product review:

Packing a controversial punch

This review is about some weed I bought to smoke. That may seem like an obvious statement, but the company that distributes this product has had a bit of a kerfuffle happening around their branding and name recently, and my preamble is a longer take on this.

BLKMKT (pronounced: “Black Market”) is the brand at the middle of a heated discussion. It is a subsidiary of GTEC Holdings, which is a publicly traded company.

Before I go further, I have to say that I despise the trend of removing a bunch of vowels and calling it a brand. It is not just this GTEC sub. It happens everywhere and it makes me cringe every time. Marketing and branding is supposed to make products more accessible, not make you mumble to yourself with a quizzical look on your face.

With that out of the way, when this particular brand first launched several months back, it received mixed attention. The name was clearly an attempt to bring some edgy branding into a regulated space full of sterile and shitty marketing, but it also pushed the bounds of poor taste.

The original reveal depicted a guy in a hoodie and a gas mask in front of a bunch of steel containers. It was a weird portrayal of the illegal market, evoking thoughts of hard drugs more than anything to do with cannabis. What’s with the fucking gas mask?

(handout)

As a former illicit operator, my complaint was that the branding and imagery reinforced the stigma around illegal growers being dirty criminals. This immediately made me think of GTEC as another out-of-touch, hyper-corporate cannabis company that wants people like me to be viewed in a bad light.

This isn’t what the online community—primarily on Twitter—was up in arms over, though. The discussion began as an assertion that the term “black market” is racist.

Ok, so, despite this being a product review, I have to say this: in my opinion, “black market” is not a racist term, no more than black holes or blackberries or blacktops or black Friday. It has a history. It is an economic term. The origins of the term are not racial.

While there are unsubstantiated stories about potential earlier use for graphite and slavery, and there were obviously illegal and unregulated markets throughout history in which these were included, this specific term doesn’t seem to show up until after WW1. The term “black market” first appeared in print in The Economist magazine in 1931 in reference to an underground exchange for sterling pounds, then became common during WW2 for the unregulated exchange of wartime supplies.

Today, it seems the reason people have a problem with using “black” is because it is perceived as wholly negative, while also being an indicator of race, a stance I disagree with. Some underground economies are very free, with lots of innovation and culture. Some, like cannabis, are economic protests to unjust laws. Some are inevitable as a result of regulation or globalism or taxation.

I am proud of my time in the cannabis black market. We achieved amazing things as a group, and now we have legalization. I am completely open to speaking with black people regarding how they perceive the term, and understand that our perceptions will differ greatly. I don’t want to ignore anyone or cause offense. This is just my opinion.

Yes, racialized minorities have been targeted at an absurdly disproportionate rate by law enforcement, and yes, I am a white guy who hasn’t. I don’t usually care to debate the etymology of words and phrases, so I mostly use the terms illicit and licit instead. I also like the subtlety and sound of those words better, and have used them since way before the “black market” discussion became a hot-button topic.

But I do find the vehemence with which people claim this to be racist to be a bit much. The term is not used to intentionally denigrate anyone. If it is offending people, let’s have that discussion, not act like we know the hard truth about the nuanced issues of linguistic origins and perceived offence.

Piper Courtenay photo

So, with this discussion already floating around, the Lift & Co. conference took place in Vancouver four weeks ago (January 9 to 11), and BLKMKT went one step further. Their booth prominently displayed a slogan: “Once you go BLK…”

Photos of the slogan blew up online, and there were some weird articles written about it.

Where black market doesn’t refer directly to black people, this tagline certainly does. “Once you go black, you never go back” is a tongue-in-cheek reference that really means, “once you fuck a black guy, you will never want to fuck anyone else.”

Okay, so, is this a case of outrage marketing using racialized references? Yes. Does it objectify people based on their race? Yeah. There is no origin story here.

Did it work? Sort of. It got tonnes of attention, but lots of it was negative. GTEC has since promised to discontinue its use, but fell short of apologizing in a press release that addressed the public uproar.

In the end, through all of this tasteless branding and outrage, there remained one mystery: is their weed actually any good? They sure claim it is mind-blowing, so I was eager to find out.

Getting the Weed

Unlike my intro, this will be short. I went to my local shop, and there were two BLKMKT offerings. I asked the budtender to recommend one, and she suggested the Cherry Punch.

The price is not out-of-line with other pricey legal offerings, coming in at around $55 for an eighth (3.5 grams of dried flower) at my local shop. For reference, this is $10 more than flower from Broken Coast, and $10 less than bud from Qwest.

The budtenders told me Cherry Punch had received a positive response from customers willing to spend the money, and didn’t comment on the brand’s name.

Everything but smoke

First impressions were good. It came in a glass container smaller than other eighths I have reviewed, which was nice to see. This means that the buds bounce around a lot less, and are less likely to dry out a bunch while sitting on the shelf.

It smelled nice, too: sweet and gassy, very kushy. It had a bit of that baked goods and ice cream aroma that is so hyped these days.

The buds looked decent too, though they were so closely trimmed, with every bud looking the exact same, that I have to wonder if machines were used. They had some colour to them, and looked to have some good trichome density.

The moisture wasn't ideal, it was definitely a bit too dry. It still crumbled into a fluffy consistency more than a powder, so rolling it was not a problem.

Travis Lane photo

Smoke

The smoke tasted sweet. I got a brown-sugary flavour with a bit of gas and fresh grass. It was tasty, and hit those same trendy sweet notes I mentioned above.

It smoked well, too. It produced a light ash and didn’t burn faster than the paper, as some really over-dried product does.

The flavour was good down to the roach, though in a joint the flower was not as resinous as expected.

To me, the effects were mostly energetic. I felt a slight increase in heart rate, without much relaxation. It wasn’t super strong, but had pleasant effects that seemed to last.

BLKMKT - Cherry Punch

12.3/17

Conclusion

Controversy aside, this product is good. It has a nice smell and flavour, burns well, and has enjoyable effects, which puts it among the best legal samples I have tried to date.