Bay’s Best Cannabis Collabs
Cannabis didn’t used to be the capitalist venture it is today. Sharing, collaborating, and reinventing the strains and products other people have already made is part of the culture. In short, there is a reason the old, familiar refrain of “puff, puff, pass.” Smoking weed is about more than the herbs you pack in your pipe; it’s also about the people with whom you partake.
But with the rise of legalization, many of these traditions have collided with the impulses and best practices of the free market. In an oversaturated market with high base-level expenses and a surplus of hungry investors, things get competitive fast. Contrary to the popular fantasy, your local dispensary owners likely aren’t passing around joints in the back room: they’re counting inventory, calculating profit margins, and scrambling to cover their bottom line.
However, there is one way that cannabis companies throughout the state are still making an ode to the spirit of yesteryear, despite the changes that come with commercialization: collaborations. Of course, collaborations happen in many industries, from clothing companies collaborating on a collection, to food companies joining forces to make a limited edition granola bar. However, for many cannabis consumers, collabs symbolize a rejection of the individualistic mindset taking over the industry and a return to it’s more cooperative roots.
“This culture is all about sharing and community, and all the good things are supposed to be highlighted despite the negative connotations outside sources try to put on us,” says Blue Reyes, a local budtender who made a living selling cannabis before it was legalized for recreational use. “It’s supposed to be all about the love, and how do you show love in an industry where everything’s commercialized? You collab — you make something in your packaging and then you slap their logo on there too, and let everyone know you’re working together.”
Luckily, there are collabs on the market for nearly every type of cannabis consumer, from vapes to prerolls to concentrates. Here are some of the best collaborations coming from Northern California brands.
Though Gas House is headquartered in Oakland, their roots are in Atlanta, Georgia. The company’s founder, Kingston, is a legend for famously (and, before moving to Oakland, anonymously) running a state-of-the-art indoor grow house that supplied cannabis to some of the country’s most famous professional athletes and rappers. In 2016 VICE featured him and his business partner Felix in a video documentary, disguised in a bandana, glasses, and wig as a disguise. When asked whether his family or friends knew about his operation, he replied “No. Because right now, the value of this crop can get us both killed.”
There’s no doubt Kingston is a master of his craft — and now that he’s operating in a recreational legal state, he’s getting the recognition he deserves. Every Gas House eighth looks like it’s dipped in sugar and earns high marks on tests for cannabinoid content. Gas House collabs with some of the most famous names in indoor, Cookies and Big Al’s, as well as the pre-rolled blunt company Packwoods.
Whereas Gas House is the champion of loud, photogenic buds, Madrone represents the Emerald Triangle culture of craft farming. Packaging their product in jars with simple, color-coded labels corresponding to the type of light the plants are grown under, Madrone lets their buds speak for themselves. Some of their most popular strains include The Viper, a potent couchlocker, the knock-out indica Ingrid, and the goofy sweet-tasting Mendo Crumble.
Madrone works with 40 different independent farms throughout NorCal, many of which are small and family-owned. These are heritage growers, who have been in the game for decades, eco-minded sustainable farmers. In the spirit of sharing their passion for old-school farming culture, they recently released a special kit, featuring a large 14-gram cola for you to trim at home — a method, Madrone insists on their Instagram page, has been standard for NorCal growers and connoisseurs for decades. You’ll need to dust off your Birkenstocks and old Grateful Dead records for this one.
Though Friendly Farms also sells concentrates and flower, they are best known for their live resin vaping cartridges. These cartridges are filled with 100 percent live resin — a difficult feat considering how viscous the substance can be on its own. Whereas most companies mix live resin with inexpensive distillate to thin it out, Friendly Farms instead makes their oils with a layer of watery terpenes, making them some of the most flavorful cartridges on the market. Better yet, Friendly Farm cartridges are compatible with a standard 510 thread battery, though users must vape them at a low heat to get the full effect. Consider these pens a dab-on-the-go.
Friendly Farms is collaborating with brands big and small, from “#DesignerWeed” company Connected Cannabis Co. to lesser known gems like North Country Pharms. Better yet, they’re one of the only vape brands in the state doing collabs like this on a consistent basis. Because the collabs are often released in small, limited edition batches, new strains are available on a regular basis.
San Francisco preroll brand Space Coyote wants to take you back to the ’60s, emphasizing that collaboration, art, and sustainability are at the core of their mission. The company exclusively sells infused pre-rolls, each of which is made in partnership with another company: grab a 1:1 CBD:THC pre-roll infused with Oakland brand Chemistry’s resin extract, or a hash-infused pre-roll with some of Humboldt brand Nasha’s ice water hash, and get a taste of what NorCal cannabis has to offer.
Lots of infused pre-rolls are collaborations, but Space Coyote stands out in that the strain of the flower and concentrate they use in each is clearly labeled, with the partnering company’s logo prominently displayed. Space Coyote makes use of every last drop of those concentrates, too — whereas some companies add concentrates on the outer layer of the papers for a flashy appearance, everything is rolled inside the paper on a Space Coyote joint. Just a couple puffs and it will make sense why their slogan is “totally cosmic.”
The concentrate company Suprize Suprize is, itself, a collaborative project founded by Royal Key Organics. Based in Sonoma County, this company pays special attention to high-quality growing techniques like living soil, organic inputs, and careful phenotype “hunting,” to find the best iterations of various strains. While Royal Key Organics’ primary operation is vertically integrated, Suprize Suprize involves cultivators throughout Northern California as well as various successful artists like dystopian Americana print maker Bill Barminski, and legendary psychedelic poster designer John Van Hamersveld.
Cannabis cultivators like Rebel Grown Organics, Sours for You, and Neukom Family Farm are working with Suprize Suprize in a truly collaborative fashion — while Suprize Suprize is extracting most of their concentrates in-house, many of the strains were bred and grown by separate companies. The result is consistently top shelf, small batch live rosins, resins, and diamonds that often come with collectible pins and stickers, too.
While competition has made it hard for many companies to make a name for themselves in the cannabis industry, collaborations remain one of the main ways entrepreneurs lift each other up. For consumers, on the other hand, indulging in a collaboratively-made product can be a gateway to reminiscing about the cannabis culture of years past and honor that communal ethos today.
Luckily, from limited-edition indoor exotics to boutique infused prerolls, consumers can depend on these companies to deliver a quality product every time. So, ‘joint’ forces, and pick up one of these products next time you want to tap in to the greater cannabis community.