The state of Ohio voted down legal weed on Tuesday (though in the end it was more of a quorum against what would have effectively been a marijuana monopoly.) This means it will be at least another year before Buckeyes get to chant “O-HIGH-O!” while ripping bong hits. It also means weed-lovers will have to wait for the undeniable delights of legal greenery.
I’m talking about the mind-blowing ability of people in Colorado, Washington and Oregon to walk into a store and buy weed with the ease of grabbing a Venti latte. But do you know just how spoiled these “cannasseurs” are? Can you wrap your head around the sheer variety that awaits them when they walk into these Willy Wonka weed outlets known as “dispensaries?”
We wanted to know what those who actually live in one of these three states (soon to be four—Alaska’s on deck) where you can just up and buy buds on the free market…are actually buying. So we asked the people selling the weed: We rang up the good folks at Medicine Man, one of Denver’s biggest marijuana dispensaries. Here are the winners of the pot popularity contest, according to Medicine Man’s budtenders, general managers, and POS (point of sale) data:
- Most popular overall item: Blue Dream buds.
Blue Dream weed is the most popular purchase at Medicine Man, the most searched on the web, and perhaps not coincidentally, my personal favorite strain of marijuana. A hybrid of the “Blueberry” indica strain and the sativa “Haze,” this California lovely nails the perfect balance between full-body relaxation and imaginative spark. Medicine Man budtenders say their version has “great genetics,” and it’s generally beloved as a “smooth smoke” with fruity (ahem, blueberry) notes, which tend to result in a euphoric and inspirational daytime high.
- Most popular edible: 100mg Edipure Gummies.
Edible enthusiasts who go for the more delectable chocolates (like Boulder Bar, etc) might be surprised by this choice. But when push comes to shove, most consumers want convenient, tasty, low-calorie, easy-to-dose munchies. These gummies are small and super-discreet to consume but each one packs the punch of a regular recommended dose (10 mg THC)…which actually seems to be just the right amount of bliss without tipping over into La La land. (And may I just add that there’s something irrefutably awesome about the concept of getting high from one gummy bear).
- Best selling type of strain—indica, sativa, or hybrid?
In-da-couch. That’s what Medicine Man budtenders calls indica bud, because it totally knocks you on your couch. (Cheat sheet, in case you don’t know: cannabis indica is the species of pot that grows into a shorter, denser plant with fatter buds that’s easier to grow indoors, and results in a relaxing, full-body high.) Indicas are best used as a night smoke, and for medical marijuana patients dealing with chronic pain.
- Most popular indica strain. Tie: Emerald OG and Purple Dream.
You could make the case that one strain—and its endless varieties—has single handedly driven indica’s dominance in the retail weed market: the legendary OG Kush. Emerald OG is yet another distant relative of OG Kush, a cross between Fire OG and Emerald Diesel, which was developed by California Breeders Association to produce a citrusy smell and migraine-killing soporific effects. Purple Dream is a Blue Dream hybrid that smells like sour grapes and looks about how you might expect it to look: purple!
- Most popular sativa strain: G6 aka Jet Fuel.
If you think weed makes you unmotivated, you haven’t tried Jet Fuel. Sativas are the uppers of the weed world, and you could call G6 the cocaine strain—great to smoke or vape before concerts, a night on the town, or working out. When you get the right dose, you might find yourself in a special, transcendent head space of hyper-focused calm.
- Most popular hybrid strain of flower: Glass Slipper.
Glass Slipper is a Colorado native, found mainly in dispensaries there and only a few other medical marijuana dispensaries across the country. A sativa-dominant hybrid of Cinderella 99 and either Pineapple 99 or The White (depending on which weed geek you talk to), the buds have great “nug structure” and a consistently sweet, fruity flavor. The Glass Slipper high has some pain-killing qualities but is so heady and energetic—really heady, considering the THC percentage hovers above 20 percent—that you may still find yourself wide awake after midnight.
- Most popular concentrate: O.Pen cartridges.
Here's where the legal states have a HUGE advantage over non-legal states: concentrates and vape pens. (Concentrates, if you don't know, are just that—a stronger, more concentrated form of THC, the active ingredient in weed that makes you high.) Vaping has surged in popularity because it's easier on the lungs than smoking and brings out some of the flavors of that get masked by smoking.
The most common way to consume concentrates is with vape pens, which is basically an e-cig for weed that often looks like a standard pen but uses a battery to heat a liquid cannabis concentrate solution into inhale-able vapor. (The cartridges for the pens contain the concentrate, and are replaceable. Hence, why they sell like hotcakes.)
The key to vape pen’s popularity is how discreet they are. They look like pens. The vapor gives off a smell, but it’s mild and evaporates quickly. Sarah Silverman got caught with her vape pen last year on the red carpet at the Emmys. And in my last trip out to Denver, I actually witnessed a few brave souls hitting their vape pens during dinner at an elegant restaurant.
- Most popular cannabis drink: CannaPunch (100 mg).
Potable pot. Drinkable dank. Imbibable buds. It bears repeating because this is an exotic luxury item folks in non-legal states almost never see. CannaPunch comes in flavors you'd salivate for in a non-infused drink: Pineapple Mango Delight, Black Cherry Fusion, and Watermelon Nectar. But the tell-tale sign that this is no ordinary drink: each one comes with a liquid measuring cup like a children's cough medicine.
9. Most popular smoking device: Small pipes and "Raw" rolling papers.
Just like e-books haven't killed off the appetite for books, vape pens and canna-sodas haven't torched the market for old school pipes and rolling papers. Weed-lovers still like to pack a bowl or roll a joint. And many of the clients at Medicine Man are pot tourists coming from the nearby airport (including celebs like comedian Mike Epps, see photo with staff), who just need to buy something functional that works for their first purchase of legal weed. Medicine Man’s budtenders explained that other old school devices, like bongs, are still popular, but in a place like Denver where specialty stores abound, people don't go to dispensaries to buy “glass”—elaborate pipes and bongs.
- Most popular topical: Mary’s Medicinal CBD Patches.
Just when you thought you’d seen it all. Ganja gummy bears? Check. Pot concentrates with higher than 90% THC? Check. Bongs, vaporizers, and dab rigs that look like futuristic time travel devices (and cost about as much)? Check, please.
But Mary’s Medicinal patches take the cake. They’re just like nicotine patches, but…wait for it…with weed! You just stick them on a veiny area like the wrist or ankle, wait an hour and….whoah. The testimonials for Mary’s products tend to be rave reviews. Like edibles, it takes longer for the effects to take hold, but they last longer. Consensus is that these patches reach their peak effects 3-4 hours after applying, and last almost the full 12 hours of their recommended usage. And they come in six different cannabinoid varieties: THCa, THC Indica, THC Sativa, THC Hybrid, CBD, and CBN. The CBD variety is the best seller at Medicine Man, which means people are actually buying weed for medicinal purposes, even at rec stores (since CBD has almost no psychoactive effects). The budtenders say customers often tell them that Mary’s CBD patches are the “only thing that takes the pain away.”
BONUS Q: Is there anything about selling cannabis products at a Denver dispensary that people might not know?
Medicine Man’s budtenders wanted to impart that buying weed—or cannabis, as sophisticates so often call it these days—is similar to shopping for wine. Customers want variety. They expect new tastes and smells. People walk into the dispensary expecting to have in-depth conversations with budtenders. They want to know exactly how each strain or product will make them feel, and they expect the budtender to have a working understanding of things like terpenes. Terpenes, if you don’t know, are the pungent oils—with distinct flavors like citrus, lavender, and rosemary—that compose the smell of marijuana.
So don’t be surprised if, on your inaugural visit to a legal weed dispensary, you hear “I would describe this strain as grapey and sweet, but with a light undertone of spice…”
And resist the urge to respond: “Just hand me the weed and point me to the cash register.”
Ryan Nerz is the host of "The Cannabusiness Report" and the author of two books about American subcultures: "Eat This Book" (competitive eating) and "MARIJUANAMERICA" (weed culture). He lives in Miami.