Cannabis professionals from across the world converged this week on the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Northern California to see what is going on in the world’s biggest legal cannabis marketplace for the second edition Hall of Flowers.
While Hall of Flowers — a cannabis trade show that took place for its second year from April 30 to May 1 — had basically every kind of pot product you could think of, I chose to focus on the root of all great cannabis products: great flower.
I went in with high expectations, I must admit. Twice a year, Sonoma County Fairgrounds hosts some of the best marijuana cultivators on the planet. In the winter, we get the Emerald Cup, essentially the world championships for sungrown marijuana. To get a sense of how big a deal the Emerald Cup is: One time, back before adult-use legalization in California, DJ Short told me that he considered it an honor to meet anyone that had even placed in the top 20 at the competition.
The other event hosted on that same hallowed fairground land is the High Times Cannabis Cup. While not as culturally defining as the Emerald Cup, anyone taking home those also very competitive trophies certainly has a seat at the table when talking about the best indoor marijuana in California — and therefore likely the world.
My mind was in this competition-centric mode when I arrived at the Hall of Flowers. Traditionally at these kinds of cannabis competition events, lower grade marijuana is rare. Obviously, there are always a few booths pumping out a summer’s worth of mids, but the general vibe is most of the people there brought their best pot. Some even think they can win it all!
But this event was certainly different. It was a battle for shelf space as opposed to a battle over quality cannabis. Instead of convincing the masses you have the best pot, the ultimate goal here appeared to be convincing a few buyers that you have a viable brand worthy of gracing their shelves. This made for likely the widest disparity in quality of flower for any event I’ve ever attended at the Sonoma fairgrounds.
One could argue this allowed for the real stars of the show to shine a bit better. All you need is a reasonable sense of smell to quickly figure out why certain things are graded above the pack. So, below is a collection of strains that really got our attention.
Gelonade — Connected Cannabis Co.
The Gelonade from Connected Cannabis Co. was probably the nicest sativa we saw, and certainly in the conversation for the finest flower there overall. After taking the top sativa prize in LA Weekly’s Coachella Desert Smoke-off just a few weeks ago, it again blew the pack out of the water at Hall of Flowers. This pairing of Gelato and Lemon Tree smokes like a creamier version of the Santa Cruz classic.
Swayze — Massive Creations
Another fun standout for us was the Swayze from Massive Creations. During a sesh in the consumption lounge, I ran into Massive Creations founder Shiloh Massive. We quickly went over the full lineup of his offerings. While the jars he presented were generally above average compared to other places I found my nose that day, the Swayze was certainly the one that grabbed my attention the most. It had a much more tart and tropical nose than the rest of the set. It smelled like something that was going to be pretty upbeat, and few grams in a joint later, we were proven correct!
Zookies — Ember Valley
One company I was less familiar with that had some great pot was Ember Valley. They likely had what was the best version of the strain MAC in attendance, but the Zookies was the one I have to give the nod on this. Ember Valley shares the same hometown as Alien Labs: Redding, California. They were able to score the original cut of Zookies from Alien Labs a few years back during a collaboration effort and they’ve been doing some great work with it.
Beyond Blueberry — Wonderbrett
Wonderbrett made their strongest appearance in Santa Rosa ever at Hall of Flowers this year. The LA-based cultivators aren’t one of the usual faces up in NorCal. But after the spread they brought to Hall of Flowers, we might not let them leave. The Lemon Citrine and Pink Picasso were fun, but the Beyond Blueberry really took my back. It felt like a slightly sweeter version of the Blueberry and G-13 cross that was going around eastern Canada a little over a decade ago.
Other companies showed up fantastically, too, in comparison to the wider pack. I think I was just a little more familiar with their lineups than the stuff I mentioned above, so I wasn’t as excited. In that regard, Sherbinskis, Cookies, Gold Seal and Alien Labs had some great cannabis. Field Extracts had the best concentrates I tried, with an honorable mention to Moonshine Melts.
TELL US, what is your favorite cannabis strain?