Happy 2020, dear readers. We are another year into legal weed, and it’s been fascinating to watch our options as consumers constrict and expand. Raise your hand if a favorite shop turned out to be janky, your preferred brand of edible turned out to be running a black-market op, or God forbid, you took a hit off the very brand of weed vape that’s made the news for being potentially straight up poisonous. I don’t know about y’all, but for this old stoner, the honeymoon is over.
I have gone off the vapes entirely, and given up the waxy/ saucy/ dabby concentrates, mostly. I’ll do some for a special occasion, but they’re no longer part of my routine. CO2 based or otherwise, it’s just a sensory burnout to do that stuff habitually. I would actually like to see the return of black and gold hash, concentrates that are fun and not quite so intense, but apparently it’s hard to get that stuff to pass modern testing protocols. I’ve heard of some promising bubble hash products but not found any in my local shops yet.
In the meantime, there sure has been a proliferation of super-fancy weed companies who produce only grass in the 30% THC range, raising the top-shelf price back up to $70 or $80 an eighth-ounce, where it was at the height of prohibition. I’ve had some of this stuff and frankly, like fancy old Scotch or wine that goes for a hundred bucks a slurp, it’s nice but not that nice. I wouldn’t turn it down if it was passed to me, and I appreciate the commitment to growing the finest plant that can possibly be grown, but I can’t say it’s worth it at the price point. I think some people want an eighty dollar eighth just so they can say, “I’m an eighty-dollar eighth kind of guy.” This is for the person who spends hundreds on table service for a bottle of Grey Goose and some oranges.
As for me, I roll the other way. I want the biggest bang for the smallest buck that can possibly be found. I just read on Leafly – who, as the links above demonstrate, provided my favorite cannabis industry news coverage of the past year- that California eighths were averaging just over $34, pre-tax, in 2019. So let’s see how we can do in the local shops, keeping our purchase price below that average every time.I’m not just giving you my local shop’s daily special that will be gone by the time you read this. I’m looking for brands that generate tested product around 20% THC or preferably over, and routinely go out the door at or under that $30 price point.
This is not an exhaustive survey of every low price option at every single shop in the Valley, but rather a reflection of my recent experience as a penny-pinching aficionado, trying to find the good deals. I did not solicit or accept any comps while researching this article between late November 2019 and mid-January 2020, just followed my nose and my budtenders’ advice. Note that some of these shops offer early bird and happy hour pricing where the stuff can be had at a discount, but all the items listed carried a normal shelf price of no higher than $30 an eighth.
$20 And Under
Insane – California Girl
Purchased from: Dr. Greenthumb, Sylmar for $15/eighth.
I had to check out B-Real from Cypress Hill’s own line of product – and purchase it at his own dispensary, no less – once it caught my attention. Priced at just $15 an 8th with three strains to choose from, a name brand that could be had for HALF my target price was certainly interesting. I took home an 8th of California Girl, the strain with the highest THC content at 20.26%.
I would believe that this was a legit $30 bag when it was fresh and juicy back in August. The buds are nice looking, well trimmed and bright green, with visible crystals. But by the time I got it home, it was dried out to the point of turning to powder between my fingers. Time, or maybe a less than perfect cure, had robbed it of most of its smell and all its taste, with a full bowl sparking up like dried hay. It did have a nice effect on the head, revealing its heritage. The mental effects wore off quickly, though the body lag lingered for a while. No surprise – weed that gets too dehydrated will see its THC turn to CBN, resulting in a sleepy sensation without the desirable high. Overall, I did not really feel like I was getting the full benefit of what a 20% strain should be doing for me.
I don’t want B to feel disrespected – that’s not polite, G! Respect for this: at $15 an eighth, four bucks and change per gram, the price point puts it in a class by itself. It is the only weed in town to be found at this price, far as I can see. I knew it was not likely to be as effective and tasty as the ones that cost twice as much – if it WAS, that would be a game changer.
It’s good enough to use, but I think I’m going to run through it pretty quickly and then get something else. I would try this brand again if the buddha was stinky.
Dime Bag – Strawberry Cough – RECOMMENDED
Purchased from: Dr. Greenthumb, Sylmar for $20/eighth
Dime Bag has been hitting some peoples’ radar as a better than average bargain choice that sells in large volume. I picked up an eighth of Strawberry Cough, 21.4% THC. Interestingly, it was said to have been harvested in July but not packaged til December, just about a month before I opened it. Usually those two dates are only a couple weeks apart. It’s interesting learning to read the test labels for more than THC percentages – in the past, I would have figured, anything packaged in the last six or eight months is fine. But experience is proving, the more recent the packaging date, the better.
While the smell and taste were both on the mild side, pleasant but not overwhelming, it was definitely acceptable in strength and appearance. The buds were spongy and sticky enough to cling to a finger for at least a few seconds. The head is mellow and long-lasting, combined with a very pleasing body sensation. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true outdoor, though the company makes no claims to the specifics or locality of the crop, other than being from “Sunny California” and grown with “organic nutrients and soil”. I usually assume that to mean “greenhouse”, which is fine with me.
I like the idea of a no-fuss bargain choice that gets you high, that’s still organic and pesticide-free. This misses the luxury aspect of high end brands with their otherworldly scent and appearance, but gives you what you need from a bag of pot. At $20, it’s a good buy.
Eighth Brother – Blood Orange Amethyst – RECOMMENDED
Purchased from: MMD, North Hollywood, for $6/gram, eighths available for $20.
Eighth Brother out of Mendocino seems like a company after my own heart, aiming in its mission statement to make high quality herb at a fair price. This gram felt a bit like a throwback to 80s weed, when you would stumble upon a particularly good batch with a dark, earthy flavor and dense, resinous buds. At 18.4% THC, the head was pleasantly warm and lingering but not overwhelming. This would be a perfect strain for a long bus ride, keeping the mind occupied with its hypnotic pull.
While Eighth Brother crops routinely test somewhere in the 20% THC range, give or take a couple of points, they do occasionally have a strain that exceeds expectation, such as a 2018 Superglue batch that tested at almost 27%. Keep an eye on their offering at your local shop, even if you normally go for high test.
$25 to $30
Herb & Zen – Orange Creamsicle
Purchased from: Compassion Union, North Hollywood for $25/eighth.
This indica bud had a really distinct citrus scent, so potent I suspected someone had rubbed the jar with orange zest. Camper Van Beethoven’s set at the Teragram on the night before New Years Eve went down exceptionally easy on this strain, we were really feeling the festive post-holiday glow. The heavy orange flavor paired well with the seasonal airs.
Despite showing a cultivation date just a month prior to my purchase, and a robust 24.07% THC rating, the herb was drier than I would normally like, and ran out in just two days, much more quickly than usual. Factoring in that I had both of those days off work, and during that time I went to a college hippie concert and watched the Rose Parade on television, maybe that’s to be expected.
It was pleasant enough weed to be on while it lasted, but I’d try something else before buying this brand again.
HouseWeed – Fruity Pebbles
Purchased from: Herbal Pain Relief Center, Mission Hills, as two pre-roll joints. Eighths typically retail for $20-25 at various dispensaries.
I’ve been seeing HouseWeed products for a while, another company promising good old-fashioned herb at a bargain. I picked up their pre-roll tube with two small joints inside. Although packed in July, it was still in nice condition when I opened it in January, the finely ground herb still bright and somewhat fragrant. Tested at just 13.1% THC, it wasn’t the most powerful experience of this journey. But even if I had to smoke half a joint to get the desired effect, once it arrived, it was quite nice indeed, a calm body with a wandering, creative mind. If you are the type of person who prefers something that works but is not too heavy, this could be a good choice for you: it’s mild, tasty, and the price is right.
I can’t rate this brand 1 to 1 with the others since I tasted it via pre-roll instead of packaged bud. But based on the quality I observed, I’d consider trying one of their higher-testing eighths, especially at a price of $25 or less.
Honeydew Farms – Sundae Driver – RECOMMENDED
Purchased from: Herbal Pain Relief Center, Mission Hills for $30/eighth.
So, one thing my research has proven – once your shelf price crosses the threshold from twenties into the thirty dollar realm – the high end of my discount spectrum but still well below the state average – things start to become available that are just out of reach for a few dollars less. This is where knowing your local’s discount policy comes in handy – I can time my arrival at this shop to pick up $30 jars for $25, and feel smug I am now paying $9 below state average and still getting really good shit.
This indica-dominant hybrid from Humboldt’s Honeydew Farms kicked my ass, providing both a taste/ smell sensory experience and a high that I associate with the highest shelf in the weed shop. It’s a delicious overperformer, tested at 24.6% THC, with a rich, complex aroma, sweetness paired with garlicky earth. Texturally, it will stick your fingers together until you pry them apart. This jar kept me nice for nearly a week.
This is where the rubber is going to meet the road for boutique weed farms. The proliferation of larger scale grow operations that produce decent-quality herb for $20 a bag is going to create competition for great quality at the price point that is just slightly higher. I could justify paying $5 or $10 more for weed of this caliber, those weeks when I can afford it, and still feel like I’m getting a good deal.
I will be buying this brand again.
California Platinum Farms – Wedding Cake- RECOMMENDED
Purchased from: Herbal Pain Relief Center, Mission Hills for $30/eighth.
CPF, an LA-based indoor grow company, is producing some beautiful and powerful bud right now. This indica flower registered 26.6% THC, and delivered a strong high, more physical than cerebral, experienced as a tickle under the surface of the skin. The buds are dense and perfectly cured, coated in layers of frosty trichomes and bright orange hairs.
This was packaged just three weeks before it was consumed, with a strong, curious but pleasing odor and flavor profile, and a body sensation that may, in fact, remind you of what it’s like to have a mouth full of frosting. Life is just a bit creamier on the stuff. It’s very sensual… don’t you think? (Plants are sensual, people are sensuous, if I remember my Animal House dialogue correctly.)
This is the second time I’ve had Wedding Cake recently and I would like some more, please. Certainly the enjoyability of good bud is not about pure THC strength, this strain was a knockout at around 20% when I had it last month. This even higher-octane version is emerging as a favorite buy from this experiment. I would offer this to Snoop Dogg and expect him to say “Damn!” upon sampling it. Some things are just better than others.
Monterey Kush Co – HOOF and Peanut Butter Cookies- RECOMMENDED
Purchased from: MMD, North Hollywood for $30/eighth.
Despite their place as one of lower-cost offerings at MMD’s NoHo shop, I would put Monterey Kush Co. at the top of this list for quality. Their Peanut Butter Cookies batch in October made an immediate impression on me, a sensation experienced sharply in the center of the forehead before passing into a rather sensational all-body embrace. It was visibly frosty, testing at 27% THC. It really smelled and tasted like peanut butter and left that umami flavor to linger in the mouth. I’d have to say, it was one of the most memorable weed purchases of the year, irrespective of price point.
It was also sold out when I went back a few days later to get some more.
Undeterred, I picked up a jar of their HOOF, an Indica testing at 28.9% THC. This was no disappointment, everything you would want from a splurge on weed that brushes against the 30% line. The head was ass kicking, the body high again super pleasant and very much attuned to my need for pain relief, which was acute at the time.
Since the New Year, I have had a hard time finding this brand in my hometown shops. I hope its presence here at this relatively low price was not a brief anomaly, and we will see it re-appear before long. Their Instagram just advertised a couple of drops to stores in NorCal, so fingers are crossed.
In short, there are multiple good options for both the cheapskate who wants to keep their purchase from going over $20, and for the the connoisseur who’s willing to shop with intelligence and drop an extra ten-spot on a product that’s truly worth the difference. We shall see how this trend progresses, as more high-volume grow ops are expected to hit Cali this year.
Feel free to write me with your recommendations for the next iteration of this article… those last couple of “research” jars won’t last forever.