I’m not entirely sure we can call this a “review,” rather a photo gallery of two weed journalists pulling faces of disgust and regret.
Last week, Amanda and I decided to take a stab at our first Inside the Jar “product review.” Neither of us were particularly keen on digging up a blackmarket quad and musing over its aromatic notes of sriracha and strawberry pop tart. Instead, we decided to use our forum to highlight one of the legal industry’s glaring issues: cost versus quality.
When legalization first rolled out last year, two major gripes I, and many other consumers, had about the revamped retail experience were the low quality of provincially approved product and the high price tag attached. And of all the weed available on shelves or via mail-order, the pre-rolls were clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel. If a joint was packed properly, most contained stems and seeds. Droves of victims of the price-gauge started posting photos of the limp, lifeless joints with defects clearly showing they were too hastily pushed through an assembly line. Over the last year, things have improved slightly. Companies have kept an eye on social media and, not wanting their recreational brands blasted any further, invested in better systems.
But the cost has either stayed the same or in most cases increased.
This left us wondering what kind of product we could get from the legal market for the least amount of money. And with compassion clubs being raided and fair-priced blackmarket product confiscated, these are the products low-income patients or consumers are left with.
To do so, we hit a legal dispensary in downtown Vancouver—City Cannabis Co. (formerly Vancity Weed)—in search of their cheapest pre-rolls.
Getting the weed
I’m not going to waste time trying to off-set the bitter tone of this review with cheerful adjectives about the weather or light anecdotes about our morning. We met with heavy sighs, eye rolls, and groans, both knowing we were setting out to scavenge weed neither of us were going to enjoy.
As we walked through the frosted glass door—a new regulation to keep innocent onlookers from being tempted by the devil’s lettuce—at 610 Robson Street, a security guard jumped to halt us in our tracks.
“I.D. please. Two pieces,” he muttered.
I giggled at the novelty of anyone wanting the weed in this store badly enough to risk getting a fake or sneaking in.
“Oh my god, doesn't this, like, remind you of, like, the Apple Store of, like, cannabis?!” we teased.
As we wandered around the freshly renovated spot, we began perusing the plastic containers locked to the counters. The clear boxes were the same shape and size as the ones entomologists use to inspect dead bugs in a lab. Now, these plexiglass coffins were being used to sling dead bud.
You know it’s bad when the hanging plants (which we were mostly convinced were all fake) showed more signs of a pulse than the product sold on the shelves. I couldn't tell if it was the fluorescent lighting, or my inherent draw to find something wrong, but every nug looked slightly jaundiced. Like two bloodhounds, Amanda and I started frantically looking around for at least one container with any discernible smell left. One by one, nothing. Left unsatiated, we wandered over to the pre-rolls to seal our fate. In a pair of glass display cases sat three lists titled: Indica, Sativa, Hybrid. Each list had a selection of half- and full-gram joints.
Our hybrid choice was Prohibition by Trailblazer, which cost $7. The indica pick, Casablanca by Edison, rang in slightly more expensive at $9, and Gather by Soleil sat in the middle at $8 to round off our selection with some sativa. Keeping in mind that while names feign some product diversity, the licensed producer behind both Trailblazer and Edison is Organigram, and Soleil is Aphria.
Each pre-roll was a half-gram of cannabis, which brought us to a total of $26.88 (tax included) for a gram-and-a-half of weed. Normally, that’s more expensive than I would pay for an eighth (3.5 grams), but in the name of science, or sarcasm, we forked over the cash and reluctantly sought out a spot to spark up our garbage.
Side note: If we had decided to play the other end of the spectrum, purchasing the most expensive pre-rolls available, our total would have come to something around $123 for 2.5 grams—two of which were produced by a brand called Qwest. While I’ve heard through the grapevine that their pre-rolls sit in the “upper echelon” of legal cannabis (whatever that counts for), if I am going to pay $53 for a gram of bud ground and rolled several months ago and kept in a plastic tube it better light itself and sing acoustic covers of Nirvana while I get stoned.
Everything but smoke
As the bud came pre-ground and rolled, neither Amanda nor I could comment on bag appeal.
As far as the packaging goes, it was exactly as annoying as I expected. Amanda had the patience to break down the mathematics of calculating exactly how much cannabinoid was in each joint. I, however, did not. We peered over the boxes, yellow warning signs and excise stickers eclipsing the dime sized brand logo. No helpful information about what to expect was available on the box itself.
Gather was packaged in exactly what we had seen circulating the market: a cardboard box holding a child-resistant, vacuumed sealed plastic tube. Casablanca and Prohibition, on the other hand, both came in containers neither of us had confronted before. Like apes we pawed at the two plastic nubs sticking out of either side of the cardboard. Mine fortunately came with instructions, while Amanda’s didn’t. Considering the one without a visual guide was packaged a month prior to the other, it seems only logical that Organigram got enough complaints about their Rubik’s cube of a container that they decided to start printing instructions on the side of each box. Once we figured out that we had to hold down both of the nubs, then pull the tray out, we were able to unsheathe the final two joints.
Inside, all three joints were packed well. There was no product spillage, lumping, or major visual inconsistencies. The crutches were long, but sturdy and wound to allow for proper airflow.
Immediately upon the first draw, Prohibition had all the appeal of smoking blue raspberry Kool Aid crystals. The sharp, acidic smoke dragged like sweet sandpaper over my tongue and down my esophagus, leaving a bitter candy aftertaste in its wake. The joint canoed and burned inconsistently, but the ash was near white. It became quickly apparent Prohibition should have probably stayed true to its name and remained a banned substance, because no one is getting much good from weed like that. Amanda agreed and we put it out before torturing ourselves any further.
Gather was virtually flavourless. Amanda picked up on a slight sour dairy flavour, which sounds unappealing but it acted as a fairly pleasant palette cleanser after the putrid fruit bowl we had just inhaled. This one didn't burn our throats or make our lips tingle, so we puffed it down to the crutch. It burned evenly the whole way and we both agreed we wouldn't turn it down if it came our way in a sesh.
A joint-and-a-half in, neither of us felt high.
The third, Casablanca, was by far the most appalling. Nothing about this weed resonated with the posh Moroccan vacation destination it’s named after. Not only did the smoke physically take a toll, the paper felt laced with numbing agent, leaving our lips and tongues tingling. The aroma left me feeling like I had licked the bottom of a recently emptied swimming pool. It tasted like something that should carry a hazard sign—poisonous, not suitable for consumption. “Here’s to putting you out, kid.”
None of these products score beyond eight for me. And, out of 17, eight is the lowest I will go before sacrificing a joint to the ashtray gods.
Considering we jumped ship on two of three joints, and barely felt any discernible high from the third, the price tag was predictably unjustifiable. It may be pertinent to note Gather was packaged in September, while both of Organigram’s products had been sitting on warehouse shelves since January and February.
Casablanca and Prohibition both scored next to nothing. The flavours were unappealing, the smoke was unbearable, and the containers were annoying. Gather is the kind of weed someone starts passing around a smoke circle and you don't have to turn it away, but you might just bring your own weed next time you’re seshing with these friends.
The results of this experiment were disappointing for two reasons. Selfishly, I was upset that we had spent a beautiful fall afternoon on a picturesque metropolitan rooftop not getting stoned—especially considering we had dropped nearly $30 to do just that. But what irked me more was the experience had made me painfully aware of my privilege. I sound bitter because comparable to what I have in my stash—weed grown by phenomenally talented cultivators—these joints were absolute garbage. And I paid a fraction of the price.
As there are fewer and fewer outlets for quality, fair priced cannabis in this city, this Big Money monopoly over weed is mostly hurting low-income consumers.
All this said, consumers shouldn't be too easily seduced by the siren call of squeaky clean retail hubs. If you want quality from the legal market, you’ll still be forking over a criminal premium.
Awful. Tasted bad, burned poorly, and didn’t get me high.
Boring, but bearable. While there was effectively no “high”, the experience of smoking this bud wasn't unpleasant.
This joint ranked as the worst of the three. I wouldn't give this weed away let alone smoke it myself. Friends don’t let friends smoke bad weed.