Hash holes, fresh zaza, epic throwback strains, plus scratch-and-sniff bags in stores for 2023.
Future Oscar winners debut at Sundance film festival. Unicorn startups are born at SXSW. And NFL superstars make their names at the draft combine. For licensed and unlicensed cannabis pros, the road to glory runs through The Emerald Cup each year. The Cup is the globe’s penultimate pro-sumer cannabis expo and smokeout.
The counties of Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity collectively produce more weed than any other place in the US. Each December, super-growers, sellers, and users come down from the Emerald Triangle to share fresh genetics and search for the next superstar strain of the year.
In 2023, you’ll be smoking the strains that premiered on December 9 and 10 in Santa Rosa, California. The event is further proof that the future still happens in Cali first: Here are 10 trends from The Emerald Cup Harvest Ball 2022 coming soon to a state near you.
Low, legal prices will rule the shop
Legalization cuts the price of pot by 90% over the long term. That’s disruptive for farmers, but life-changing for medical patients and consumers. Six years since Californians passed Prop 64, and four years since sales started, prices have returned to medical-era levels and lower, while the supply is tested and taxed. We saw $160 ounces of tasty indoor Lemon Cherry Gelato, or Georgia Pie x Z. Clean, hype dabs ran $25 per gram at Globs. That’s with tax included. The flip side is a top shelf that keeps getting higher. Wizard Trees clones of RS54 hit $500 per cutting. So did 3rd Gen Fam seed packs of OZ Kush. One customer bought $5,000 worth of seed packs at once.
Scratch and sniff bags—yes!
Cannabis price declines not only unlock budget rosin options, they’re allowing for a whole new world of cannabis terpene-derived experiences. Like scratch and sniff labels on weed bags and postcards. Humboldt Seed Co launched the tech six years ago, but cheap cannabis terps have allowed it to take off. More on scratch and sniff later this week.
Flower product diversity is exploding
We saw new combinations of old stuff and new stuff—stuff we couldn’t have imagined. Legalization unlocks everyone’s seed vault and they show off. Compound Genetics made noise with their gassy Gastro Pop flower and seeds. Ember Valley’s new Grapefruit Zlushie got us juiced. Breeders like Equilibrium Genetics have set out to de-bottleneck pot genetics, adding tropical landrace vigor and strength to inbred lines like Gelato or Runtz. Home growers and sellers from around the globe came with stacks of cash in hopes of buying a lottery ticket seed.
Hash holes will take over the joint market
Time to learn some new lingo. A joint with a big worm of rosin in the center is called a hash hole. They went for $50 a pop at the booth of Fidels—a hash hole pioneer. Instagram means everyone has a front-row seat to the hash hole revolution, and now’s the time to tap in and give your local market something new and outrageous. Again, thank cheaper weed prices for making these delicacies feasible. The only problem is lawmakers and sellers outside of Cali trying to tax and regulate these products to price points the common smoker can’t afford.
Licensed sales and consumption will get dialed in
Humans have an inalienable right to assemble, and that includes weed heads. Santa Rosa, CA, in Sonoma County allowed thousands upon thousands to buy and sesh without incident. Legalization means no one’s going to jail for a plant. Santa Rosa cops walked the festival without stressing anyone out. No drunken fights broke out. You can’t even do this legally in the city of Los Angeles, yet. But it’s inevitable.
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Vintage flavors return with force
Flavors of the ‘80s and ‘90s are back like Doc Martens and baggy denim. We saw NYC Piff and Legend OG sell out within an hour on Day 1 at Purple City Genetics. Phinest sold out of clones of Thin Mint, Lemon Tree, and the Green Crack cross, Green Ribbon.
One of Compound’s lead growers told Leafly that OG gas flavors are coming back strong in 2023, thanks to both consumer and tastemaker demand. And don’t sleep on sour. East Coast heads reportedly snatched up all of the Sour Diesel seeds they could find on day one, seeking that nostalgic uplifting buzz from the old days over the current flood of Zaza.
Tissue culture clones arrive
The newest weed strains came in scientific vials, straight out of tissue culture. This cannabis stem cell technology is set to sweep the industry and cure the COVID of the cannabis world, known as hop latent viroid. Node Labs was handing out vials of ganja gold, hinting that a homegrow movement is swelling.
Wild new flavors that are taking off
The pace of weed strain development is speeding up, and the lifecycle of a strain might be as little as six months now. Get ready for a new wave of Lemon Cherry Gelato crosses into 2023, and even cooler stuff. Rainbow Sherbert 11 clones went for $500 at Wizard Trees and we expect this OZ Kush strain project from Deo Farms to sweep the nation in 2023. Read about it in January’s Leafly Buzz.
Cookies’ New York partnership with GUMBO is another example of the power of social influence in this space. On Saturday, GUMBO owners Luka Brazi and Alex Majors held court in front of the Cookies blow-up tent, spreading love and pushing their NYC-inspired Madison Square GUMBO. In a matter of weeks, the GUMBO brand is expected to join the New York market, which is putting operators with cannabis convictions ahead of other businesses. As a result of New York’s social equity laws, Brazi, Majors, and fellow legacy operator Branson will be the keys to Cookies’ New York penetration.
Legal and illegal industry turbulence
Not everyone survives the transition to licensed, taxed adult-use sales. You have to be excellent, efficient, lucky, and madly in love with weed.
The Emerald Cup had less booths than it did in past years, but the booths were bigger and boof could not be found. In terms of quality, weed is better than it’s ever been. And the industry is full of creative and caring people who work hard to keep the world buzzing on quality bud. The price compression isn’t limited to the legal side. Your local dealer is about to feel price pressure, too; if they haven’t already.
Weed festival music improves
Rapper and Bay icon E-40 drew a big crowd that smoked even bigger. Gone are the days of Michael Franti and some guy on the didgeridoo. Last year’s Emerald Cup Harvest Ball 2021 featured Pitchfork’s 2022 breakout artist Sudan Archives.
The Bay Area legend drew a monster crowd to Santa Rosa Saturday night. He also brought cultural diversity, which the area and industry can always use help with. Any grower will tell you that diversity breeds stronger, more vigorous plants. And the same appears to be true of brands that partner with influencers like E-40 to draw fans who would never otherwise journey to Santa Rosa in December.
Check out a few more of Leafly’s exclusive snapshots of the festivities below, courtesy of Krae Supreme.