Whether you’re a cannabis aficionado who’s been smoking for a while, you’ve just recently started dabbling in herb and are exploring the wonderful benefits that it offers; whether you use it recreationally or for medicinal purposes – no matter how long you’ve been using it and what you use it for, one thing’s for sure: you appreciate the marvel of what is one of God’s greatest gifts of nature to mankind, and you’re always on the search for the best buds possible.
Naturally, defining the “best buds” is a highly subjective matter. Some prefer gassy sativas while others favor getting couch locked on dank purple indicas. Both rock and neither smoker is wrong regarding their preferred flower.
That said, within the sativas, indicas, and hybrids there are definitely varying degrees of quality. Mass produced cannabis grown with a primary focus on profitability is nine times out of ten going to be lower quality than small batch craft cannabis grown by a smaller boutique style operation.
Craft cannabis itself is relatively new to the legal scene, and you’re probably wondering what the heck it’s all about. Is it like craft beer? What makes it different? What are the benefits?
If you have a stoner friend that’s super into weed and was so long before legalization they know what craft cannabis is because prior to legalization a majority of cannabis was craft cannabis simply because the legality forced growers to stay small.
Now with widespread legalization money is flowing into the industry at an astonishing pace with a corporate aim towards profits and scale often at the detriment of quality. With so many things in life, quality requires attention, care, time, and love. Remove any factor from this equation and you may be leaving some quality on the table, and if you consume cannabis for the full entourage effect as well as flavor, then asking your budtender which flower is craft and which is industrial may be a question you will be wanting to ask.
What is Craft Cannabis, Anyway?
First and foremost, let’s take a look at what craft cannabis is. Also referred to as “small-batch cannabis” or “artisanal cannabis”, craft cannabis describes cannabis that is grown on a small-scale; the focus is quality, not quantity. A great way to think about it is like mama’s home cooking that’s made with love; except, of course, in this case, mama’s home cooking isn’t meatloaf, chicken noodle soup, or chocolate chip cookies, but rather, cannabis.
Artisanal cannabis is defined by talented and dedicated cultivators who are truly passionate about marijuana, and who can hone in on the minutest details of the plant’s growth, starting at the very beginning with the seedling all the way to the harvesting and curling.
This love for the plant often includes going organic and refusing to use synthetic fertilizer or pesticides that are not healthy for humans. Think independent organic and specialist fertilizers like Lotus or FloraFlex vs big corporate players like Scotts Miracle Grow for example.
Going organic and being patient enough to cultivate craft cannabis takes more time and is more expensive but in our humble experience produces a distinctly better quality bud.
The result of this attention to detail and extreme care is, as you can probably imagine, an absolutely amazing herb. It offers incredible flavors, robust aromas, and fantastic effects of the genetics of the species of Cannabis sativa that the grower is cultivating.
What’s the Difference Between Craft Cannabis and Commercial Cannabis?
While craft and commercial are both forms of cannabis, and while both can be smoked, vaped, or turned into edibles, and each type has physical, mood, and psychological effects on the user, they’re actually quite different.
Craft or “artisan” cannabis that is grown on a small-scale; the focus is quality, not quantity.
The primary difference is, of course, in the way that they are grown. Craft cannabis can be equated to a very hands-on approach to marijuana growing. It’s treated with love, care, and attention; the grower nurturers the plant so as to bring out the best of the genetics of the species that is being grown. In other words, craft cannabis is grown to ensure that the plant reaches its full potential, however long that may take, and however much that may cost, so that the end user can reap its full benefits; bag appeal, smell, taste, and high.
Commercial weed, on the other hand, is treated like a commodity. It’s mass produced on an industrial scale in large quantities, and while growers may provide the seeds with good growing conditions (obviously, otherwise the plants wouldn’t grow and they would be of any value), they’re specifically grown so that they can be sold off to the highest bidder or to companies and dispensaries that have contractors with the grower.
As mentioned above, artisanal cannabis is also dubbed small-scale cannabis, and that name describes the size of the operation that grows the plant. That means that craft cannabis growers, often referred to as boutique cultivators, raise smaller quantities of plant, which allows them to provide their “babies” (okay, maybe the growers don’t call their plants babies, but we think it is fitting) with their undivided care and attention.
They provide each plant with optimal growing conditions, making modifications to those conditions, when necessary; the lighting, the soil, the moisture, the ventilation, etc. That is to say that cultivators of craft cannabis utilize a variety of different techniques to draw out the best, most desirable traits in each plant.
When cannabis is grown for scale (commercial weed) rather than to express the full traits and qualities of its genetics, it’s grown in large quantities; in fact, some cultivators have massive fields or warehouses that grow acres upon acres of ganja.
The same growing conditions are provided for every plant, regardless of the strain; the same lighting, the same watering cycles, the same ventilation, the same soil, and the speedy drying or curing process. That’s because, while the cultivator does want to produce quality plants, flooding the market with their product as quickly and as cheaply as they possibly can is their primary objective.
The difference in growing conditions has a direct impact on the outcomes. With craft cannabis, while smaller quantities are produced, the plants are much higher quality; in fact, small-scale cannabis is some of the best weed you will ever experience (hence why we said it’s like mama’s home cooking).
Seriously, we aren’t kidding when we say that craft cannabis is the highest caliber of quality; it truly is second-to-none, just take some time to review the growers behind the most award winning bud.
Conversely, when marijuana is grow to scale, while the harvests may be substantial in size, the product isn’t exactly the highest quality and can be downright dangerous depending on the morals and ethics of the industrial growers.
If you’ve been smoking weed for a while and you’re well-versed in quality ganja, or even if you’re a relatively new smoker but you already know that you want to enjoy the best weed possible, you’re going to be looking for strains that are extremely aromatic, that pack incredible flavors with each hit, and that deliver incredible and clean effects; in short, you want to be blown away by the weed you smoke, and with craft cannabis, that’s exactly what you’ll experience!
Trust your eyes and your nose, they will tell you what is quality and what isn’t.
The Advent of Artisanal Cannabis
While it’s hard to know with 100% certainty, most believe craft cannabis cultivation originated in a quaint Valencian town in Spain known as Guadalest. The Guadalest growers who initially developed the practice of small-scale weed growing applies environmentally friendly techniques and natural resources that they procured from their local region in order to grow their plants.
Spain, if you didn’t know, is still humbly producing some amazing genetics that are the desire of growers around the world.
Some of the methods that the farmers utilizes included the use of ladybugs for pest control rather than toxic pesticides, collecting water for irrigation from local waterfalls, seeding their soil with worms to continually churn and fertilize, and using bells that they carefully tied to strings and secured to their “babies” in order to prevent the intrusion of wild animals, as well as trespassers who may be thinking about trying to snatch their crops.
With this growing method, the Guadalest cultivators enhanced the “Critical” strain to top-shelf bud that was already popularized. As a result, the Guadelst growers are credited with being the originators of the very first “craft” varieties of cannabis.
Humans have been cultivating cannabis for thousands of years though so unofficially there were undoubtedly potheads growing craft cannabis prior to Guadalest but this is where written recorded history of such practices starts so that’s where we begin, officially.
Where is Small-Scale Cannabis in the Consumer Market?
Given the changing landscape that related to the legalization of weed in the United States, the market for cannabis has grown exponentially. Add to that the fact that many tokers are seeking higher quality, more potent buds, craft cannabis certainly does have a place in the consumer market. In fact, it’s been welcomed with open arms and its popularity is soaring.
With that said, if you’re interested in using craft cannabis yourself, there’s no doubt that you’re wondering about pricing. As you can imagine, because it is grown as a much smaller scale and since a variety of growing conditions are used and attention to care is given to provide nurture the full potential of each plant, you’re going to pay more for craft cannabis than you would for weed that is grown to scale.
Though it will cost you more, because it is such high-quality and because it’s potency will be incredible, you’ll experience spectacular effects after using only just a smidge, as compared to how much commercial weed you would have to smoke to feel effects that would even be considered equivalent (though likely still won’t compare), craft cannabis will last you longer, so in the longer run, you may actually end up spending less.
What are the Distinguishing Traits of Craft Cannabis?
To reiterate, while small-scale cannabis and weed that is grown to scale are both, well, ganja, there is a marked difference in the way in which each variety is grown, and thus, in the quality, the experience, and the effects. The following is a breakdown of the characteristics that distinguish craft cannabis from the crowd.
Small-scale Operations with Human Intensive Processes
Not to beat a dead horse, but we feel like it’s worth mentioning again because it really is such a defining characteristic of craft cannabis. The quantities that cultivators well, cultivate, are significantly smaller. For example, growers of this primo ganja may grow their crops on an acre or less of land, while at-scale growers may have numerous acres of land or warehouses where they grow tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of plants.
TLC; Genuine Passion for Cannabis Among Growers
Yes, yes; we know that we already went over this point, too, but again, it’s so important that we feel it needs to be pointed out again. Craft cannabis receives the utmost tender loving care. The cultivators modify their growing techniques in order to accommodate the specific strains of plants that the growing, and they pay incredible attention to detail and make modifications and adjustments whenever they’re needed.
That isn’t the case with commercial grade weed; all the strains are grown in the same conditions, and they’re basically treated as if they’re just a massive crop. This care, as expected, has a huge impact on the outcome of the plant.
Organic Growing Conditions Free of Dangerous Synthetic Enhancing Chemicals
Another defining characteristic of craft cannabis is that it is cultivated using organic practices. Rather than harsh pesticides that are packed with toxic chemicals, farmers use natural methods of pest control; for example, they may introduce ladybugs that won’t harm the ganja plants, but that will turn any pests that might be thinking about eating the cannabis into their dinner. These organic practices are better for the environment, and results in plants that are much better for the health and well-being of the user.
Transparent and Honest Branding and Marketing of the Flower
In order to stand out from commercial growers, craft cannabis brands aim to differentiate themselves with attractive, visually-pleasing branding that will appeal to the market they are trying to reach. They use upscale, sophisticated packaging, and simplistic, yet meaningful and unforgettable logos, and premium-quality containers, packages, and jars. After all, top-shelf ganja deserves to top-shelf packaging.
Examples of Stellar Craft Cannabis Cultivators
There are boutique growers in every state just like there are industrial farmers in every state and to find the best craft brands near you we suggest consulting with your local trusted budtender. We recommend you seek out a dispensary that is locally owned and is not a giant chain to ascertain the most accurate information regarding craft cultivators.
Since we’re local to the state of Oregon we’ll provide a few boutique growers that we’ve personally enjoyed to give an example of what craft cannabis looks like in practice. This list is in no particular order ALL of these growers are deserving of your hard earned dollars.
LOWD is perhaps at the forefront of craft cannabis in Oregon today, producing exclusively ultra-premium flower that sells out fast at top end dispensaries across the state. Founded by Jesce Horton and Dave Murray LOWD is taking medical-grade flower recreational with “100% focus of time and effort goin into plant health maintenance”.
Popular LOWD strains include Cake Mints (Wedding Cake F3 x Kush Mints #11), Wedding Cake (Triangle Kush x Animal Mints), Platinum Garlic Cookies (GMO Cookies x Platinum GSC), Mac-1 (Alien Cookies x Miracle 15), 503 WiFi (White Fire OG), First Class Funk (Jet Fuel Gelato x Garlic Cookies).
Focus North Gardens
This is without a doubt our current favorite grower in Oregon and with a slogan of “Dirty Hands, Clean Smoke” Focus North’s emphasis on the human touch is obvious. By using a custom in-house living soil Focus North is able to cultivate cannabis naturally, free of any synthetic nutrients or pesticides of any kind.
Popular Focus North Gardens strains include Colorado Sunshine (Jack Herer x Bubblegum), Fatso (GMO Cookies x Legend OG), Now-N-Later (Blue Power x Candyland), Pot Roast (GMO Cookies x Meat Breath), Cold Snap (Biscotti x Menthol), and last but certainly not least the superstar strain Tropicana Cookies (GSC x Tangie).
Evan’s Creek Farms
Family owned (no huge corporations here) and entirely organic Evan’s Creek Farms is one of the most consistent producers of top shelf flower in the state. When your flower is grown on the flanks of Mount Hood you’re getting unique soil composition and a truly local terroir.
Popular Evan’s Creek strains include Apple Fritter (Animal Cookies x Sour Apple), Mac 1 (Alien Cookies F2 x Miracle 15), Fried Ice Cream (Topanga Fire x Sunset Sherbert), Napalese Kush (OG Kush x Nepali landrace), and one of the most future classics we’ve tried, Grandpa’s Gun Chest (Animal Mints #15 x Redneck Wedding).
Growing out of Bend, Oregon Highland Provisions is nestled near the Deschutes National Forest and the Cascade Mountains, growing quality flower in an indoor facility that aims to fully replicate the spirit of the outdoors by being pesticide and fungicide-free. Highland Provisions also places an emphasis on minimizing water usage, ecological stewardship, and of course, producing perennial potent strains.
Notable Highland Provisions strains include Hells Bells (Legend OG x GMO/TK Skunk), Sour Garlic Cookies (GMO x Sour Dubb), Cowboy Kush (Hells Angel OG x Stardawg), Lemon Royale (Lemon Tree x GMO/TK Skunk), Sundae Driver (Fruity Pebbles OG x Grape Pie), and one of the best instances of Pre ’98 Bubba Kush on the market.
Fox Hollow Flora
Fox Hollow Flora is not nearly as hyped as it should be and we don’t understand why, they produce consistently quality flower that regularly surprises us. Located in Eugene Oregon Fox Hollow Flora started in the medical space in 2013 and have since found success in the recreational market.
Some of our favorite Fox Hollow Flora strains include Cinex (Cinderella 99 x Vortex), Blue Slushee (Blue Sherbert x Blue Cookies/Sunset Sherbert), an awesome instance of Jet Fuel Gelato (Gelato 45/High Octane OG x Jet Fuel G6) and one of the funkiest tastiest strains we’ve ever had in Tang Breath (Tropicanna x Mendo Breath).
If you’ve ever been to Serra in Portland then there’s a chance you’ve come across some of Oregon’s finest in Prūf Cultivar. Prūf Cultivar is one of the most high tech clean growing facilities in the state with state-of-the-art Clean Green certified filtration and HVAC systems. Prūf Cultivar places an emphasis on innovation and rightly so given smokers are always looking for a new experience. By breeding their own strains Prūf Cultivar is regularly bringing premium organic flower to the market that impresses every time.
Perennial Prūf Cultivar favorites include Jokerz (White Runtz x Jet Fuel Gelato), Laser Sword (Starfighter x Predator Pink), Ursa Major (Cereal Killer x Jet Fuel Gelato), Jet Fuel Acai (Jet Fuel Gelato x Acai Berry Gelato), Astral Works (Harle Tsu x TH1), Malawi Wowie (Strawberry Malawi x Holy Crack #6), and one of our longest running favorites Goat Blocks (Golden Goat x TH1).
East Fork Cultivars
If you’re looking for a more medicinal CBD-heavy sun-grown flower then East Fork Cultivars really can’t be beat. East Fork Cultivars is USDA Organic and Sun + Earth Certified, meaning you’re getting some of the cleanest plant material around. With a mission that includes a commitment to protecting the environment, science-based growing, and social-justice minded this company produces immensely high quality CBD-rich cultivars perfect for finding balance.
If you’re looking for a smoke that won’t leave your head spinning and is instead a more calm ride then East Fork’s well balanced offerings will be to your liking.
Some popular East Fork Cultivar strains include mellow ACDC (Cannatonic phenotype), ’78 Llamas (Harle Tsu x OG-78), Bubba Kush (Pre ’98 Bubba Kush x Unknown Male), Canna Tsu (Cannatonic x Sour Tsunami), Hawaiian Haze (DC Haze “CC” x ERB), Kush Petals (Bubba Kush x Canna Tsu), and the CBD heavy Sour Space Candy (Sour Tsunami x ERB).
Founded by Justin Howard of Eugene Eugreen has been cultivating classic strains since 2001 and features a no-till, hyper-organic growing style that produces deeply effective flower. Eugreen Farms grows with a focus on what the cultivation crew actually enjoys personally vs trying to follow trends or hype trains. This results in perennially unique strains that contrast quite well from one enough and are often packed with flavor, often creating hype of their own.
Local Eugreen Farms favorites include Glitterati (Acai Gelato x Kush Mints), Terpee Slurpee (Orange Zkittlez x GMO), Gorilla Erotica (Interspecies Erotica x Gorilla Snacks), Donny Burger (Han-Solo Burger x GMO), and the classically named and never-disappointing Redneck Wedding (Trophy Wife x GMO),
Herb CEO Final Thoughts
In our humble opinion if you are going to smoke cannabis you might as well smoke good cannabis. If you don’t think there is a big difference then we challenge you to buy a gram of cheap stuff from a chain dispensary and a gram of top-shelf craft cannabis from a premium dispensary and smoke them back-to-back like a sommelier would compare wines. Thank us later.
The origins and heart of cannabis is beauty and sharing. The smokable flower is only produced by female plants that produce such exotic terpene blends as way of signaling to male plants they are ready to reproduce. Thus, fostering an environment that allows these lovely ladies to reach their fullest potential is critical in producing a final product that is worth remembering.