Now that cannabis is legal in California, how do we keep it away from corporate monopoly and for the people? Our answer? Through craft cannabis.
Now that cannabis is legal in California, it is only a matter of time until the plant is seen as a commodity, no different than a head of broccoli, Playstation 4 or wine. If taking the history of prohibition/legalization into account, it comes as no surprise that commodification almost always leads to regulation, an inevitability that can be both scary and exhilarating to those who have been in the industry or part of the culture since the beginning. So, in the face of impending regulation and saturation of the market, how does cannabis retain its unique qualities that make the plant more than a commodity, but a form of medicine? For us, cannabis does this through craft breeders and growers, the same people who risked their freedom and, in some cases, lives to keep the culture alive in its underground days, and who now have the freedom to be open with their techniques after years of secrecy. With the passing of Prop 64 and the changes that are to come, the fight shifts to keeping the plant pure and away from those looking to either monopolize or cash in on the legal market. While legalization makes these threats very real, there are, thankfully, a bevy of people who are dedicated to the exploration and preservation of the plant; it is these breeders and growers who make up the craft cannabis scene and it is their innovation that pushes the movement forward.
Regardless of the size of the operation, we define craft cannabis as a commitment to the preservation and development of the plant through a refinement of techniques and development of methods, both of which are fueled by an undying curiosity to understand cannabis and cultivate it to its fullest potential. In craft cannabis, there are many advocates but the players who are actually shaping the industry’s future are breeders and growers, large and small, from legends like the Cookie Fam to a new generation of breeders like Tiger Trees to growers that range from closet to large-scale; craft cannabis is a niche market that lies somewhere between amateur home growing and operations like The Reef in Nevada which produce dizzying amounts of cannabis in their hallowed spaces. Through generations of crossing, selecting and breeding, breeders are able to preserve genetics and create boutique strains for adventurous consumers looking for more than a high, but an experience, whereas growers through methods that range from veganic to whatever sorcery the Jungle Boys do are necessitating a market of informed consumers as more and more people find themselves drawn to the innovation taking place in the cannabis industry like moths to light. Craft breeders and growers are inspiring consumers to take part in their medicine by studying and developing opinions about the plant that transcend the high it gives, and includes everything from its history to its future.
Breeders quite literally lay the foundation for everything that currently exists in the cannabis community. Without their tireless work, the genetic genepool of cannabis would look a lot different than it does today and the flavors available at your local dispensary would be very limited if it weren’t for the patience and dedication required to successfully breed and stabilize strains. With that said, real breeding isn’t merely “pollen chucking” or crossing the mother and father of two strains you really enjoy. Real breeding is a time-consuming process involving patience and observation as you breed a mother and father, study their progeny for traits you want to reinforce, select your desired phenotypes and breed again to stabilize those attributes. Real breeding isn’t one-off crossing, but the result of popping seeds, selecting phenos, breeding, then repeating the process all over again. Whether it was Sensi Seeds, Dutch Passion Seeds, DJ Short or a host of other Amsterdam-based breeders in the ‘80s and ‘90s taking landrace plants and using them to create legendary strains like Blueberry, Jack Herer, Northern Lights and White Widow, or the new school work of Cannarado Genetics, Seed Junky Genetics, Archive Seeds, Ocean Grown Genetics, Karma Genetics and many more there is a long tradition of folks creating stable strains that will continue to please consumers and growers for generations to come, while keeping the cannabis gene pool diverse and healthy.
When it comes to cultivating high quality cannabis, the art and science of it is something that, like breeding, can just as easily go unappreciated. It is the boundless curiosity and ingenuity of craft growers that give the cannabis movement a sustainable and diverse future. With growers dedicated to learning as much about the plant and actively seeking out the best phenotypes of a particular strain, the cannabis community is and will continue to be rich with knowledge and choice. If you’re a California cannabis smoker, you’re spoiled with the number of quality growers from whom you can purchase expertly-grown flower with companies like Nameless Genetics, Cali Kush Farms, Kush Company and the aforementioned Jungle Boys to smaller operations like Floracal Farms and Alien Labs, two grow ops that might not sound familiar but are producing expert-level cannabis. It is through the work these growers, both big and small, do that keep the cannabis community thriving. With craft growers like the ones previously mentioned (and unmentioned) and the apprehensive anticipation of what’s to come, it’s important that we as the consumer choose to support growers who are changing the culture into something to be respected and understood through cultivation methods that treat the plant as more than a weed, but a work of art. Support these growers because they cultivate cannabis with a genuine love and respect for the plant, coupled with an unshakable curiosity that is responsible for the flowers and concentrates we’ve come to expect of the Southern California cannabis scene and beyond. It is through our purchase that we decide what lives and doesn’t live on the cannabis market; that onus does not lie with giant corporations.
As long as we remain unified and supportive as a cannabis community, no corporation or person can come in and erode the foundations on which cannassieurs have worked so hard to build on. With that understanding, the future of craft cannabis is bright. One could use the evolution of specialty coffee as a template for what we might see moving forward with cannabis. Like specialty coffee, you can and will see more large corporations such as Starbucks, Peets or Dunkin’ Donuts carve out a place for themselves in the specialty coffee market through either the acquisition or partnering with specialty coffee retailers such as Stumptown, Intelligentsia and Heart to produce their own artisan coffee, as that is what the current market demands. As a consumer, you have the choice to purchase cannabis grown with love and care, or something generic and mass-produced. We know what we will choose and as long as that choice is always available, we as consumers and advocates will be just fine.