Although states are continuing to vote on legalizing medicinal and recreational cannabis, the industry is so young that it can be hard to decipher the good weed from the bad. And the continued federal ban on cannabis means that it can’t cross state lines, making it hard to develop national brands. What’s good in California might not be available in Colorado or vice versa. A handful of states—Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona—have more mature cannabis markets, though. And California, while still permitted for medical use only, is the largest cannabis market in the nation and has an initiative to legalize recreational use on the ballot in November. These states are hotspots for the best weed money can buy.
To make sense of the marijuana map right now, Worth caught up with Travis Howard, founder of super-premium Boulder, Colo.-based cannabis company Green Dream. “It does start to get disjointed,” Howard says. “There’s only a certain amount of companies or brands that are across multiple states.” Of the companies operating in multiple states, many of the biggest brands like Medicine Man, LivWell, Willy’s Reserve and Marley Natural “are big brands, and they’re great businesses, but nobody thinks they’re great quality,” Howard says. However, he explains, these six companies are avoiding the pitfalls of quantity over quality and making truly great cannabis products.
Founded in San Francisco in 2008, Auntie Dolores is as close as you can get to a legacy brand in the world of legal cannabis, and it’s working on an expansion in Arizona. The company’s stated mission was to develop cannabis products to help in the treatment of chronic pain, but it has come to be known for producing some of the highest quality cannabis edibles on the market. The company is picky—not just about the quality of cannabis they use, but also about the other ingredients, which is key if you want a brownie, glazed pecans or truffles that taste good in addition to having the effects of THC. “They’re doing high-end packaging and more savory items,” Howard says of Auntie Dolores. “It’s not just your candies and your chocolates.”
cookie fam genetics
The latest strain from the Cookie Fam crew of cannabis producers, Gelato (also known as Larry Bird) has also emerged as a Bay Area favorite. It’s incredibly powerful, so probably not appropriate for beginners, but it offers a potent combo of physical relaxation and mental acuity. Incidentally, it’s impossible to separate the hype around Gelato from the hype around Cookie Fam’s leader, rapper Berner, who popularized the brand’s strains and his street clothing line by reportedly hooking up Wiz Khalifa when he was in town. “Processors are begging for the material so that they can make the hash oil,” Howard says. “And on the other side, [dispensaries] are actually wanting raw flowers.”
Although California is the nation’s largest cannabis market, it is still limited to medical marijuana for the time being. The center of the world for recreational cannabis is Colorado, and the top dispensary in the state is Howard’s own Green Dream in Boulder (you can read more about Howard and Green Dream in Worth’s profile of him). Green Dream’s cannabis is artisanal, locally grown, trimmed by hand and cultivated by a top horticultural team. “Everybody who works for us came off of our trim table,” Howard says. “We hired them as trimmers; they proved to use that they believed and are willing to put in the most tedious work… That’s the last piece of our quality control—that hand trim.” Green Dream started out focused purely on medical cannabis before expanding into recreational this year, and the attention to quality and purity has remained a central value for Howard and his team. And Green Dream cannabis is available in other states, including New Mexico, under the Shift Cannabis brand.
In terms of dispensaries, Harvest on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, does the best job in California. It offers a low-stress, luxurious shopping experience and a carefully curated selection of products from third party producers, as well as its own line of Harvest brand cannabis goods. “It’s definitely the best retail environment that I’ve been in,” Howard says. Shopping in the front of the dispensary resembles shopping at an Apple Store. The back features a members-only smoking club complete with lockers and meeting rooms. “It looks like many of the golf clubs that I’ve been in around the world,” he says. And, according to Howard, Harvest is working on opening two more sites in California as well.
Moxie Seeds and Extracts products are available in California, Michigan and Nevada, and their oil—for use in a vape pen or pipe—is a top pick for Howard and his staff. “Moxie is absolutely one of the best oil companies out there,” he says. Backing him up, Moxie’s Lemon Cookies extract won third place in the 2015 SoCal Medical Cannabis Cup, sponsored by High Times and first place for CBD flower for their VCDC variety.
3rd generation family
Cannabis grower 3rd Generation Family has produced a hit strain, under the varietal name ZSkittlez, which has become one of the highest demand types of Indica cannabis flower in California, Washington and Oregon. Because of high demand, it’s hit or miss whether an individual dispensary will carry it at a given time, but if you do find it, it’s well worth the money. “Dispensaries are begging to buy this product and get it into their store,” Howard says. In 2015, ZSkittlez won first place for Indica flower at the Cannabis Cups in Michigan and San Francisco.