Cannabis for Connoisseurs

What to look for as you navigate Arizona’s craft cannabis craze

People always like to introduce a little luxury into their lives. The trend in craft products that has gripped alcohol and coffee markets in the past couple decades gives consumers a way to indulge beyond the average Joe, and cannabis, it seems, is no exception.

George Roop, whose efforts we profiled last week, said he'll consider the strains coming out of his new 40,000 square-foot cultivation center near Rita Ranch "craft cannabis." The facility is designed from the ground up to grow cannabis, and he's been growing in the industry for years, so he'll be off to a good start.

Craft cannabis isn't a new concept. It goes back to the days when everyone was talking about the hottest strains on the black market: White Widow, Trainwreck, anything purple.

Though then, it was less about taste or smell and more about how high you got, but it was always nice to treat yourself, or at least feel like you were.

But we're not kids anymore, and cannabis has grown up every bit as much as we have. It has a billion-dollar industry with millions of consumers and millions of people working every day to keep them supplied. So, when we talk about craft cannabis now, it better mean something.

With the maturity of the market comes an evolving understanding of what cannabis is and how it works. Unsurprisingly, that understanding has been limited by a lack of scientific research on cannabis. (The opening scene of Pineapple Express kinda nailed it.)

In the past 30 years we've come to learn how THC and CBD interact with our bodies, how to isolate and manipulate those chemicals and what other cannabis components affect the way we feel. Components can be broken down into cannabinoids and terpenes.

Lately, terpenes have dominated the conversation on how to pick the strain that's right for you. Many growers focus on the "entourage effect" in flower and concentrates, or how all the terpenes together affect the way you feel.

There's still not a lot of scientific literature that delves into the world of terpenes, but they show up in just about any kind of plant. You might be familiar with terpenes like limonene or pinene. More scientific studies have been done on individual terpenes than their connection to cannabis.

There's no set definition for craft cannabis, but it typically refers to the strains grown organically on a smaller scale with careful consideration to not only THC and CBD concentration but also the terpene profile.

They'll be hand-trimmed and nice to look at, but most importantly, you'll enjoy smoking them.

Some brands might try to hype their product with fancy packaging and buzzwords at up-scaled prices, but you'll know craft cannabis when you see it. Ask budtenders about sustainable growing practices or what kind of terpenes pop up in your favorite strains.

The true ingredient of craft cannabis, like any craft product, is the love the cultivators put into it. That love fuels every stage of the growing process from seed selection to trimming to the way it looks and feels in your hand.

I don't know that the incantations Crooked Tooth Brewing Company says over some its brews makes them any different, but I know it makes me like their beer more. The same goes for craft cannabis.

If someone puts that much dedication into their craft, then it's a solid bet you're getting a quality product. So, if you're hunting for craft cannabis, ask questions and find out what went into your product before shelling out those extra dollars.

Maybe you'll find that quirky grower who becomes your new favorite.

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