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It’s been a great year for cannabis in terms of the culture. From innovative ways to smoke and consume, to cool places and faces that promote inclusivity, creativity and community, 2021 saw the industry grow in positive new ways. Here’s our picks for Best of Cannabis Culture, centered around L.A. and California-connected cannabis brands and more, this year. 

(Courtesy Pure Beauty)

Best Arty Favors

The link between art and cannabis culture has only begun to be explored, and Pure Beauty is out to do it right. Known for their indoor-grown, high-quality flower, they also boast cool and vibrant packaging. The past several months, the company has stepped up its game – first, with a beauteous L.A. bong exhibit with artist Jochen Holz, and then with an eye-candy 5 Pack mini’s collaboration featuring five fab artist (Sterling Ruby, Hassan Rahim, Yu Su, Sneeze Magazine, and Purity Wine) designed boxes, each of which represent different sectors of culture including art, design, arts, streetwear, and cannabis. The boxes retail for $30 and proceeds are donated to the Dream Corps Federal Prison Closure Campaign, which seeks to be the largest prison closure campaign in U.S. history, organizing those impacted by the federal prison system to push for federal policy changes, form a commission to formalize prison closures and build public support for rehabilitation and redemption versus incarceration. purebeautypurebeauty.co

(Courtesy CANN)

Queen of Collabs

CANN, the queer-founded cannabis-infused “social tonic,” joined forces with the House of Avalon this year for a colorful campaign that caught our attention via billboards and posters, as well as a series of fabulous fetes in Hollywood. Avalon, the drag-led design collective that got attention via RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13, introduced fans to two of its members on the show – winner Symone and top contender Gigi Goode. Coinciding with the release of a documentary about its members, the CANN campaign promoting the brand’s Hi-Boy line, also includes Lizzo stylist Marko Monroe. The fruity yet light canned cannabis drink has had a big LGBTQ+ presence (their Pride products did it right too) and the alliance marked its boldest promo thus far in terms of celebrating cannabis in the queer community. We look forward to seeing what’s next. drinkcann.com

(Courtesy Burb/Light Culture)

Best Culture Pot-cast

David Hershkovits, co-founder of Paper magazine, is more than an arbiter of alternative journalism, he’s a master of culture. Though he sold the mag back in 2017, he made an indelible mark with the New York-based publication – from its long history spotlighting all forms of underground culture and its influences on mainstream pop culture, to its recognition of the internet’s power for all forms of media (the famous Kim Kardashian “break the internet” cover). Now he’s out to do the same for cannabis via his podcast called Light Culture. Promoted as “Conversations with Cultural Disruptors” the pod is produced by Burb, a Vancouver-based cannabis brand and retailer, which will be opening stores in L.A. soon. The alliance between the brand and ground-breaking media figure promises to highlight the creative connections between cannabis and different subcultures – from music to film to literature and beyond – in a new way, and Hershkovits’ in-depth conversations (he’s already done 100 episodes) put it all into context. Hear it at shopburb.com/blogs/lightculture.

Hector “HECZ” Rodriguez (Courtesy Pine Park)

Best High Score

Gaming entrepreneur Hector “HECZ” Rodriguez named his new cannabis brand Pine Park, after a spot in Chicago where he used to sneakily smoke out as a teen. Today no sneaking is necessary, and within the esports community that made him a star, weed is obviously huge. Getting into the biz was a no brainer. The founder and CEO of OpTic Gaming touts nostalgia and collaboration as components of PP, with independent California-based cannabis farmer partnerships including Jason Morgan in Santa Cruz and Waverider Nursery and Posibl Project in the Salinas Valley, and more to come. An alliance with OpenNest Labs’ cannabis venture studio as an incubator supports growth within gamer culture, too. Rodriguez, whose image is on the brand’s packaging, knows his stuff when it comes to strains and potencies that might enhance the digital play and game controller experience, so this one should be a winner as it competes for the high score against other brands. pineparkhq.com

(Courtesy Presidential)

Best POT-us

L.A. born and bred Presidential Rx has been around since 2012 and founders Everett Smith (who was a professional basketball player in Europe before taking a free throw into cannabis) and John Zapp have been focused on perfecting the brand ever since – via marketing, packaging and media design, vendor procurement and more. It’s paid off. The Los Angeles-based company is one of the largest infused flower outfits out there and the third-largest pre-roll brand in California. The colorful packaging definitely catches the eye, but it’s the product’s strength that keeps fans buying. Touted as “The World’s Strongest Pre-Rolls” (the top-selling infused blunt line called Moon Rocks is particularly far out), Presidential rules if you’re looking for organically grown cannabis with superpower vibes. Also, check out the Presidential Suite – a private members-only club for cannabis and music lovers at Juicy Pizza on La Brea in Hollywood. presidentialmoonrocks.com

(Courtesy Airgraft)

Best Vape n’ Chill

Airgraft wants to be known as “The Netflix of Vapes” and their approach to the vape pen experience is definitely on par, at least with the early Netflix days, when we used to get DVDs in the mail. The idea is that fans of vapor pens and cannatech, in general, spend too much money and there are ways to change that via a membership program. Airgraft charges $10 for their battery and $10 a month for membership, which gets you deep discounts on vape pods from well-known brands such as Friendly Farms and Gold Drop. If you’re a gadget person you’ll love the sleek black device, which vaporizes pod oil without burning. There’s no traps or filters, which Airgraft says frees up to 40% more oil per pod, each of which is activated by “Magic Key” through QR code that provides a rainbow of colors as it connects to your smartphone. airgraft.com

(Courtesy Union Electric)

Best Bargain Bulk Bud

Union Electric wants to help you get lit on the cheap and they hope you’ll dig their product enough to stock up. Featuring fairly-price flower in ⅛ pouches and an even better deal buy in 1 oz. pouches, UE’s sativa, indica and hybrid product is a feel-good and frugal way to spark up. Launched one day after the Covid-19 lockdown, they found a following during lockdown and have kept it even as things have started to open up. Positioned as champions for social acceptance of legal cannabis and political advocacy, they’ve got a 2% giveback program to local communities, and encourage equity via a crowdfunding campaign that allows the public an opportunity to invest in the company. unionelectric.co

(Courtesy Amass)

Best New Cannabis Bevs (tie)

The cannabis beverage market is slowly but surely growing and it promises to be a fun alternative for the cocktail crowd. Amass Afterdream, using full-spectrum cannabis, touts “a balanced ratio of 8 plant terpines for enhanced aroma, flavor and feeling while subduing negative side effects.” The botanicals-based drink has zero calories and less than 1g of sugar per serving so it should be a nice alternative for the body-conscious. With a subtle yet distinct flavor, it can be sipped on the rocks or as a mixer, making for a relaxing sip and a dreamy sleep after. Made in California, it’s available at Sweet Flower online and their four Southern California dispensaries. amass-era.com

(Courtesy Mxxn)

Pronounced “moon,” Mxxn is a “1:1 non-alcoholic replacement for gin, tequila and bourbon,” that makes for a cosmic non-alcoholic cocktail option, currently available in California with more states to come. The brand’s head formerly worked with top global spirits companies in product innovation and commercialization, and this drink reflects that, from its mixology-driven marketing to the foodie-style L.A. launch events earlier this year. The THC-infused liquid brings a citrusy, slightly floral flavor to your favorite mixer and relaxing alternative (no hangovers!) to the booze buzz. enjoymxxn.com

(Courtesy Herve)

 

Best French Flava

Edibles get fancy with Hervé, a new brand launched by two French men nodding to artful patisserie processes. Macarons, candy and desserts reflect traditional French culinary style and meld it with innovative ideas. A great example? Their “Le Mirage” dispenser, which is like a discreet Pez case for grown-ups, releasing the brand’s tasty blocks of hard candy in small and effective doses. The (USDA patented) refillable dispensing mechanism is sold like a vape pen with replacement cartridges of candy that are low calorie, vegan and gluten-free with no added sugar. hervedibles.com

(Courtesy Monogram)

Best Branding

Jay-Z’s Monogram continually captured our interest this year, and not just because of J’s music or fame. With an eye on culture and cultivation, the brand ambassador Deandre “De” Watson has played a large role as well, and it’s been reflected in many different ways. From the cool packaging to the artful marketing to the regular product drops, Monogram has maintained its place as a lifestyle-driven brand with the potency and design to back up its big-name expectations. Most of its products are known for their all-black aesthetic, style and notable strength, but with the addition of its No.08 Light Strain this past October, Mono should start to appeal to more casual smokers as well. The strain has a light and bright feel that’s calming and creative, and is offered in Loosies, 2g Flower and 4g Flower. monogramcompany.com

(Courtesy Perfect)

Best Bud for Buddies

Though quick and convenient, pre-roll joints can feel wasteful if you’re not puffing non-stop.  Perfect’s “Perfecto” 2-in-1 design seeks to solve this with a double-sided .75g pre-roll, made to cut to size for the mood and moment or split with a friend. Kinda genius. Featuring Perfect’s proprietary blend of “terpene-rich, live resin-infused flower,” the cool customizable smoke allows you to inhale some now, then save some for later, or even smoke-out in a COVID safe way by not sharing or passing, but rather, cutting. It is currently available through Ganja Goddess delivery (goddessdelivers.com). perfect-blends.com

(Courtesy Canndescent)

Best Marijuana Moods

Canndescent has been a top supplier of flower pre-rolls in California for five years now, and one of the coolest things they did – at least for those of us who aren’t necessarily hardcore stoners – was to replace traditional strain names with the actual vibes and effects they might inspire when smoked. It simplifies the experience for a lot of us, and helps us choose what might be best for any given smoking situation. Whether you want to “Calm,” “Cruise,” “Create,” “Connect,” or “Charge,”  Canndescent has a joint for it, and their Variety Flight Pack provides a great way to see what works when, which is a win-win for those of us who go from lit to lazy depending on the day. canndescent.com

(Courtesy Josephine & Billie’s)

Best Women of Color-Focused Weed Shop

Josephine & Billie’s, which just opened in South L.A. last week, is a refreshingly re-imagined space for cannabis shopping and education. They aim for a community-driven culture where smokers and allies alike can “feel safe and welcomed to learn about the healing benefits of cannabis.” Inspired by music and social-driven “tea pads” that existed in Black communities in the ’20s and ’30s, the speakeasy-style space is naturally women-founded and led, making it the first of its kind in the U.S. (You should know the female names referenced in its name, but if you don’t, think Baker and Holiday!) They also carry products that reflect diversity and inclusivity, Black and Brown-owned brands, and price points for all. (Grand opening to the public is on Thurs., Nov. 18). 1535 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.  josephineandbillies.com

(Courtesy Gravitas Ventures)

Best Weed Doc

The new documentary Lady Buds profiles six women who’ve been standing out within the commercial cannabis industry following the 2016 decision to legalize weed in California. It also explores how big business practices affect small-town farmers as well as small entrepreneurs and activists, highlighting how pot pioneers saw their excitement turn to uncertainty as some legislation favored corporations and big money. Many who helped create this market ended up struggling and it’s time for the full story to be told. While women still don’t get the attention they deserve as trailblazers in this industry, this doc seeks to change that and we are here for it! See for yourself when it’s released this November on VOD by Gravitas Ventures. ladybudsmovie.com

This week’s special issue cover. Pick up the print edition here. (Collage by Darrick Rainey/Photo by Joshua Oyebanji/Unsplash)

More Best of L.A. Cannabis stories:

The Best Cannabis Strains and Products of 2021

Best of Cannabis: L.A.’s Best Dispensaries 2021

 

LA Weekly