lot of that traditional Gelato sweetness. When I bust out the numbered samples for another thorough analysis at a San Francisco Labor Day backyard barbecue hosted by Leafly’s sherpa of terps, David Downs, the group is divided. That day, overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the city shaped by the 1849 Gold Rush, I was really going for #49. True guardian of the flame, Devine, however, was beyond sure the #48 was the one.

Back at Fig Farms it’s testing season and Chief Sales Officer Mike Doten brings out eight different sister variations of 6ixth Sense x Figmint.

“Each one that we’re showing you represents a single plant,” Doten says. “These are single-plant testers at this stage. Then we’ll enter them into a two-, or at the maximum, five-plant next run and that will happen in our actual production room.”

After this selection process is over, Fig Farms typically releases only about 20 pounds of the winning phenotype strain at a time. The first drops are usually 5 to 10 pounds. 

“The distributor hates it. It’s expensive to test it,” Healy explains.

But, because there’s no outside investors telling him he needs to grow only the plants that yield more in order to release larger say 50-pound batches, Fig Farms, which is run by Healy and his wife fellow cannabis cultivator and breeder Chloe, can put out what it wants. This means that strains are pretty unique. I bring this up particularly when it comes to the Holy Moly!, a strain that was the first jar to be emptied in an organic taste testing I hosted at the High Times 100 party held in Los Angeles this May.

Courtesy of The High Rise Co.

“[Holy Moly!] is just so unique and the reason why it’s so unique and rare is because nobody in their right mind would throw that in a commercial setting,” Healy says. “It’s something that you would expect somebody that has their own little tent to grow like one plant of and still be frustrated with the process.”

Holy Moly! / Courtesy of Fig Farms

The 6ixth Sense and Figmint crosses are pretty dialed in at this stage and look really similar to me, but part of the award-winning formula at Fig Farms is figuring out which one is really the best. I hone in on one tester that displays a bit more purple color. It’s a “party purple,” Doten says, and when I ask what that means he tells me “it’s not like a midnight purple or something, it’s more like the purple you’d see on a party napkin.”

“If you can produce multiple really, really good things from just a small amount of seeds then it seems to be a higher-quality cross,” Healy explains.

Looking toward the future Healy hopes to release his own seeds. Right now he’s playing with the stability Fig Farms is finding in the 6ixth Sense x Figmint and thinking about pairing that with other strains in the current lineup such as Animal Face.

“My goal with seeds, when people buy them, is that they end up with a very difficult time making a selection,” he says. 

The post Picking a Winning Phenotype appeared first on High Times.

Transbay Challenge: A View From the Judges’ Table

When I pulled up to the 4th installment of the Transbay Challenge, presented by Jimi Devine & Chronic Culture on Aug. 13, I didn’t expect to be met by Mister Woods With The Goods himself, greeting me with a smile and a judges pass. He led us to the judging table, which was covered in mason jars of ultra-frosty cannabis, little jars of hash and rosin, rolling papers, dab rigs and notepads we could use to assess the entries. The race was on, and it was a test of endurance. Between the heat of the day and the heat in my rolling tray, I knew our only chance of making it to the end would be by pacing ourselves.

The Transbay Challenge began in the fall of 2019, a friendly competition for bragging rights as the best cultivator in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nearly three years later, the event has come to garner an almost cult-like following of craft cannabis connoisseurs willing to travel far and wide for a chance to rage with like a champion with Jimi Devine. The 91 Club, a private social club located in the Arts District of downtown LA with deep ties to the legacy market, was home to the event. A space once occupied by legendary cultivator AJ, creator of AJ’s Sour Diesel, the vibes were just right for judging a competition of this caliber.

With my handy-dandy rolling kit in hand, the judging began. We inspected the nugs by shining our cell phone lights into the jars to illuminate the trichomes. We inspected the bud structure and pinched the flowers between our fingers to gauge the density and stickiness of each offering. We stuck our noses into the jars, searching for the one that made us raise our eyebrows and reach for the prettiest nug of the bunch. 

Strain after strain, joint after joint, we made our way through the entries, five of which absolutely blew us away.

Fidel’s KMZ took home the win with almost half the judges’ votes. An immigrant from Saudi Arabia, Shawn Damirdijan (Fidel) has been a staple in the California cannabis market for over a decade. A pioneer of the beloved hash hole and cultivator extraordinaire, Shawn has built his flower brand on clean growing practices, consistent flower and achieving the maximum potential of each strain. His brand motto “Possessions Don’t Make You Rich” echoed his humble demeanor as he personally served cold beverages to guests who visited his booth.

As the sun went down and the day began to cool off, I couldn’t help but reminisce. The excitement and camaraderie paired with the cordial rivalry of who had the best stash brought me back to a time when the fun of cannabis events came from simply being together. It warms my heart that even in 2022, when corporate cannabis is operating full swing, some of the best cannabis can still be found tucked away in a lonely graffiti-covered warehouse—surrounded by friends.

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