Coronavirus Update #3: Two Months In

Well, it’s been 55 days since that faithful Saint Patrick’s Day Eve when word of the California Lockdown started to circulate. I hope you’re doing well! I’m doing pretty dope all things considered.

Writing is going awesome. I had a really fun time with my Mother’s Day Guide that dropped last week. I’ve also had the opportunity recently to cover the effort to get the cannabis industry access to Coronavirus relief programs from the Small Business Administration.

On a more serious note, I covered the ACLU’s updated report on the racial disparity in marijuana arrests continuing across the county. Despite legalization, Black America is 3.64 times more likely to end up in handcuff over cannabis than Caucasians.

I should have an article about the cannabis industry data from last month dropping in the next few days. With America starting to reopen, it looks like April will be the most complete data set on how Coronavirus impacted the cannabis industry. I presume people will be looking at the trends in that data for years to come so it was exciting to get to take a look at it before most.

Lockdown Day 55: The Pandemic Picks Part 3

I’ve smoked some pretty awesome weed in recent weeks. I think it’s the energy around getting ready to launch Devine’s Fine Cannabis Guide in the not too distant future. Please go follow the Instagram page!

Some of my recent favorite pot includes Gold Seal’s Motorbreath, C.R.A.F.T.’s fantastic Wedding Cake, and The Strawnana from Northern Emeralds. They are all absolute heat with fun terpene profiles. The Motorbreath will probably end up being the best pot of lockdown. It was 37% total cannabinoids, 32% THC, and absolute gas.

I already have much of launch strains for the guide picked out, but if you have some wild light dep about to drop let me know. I’m waiting until all of the first round of deps are done before I launch to make sure I have the freshest sungrown options on the list.

Shoutouts to everyone who is contributing on my Patreon page, I appreciate it and all the funds are going towards the guide launch.

Stay healthy!

Coronavirus Personal Update and Coverage Roundup

I hope everyone is following the instructions of healthcare professionals when it comes to Coronavirus, it’s really important we do our best to save as many lives as possible.

I’ve obviously had this impact the projects I’d been working on scheduled for the months ahead. Most notably the second edition of the Coachella Desert Smoke-Off with L.A. Weekly and the San Francisco Cup Crawl I had planned for 4/20 with the great folks over at Emerald Farm Tours. As much as I would have loved to see these things go down on time, nothing is more important to me than the health and safety of the participants. I look forward to seeing both happen in the not too distant future.

That being said, I’ve tried to make the best of the pandemic lockdown.

Since cannabis businesses were declared essential in California, I’m one of the lucky folks still able to go to work. It’s been very cool to help people this week with all the stress flying around. Also watching one of the biggest runs on cannabis ever at CBCB firsthand right before the lockdown started was nuts. It was way bigger than 4/20 for a lot of places since people were scared they wouldn’t be able to buy pot once shelter in place orders started.

As an employee for more than a decade at one of the oldest pot clubs in the world, I had a lot of faith the medical ethos the Berkeley cannabis scene was built on would persevere. While it got a bit crazy, there was never a gap in access for the community. I was very glad to see it only took San Francisco a day to catch up to us and get its shops back open.

I’ve also covered the Coronavirus pretty extensively in my writing. Last Tuesday on the lost Saint Patrick’s Day, I wrote about just how much pot had sold on the eve of the Bay Area lockdown for Cannabis Now. Most of the businesses I talked to said it was their record day or close to it.

Later on I took a look back at the whole week in sales for L.A. Weekly. The data for showed that while things never got quite as big as Monday again, sales were still awesome. While sales dipped at the end of the week, one thing that maintained all week were the above average size orders. People were buying more pot for sure.

I also wrote a piece for L.A. Weekly about how Coronavirus is impacting the supply chains around weed, food, beer, and toilet paper. I had a great time working on it and was able to get in touch with Charmin, Scott’s Paper Co., and The National Beer Wholesalers Association to get their take on the stability of their respective supply chains.

As for more chipper recent things I’ve worked on.

I talked to KindPeoples in Santa Cruz about helping WAMM restart their compassion program on March 1st, the first day they legally could after a two plus year hiatus.

Also I just dropped a garden prep guide in L.A. Weekly with great input from Vital Garden Supply and Dark Heart Nursery. It came out great and should really get you in the mood to have some dirt under your nails this summer.

And finally, my patreon is blowing up. A huge thanks and shoutouts to everyone who has signed up! All the money from that goes directly into journalism and Backwoods. \

Keep Crushing!

LA, ICBC, Coachella, and The 4/20 SF Cup Crawl

I hope the first month of the 2020s has treated everyone well so far.

Mine has gone nothing short of fantastic. In addition to signing on as LA Weekly’s official new Cannabis Columnist after contributing for a bit over a year, I’ll also be in town to speak later this month at the Cannabis Access Media Conference on the 29th. I’ll be joining Leafly’s California Bureau Chief David Downs, David Bienenstock from Great Moments in Weed History, and VICE Producer Alex Chitty. It should be a fantastic chat.

While I’m in LA, I’ll also be raging with some of SoCal’s finest phenotypes and the folks who grew them. I’m very excited to check out all of the great pot, hit me up if you want to try and meet up the 29th or 30th. But all of that is just a prelude to what’s to come in a few months.

Then I’ll be at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco. Let me know if you’ll be in town with any awesome pot.

In addition to judging The Emerald Cup and Cannabis Cup last year, the two events I put on, The Transbay Challenge and Coachella Desert Smoke-off, went great. While it’ll be a few months before I start dropping any details about the Transbay Challenge 2, LA Weekly’s second annual Coachella Desert Smoke-off is officially good to go the first weekend of Coachella in April.

I wont be handling too much of it just to keep everything above bar as head judge, but if you do want to enter any flower, concentrates, or edibles just go hit up Sam Zartoshty on Instagram and he’ll get you sorted.

A bit later in April we’ll have the San Francisco Cup Crawl on 4/20 that I’m teaming up with Emerald Farm Tours for. We’re going to stop at a bunch of historic SF pot landmarks and dispensaries before ending out day at Hippie Hill in time for 4:20. During our travels we’ll figure out who has the best pot in SF for 4/20. We’ll be announcing a bit more on the Cup Crawl in early February.

If you scoop a ticket for The Cup Crawl be sure to use my discount code “WoodsWithTheGoods”.

Also I started working on some personal projects I’m looking to get going this year. I’ll be organizing my strain reviews from the last few years a bit more extensively among other things and trying to get better with the podcast. If you want to support either feel free to join my new Patreon page! We’re already up to $16 bucks a month!

A New Year of Cannabis Hype!

Greetings Champion!

I’m very excited to start a new decade of adventure in California’s legal cannabis market!

I got to California in early December of 2009 after fours years of activism on the East Coast. It has been quite the spectacle watching everything that’s happened over the last decade in pot first hand. From the lows of losing Prop 19 by a few points on election night 2010, or the Oaksterdam raid, to the highs of winning in 2016. To be able to see and understand these things through my own eyes so I might tell the tale now and in the future accurately is immensely important to me and I’ll be forever grateful I was here to take part.

And once you get past the challenges longtime providers faced, crazy taxes, and people who thought the bar would be low enough for for them to get a shot in the industry not making it, there is a lot of positive stuff.

There is a lot of great weed. I smelled thousands of jars of different phenos over the last decade personally. As I now walk through the aisles of events like The Emerald Cup or Hall of Flowers these days, I am regularly reminded the highest bar for quality cannabis gets pushed up annually. But there is still a lot of folks missing the mark, and the naysayers will say those boof jars are completely representative of the legal industry.

Fig Farms’ Kushmint Cookies

I don’t buy that train of thought. I look at the flower coming out of places like Alien Lab, Fig Farms, and Ember Valley and what I see is absolute flame. To try and paint the legal market as one giant Mids Fest is a lie, and maybe sometimes the people doing it are just being haters that couldn’t jump through the hoops required to do it again.

I think it’s going to get more and more wild. Some folks who kept their cards close to their chest are ready to play some big hands. There will be a few more survivors yet, and they’ll do it on the back of their awesome pot the market deserves to have access to.

I’m excited to continue hunting the flame. I got to judge The Cannabis Cup and Emerald Cup last year, in addition to putting on my own events with The Transbay Challenge and Desert Smoke-Off with L.A. Weekly. Keep me in loop if you are up to any wild genetics projects. I’m constantly on the lookout for awesome new strains or just amazing phenotypes of the ones we already love!

Also I started a Patreon. If you want to support my personal editorial projects in 2020, all of the resources from that will be going towards camera gear and travel.

I Picked Out My Favorite Pot in California Right Now

I hope all is well everyone!

It’s been a week since the Harvest Moon! Lots of amazing cannabis is currently being chopped down across the hills of Northern California. The state’s Central Valley, home to California’s titanic agricultural economy, will also produce more cannabis than ever this year.

With all this excitement on deck, I thought it would be a good time to rundown the strains I’ve been super hyped on lately. Over the past month, I’ve done a few different rundowns.  

In The Strains of Summer, I covered everything that has blown me away since May. This includes the amazing Ziablo pictured above from IC Collective. I’ve had the privilege of seeing the Ziablo a few times lately.

It was shown to me for the first time by the breeders at IC Collective in August. Then again at Hall of Flowers it was some of the best cannabis in the room. And finally, it won the inaugural edition of my new invite-only Transbay Challenge. A cannabis contest featuring some of the San Francisco’s Bay Area’s best cultivators. Expect Ziablo’s stock to continue to shoot up in the months ahead. 

Be sure to go check out my other picks for Summer you won’t be mad.

Next up was Hall of Flowers. The event provides a snapshot of the quality of legal marijuana at that given moment in time. Generally speaking, it was better than I expected for sure. There was definitely still some stuff I was surprised people would want to represent themselves with, but for the most part, there was less bad pot than I expected. 

There were even a few surprises when it came to quality. I searched every aisle for the best cannabis I could find. After locating over 40 things that got me interested, I narrowed the list down to about 20. You can read them all here:

So that’s a lot of the weed I’m excited about right now! I wanted to share before the harvest kicked into full gear. Have a great Fall everyone!

Happy Planting Season!

Hey all!

Long time, no talk! I hope all is well with you as we get into one of my favorite times of the year, planting season!

For most great farmers, be it indoor or outdoor, the process of growing marijuana starts well before any plants are in the ground. Getting your soil ready, stress testing new phenotypes for potential in the greenhouse, there is plenty to do this time of year.

One of the things I enjoy the most is hearing friends whittle down their lists of potential strains they’ll grow out in the summer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying your plants from a nursery, especially when you know the length they are going to provide you with clean genetics. Nevertheless, hearing someone run down the traits they’re hoping to see maximized from a genetic lineage they’ve been working with for years is a whole other level of fun.

Some of the cuts I’m most excited to see this year are the various Kush Mints crosses from Seed Junky, and Cherry Punch, which I presume there will be a lot of. I think the first Cherry Punch drop from Symbiotic Genetics was a bit late in the spring in 2018, so I’m really excited to see what people are able to do with it this year with a bit more time to get ready. I’ve seen a few legit all-star phenos of Cherry Punch for sure. One of my buddies has like three different versions he is looking forward to growing, and I’m looking forward to smoking!

One of the reasons I don’t post too much on here is because I’m writing a ton in general. You can keep up to date will all my stuff in Cannabis Now, L.A. Weekly, and everywhere else on my Muckrack page. And if you want the convenience of having that content in your Facebook feed just like my page!

Keep crushing and keep an eye out for a bunch of 4/20 stuff I’m working on!

My Picks for The Best Weed of 2018

The champions over at Cannabis Now recently dropped my picks for the best pot of 2018.

Over the last few years, certain stories have fallen in my lap every year that are always such a pleasure to write. One I’m always the most excited to put together is my strain list for the year.

I spend most of my year trying to break cannabis news, but in many cases, I’m finding new angles on things I was a little late on or being the first U.S. coverage on something interesting and worthwhile. Which is an absolutely beautiful life I’m so thankful for, but I don’t really get to cover strains too much.

Usually, when I get to dive in on genetics and quality it’s around event coverage. I hit every booth at every event I go to and really dive into the spread. Then when I come across true Triple AAA grade cannabis I try and get as much info as they’re willing to share. Where did they get the cut? How many seeds did they pop to find that world-class phenotype? Maybe, if I’m lucky, they bred it! Then I try and recapture the enthusiasm as I go back and reflect on that experience from event to event for articles.

The other times I get to cover post are profiles. I really love diving in with some of the great breeders of the generation. When people like DJ Short, Mr. Sherbinski, or 3rd Gen Family are willing to give you their time to learn about their new projects or thoughts on the moment it’s obviously awesome. Those are also just a handful a year, but I try and put a lot in on those, especially for print.

So that is why this recap is so fun. It really encapsulates something I wish I could do 24/7, hunt down the best cannabis on the planet.

Reflections on Cannabis in 2018

As I sit here a week before Christmas, I look at the year in cannabis and think plenty of stuff went great, but we definitely left some folks behind.

Generally speaking, 2018 was super fun and a lot of folks totally crushed it. We have even more access to medical marijuana across the U.S., even now pending in places like Utah! I can’t help but think of how wild things look for next year. I mean we already know Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York plans to legalize marijuana in the first 100 days of his new term.

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Gelato x Lemon Tree

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Emerald Cup 2018 Finalists

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Tropical Sleigh Ride – Greenshock Farms/Mendo Dope

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Emerald Cup Final Judging

For all the excitement about legalization, it did leave some behind. Many Northern Californians that have cultivated cannabis for generations sat the year out hoping for a better view of the regulatory framework in 2019. Some closed up shop presuming their time was limited or they wouldn’t have a shot in the market formed since election night 2016. And still, others who may have hoped to give it their best shot in the legal industry lost all to fire. Seemingly a tale we tell yearly from June to October these days.

And let’s not forget corrupt politicians who banked millions in licensing fees only to quash any hopes folks had of being a legal business. We can only presume there is a special place in Hell for them.

The actual pot this year was pretty great. Some would argue average quality is down due to the massive uptake in production. I would say that’s true, but anything that bad isn’t making it to the market. The space on dispensary shelves is at a premium these days, so unless you’re selling your own midsy pot, there is no reason you should have to have anything sub-par in your shop. A lot of the not-so-great stuff will end up in oil or a flyover state.

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Another thing that balances out the quality drop is the competition to be the best. Plenty of people are obsessed with not being compared to the aforementioned midsy pot. They did great this year. In the face of new regulations, they continued to produce the best flower in the world.

The event scene was devastated in 2018. Outside The Emerald Cup and High Times Cannabis Cup, things were pretty trash. Some of the local events managed to scrape by, most of the time in the shadows. But local crackdowns and the state kept everyone on edge. Nevertheless, I did go to one licensed event so poorly done I was almost impressed.

I had an awesome year. I had a great time trying to break stories as often as possible. When I wasn’t doing that I was covering the things I just enjoy following in general like cannabis policy, great genetics, and the continuing intersection of cannabis and society as the plant becomes normalized.

I got some new bylines in great publications and think I told at least a few cool stories in 2018, here are some more pictures from the year. Hope your 2019 is dope!

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Banana Jam #9 – Woodman Peak Farm

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NF1

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Wedding Crasher – The Village

The New World of Regs, Judging My First NorCal Cannabis Cup, and Summer Farm Tour 2018

It’s been a pretty wild few months on the cannabis front since we last checked in Champions.

Lots to talk about all over the place, but I’m pretty California-centric these days with the worlds biggest cannabis market struggling to figure itself out at the moment. That being said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the pace of federal progress in recent months. In particular people like Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker, and Cory Gardner taking the lead is fantastic. Trump coming out in support of the Gardner/Warren bill blew my mind. Hopefully, the discussion continues through summer and both parties use it to bait voters for midterms then follow through.

I went to the first legal High Times Cannabis Cup in Sacramento in May. It was amazing. It seemed like a different world than what we’ve witnessed recently amidst the July 1 regulations kicking in, nevertheless a good time. Alien Labs crushed taking home all three flower trophies, it was very impressive. The Gelato #41 is really something special when grown by true artists. The Village, of Symbiotic Genetics, crushed it too with some savage Mimosa 6! I also had the chance to interview The Village about developing Purple Punch into the now famous V2 that was the strain of the year everywhere in 2017. Keep an eye out for that in the next issue of Cannabis Now in stores soon.

After I did my write up of the Sacramento cup for Cannabis Now, I ended up doing High Times preview for the NorCal Cannabis Cup a few weeks later! I was also invited to judge the Sativa flower category it was awesome! I’m excited to see what California events can turn into given the way these worked out. But we still have a long way to go, I was absolutely devastated to hear Victorville didn’t give Chalice a permit for sales. 

On sadder note recently we’ve seen more great companies not able to make it in the age of regulated cannabis. Not because they couldn’t comply, in many cases they were either priced out of the permit process or screwed by a close-minded county that decided to not take part in the regulated marijuana industry. Furthermore, some communities like Oakland threw their golden tickets in the shredder or punched the gift horse in the mouth many times with numerous companies bailing in response to over-regulation.

Also if you’re in California, be sure to support SB289 if you want to save California compassion programs that provide free medical cannabis to the seriously ill. The current tax climate treats the cannabis given to these people as if it were entering the market. This means producers trying to help the sick are being devastated by taxes and fees, basically making their efforts to help impossible.

This month I’m going to start hitting farms and am super excited for this year’s crop. Let me know if you want me to swing by your spot, I might get as far up as Washington this summer but we’ll see.

Have an awesome July!

The Happy Planting Season Update!

Hey all!

Hope you had a dope February and March has been fantastic so far! I had a great time!

In February I headed out to cover The Glass Games Masters Final hosted by CHAMPS Tradeshows. The final is the culmination of a series of events around the country through the course of the year! Everyone competing in Vegas won one of those satellite events and you could see it in the quality of the work being presented.

Here are some of my shots from this year’s Glass Games Masters Final, including a great one of Josh McDaniel showing the function on his LSD inspired self-portrait that took home first place!

There was a bunch of crazy news over the last couple months I was lucky enough to cover! More research came out linking the ease of access to medical cannabis, ie loose dispensary regulations, to drops in overdose rates. Unfortunately, the trend has reversed since 2010 when authorities started cracking down a bit more.

California’s District Attorney’s have been debating in their local municipalities whether they want to clean everyone’s records of low-level marijuana offenses in one swoop. You would think it would be a no-brainer!

We also recently saw Berkeley become a Cannabis Sanctuary City. I told NBC Bay Area that it was all bells and whistles since Berkeley had proven to be a cannabis sanctuary for years via a legal action as opposed to public decrees.  But props to Berkeley on continuing to push the chains.

One of my biggest stories of the month was about NORML getting its push together for the 2018 Midterm Election. They put a fantastic packet together for lawmakers to dial in their pro-cannabis platform and talking points. Expect big things from the effort when voters hit the polls in November!

Finally, Cannabis Now let me get together a list of the strains I miss the most. Please find these and grow them, then call me! Thanks!