Benzinga’s Inaugural 4/21 Gift Guide (Because 4/20 Was So Yesterday)
by Andre Bourque, Benzinga Contributor
April 21, 2023 2:17 PM | 24 min read
As urban legend has it, “420” originally served as a code word used by a group of 1970’s Northern California high school marijuana smokers who would meet in front of a nearby statue of Louis Pasteur at 4:20 p.m. to sesh.
Decades later, the expression has become a timeless beckoning for modern-day cannabis enthusiasts to whip out a Moxie vape, puff a PuffCo, light up a dog-walker, snap and share an obligatory Instagram or two, and log back into work.
But, 4:20 p.m. probably wasn’t when this ambitious crew of “Waldos,” as they were known, began actually smoking on anything back in 1971 when the tradition was said to have begun. These were pre-vape days, and commercial pre-rolls not being as ubiquitous back then as they are in California today, these fellas would have spent time rolling their own.
In a likely scenario, one guy rummages through the pockets of his brown, Lee corduroys, in search of a book of matches. Another, tardy, disheveled crew member with one strap broken on his Jansport backpack, comes frantically running to join in after the 4:20 mark. The designated pre-roller has no tray.
All this eats up time.
And realistically, in 1971, this collection of peaceful loiterers isn’t getting to the actual ingestion of any cannabis until 4:25, 4:26-ish at best.
How to Trade Options Like a Pro…
It’s time to separate the winners from the losers. Options expert Chris Capre is about to drop his next two options plays that have the potential to score double and triple-digit gains.
So maybe 4:21 is just as good as 4:20 once in a while.
If nothing else, it’s just a great day to publish an article about weed gifts without having to compete for eyeballs amongst a slew of other articles released on the same day about the same topic.
So we have it, I present to you on 4/21, cool products I’ve grown to like and appreciate over the past year, because 4/20 was so yesterday.
Note: Product prices and availability are constantly changing, so please check websites for the latest in information.
The Brockton MK2 by Parkdale Brass
Toronto-based Parkdale Brass is the purveyor of sophisticated, sleek, and 20th century inspired smoking pipes. The company is driven by the desire to pay homage to the style and quality of smokeware of the past, offering what are some of the most distinguished pipes on the smoking market.
Their flagship device, the head-turning Brockton MK2 (360-degree product view), combines ruggedness with elegance. Chrome plated, with sturdy fittings, and easy-to-clean, the Brockton is one of my favorite personal smoking devices. And I’m not alone in this sentiment.
At less than a hundred dollars ($80) at the time of this writing, The Brockton is a must-have in the realm of distinguished, yet affordable smoking.
Not too sweet, not too mild, Canna-Soothe cannabis-infused lozenges have a history dating back to 2005 with a product originally known as the Jolly-Lolly. Several years and product iterations later, paired with a corporate move from San Francisco to Santa Rosa, California, and Canna-Soothe is where it is today.
Akin to a Jolly Rancher, Canna-Sooth packs a whole lot of flavor in a small dose. The artisanal lozenges are chewy and offer the option of slow dissolving or biting into them, and are hand panned and coated in a process that keeps the pieces from sticking together. Each package contains 100 mg of THC, and each lozenge contains 5 mg of THC and less than 2 mg of CBD.
Session Goods & Skullcandy 4/20 Mashup
Award-winning Session Goods is a modern cannabis accessory company based in Los Angeles, California. The company stands distinct from others in crafting modern, chic-looking smoking accessories with a deliberately minimalist design for reasons offered in their recent blog post, “Simplicity Meets Functionality: Why Minimalist Bongs are Taking Over.”
A bong-carrying member of the original collection, Session Goods just released the Glow Designer Series II collection which has me envious. Inspired by the resurgence of Y2K style, the glow-in-the-dark series is the perfect companion to an outdoor festival, concert, or late-through-the-night rave. I’m hoping to get my glow on in time for the nostalgic ABBA + Bee Gees tribute concert I have tickets for later this summer (row 5, baby!).
The company teamed up with legacy headphone producer, Skullcandy for an indulgent mashup including Session’s new glowing glass pipe, and the latter’s limited-edition Grind HAZE True Wireless Earbuds inspired by the legendary Indica-dominant Purple Haze strain.
The earbuds give off a “buds in a jar” display-worthy look with a clear-color, smoked gray case. The “Haze” colorway features a silvery, sage green coloring with a luxuriant texture and is enhanced by Purple Haze strain-like accents and striking orange highlights.
Mari y Juana Beverages, Co.
Less than a year old when it won the award of first place winner of the 2022 High Times Cannabis Cup, SoCal “People’s Choice Edition” for infused beverages, Mari y Juana had done something special: tapped into a niche no one else was serving.
The Latin American market, long-standing consumers of cannabis, have long been underrepresented in terms of products tailored to their tastes, brands owned by those communities, and those serving those markets. Born on Cinco de Mayo 2022, Mari y Juana does all three.
I was first introduced to the brand at the 2022 Cannabis Drinks Expo, where Mari y Juana was noted as being one of a only a handful of successful infused beverage newcomers in a challenging industry segment. This, because when you know your consumer, a big part of the challenge goes away.
When the company launched with carefully crafted Piña, Tamarindo, Mandarin, and Guava varieties upon market entry, it knew to mimic the most popular Mexican soda drinks. With a cool, refreshing, not-too-sweet experience, and a mild, 10 mg THC high, the combination is perfect for the infused cannabis beverage consumer newbie and regular drinker, alike.
Mari y Juana introduced a 16-ounce, 50 mg THC canned version of their soft drink in guava, along with an innovative, lime, tomato, and chili drink cannabis infused powder additive in a unique michelada cup, in 2022. CEO, Daniel Torres told me the company’s plan is to continue the 16-ounce line in the other three flavor varieties in 2023, along with an energy drink slated to be called, “Perico Verde,” to drop in early summer.
Bud Box Personal Cannabis Storage Products
Created by decorated designer Anticio Duke, BudBox was built around the idea of creating quality products to serve medical cannabis users by protecting them from the stigma around marijuana. Because the stigma around medical marijuana exists even if a person simply smells it around you. The goal of BudBox is to try and help eliminate that.
The inspiration for BudBox came from a need to protect something that helped the company’s founder manage his health: medical cannabis. Using prescription pill containers and bags did nothing to protect them from damage, nor mask them from their distinct smell. After some trial and error, today’s BudBox products became a functional part of his world. In an attempt to help others who benefit from the plant, the company was born.
100% minority owned, BudBox products comply with the Compassionate Care Act in order to protect those who are authorized to obtain medical cannabis. With an alarming number of (POC) People of Color receiving convictions based on small amounts of marijuana, a percentage of the company’s proceeds are contributed to causes that reduce these numbers and provide resources to support and re-establish victims of the failed “War on Drugs.”
Stone Road Cannabis
I was first introduced to Stone Road Cannabis at the Hall of Flowers cannabis show last year. The Blueberry Diesel pre-rolls I was given yielded a smooth and tasty hit without an overwhelming burn. Stone Road joints some with five .7 g units per pack. All premium, sun-grown, Stone Road flower is sourced from their 57 acre, off-grid biodynamic farm in Nevada City, CA, giving it distinct purity.
While the company’s products are terrific and true to nature’s intent, the story of how Stone Road came to be is equally as fabulous.
Stone Road’s CEO, Lex Corwin, was a rambunctious child growing up, to say the least. So much, in fact, his dad sent him away to a farming school in rural Vermont in hopes to instill some much-needed discipline in young Lex at the time. There he learned everything from organic agriculture and farming, to sustainability, and the group lived off of the product of their yield.
Upon completion of his farming training, Lex returned home to New York, and ever the ambitious pot head, ordered cannabis seeds from Amsterdam and started growing a borderline unsmokeable cannabis crop on his neighbor’s property. Years passed, he moved between different states, and hopped between different industries before settling into cannabis as a profession in 2016.
Like most cannabis entrepreneurs, early years were fraught with lots of trial, error, loss, and even turmoil. Eventually, from its humble revenues of $350K in 2019, Stone Road had a monstrous break out year in 2020, growing 700%.
The company expanded into Oklahoma in 2020, Massachusetts in 2021, and Michigan in 2022. Stone Road will be expanding into New Mexico in 2023.
It’s noteworthy to mention, Stone Road has one of the industry’s most original and creative websites. In an about-face to the stale, predictable world of digital pot leaves, the company’s website is an ode fresh perspectives and minimalism, replete with animated wildlife, nature, and everything you might find along the path of a stone road.
Alive & Kicking Slim CBD Hemp Pre-Rolls
If you were fortunate enough to have lived through the 1980s, you may recall the hip, Scottish band Simple Minds who crafted a catchy song, “Alive and Kicking.” Modern, tight, and appealing.
In the stale, predictable world of hemp pre-rolls, the brand Alive & Kicking has done well in distinguishing itself similarly: Modern, tight, and appealing. Catering to an unattended market–the Virginia Slims of hemp consumer, A&K’s Slim CBD Hemp Cigarette Pre-Rolls are ideal for the smoker who “never finishes the whole thing,” “doesn’t like passing it around,” or “is trying to quit tobacco.”
From the gophers on the packaging, to the narrow, chiseled packaging, Alive & Kicking has been called “sexy,” and, “perfect,” by people I’ve shared them with.
With A&K’s Slim CBD Hemp pre-rolls, “Stay until your love is alive and kicking.”
Cannalean Infused Syrups
Cannabis-infused syrups make a lot of sense for both manufacturers and consumers, alike. For manufacturers, they’re easier to produce and ship than wholly manufactured beverages that weigh more, take up more space, and require special shipping and distribution considerations. For consumers, they make for a handy way to add a jolt of THC or CBD to water or a beverage and carry around in your pocket.
Unfortunately, most cannabis-infused syrups taste like overpowering, comically flavored, concentrated Kool-Aid, formulated to settle at the bottom of your container and live as an unwelcome, lasting goop. I have tried countless brands that taste and behave the same way and marvel at how they remain on the market.
But when in Las Vegas, the experience can be different.
Cannalean, a Vegas-based, wholly minority-owned (African-American) company, produces award-winning syrups that are gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan and organic and offered in five different flavors, including watermelon, grape, peach, strawberry, and blackberry. Each 100 mg bottle contains 20 capfuls of syrup, yielding roughly 5 mg of THC each and 100 mg total.
I was first introduced to Cannalean syrups while enjoying a delightful blackberry THC-infused mocktail at the stellar 2022 Hush House MJ Biz Con party hosted by the event producers at Hush Chicago. Tart, as it should be, not sweet. True to color (not leaving a purple dye mark on my tongue), and exceptional in smooth flavor, Cannalean mixes well, is truly water soluble, and doesn’t settle to the bottom of a glass like other syrups.
Great people, quality ingredients, and solid product, Cannalean looks to expand to California in 2023 and we welcome them to it.
Venterra Farms and High Fidelity powered by Farming First
With over two-hundred years of family farming under its belt, Farming First is a sustainably grown, Central California cannabis company that, in addition to developing their own brands, are providers of white-label, co-packing, and brand partnerships. While premium cannabis can be in short supply for long stretches of the year, Farming First has positioned itself with rolling harvests so that its partners can rely on a constant source of high-quality material at value.
Part of the company’s appeal is its deep commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable growing practices, including the use of solar power and upcycled water. Farming First’s portfolio of brands includes High Fidelity and Venterra Farms, which feature a high quality lineup of whole flower, pre-rolls and vapes.
Apples & Bananas Strain by Venterra Farms
Apples & Bananas is a cross between Blue Power, Grand Daddy Purple and Platinum Cookies. The hybrid strain by Venterra Farms registers in at a whopping 31% THC. Sweet notes of fruits pair perfectly with the gassy undertones of this exotic strain containing dominant terpene myrcene, followed by pinene.
Gelonade Pre-Rolls by High Fidelity
Gelonade pre-rolls by High Fidelity make for a nice daytime smoke that will energize and motivate you to get things done. They’re a full one gram each, however, so have a lot to do. High Fidelity’s rendition of the cherished Gelonade strain, a sativa, and cross between Lemon Tree and Gelato 41, has a gassy, grassy, tart limon-esque tendency to it.
Each pack includes seven pre-rolls, totaling a quarter ounce of whole flower, individually wrapped, in a resealable bag. Priced at $32 at the time of this publishing, this pack of seven made for a very affordable, and well-received contribution to a pre-4/20 party I attended in San Diego.
PuffCo Hot Knife
The PuffCo Hot Knife is one of those devices you wonder why another prominent dab device manufacturer didn’t introduce earlier it’s so convenient and integral. PuffCo did, and as one user wrote, they’re the “Apple of dab devices,” so it’s one of the best.
The undeniably worst part about enjoying concentrates is dealing with the gunky, sticky residue clinging on to your dab tools and bangers. With the electronic, heated, PuffCo Hot Knife dab tool, loading your concentrates, rosin, shatter, or wax is as simple as a poke and a slide.
Merely press the button to heat the ceramic tip of the knife, dip it into your concentrate and watch it slide right off into your banger in around three or so seconds. Efficient and clean, the device takes a mere 30 minutes to charge via USB-C and averages up to 50 users per charge.
I love using it, and I’m hardly alone.
Humboldt Family Farms
Humboldt Family Farms offers some of the world’s finest cannabis from the legendary Humboldt County, California. The company’s mission is in working together with the best regional farmers to bring sustainably grown, artisanal and hand-crafted flower, pre-rolls, and vapes to consumers, offering a taste of the legendary Humboldt experience. Humboldt Family Farms makes its products available to buy directly from independent farmers, without the middleman.
One of those great products is The Original Train Wreck vape cartridge. This flavor-rich beauty features ocimene, one of the rarest terpenes in cannabis, known for delivering floral and fruity undertones. I’m able to draw from it on my multi-temperature setting Vessel Compass vaping battery, and at each temperature, the rich, potent oil burns just as smoothly and consistently as the last.
The folks at HFF recommend enjoying this vivacious vape strain along with various activities, including: “Organizing Everything. Dancing, Karaoke, Cycling, Yard Work, Social Mixers, Writing, Cooking, Hiking. Making Art.” They should, however, include skateboarding, as the company has taken a sensible evolution into a lifestyle brand, now offering a set of polished, attractive, top-of-the line skateboards.
MIGHTY+ Vaporizer by Storz & Bickel
Storz + Bickel is most widely known for its original vaping device, the Volcano Classic. Vaping aficionados will largely agree the Volcano helped set the bar for the purest of cannabis vaporizing, delivering the epitome of a smooth, unadulterated hit.
I liken my original Volcano to the “Volkswagen Beetle” of vaping devices–classic, long-lasting, and inimitable. But the Volcano is monstrous, so the folks at Storz + Bickel went to work at developing something portable that would deliver similar quality and experience.
Upon its original release in 2014, The battery-powered MIGHTY impressed users with its patented combination of full hot air convection heating and additional conduction, designed to ensure efficient vaporization from the very first draw.
Released in September of 2021, the MIGHTY+ includes a plethora of new features and iterative improvements, making the device even more powerful and practical than its predecessor. With a new ceramic coated filling chamber, rapid heating in approximately 60-seconds, a USB-C charging socket, supercharge function delivering an 80% charge in approx. 40 minutes, and Improved housing, the MIGHTY+ is a truly second generation product that earns its accolades.
The new device provides impressive, clean hits and can clear a chamber in about four to five draws. A look at the MIGHTY+ user reviews lends testament to why Storz & Bickel continue to be definitive leaders in the vaporizer space.
Dedication OG Legacy Smalls by Respect My Region
There’s only one grassroots publication that covers both the music and cannabis industries from an authentic feet-on-the-ground purview, paired with a connoisseur’s palette. From its humble beginnings as a Northwest United States regional publication, to the national one it is today, Respect My Region has given readers legions of write-ups on things like current events, product reviews, and even the best places to buy weed in Washington, DC.
In October 2022, the company launched its first cannabis product line, “RMR Legacy Smalls,” in California with two strains, Dedication OG and Gelato Octane. Each launch of RMR Legacy Smalls products features seven-grams of premium indoor grown cannabis flower cultivated by award-winning legacy cannabis cultivators.
As of February 2023, additional strains have been released as part of the RMR Legacy Smalls product line across California in notable retail partnerships. On top of Dedication OG, the RMR team added in sweet-smelling Orange Triangle Cookies, an earthy, gassy OG Kush, a sour, peppery JS-11, a delicious, and potent RS-11, Grape Gas, GMO Garlic Cookies, and some LBC OG Cookies.
RMR Legacy Smalls are expanding to Washington state in May of 2023.
Lost Farm White Russian Chews by Kiva Confections
Kiva Confections, most widely known for its chocolates, made an impressive entry into the fruit chews space with their strain-specific THC infusions and delicious flavors like watermelon, cherry lime, and key lime, that weren’t too sweet. Their latest to the Lost Farms collection, the White Russian Chews, are infused with the globally recognized White Widow strain.
Cannabis enthusiasts who appreciate White Widow love that it allows them to unwind and relax while still maintaining a sense of mental awareness. A fitting and perfect complement to Kiva’s product, a timed homage to the 25th anniversary of the 1998 cult classic film, The Big Lebowski.
White Russian Chews feature sweet, creamy Irish coffee flavors that are tied together with subtle notes of White Widow live resin, a hybrid boasting dank earth and spicy herbal notes. White Russian chews feature strain-specific, plant-based 10mg THC infused with 100% live resin for a distinctively full spectrum, true-to-the-plant-high.
If you’re looking for a sleek looking, easy to use and clean portable dab rig under $200, the Lookah Unicorn fits the bill. I came across the product earlier this year. The unit goes for hours on a single USB charge. As an added feature, you can exhale through the device and the smoke will travel through the base of the device for a cool, unique effect.
User reviews have the quality and usability of the Lookah Unicorn squarely competing with the industry’s most widely known portable dab rigs.
Veritas Cannabis & Chris Bohlin Glass Tray
Colorado-based, Veritas Fine Cannabis, listed by Cannabis Business Times as #5 in their “2023 Best Companies to Work For” category ranking, prides itself on being a “people, process, product” company (the kind Marcus Lemonis loves).
A scroll through the company’s website offers a detailed, video-accompanied description of each stage in their meticulous cultivation and manufacturing processes, from mothers, clones, and vegetation, through flowering and harvesting, into the drying, curing, and trimming stages, all the way into packaging. You only put forth that level of transparency when you’re really confident about your product, and with Veritas’ Premium 1/8th Jars, there’s reason to be.
I was first introduced to the brand at 2022’s MJ Biz Con and distinctly recall the overwhelming whiff of blissful fruit when Veritas president Jon Spadafora cracked open an eighth jar in the middle of the press room at the time. I was able to sneak a puff with my newly procured DaVinci IQ2 vaporizer, and the hybrid strain was smooth, the terpenes, pronounced. The same is true for today’s vast library of Veritas Strains.
What’s fine cannabis without fine accessories? The most recent addition to Veritas’ accessories line up offer joint rollers and pipe packers a luxurious tray designed by Denver local artist, Chris Bohlin.
HEMPER Subscription Boxes
Cannabis subscription box companies have come and gone, but few remain. The challenge initially, for some, was trying to remain compliant with sometimes evolving laws on what could, and could not, be transported by mail. THC-containing intimacy products and related subscription boxes come to mind, for example.
Then there’s the challenge of being consistently able to produce compelling enough products, delivery after delivery, to remain interesting enough for people to maintain their subscriptions. I don’t know about you, but send me a rad looking, shiny topped, mushroom bong with a bunch of quality, branded cleaning materials for a great price, and I’m not going anywhere.
And that’s exactly what HEMPER does.
The subscription company offers subscribers one of three plans based on personal preferences. Glass enthusiasts get glass, not rolling accessories, those are for the blunt and pre-rollers. Subscribers choose the frequency of deliveries, get ten or more cool, new products each time valued at at least $125 or more, and it’s a smokin’ deal (pricing depends on variables selected).
Meanwhile, brands get great exposure to new audiences on a mass scale. HEMPER made it cannabis and hemp related subscribing work.
Shorties Strain-Specific Mini Pre-Rolls
While countless cannabis brands try to be several different things to appeal to different audiences, Shorties does one thing, for one purpose, and does it well. The strain-specific mini pre-roll manufacturer doesn’t produce bags of weed, paired with a new line of rosin, with some legacy pre-rolls in between, instead, Shorties makes ready-to-go and ready-to-smoke pre-rolls in a tin small enough to slip into your pocket.
Certainly, Arizona based Shorties isn’t the only mini pre-roll game in the state, but what makes them unique is in the pure, unadulterated experience they are selling: An assortment or pure strains, mild enough to let you enjoy throughout the day. If you’re looking for a hard-hitting, cross-bred strain to take you out and tuck you into bed, Shorties aren’t the prescription. With pure strains, moderate THC-levels, and cornucopia of extreme flavors, Shorties are designed for pure, lucid enjoyment. And with their small size, Shorties .35g minis make sharing in a smoke sesh “as easy as keeping to yourself.”
420 PRODUCT GUIDE – CANNABIS
STAFF·APRIL 11, 2023
For this annual special day, brands and cultivators are always proud to put their best product forward and highlight what they’ve spent months perfecting for the general public. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite brands and what they have in store for this 420.
RAW GARDEN – INFUSED JOINTS WITH LIVE RESIN CRUSHED DIAMONDS
raw garden infused joints 1
Raw Garden has grown to become one of California’s most desired brands from consumers and in the last year, they’ve released a much anticipated product – infused joints. Raw Garden’s Micronized Refined Live Resin Crushed Diamonds are categorized by aroma to help you choose flavors that appeal to you and rolled in small batches to best preserve the flower’s flavor & freshness terpenes. Each pack deliver 3 joints with THC potency ranging from 30 – 35%.
STONE ROAD – HASH INFUSED SINGLES AND EIGHT HASH PACKS
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Stone Road returns to our 420 guides as a continued trusted brand with amazing strains with terpenes profiles that will delight your nostrils and senses. Stone Road grows small-batch, craft flower utilizing only solar power and regenerative water practices at its Northern California farm; as it expands to other markets, the brand only partners with other family-owned cultivators who adhere to the same stringent sustainability practices. Some of their popular strains at the moment are most popular strains right now are Guava Zaza, Forbidden Star Fruit, Passionfruit Diesel, and Hazelnut Cannoli.
BOMBATTA – NERVE GAS STRAIN
Old school Bay Area street brand Bombatta is all grown up, with a new product line that boasts the highest quality flower, consistency and diversity. Fire up your 4/20 with their latest strain Nerve Gas. Not only is this offering the BOMB, it’s some of the best weed we’ve tried this year – with the heavy hitter crossing Girl Scout Cookies and Chemdawg with the deliciousness of Lemon Cherry Gelato, but the indica-dominant strain will give you a full body high for the ages. For cannaseurs and newbies alike, this inclusive brand has just what the doctor ordered… so get your smoke sesh on! Products retail for $60.
22RED – PERSONALS PRE-ROLL PACK
22 Red Pre Roll Box Open 3
It’s hard to argue with the convenience of a pre-roll, but when it comes to quality, what’s inside leaves something to be desired. Thankfully, Shavo Odadjian (of System of a Down) and the brand he founded, 22Red, are here to fix that. 22Red just launched pre-roll packs that contain no shake, no sugar leaf, no bullsh*t. Each set is packed with seven half gram joints that are filled with indoor grown flower, the ready-to-consume equivalent of most flower jars. 22Red’s pre-roll packs retails for $40. For this 420, we tried their “GMO BX” strain which is a great and soothing indica-dominant hybrid packing in over 30% THC. This strain is a cross between GMO and Donny Burger delivering notes of pungent, earthy and sweet aroma that will give you that relaxing ease you’ll be looking for at the end of a busy day.
COOKIES & ERYKAH BADU “THAT BADU” STRAIN RELEASE
Cookies That Badu Strain 3
Didn’t Cha Know? Berner and Erykah Badu came together to create her first cannabis strain, ”That Badu,” a flavorful cross between Lemonchello and Jet Fuel Gelato. Offered in eighths ($60) and pre-rolls ($12) beginning on 3/8, “That Badu” delivers a soft euphoric high accompanied by a scent of candied citrus and champagne, becoming your new go-to–from now on until your Next Lifetime. (Available in all Cookies and Lemonnade Stores in California)
JETTY EXTRACTS – GRAND DADDY PURP SOLVENTLESS VAPE
Jetty Extracts has been a longtime player in the concentrates game, winning over many in the state of California and recently emerges in the New York market with 3 vape cartridge releases. Made simply with ice, water, heat, and pressure—no chemicals, no solvents. Jetty’s unique extraction process is a solventless breakthrough, boosting potency and delivering consistent flavor that’s true to the strain, from first hit to last.
GDP is a classic NorCal strain. It’s a potent, pure, heavy indica that will surely have you couch-locked. Good earthy flavor with hints of citrus fruit and spice.
GELATO CANNA CO. – ORANGEADE
Looking to treat yourself to something sweet this 420? Look no further than Gelato Canna Co. Living up to its name, Gelato is a cannabis confectionary that boasts some of the tastiest edibles in the Golden State. In addition to its THC-infused gummies and chocolate bars, Gelato is also purveyor of cannabis concentrate, eights of flower, pre-rolls and vapes offerings between $15 to $75.
Orangeade is a Sativa-leaning hybrid strain that gets your creative juices flowing and body going. Known for boasting woodsy and citrus flavors, this hybrid emits a scent and taste that is tangy, citrusy and fruity with notes of grapes, lemons and tangerines.
RAVENS VIEW GENETICS – TANGERINE & CREAM HYBRID STRAIN
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As New York continues to grow its market, we’ve been eyeing some of the cultivators this state has to offer and Ravens View Genetics is on the top of our list.
Ravens View Genetics (RVG) is a Women-owned, Women-led, premier Cannabis brand growing top tier flower in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Led by CEO Joann Kudrewicz and Lead Cultivator Michael Kudrewicz, RVG prioritizes the selection and breeding of Landrace and Heirloom Cannabis strains to create a unique product that offers consumers the opportunity to experience the whole plant profile, as nature intended.
RVG has a series of new and upcoming strains that local New Yorkers are sure to be pleased with. We’re highlighting their Tangerine & Cream hybrid strain that is a cross of Tangerines and Cream x Lemon Tree (Lemon Pledge phenotype) and reaches 18% THC.
Coming soon from RVG will be their infused gummies made with real fruit purée and their “Bad Dog” indica strain.
GRASSROOTS DIAMOND INFUSED PRE-ROLLS
With clean, eye-catching packaging to their diamond infused pre-rolls, Grassroots makes the cut to this years 420 product guide. For the cannasseur looking to kick up their high with an added level of ease, these boosted pre-rolls feature their finely ground Grassroots bud with a dusting of THCA Diamonds for a higher shine. No need for a dab rig or to roll your own. With strains ranging from Birthday Cake, Garlic Cookies, Bubba Diagonal plus more and available as 1g singles or a 5pk of 0.4g short rolls, they’re ideal for the more seasoned cannabis user.
EVERDROP – LIQUIFIED DIAMOND VAPE CARTRIDGES
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Looking for a more discreet way to celebrate 420 but still get to that peak you desire! Everdrop has 3 vape cartridge options to choose from. Everdrop’s unique liquified diamonds vape cartridges are what you need to achieve the perfect high, every time.
- Maui Wowie: If you’re looking to have a more active, energized 4/20, Maui Wowie is the strain for you. With hints of sweet pineapple flavors, this sativa strain allows you to feel euphoric as ever.
- Gelato: For a blissful and peaceful 4/20, gelato is the strain for you. This indica dominant strain is perfect for those looking to feel calm, yet not sleepy. If this sounds like your ideal high, be sure to get your hands on this strain!
- Do-si-Dos: Evoking feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and sleep, this strain is the perfect strain for anyone looking to celebrate 4/20 by snuggling up on the couch and watching movies. With early, citrusy, and berry flavors, this hybrid of OG Kush Breath and Face Off OG will leave you satisfied as ever.
NATURE’S HERITAGE CANNABIS – LAMB’S BREAD
jar lid lambs bread
Lamb’s Bread by Nature’s Heritage Cannabis is an iconic Jamaican cannabis strain beloved by none other than Bob Marley himself. With toasty flavors of kush and spice, this sweet sativa delivers a euphoric high that’ll make you want to get up, stand up delivering nostalgic smells of hash & earth aromas.
The Massachusetts brand is a a curator of fresh, craft-quality cannabis and dedicated to cultivating unique strains that capture the finest elements of the plant, Nature’s Heritage uses a hands-on approach every step of the way, from assigning specific cultivators to tend specific strains to hand-trimming all flower.
Available in Maryland and Massachusetts
TERP STIX – DISTILLATE INFUSED PRE-ROLLS
Terp Stix’s distillate-infused pre-rolls are designed for smokers with a high tolerance and even higher expectations. Every pre-roll is crafted with exceptional diligence and thought, using the 4Front Ventures’ proprietary infusion process to homogenize its high-quality distillate and indoor-grown flower for a clean, controlled smoking experience. Smokers can expect a canoe-free pre-roll that burns evenly and goes far beyond just getting the job done.
Terp Stix are currently available to consumers in the following varieties: Tiger’s Blood; Blueberry; Green Apple; Pineapple; Strawberry; Raw (flavorless); Blackberry; Grape; Piña Colada; and Tangerine.
DIME BAG LIQUID INFUSED PRE-ROLLS
Dime Bag introduces their new 3 Pack Infused Liquid Diamonds Prerolls to provide an elevated experience through higher potency, still at an affordable price! These infused pre rolls are great for anyone looking for super potent, pure and flavorful joints. If you like cannabis oil (distillate) infused pre rolls for their tasty flavor and high THC percentages, liquid diamond infused Dime Bag prerolls will elevate experience without breaking the bank. All of our flower is grown in sunny California using organic nutrients and soil.
KIND TREE – CANDY STORE PRE ROLLS
Rich earth, clean water and pure air come together to make Kind Tree a unique and memorable cannabis experience. Candy Store is a super rare and evenly balanced hybrid strain known for its flavor, created through crossing the delicious Lemon Berry Candy OG and Ethos Cookies #16 strains.
HUMBOLDT TERP COUNCIL – TERPS & DIAMONDS SAUCE CARTRIDGES
These small batch extracts from the three-time Emerald Cup award-winning brand, Humboldt Terp Council are exclusively sourced from the Emerald Triangle, and feature premium hardware to enhance terp flavor. Each 1g cart has a medical-grade ceramic core and tip for smooth hits and premium mouthfeel. Current available strains: Sherb Burst, Gelonoidz, DOC 15, First Class Funk, & Lemon Royale.
VERITAS FINE CANNABIS – BIRTHDAY CAKE
Veritas Fine Cannabis’ Premium 1/8ths are grown, harvested, trimmed and packaged entirely by hand to ensure each jar contains the best nugs you could wish for. Veritas Fine Cannabis pairs an extensive flower strain library with solventless ice hash for an unforgettable infused joint. InfVsed Pre-rolls with1G of flower and 0.25G of concentrate allow consumers to enjoy a whole new level of craft cannabis. (Available in Colorado)
Why Colorado Tokers Love Grape Cream Cake
HERBERT FUEGO APRIL 12, 2023 6:06AM
Grape Cream Cake will remind adult tastebuds how good grape soda is. Herbert Fuego
Root beer floats are an underrated dessert, but why stop there? Coke, orange soda, Mountain Dew and ginger ale all play well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yet all of those fall behind a grape soda float.
People abandon grape desserts after puberty, but a sweet, creamy purple float on a summer day will make you realize what you’ve been missing. Too cold outside for a float? Go to Voodoo Doughnut and get a coffee and Grape Ape, a grape-flavored doughnut named after the classic, now-endangered purple pot strain. Can’t grab a Grape Ape? Head to the pot shop and look for Grape Cream Cake. It’s never been easier to find.
This mix of Grape Pie, Ice Cream Cake and Wedding Crasher is being pushed by over a dozen Colorado growers and extractors right now, with each version delivering a different mix of grape gasoline and sweet cream aromas. Some are more purple than others, but every version I’ve tried has been extremely powerful under the eyes, and ultimately provides a relaxing, stress-killing high.
Purple cannabis will always be alluring, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re smoking anything better or different. But when the smell and flavor match the color so closely, you have to respect that, because flavorless, sedative weed strains are a dime a dozen. Grape Cream Cake easily deserves a top-ten spot in the purp power rankings right now thanks to those sensory qualities, and it has the potential to breed interesting offspring, as well.
Looks: Grape Cream Pie’s deep-purple buds are impressively dark, which makes the trichomes and calyxes look even greasier. Nug shape may vary, but the strain’s density is consistent among every grower I’ve tried.
Smell: Sharp, sweet aromas of grape soda with pungent notes of chemical cleaner and gasoline fill my nostrils every time I smell Grape Cream Cake, with quieter notes of vanilla, berries (sometimes) and a sour back end.
Flavor: Grape Cream Cake does a better job than most “grape” strains at translating that tongue-coating sweetness of grape candy into the flavor, but the sweetness and gasoline notes are liable to overpower the fruitiness occasionally.
Effects: Eye drops can rarely hide how stoned I am after smoking this one because of how puffy and baggy my eyes get. Luckily, Grape Cream Pie provides extremely relaxing effects to match. Daily anxiety and stress disappear for a few hours, and my body feels loose and warm. You’ll have enough energy to make a grilled cheese or call in a food order, but don’t plan on moving much.
Where to find it: Grape Cream Cake is pretty easy to find around Denver right now. We’ve recently spotted it at 1136 Yuma, 14er, Alto Dispensary, Berkeley Dispensary, Callie’s Cannabis Shoppe, Canna City, Cherry Peak, Cookies, Del Mundo Cannabis, the Dispensary Littleton, Emerald Fields, FlyHi Delivery, Golden Meds, the Green Solution, Green Valley Dispensary, the Happy Camper, Karing Kind, Kaya Cannabis, the Kind Castle, Lakeshore Cannabis, Leiffa, Life Flower Dispensary, Lightshade, Lit, Lova, Lowell Gardens, Medicine Man, Nature’s Medicine, Native Roots, Oasis Cannabis Superstores, Park Hill Gardens, Rocky Mountain Cannabis, Simply Pure, Social Cannabis, Spark Dispensary, Stadium Gardens, Trees, Twin Peaks Dispensary and Unity Road, but more stores probably carry it.
Antero Sciences, Boulder Built, D and D Medical, Leiffa, LoCol Love, Natty Rems, Three Rivers Development and Veritas Fine Cannabis all grow their own versions of Grape Cream Cake, with Colorado Harvest’s and Leiffa’s grown in-house. My favorite cut so far is from LoCol Love, with a close second from Boulder Built.
14er Boulder, Binske, Glacier Concentrates, Harmony Extracts, Haze Silver, Leiffa, Natty Rems, Nomad Extracts, Reefa, Sunshine, TasteBudz, Viola Extracts and West Edison are a handful of the extractors working with Grape Cream Cake right now, and Dialed In makes rosin-infused edibles with Grape Cream Cake, as well.
Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Westword Readers Have Spoken: Here Are the Best of Denver 2023 Readers’ Choice Winners
We received 120,731 votes in 153 categories from the good people of metro Denver, and here are the readers’ picks for Best of Denver 2023! Thank you to everyone who voted.
You can also view all of our Best of Denver editors’ picks online and on newsstands.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Best Comedy Night
Comedy Works Denver
Best Denver Park
Best Disc Golf Course
Johnny Roberts Disc Golf Course
Best Dog ParkCherry Creek Dog Park
Best Drag Show
Best Film Festival Programming
Best Free Entertainment
Best Immersive Experience
Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station
Best Movie Theater –– Art House
Best Movie Theater –– First Run
Best Museum for Locals
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
Best Museum for Tourists
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
Best Museum Shop
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
Best New Art Space/Gallery
Best New Mural
Best New Public Art
Best Place to People-Watch
Best Place to Play Pickleball
Best Theater Company Programming
Denver Center for the Performing Arts
CANNABIS & MORE
Best Bargains at a Dispensary
Best Cannabis Instagram
Best CBD Pet ProductSweet Mary Jane Creature Comfort
Best CBD ProductSweet Mary Jane Popcorn
Best CBN, CBG or THCV ProductWyld CBG Pear Gummies
Best Customer Service at a DispensaryKind Castle
Best Dispensary for a Connoisseur
Best Dispensary for a New Cannabis UserThe Joint by Cannabis
Best Dispensary for Classic Strains
Best Dispensary Waiting Room
Best Edibles Company
Best Flower Brand
Best Head Shop
Best In-House Flower at a Dispensary
Best Infused Beverage
Best Medical-Only Dispensary
Best New Colorado Strain
Veritas Fine Cannabis, Pineapple Blast
Best Non-Candy Edible
Best Old-School Hash
Best Rosin Edible
Best Seed Company
Best Selection at a Dispensary
Best Vape Cartridge
FOOD & DRINK
Best Bar for Playing Games
Best Bar for Watching Games
Best Bar/Restaurant for a Breakup
Best Bar/Restaurant for a First Date
Best Barbecue Restaurant
Best Breakfast Burrito
Best Central/South American Restaurant (not Mexican)
Best Chicken Sandwich
Best Chicken Wings
Best Chinese Restaurant
Best Colorado Distillery
Best Distillery Taproom
Best Dive Bar
Best Ethiopian Restaurant
Best Food Hall
Best Food Truck/Cart
Best French Fries
Best French Restaurant
Best Fried Chicken
Best German/Eastern European Restaurant
Best Green Chile
Best Happy Hour
Best Hotel Restaurant
Best House Margarita
Best Ice Cream/Gelato Shop
Best Indian Restaurant
Best Italian Restaurant
Best Japanese Restaurant
Best Korean Restaurant
Best Mediterranean Restaurant
Best New Bar
Best New Brewery Taproom
Best New Coffeehouse
Best New Restaurant
Best Old-School Italian Restaurant
Best Patio for Pets
Best Patio With a View
Best Pizza by the Slice
Best Pizza in a Non-Pizzeria
Best Restaurant Patio
Best Sandwich Shop
Best Seafood Restaurant
Best Southern/Soul Restaurant
Best Sports Bar
Best Sushi Restaurant
Best Thai Restaurant
Best Vegan Restaurant
Just Be Kitchen
Best Wine Bar
MUSIC & VENUES
Best All-Ages Club
Best Bathrooms at a Venue
Best Blues Club
Best Country Venue
Best Dance Club
Best Drink Deals at a Venue
Best EDM Club
Best Food at a Venue
Best Gay/LGBTQ Club
Best Hip-Hop Club
Best Indoor-Outdoor Venue
Best Jazz Club
Best Karaoke Bar
Best Latin Club
Best New Album
Best New Band
Best New Club
Best Open-Mic Night
Best Radio DJ
Best Radio Station for Music
Best Rock Club
Best Sound System
SHOPPING & SERVICES
Best Bookstore –– New Books
Best Bookstore –– Used Books
Best Comic Book Store
Best Free Service
Best Gardening Supply Store
Best Liquor Store
Best Local Influencer
Best Local Instagram
Best Local Podcast –– Entertainment
Best Local Podcast –– News
Best Local TikTok
Best Place to Buy Flowers
Best Plant Store
Best Record Store
Best Store at Denver International Airport
Best Store in Cherry Creek
Best Store in RiNo
Best Store on Broadway
Best Store on East Colfax
Best Store on the 16th Street Mall
Best Store on the Pearl Street Mall
Best Store on West Colfax
Best Talk-Show Host
Best Thrift Store
Best Vintage StoreStrawberry Mountain
PROFILES IN LIGHTING | Libra Design
March 16, 2023
Libra Design custom engineers science-backed LED lighting for controlled environment agriculture with reduced equipment expense.
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EDITED BY CARRIE MEADOWS
Two years ago, Travis Williams and Dung Duong combined their experience and skillsets in semiconductors, LEDs, and solid-state lighting technology development to found Libra Design in Austin, Texas. The colleagues first met at BML Horticulture, which eventually became Fluence Bioengineering. (Fluence has since been acquired by lighting manufacturer Signify.)
The premise for Libra Design grew over their time with BML and Fluence: Develop a firm dedicated to crafting lighting for controlled environment agriculture (CEA) that could leverage the benefits of LEDs while driving down barriers to SSL adoption in the sector.
Along with a bachelor of science in communications from the University of Texas at Austin, Williams brings a 15-year career in the semiconductor industry to the venture. Before entering the horticulture lighting industry, Williams led the introduction of new products, business units, and ecosystem partnerships at AMD.
Duong holds more than 40 patents in the LED industry, including specialty optics and heatsinks. Prior to Libra Design, he was the founder and chief science officer of Illumitex and co-founder of BML Horticulture. Duong has dual bachelor of science degrees in optics engineering and electrical engineering from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, in Indiana.
Libra CTO Duong and CEO Williams lead a lean operation from their Virginia and Vermont offices, respectively.
Firm mission: Our mission is to address global food insecurity and the climate crisis by removing the financial and technological barriers to horticulture lighting systems for CEA. It offers tremendous benefits compared to conventional agriculture yet remains a niche player in the global food system, primarily due to the extensive capital and operating costs — which we aim to remove.
What we are known for: Customized horticulture lighting solutions for indoor and greenhouse farms that are high performance and high quality without the high price tag.
First commission: While our primary focus is accelerating CEA food production, we are extremely passionate about working with the commercial cannabis industry to increase efficiencies and reduce its carbon footprint.
Last summer, we worked on a lighting retrofit project for Veritas Fine Cannabis, one of Colorado’s largest cannabis cultivation brands based in Denver. Like most cannabis producers in Colorado, Veritas was facing macroeconomic pressures to increase operational efficiencies as statewide supply outweighed demand. To help Veritas reduce opex and increase production, we worked with its management and cultivation team to develop a lighting solution to replace the existing high-pressure sodium equipment, resulting in a 60% yield increase and 20% reduction in energy use. Not only was this a home run for our client, but a truly rewarding result for Libra as we kickstart our goal of making LED solutions accessible for all crop producers.
Firm culture: Libra Design is a private, self-funded, and mission-based company. These factors drive a culture based on purpose rather than shareholder value, investor returns, or other financial-based metrics (for example, EBITDA), which dominate conventional business and influence both short- and long-term decision making. We believe this foundation materializes in better solutions for our clients and relationships with our partners, and a culture with personal and professional fulfillment at the forefront.
Favorite lighting/engineering rule of thumb, standard, or equation: Conservation of radiance [Φ/(n2AΩ)=Φ1/(n12A1Ω1)]. The radiance through a lossless optical system is constant, yet, like perpetual motion, everyone tries to “cheat” it and ultimately gets proven wrong. While simple, its underlying principles define the aperture of a lighting system, regardless of the complexity of the optical system, defining the exit aperture to control a beam at 100% efficient. This equation has proved so profound throughout Duong’s career that he named his son Radiant.
Industry generalization or perception that should be debunked: We continue to see a disproportionate amount of attention and capital spent on spectra for commercial horticulture lighting systems. Our experience continues to demonstrate spectrum is less important to overall crop and business success than other factors — PPFD, efficacy, and capex/opex. While spectrum plays a vital role in the development of crops, we believe the focus needs to shift to a balanced approach with intensity, energy efficiency, and sound financials in the foreground.
Top industry concern today: The short-term viability of vertical farming remains a concern as most farms continue to depend on outside investment — not solely for the upfront costs but also to cover operating costs as a substitute for profitability. While we are encouraged by some farms turning their attention to sound operations, many still have unnecessarily high capex/opex from equipment and product features that do not substantially affect the bottom line. Although some of the large costs are inevitable, we hope to provide solutions that allow growers to achieve profitability.
Technology, product, or designer you admire: On-site power generation with a centralized DC grid to power horticulture LED fixtures. Both the cost and energy efficiency of LED fixtures are starting to reach an asymptote. The next wave of significant cost and energy savings will come from a centralized DC grid system.
What should the industry talk more about? The unsustainable carbon footprint of CEA. LEDs are more energy efficient than incumbent lighting technologies, and CEA facilities offer tremendous upsides compared to conventional agriculture. Still, we must offset the energy used from carbon-based power generation. A typical indoor farm requires anywhere from 14 to more than 70W per square foot for lighting alone, whereas a typical office or retail space requires less than 1W per square foot. Vendors, designers, policy makers, and crop producers must work together to address this issue. For our part, Libra maintains a minimum 2.7 µmol/J efficacy design principle and is also a member of 1% for the Planet, so proceeds from every order go to planting a tree.
Advice to anyone interested in developing CEA lighting or entering the industry: Focus on the core metrics with a constant evaluation of the market needs. Like every business, it’s about providing enough value to ensure scalable growth. Both CEA technology and the industry are evolving rapidly. What worked last year may not work this year.
What vending machines say about Colorado’s cannabis industry
It’s more about innovation than automation
Jonathan Rose, 19 hr ago
Welcome to the first edition of Regulated State — a newsletter hyperfocused on Colorado’s cannabis industry and its burgeoning psychedelics sector.
NOTE: Please do read past the lead story for an important update on medical cannabis legislation currently being debated at the Legislature.
I’m Jonathan Rose, the editor who built the cannabis beat at the Denver Business Journal, and I’m excited to publish this biweekly newsletter that looks beyond the Denver metro and across the Centennial State (you know, the one that did it first).
As I did my due diligence over the past months, gauging the appetite for a newsletter like this, the No. 1 question that came up was “Who is your audience?”
Well I can’t say for sure — the response to the first few newsletters should give me an indication. But let me make this clear: I want EVERYBODY.
I think there are stories happening in cannabis every day with mainstream crossover appeal — I proved it at the DBJ, and I hope to do it again here.
Oh! And feel free to send me any story ideas, pitches, tips, etc. email@example.com or through Substack.
Thank you for reading/subscribing (and please forward to your friends).
Like what you see? Were you forwarded this email? Subscribe below to catch the next one!Subscribe
What Terrapin’s new vending machine says about the Colo. Cannabis Industry
When Terrapin Care Station recently unveiled what it calls the “first-of-its-kind cannabis digital vending kiosk” at its Aurora location, even Gov. Jared Polis tweeted about it.
This dispensary in Aurora is the first Cannabis vending machine and the first fully automated cannabis kiosk on the market. You still need proof of ID and age to be granted entry. dpo.st/40M1UYE
The technology behind ACE (Automated Cannabis Experience), built with 50-year vending-machine vets BMC Universal Technologies, is the result of five years of development. It scans IDs; it accepts payments; and it labels and dispenses cannabis products, all in plain view. And it can hold up to 1,152 products, according to Terrapin Care Station.
But it also tells a bigger story about a Colorado cannabis industry that is slogging through probably the most challenging moment in its young life.
The big picture: The cannabis industry has entered a new reality, and nobody’s quite sure exactly what to make of it: Rock-bottom wholesale prices and dropping retail sales after a pandemic boom have left cannabis companies scrambling. Multistate operators are reducing their footprint nationwide, VC has dried up, headlines are apocalyptic.
Have the reports of weed’s death been greatly exaggerated? What local cannabis companies and analysts are telling me, though, is that this is simply an inevitable market correction — and one that was likely on its way no matter what.
Case Studies: While MSOs and VC-backed startups are laying workers off by the hundreds, Colorado retailers — and even some cultivators — are using this opportunity to innovate, and some are even expanding.
Terrapin Care Station: The Boulder-based, six-store chain recently pulled out of Michigan due to what it sees as “a serious turn,” in that state’s industry. Some 70% of Michiganders were still buying their weed on the black market as recently as late 2021, according to one study.
Terrapin employs 130 workers in Pennsylvania where it’s a cultivator, and is the only producer found on every Pennsylvania dispensary shelf, Vice President of Communications Peter Marcus told me. And it’s looking to expand with two more stores right here in its home state.
The ACE vending machine isn’t a way to cut employee headcount, Marcus said. There have been no budtender staff cuts, he said; rather, ACE is just one more way to attract customers to its stores.
It’s also a potential future money-maker, since it’s a Terrapin-developed machine that can be sold or licensed out.
And data — the currency of the new millennium — will be one way the vending machine is helping the chain adapt to these challenging times.
“We’ll learn from the type of customer who uses it,” Marcus said, pointing to sales, frequency, what type of person wants to get in and out of the shop with minimal interaction.
Native Roots: “We’ve become very good at forecasting,” Native Roots Chief Sales Officer Denise De Nardi told me.
The 20-store, Colorado-headquartered cannabis behemoth onboarded a new enterprise resource planning software system and brought on a small group of consultants to help build what De Nardi calls “the foundation” of Native Roots’ new approach.
They’ve since boosted the percentage of customers under the age of 30 by 10 points (from 28% to 38%). They’re developing new products and brands for other customer segments, and ensuring their store inventory meets neighborhood demand.
And they’re doubling down on “experiential retail,” experimenting themselves with different forms of education and technology.
“It would’ve hurt us if we would’ve just continued to produce and push to the stores at the same level,” De Nardi said. “We’re really aligning product to customer demand.”
Native Roots is also looking at adding more stores to its Colorado footprint.
Veritas Fine Cannabis: Cultivators are arguably getting hit the hardest by this downturn, but that’s not stopping high-end grower Veritas Fine Cannabis from innovating.
“It’s forcing us to be a much better company and a much better brand,” Veritas President Jon Spadafora told me. “We’ve really stripped it down to the things we know will generate traffic.”
Veritas, known for its sponsorships and partnerships, has had to cut back on those types of promotions. Instead, it’s talking to retailers to figure out what draws the types of customers who will buy high-end cannabis.
It’s doubling down on its fourth annual ski giveaway partnership with Golden-based Icelantic. Customers who purchase Veritas cannabis receive a code they can enter for a chance to win a pair of Icelantic skis or a snowboard each Friday. The companies are giving away both.
It’s not only drawing consumers to cannabis retailers and upselling products, but it’s providing invaluable data about Veritas’ core customer, and how they can be better reached. It’s also strengthening Veritas’ relationship with retail stores, according to the company.
“If anything coming out of this crappy market, it’s deepening our relationships with the stores we do the most business with,” Spadafora said. “I think at the end of the day that’s a positive thing.”
The manufacturer’s take: “I think innovation on the product side is important so we’re attracting new consumers and not just fighting the race to the bottom from a price perspective,” Wana Brands Chief Marketing Officer Joe Hodas told me.
The analysis: “Colorado is undergoing a very difficult market transition as cultivators — and manufacturers to a lesser degree — react to what is oversupply in the wholesale market and rapidly declining prices that has resulted in a decline in the number of active adult-use cultivation licenses,” Vicente Sederberg Director of Economics and Research Andrew Livingston told me.
He pointed to the fact that the number of retail licenses had increased in 2022 while the number of cultivation licenses dropped slightly. And any number of those licenses could be inactive and/or up for sale.
Colorado went through something similar from 2018-2020, Livingston said. “But that didn’t occur when we were potentially facing a global recession, inflation and a significant capital crunch.”
*MED data provided by Vicente Sederberg
Truman Bradley, executive director at Marijuana Industry Group, said he sees some of the larger companies experimenting with returning to a vertical-integration model and expects various levels of success.
“I think a lot of directors of retail or general managers are having a come-to-Jesus moment about who are they, who are their customers and what do their customers want,” he told me.
Colorado marijuana sales tank in 2022 after pandemic-induced high
- By SAVANNAH MEHRTENS firstname.lastname@example.org
- Feb 5, 2023 Updated 15 hrs ago
FILE PHOTO: Assistant cultivator Saul Servin writes down the weight of a “Mac” strain marijuana plant while harvesting at the Euflora cannabis greenhouse on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Denver, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Denver Gazette)
- TIMOTHY HURST/THE DENVER GAZETTE
FILE PHOTO: Cannabis industry officials are seeing the other side of the pandemic “bump” in sales. Pictured: Marijuana plants hang upside-down on a rack, ready to be “de-fanned” after being cut down at the Euflora cannabis greenhouse on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Denver, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Denver Gazette)
- TIMOTHY HURST/THE DENVER GAZETTE
Following a pandemic “high,” Colorado cannabis sales have been plummeting for months.
Sales skyrocketed for the cannabis industry in the beginning of 2022, a trend that began at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, cannabis industry officials are seeing the other side of the pandemic “bump,” according to Ricardo Baca, founder and CEO at Grasslands, a marketing and PR agency that focuses on cannabis and psychedelics.
Baca noted that, during the early months of the pandemic — when authorities imposed quarantines and people shifted to working remotely — people used cannabis recreationally more often.
Experts and industry insiders pointed to several factors contributing to the decline in cannabis sales, including a shift in consumer behavior, more states legally permitting its use and less disposable income as a result of inflationary pressures.
In 2022, the state of Colorado collected $325 million in cannabis tax revenue, a nearly $100 million decline from 2021, which produced $423 million in taxes. In 2020, that number was $387 million.
Actual sales are down even more than that, according to The Marijuana Industry Group executive director Truman Bradley. MIG is the oldest and largest trade association for the regulated cannabis business in Colorado.
“Any time sales drop as low as they’ve dropped, you see businesses closing, you see Colorado workers being laid off,” Bradley said. “And that ripples out not just to the plant-touching companies but to the ancillary companies both direct and indirect.”
Taxes are collected in three categories: state sales tax on marijuana sold in stores (2.9%), the state retail marijuana sales tax on retail marijuana sold in stores (15%), and the state retail marijuana excise tax on wholesale sales or transfers of retail marijuana (15%), according to the Colorado Department of Revenue, which is responsible for tracking data on sales of marijuana throughout the state.
The total amount of taxes collected to date from cannabis sales have reached $2.3 billion, the department said.
Last year, over $675 million of the taxes collected from the cannabis industry went to the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund; the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund received nearly $391 million; the Public School Fund got $276.6 million; and, the rest was split between local government ($138.38 million) and the general fund ($135.99 million).
Experts anticipate that, with new markets coming online through state legalization, sales in Colorado will also go down.
New Mexico will likely see more sales not only from customers in their state but also from surrounding states, such as Texas, that would have previously gone to Colorado for their cannabis, said Baca, the PR expert.
“But, inevitably, this is going to level out and we’re going to see a more authentic expression of what this current market looks like in 2023,” Baca said.
Some welcomed the news.
Luke Niforatos, executive vice president of the anti-marijuana group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said the decline in sales should be “celebrated.”
“Big Marijuana profited off of increased addiction and use throughout COVID-19 lockdowns and the isolation that so many Coloradans felt during those years,” he told The Denver Gazette. “What we are seeing now is likely a return to the pre-pandemic average use. This decrease should be celebrated, but we need to do more to educate the public on the harms of marijuana use and hopefully we will continue to see these numbers decline.”
Cannabis-based businesses are seeing the affects of declining sales beyond the dispensaries and well into production.
When the spike occurred during the pandemic, businesses started producing more to meet the demand and, in many cases, brought on more staff.
With sales down, companies are shedding employees, some for the first time.
For Johnathan Spadafora, president of Veritas Fine Cannabis, said his company had to let go of 34 employees since numbers were not what they expected based on projections.
“Everybody in the cannabis business, or quite a few of us in the cannabis business, had known only expansion for a long time,” Spadafora said. “For more of the time that I’ve done this job, the biggest problem that we faced was how do you create more product as fast as you can.”
The economy, overall, has been adjusting to inflation and rising interest rates, and it’s harder for consumers to make room for discretionary spending, Spadafora said.
“As one of the only products that can’t be purchased with a credit card, we felt that very severely across all of cannabis,” he said.
Alison Di Spaltro, chief executive officer of the cannabis company Escape Artists, believes several factors contributed to the decline in sales.
Other states coming online affected border stores and made it less of a tourism novelty, she said, adding that there is less foot traffic in stores, there were no stimulus checks like there was in 2021 and consumers have less cash on hand due to inflation.
“What I’m hoping is this year, we kind of get to a point where we find what is the steady state [of sales] for Colorado,” Di Spaltro said.
About 41,000 people work in plant-touching cannabis companies, according to Bradley. Add in support and ancillary companies, that number rises to about 100,000 employees in Colorado, according to Bradley.
“I don’t have a crystal ball as to the future, but there are a few things I know definitively: The first is decade No. 2 of legalization in this state needs to look fundamentally different than decade No. 1,” Bradley said. “The cannabis industry is extremely compliant and it can be a good source of revenue for state and local governments, but we need to take a hard look at the regulations that were first put in when no one knew how this was going to go and assess whether that’s actually appropriate or whether it’s time to maybe relax those a little bit.”
Why Colorado Tokers Love Milky Way
HERBERT FUEGO FEBRUARY 1, 2023 5:55AM
Milky Way won’t take you to new galaxies, but it’ll make you feel good about the one you’re in. Herbert Fuego
Maybe it’s the anti-stoner stereotype movement, or maybe it’s concern about light pollution, but somehow, getting high and looking at the stars is underrated. It shouldn’t be. After all, it allows us to think about those omnipresent questions: Why I am here? What else is out there? Yada yada yada…
Before there were phones, TVs and constant distraction, I’ll bet pot smokers looked at the stars more often. How else could astrologers have seen lions, bears and flying horses from a bunch of dots? They needed a little inspiration. And as chance would have it, a strain called Milky Way is perfect for stargazing.
We’ve seen a couple of suspected versions of Milky Way out there, but the most recognized model is a somewhat mysterious creation from Kiwiseeds in New Zealand. The most popular guess is that Milky Way was born from Northern Lights and Hash Plant, but it’s never been confirmed. There’s also a strain called Milky Weigh, with Gelato and Zkittlez genetics, but that lineage is essentially the same as that of Runtz, and not a relative of Milky Way. (I’ve smoked both Milky strains, though, and the highs are strangely similar.)
Milky Way’s name likely stems from the opaque resin glands on its buds, but the bag appeal probably won’t be selling most dispensary shoppers. The nugs are nothing special, and the jar smells equal parts cigar box and weed. I happen to like that aroma, but not everyone does. Despite all of this, I’d still recommend Milky Way to any cannabis user, new or old.
- Why Colorado Tokers Love Honey Bunny
- Why Colorado Tokers Love Moroccan Kush
- Why Colorado Tokers Love Banana Acai
Milky Way’s high gets straight to the point, leaving me a giggly, red-eyed college boy within minutes. But after the first tidal wave, those stoned giggles turn into a focused euphoria for an hour or so, followed by a smooth descent into munchies and relaxation. I’m never too disoriented to handle business or take a phone call after smoking Milky Way, but I’m still game for a Mario Kart sesh, too. That’s a rare balance in adulthood that few of us achieve.
Looks: AlthoughMilky Way’s milky trichomes are said to have inspired the name, the resin coverage is solid but unspectacular compared to modern strains. Milky Way still has attractive qualities, though, especially if you miss gnarled, wintergreen buds from older indicas like Afghani and Northern Lights.
Smell: You won’t smell candy or fruit, but Milky Way’s aroma was the first selling point for my old-school nostrils. Zesty, invigorating notes of hash and menthol (which sometimes combine to create a tobacco smell) and sweet hints of vanilla remind me of a mintier Afghani or Hindu Kush.
Flavor: Those earthy tobacco notes come through strong in Milky Way’s smoke, with menthol, minty flavors hitting my tongue upon exhaling. My favorite touch is the back end, however, which is heavy on vanilla, with a surprise nutty aftertaste.
Effects: Milky Way does a great job of bringing the heat without going over the edge. It effectively walks that tightrope between stoned concentration and zoning out, and can toe the line between relaxation and couch lock, as well. Don’t get me wrong: The comedown will get you, but Milky Way is kind enough to grant you an hour or two of bliss before the crash hits.
Where to find it: We’ve seen versions of Milky Way at Alternative Medicine on Capitol Hill, the Center, Cookies, Emerald Fields, Green Cross of Cherry Creek, the Green Solution, Kind Love, Magnolia Road Cannabis Co., Native Roots, Park Hill Gardens, Leiffa and Rocky Road, with Emerald Fields growing an in-house version. More stores likely carry the strain, given how many growers and pre-rollers are currently selling it.
Ascend, Cosmos, Joints, Pluto and Veritas Fine Cannabis all have versions of Milky Way flower in stores right now, with Cosmos also selling hash cartridges.
Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? Email email@example.com.
2023 Best Cannabis Companies to Work For
#5 | Veritas Fine Cannabis
Jon Spadafora, president at Veritas, explains how the leadership team at the company places a premium on shared goals and shared commitments.
ERIC SANDY | FEBRUARY 2023Veritas Fine Cannabis has been around for as long as legal adult-use cannabis sales have proliferated in the U.S. Along the way, the team has learned a thing or two about how to build a sustainable business that keeps employees engaged and happy. A positive workplace translates to good customer relations—and that matters a lot in this rapidly evolving marketplace.
Company president Jon Spadafora, who assumed the mantle in March 2022 after serving as head of marketing for seven years, understands the importance of valuing those employees. Not for nothing, this is the second time that Veritas Fine Cannabis has landed on CBT’s list of the Best Cannabis Companies To Work For.
Here, we’re pleased to share insightful excerpts from a recent interview with Spadafora.
Editor’s Note: Presented by Cannabis Business Times in an as-told-to format. Spadafora shared below information directly with CBT. Edited for length and clarity
We’ve got a large enough team that they can focus on the part of the process that they own. We’ve been able to attract a tremendous group of people who are all very connected to the plant. … The people who are here are here because they want to be here, and they’re here because they really care about what we’re putting out, and they want to put out something that reflects the product that they’re looking for. That’s been just a truly amazing part of the experience for all of us: to work next to people who all care as much as we do.
The biggest quality that we ask for is that you check your ego at the door.
My partner, Mike, started something about two years ago where every month we would sit down with a different group of the team—say, a group of 20, and that could be a couple of departments, or it could be everyone whose last name ends in a vowel or whatever. We’d get together and we’d sit around in a circle and say, “Okay, this is what we’re doing as a company. This is where we’re headed. What do you think about that? What can we do better? What ideas do you have?”
I moved to Denver in 2014. My youngest daughter has a pretty unique medical condition, and we had gone through quite a few treatments that were available, and none of them had really offered the relief that we were looking for. It was right about the time that CNN did the story about Charlotte’s Webb with Sanjay Gupta. We lived in Las Vegas, and we used to travel to UCLA. We’d go to LA for appointments just because that was the closest care. And the neurologist told us, “Well, I don’t really know what to do next.” They gave us a list of options that were all experimental in nature. So, in 2014, we moved as a family to Colorado to start treatment for my daughter. In doing that, she found relief.
I just happened to bump into an old college buddy who had invested in what is now Veritas at the very, very beginning. I was working in hospitality, and I was kind of back into using cannabis as a consumer pretty frequently and going into stores. I was really surprised that it was very difficult as a consumer to track quality from store to store and across the experience, because back in those days it was just jars of weed and it was all only marked by the strain, not really marked by who grew it. That discussion went into a process where [Veritas] asked me to come in, and I worked with them to help create the brand initially.
We’ll do an event at Red Rocks, and the event will be staffed by the people who actually trim or the people who actually grow. It makes the brand stay connected to the heartbeat of the company.
I’ve been really fortunate that I worked for some amazing leaders. I was really young and I was really green. I was 23 when I entered the workforce right out of college. I was really lucky to work on a project: It was the development of the first new casino in Atlantic City in years. It was the Borgata. It’s a beautiful project. I had the good fortune of working for people who expected excellence, and they expected that of themselves. And they got it in a way that they shared the process and they allowed you to make mistakes. They walked you through what you learned in there. It created an environment where you wanted to make sure your work was great because you didn’t want to be the one that was making the mistake. I really learned about the thrill of encouraging wins for the people who worked around me. From my standpoint, a leader should be involved in the process. They should be willing to get dirty, they should be willing to participate, but, most importantly, be willing to try to bring everyone around them up.
The most important thing from a cultural standpoint is that everybody understands we’re all part of the same mission. We’re all trying to do the same job. We have different parts of that job, but we try to interact frequently.
I just walked through the garden this afternoon, and we were looking at the next round of new things we’re putting out. We had a strain that was actually bred by a friend of ours, by Higher Grade, which is a store in Colorado. A gentleman who runs their garden used to work with us a long time ago, and he’s a phenomenal breeder. He bred a strain called Sour Orange Zkittlez, and it’s the strain that we won the High Times Cannabis Cup with this year. The nose on this strain is incredibly, incredibly fruity. It’s a very tasty smoke. It actually tastes like it smells, and it’s a pretty engaging sativa.
I like to ski, right? And if you’re out skiing somewhere, sometimes the guide will be like, “This is a ‘No Fall Zone,’” meaning, “Pay attention. Don’t mess up. We need to be careful.” I think that cannabis is in a “No Fall Zone” right now—and I think that we’re in a spot where the opportunity’s fantastic, but it’s a tough world out there.
It’s not about how much more you can grow anymore. We sat down as a leadership group and said, “Well, how are we going to get through this together?” We really worked to develop a plan as a group and said, “What are we good at? Where are the opportunities? What can we do better here? How can we reduce our expenses so we can maintain the quality that we’re accustomed to, but also be prepared in a market where pricing is going to fall?” We came back and said we’re going to focus on two things. We’re going to focus on people and we’re going to focus on products. We’re going to make decisions collectively as a group that benefit those two things.
I’m one of those people, I get really obsessive with specific artists. Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Stick Figure. I’m a huge Stick Figure fan.
There was a guy at Borgata, and he had a saying that at first used to drive me crazy because I never understood it. And it makes a lot more sense now. He used to say, “Trust but verify.” You would pitch what you wanted to do and you’d lay out your plan, and he’d give you the resources, but then you had to be prepared for that date when he was going to come and check up on how it was going.
I joke around when I hire people and say that I’m inherently lazy. I want to go through and not create any additional chaos. The fact is that this is an emerging industry and there’s enough chaos. Let’s work together to create the best processes and the right opportunities for the right people to influence the business.
About Veritas Fine Cannabis
Year Founded: 2014
Headquarters: Aurora, CO
Locations: 3 cultivation sites and 1 corporate headquarters
No. of Employees: 83
Vertically Integrated? No.
Key Benefits: – Veritas covers 50-74% of each employee’s health insurance premium. The company allows employees additional paid time off for community service activities/volunteer work—on top of 10 vacation days and six sick days. For employees who are interesting in ongoing education, Veritas covers tuition for business education workshops and/or conferences.
5 WAYS CANNABIS BRANDS CAN WIN WITH GIFT GUIDES
With all the holiday news and journalists’ vacation schedules, the end of the year can be a tough time for cannabis brands to earn media coverage. But there’s one way brands can cut through the noise to make sure they get in front of readers right when holiday shopping hits a fever pitch—cannabis gift guides.
WHY GIFT GUIDES ARE GREAT FOR CANNABIS BRANDS
Gift guides have become a huge resource for harried shoppers looking for everything from children’s toys to the latest tech upgrades. But they’re an especially good fit for cannabis brands for a number of reasons. Gift guides are an excellent way to get CBD or THC products into publications that don’t normally cover cannabis. For example, fashion and beauty magazines are increasingly likely to include a relaxing CBD bath bomb or infused lotion in their product roundups.
Another reason cannabis brands can benefit from gift guides is that the format is ideal for earning trust and educating consumers. Shoppers are especially receptive to well-written, well-curated picks from reporters and editors at publications they already trust for the latest news and trends. A cannabis gift guide in a well-loved magazine feels less like an advertisement and more like word-of-mouth reviews from a familiar friend.
That reduced barrier is particularly important for helping cannabis-curious shoppers see how a specific product might fit into their recipient’s lifestyle. Cannabis gift guides can be a great education tool for those who don’t yet know what their favorite strains are or who aren’t familiar with the latest trends and product innovations in the cannabis space. Best of all, that information can be tailored to a publication’s tried-and-true audience, helping you get in front of just the right segment of your target market.
CANNABIS GIFT GUIDES KEEP GIVING ALL YEAR LONG
Cannabis brands stand to win with gift guides not just during the winter holidays, but throughout the year. From New Year’s to 4/20, and Father’s Day to “birthday presents for her,” gift guides always provide a reliable hook for journalists. Whether you’re touting THC-infused chocolates for Valentine’s Day or the best vape pens for outdoor enthusiasts, gift guides solve a problem for shoppers throughout the year who need a little help making a purchase.
Crafting quality gift guide content, however, is easier said than done. Phone in your content with copy-and-pasted product descriptions and muddled goals and your pitch can easily end up in some editor’s slush pile. But if you want your products to make a splash, try these five tips for cannabis brands creating great gift guides.
FIVE CANNABIS GIFT GUIDE TIPS
- Dial in your demographics. Gift guides aren’t one-size fits all. Knowing exactly which audience you’re targeting will help journalists know where your product fits and how to tell your product’s story. Relate the recommended gift to the specific needs of your target customer and help explain how your product would fit in their lifestyle. From stocking stuffers for budget shoppers to luxe splurges for cannabis connoisseurs, your job is to show how your product solves the problem of picking the perfect gift.
- Capitalize on good copy. Putting extra effort into the writing quality on your gift guide will do more than impress journalists–it will help save them time and effort. Tailoring your product descriptions to the audience, theme and publication you’re pitching helps the journalist see where your brand fits into the larger narrative they’re crafting. For example, product descriptions for ebb’s THC-infused dissolvable powder typically mention how useful the brand’s mixes are for workout recovery. That’s a strong message any time of year, but going the extra mile to relate those benefits back to the wellness goals many adopt after the holidays makes it crystal clear why ebb is a better fit for a holiday gift guide than other products.
- Partner up, give back and go exclusive. Another way to add value for the customer and help publications tell compelling brand stories is to partner with businesses or organizations in other industries to offer smartly curated gift boxes, altruistic incentives or limited edition products. For example, Veritas Fine Cannabis partnered with Icelantic again this year on a select number of Nomad 105 skis featuring a design by Denver-based artist and performance painter Morgan Mandala—a collaboration that has as much appeal for outdoor journalists as for those on the cannabis beat, and which celebrates the wide-ranging interests of Veritas’ target market.
- Plan and pitch early. By the time you’re hearing holiday jingles on the radio, you’re already late to the gift guide game. Your pitches need to be planned well ahead of time to get traction. Print publications, particularly the big household names, plan their editorial calendars and holiday coverage months in advance—usually around the time you’re counting down to summer vacation. Gift guides should be part of your year-round PR and marketing efforts. That’s not only to make sure your holiday pitches are received when editors are planning their end-of-year campaigns, but also to stay ahead of all the other opportunities each quarter.
- Activate affiliate networks. Affiliate marketing is getting bigger and bigger, and understanding the role affiliate networks play in today’s digital publishing landscape is crucial to getting more mileage out of your gift guides. Some publications prioritize products available on just one or two affiliate platforms—Heavy.com, for example, covers cannabis products regularly, but rarely shares items that aren’t available on Amazon. Doing your due diligence can increase your chances of getting plum placements in product recommendation articles.
Having good relationships with journalists at your target publications also goes a long way towards ensuring your cannabis gift guide pitches get successfully placed. That’s where agencies like Grasslands can help. We specialize in building strong media relationships that are crucial to securing coverage for clients. Want to learn how Grasslands can supercharge your earned media strategy? Let’s talk!
Ricardo Baca is a 20-year veteran journalist, keynote speaker, TEDx veteran and thought leader in modern media and drug-policy circles. He served as The Denver Post’s first-ever marijuana editor and founded news vertical The Cannabist, where he extensively covered the advent of adult-use cannabis and related issues across the country and around the world, as seen in the feature documentary Rolling Papers (Netflix).
In 2016, Ricardo launched Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency to work directly with business leaders in highly regulated industries, including cannabis, energy and traditional healthcare. Named Marketer of the Year by AdCann in 2019, Ricardo has received numerous accolades for his trailblazing work covering drug policy, cannabis business and culture, and continues to columnize and host podcasts for a number of top publications.