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The Rise of Craft Cannabis: Signs of a Maturing Industry

March 29, 2017
(Timothy J. Gonzalez/AP)
The art of cannabis has come a long way from the days of the dime bag, when you had no idea where your cannabis came from, what kind of pesticides or growing methods produced it, or even what strain it was. These days, in the legal cannabis marketplace, you have your choice of the best of the best of “craft cannabis.”

What Is ‘Craft Cannabis’?

medical marijuana flowers plants

In states like Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, the craft consumer experience is taking off. Microbreweries are exploding and creating hand-crafted microbrew beers for every season and occasion. Coffee has become an artisanal experience, with careful attention paid to the slow roasting of coffee beans for the best flavor. On the culinary side of things, there has been a rise in organically produced, farm-to-table meals, and consumers are more conscious than ever about the products they choose to partake in.

These craft experiences can be made even more exceptional with the introduction of high-quality, carefully-cured craft cannabis. Craft cannabis is exactly what it sounds like: cannabis that has been lovingly crafted with the greatest of care. When paired with other craft delights, the resulting confections can elevate an already top-shelf experience. Coffee and cannabis pairings join flavor and aroma, along with heady effects, for a new and unique caffeinated experience. Wine tasting has long been an activity for the seasoned wine connoisseur, so why not pair a bold cabernet with a fruity indica like Blackberry Kush? And as long as microbrews are on the rise, a sweet spicy strain like Red Dragon pairs perfectly with a hoppy India Pale Ale.

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Cannabis consumers now have the option to pick and choose not only which strains fit their preferences, but the growers they want to support and which branding appeals to them the most. Furthermore, they can research every detail before making a purchasing decision.

Factors That Contribute to the Craft Cannabis Experience


To the average cannabis consumer, the difference between hand-trimmed cannabis flowers and machine-trimmed might not mean much, but an experienced connoisseur may recognize that buds trimmed by machine lose potency, flavor, and trichomes.


Leafly’s Visual Quality Guide to Selecting Cannabis

There are other factors to consider as well. Growing techniques, as well as the use of organic methods as opposed to harsh chemicals, may appeal to the health-conscious cannabis consumer more than a large-scale producer relying on mechanically-operated systems and pesticides.

Craft marijuana grown without the use of pesticides requires extra care and attention, making sure that each plant does not get infected with spider mites or grow mold, which can devastate a crop. Maintaining steady temperature control, as well as other factors related to humidity and air filtration, can also significantly increase the yield and quality of a crop.

Traditionally, one of the areas commonly associated with the birth of craft cannabis is the Emerald Triangle, a forested region in California immersed in the cultivation of cannabis before legalization was but a twinkle in a legislator’s eye. True Humboldt, based in Humboldt County, produces sustainable sun-grown cannabis in the heart of cannabis country with quality, tradition, and community in mind.


What’s So Special About Humboldt County Cannabis?

As any cannabis enthusiast can tell you, not all strains are created equal. However, when it comes to carefully cultivated cannabis, a great strain can be made even better with the right growing techniques and a master cultivator.

For example, Leafly conducted an experiment last year to determine which Washington state cannabis producer had cultivated the best Blue Dream on the retail market. They’re all the same, right? Nope. Our discerning judges all concluded that one grower’s Blue Dream stood out above the rest. Artizen Cannabis, with a perfectly reasonable price point of $13.25 per gram, took top honors with universal agreement among the judges.


Leafly Critics’ Picks: The Best Blue Dream in Washington

Marketing Craft Cannabis

A great product only goes so far, especially when it comes to legal marijuana. Craft cannabis goes all the way from seed to sale, which means marketing and packaging make as much of a difference in the end product as how the strain is grown and cultivated. However, a few extraordinary examples prove that it is possible to stay within the strict labeling and packaging regulations and still have a beautiful product.

Gold Leaf Gardens‘ exceptional packaging goes beyond the bare minimum. Packaging one’s cannabis in a glass jar is more expensive than packaging it in a sealed plastic package, but it helps the cannabis retain its shape and is more visually appealing to consumers. Gold Leaf not only packages its cannabis flowers in glass jars with cork lids, the brand also ensures the integrity of its pre-rolled joints by enclosing them in a cork-stopped glass tube, embossed with Gold Leaf Gardens’ signature gold and black label.


Ask a Budtender: What Makes for Good Cannabis Packaging?

Although there are many people who purchase cannabis on a budget, with the plethora of options available on the retail market, it’s understandable that discerning consumers are willing to spend a bit more for a better product. And, as our Blue Dream experiment shows, the best product is not always the most expensive, and vice versa.

Remember: Craft cannabis does not necessarily require more funding to make a better product. Rather, it requires patience, care, and attention to detail.

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Lisa Rough's Bio Image

Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

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  • farmerlion

    I love this story. I don’t care about being the largest grower in my State. I simply strive to be the best. Being the most popular brand or strain around. Has nothing to do with quality. Bud Light and McDonalds are huge markets. I would go hungry and thirsty before I would spend a dime on either companies products. I’m not hating, I just deserve better and so do you. When North Dakota gets it’s mind right. The people of this State will be in for a treat of the rarest tastiest genetics. Organically grown with love, passion and the highest quality regardless of quantity. MedDakotabis is the Jonny Walker Blue Label of cannabis. I welcome this new market and applaud the fine people who demand the best. Thank you Peace

  • Habitat Forever

    Craft cannabis implies care for the product, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for the environment. In Humboldt and the Emerald Triangle we are experiencing a highly destructive “green rush.” Thousands of new plantations and roads fragment and degrade vital wildlife habitat. Organic cultivation methods do not mitigate this damage, and most do not even use organic methods. To learn more, go to and watch our micro-documentary Humboldt is Habitat

  • FlunkedAgain

    I did a home grow using coco coir, LED lights, and Miracle Grow (supplemented with Calcium and Magnesium).

    I vape, and throw away quite a bit of “smokable” leaf. I start testing for quality when I begin to get 7 or more points on the leaves.

    I’m amused by people who don’t realize that it’s the high that counts, and that you can get high “smoking” leaves or buds. One of my better plants was a Male, so there were no buds.

    Craft is just an excuse to charge noobs higher prices.

    • Auryan

      Understand what your saying…. I have grown a couple of plants. No additives (just using my human pee in a 1 to 10 ratio once a week…plus just regular water other days). Saved and smoked some of everything I trimmed…all worthy of smoking…but each slightly different high. And they were all descent highs.

      Craft Bud I think is a great way to further the immense potential of this amazing plant. It’s not for everyone, but there is a market for it…just like the beer, wine, whiskey, etc etc. It’s not an excuse to charge more…it’s knowing that someone took the time and care to follow certain standards to grow…beyond the mega cannabis farms where they growing large quantities to make large amounts of money, because they can. The cannabis plant has soooo many wild and wonderful qualities to explore. But to me a ‘craft’ crop would be a small business and actually promote something more than just being great bud. Craft beers, wine, etc have small batches and are usually marketed locally. As soon as it becomes mega anything, it’s just not ‘craft’ anymore.

      I live in Bend OR where there are an abundance of craft growers (as well as much of Oregon)…pretty sure at some point there could be a standard for what entails a craft grower. In the meantime it’s nice to enjoy weed from people who truly do take pride in what they are doing, rather than just the money (sure it’s both…) Oregon’s standards require very strict testing of lots of chemicals…making sure they don’t end up in our lungs..

      • FlunkedAgain

        Auryan wrote: “Saved and smoked some of everything I trimmed…all worthy of smoking…but each slightly different high.”

        I take notes on each plant grown from seeds. The highs are different for each plant, and I slaughter the lesser quality Males before they can pollinate the Females.

        I’ve noticed that the highs from different buds in the same commercial package can also vary even though they’re supposed to be clones from the same grower. I’ve also noticed the same strain from different growers may be slightly different.

        If the Craft Producer grows and sells at the same location, I’ll be fairly certain of the quality, but once the product enters a distribution network the quality is suspect because some people will dilute the genuine Craft with lesser quality products.

        I agree with the small business model, and I would add with Proprietary Strains. I’d drive for an hour or 2 to obtain something I really liked. I’d also like to see Craft Blends.

        The only pesticide I’ve used is Insecticidal Soap, but I did use a shop vac to suck some parasites out of the air.

    • farmerlion

      Quite being a noob ! Smoke your male plants, maybe try oregano too. My friends and family will puff. Angola red, Lebanese and Highland Nepalese. Yes it’s worth much more. So imagine my joy to freely give it to those who appreciate QUALITY! WOOWEED. Enjoy your bud light noon. Peace

      • FlunkedAgain

        By selective breeding I get Quality. I don’t need much for myself.

        You’re the noob if you don’t know that Male Plants will get you high.

        • farmerlion

          FlunkedAgain, sure they will get you high. Please consider the original article. Craft Cannabis, the best of the best. Do you really place a male plant in this category? It’s not about quantity brother. It’s about the rare and the highest in quality. If you only want to be high, quantity will get you there. It’s not about shear potency either. That has nothing to do with quality either. I truly hope you get to experience some true top shelf cannabis. I had this same discussion with my daughter several years ago. Now she refuses to settle for less. Have a great day. Peace

          • FlunkedAgain

            You need Male Plants to cross-breed with your Females, and create your own “Craft” strain.
            You can even buy Female Clones for your Males.

            You do want to test the males and females for potency and high before you cause them to reach maturity. Focus on your best plants.

            Do Craft Growers come from Mars, or can hobbyists try their hand at it too?

          • farmerlion

            Enjoy your hobby. I’m on my way back to mars.