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Hall of Flowers Ventura 2024 highlights room for genetic diversity and premiumization

Hall of Flowers Ventura was quite the adventure. As they say: Third time’s the charm so I wanted to give a little context of THC’s visits to HoF over the years.

The first time I attended Hall of Flowers was in 2022. I knew one person, THC author with over 300 reviews under his belt on this website alone – Brady from Team Elite Genetics. He let me know to ask for tickets. I ended up with hella samples, also ended up getting a bag full of samples stolen which properly dampered some of the budding relationships that were in that bag… One such sample was the Vietnamese from First Cut Farms. Coolest “new” thing I’d see all year in 2022.

At Hall of Flowers 2023, I think I spent too much time talking to people – not that that’s ever a bad thing. But I ended up meeting a lot of people that… didn’t end up being around in the cannabis industry for long. I spent too long entertaining the idea that B2B booths might be interested in getting a review done on this site. I also didn’t quite yet understand that some lines just aren’t worth waiting in because some brands straight up aren’t interested in media coverage. As a responsible conference goer, the move might be to get there early enough to not have to wait in line… someone who successfully does that let me know how it is. The fact of the matter is, HoF is an industry event and most everybody on deck is hyperfocused on meeting and getting samples to buyers. Maybe the coolest thing last year was seeing hash holes? Seeing them, not burning them because nothing burns worse than an old hash hole.

In 2024, I embraced the fact that serendipity is part and parcel of being in public. A tight schedule can keep you from being able to answer when opportunity knocks. Some days it’s a better bet to avoid the booths entirely and stick to smoking outside with those in the industry that still partake. Going into HoF this year, I had a new understanding of my site’s relative position in this industry. At the end of the day, the most popular articles on this site are about cannabis culture, not the cannabis industry. With my inquiring mind, I was on a mission to quantify the genetic diversity in the legal cannabis industry. I found some cool old stuff. The coolest in years. Also some cool new stuff. The coolest in years.

What made 2024 different? First off I went to a pre-event for once. In fact, it was THE pre-event: Timed with an announcement of the Budist x CA State Fair partnership. The California State Fair is entering its third year celebrating Cannabis with the California Cannabis Awards but this is the first year that they’ll be open to categories besides flower AND where they’ll be having Critic’s Choice Awards powered by Budist. Maybe yours truly will be a featured Critic. Stay tuned.

ca state fair and budist announce partnership at hall of flowers ventura 2024

The Budist launch party at Sunstone Winery by Sunstone Winery x Sunstone Cannabis showed me something I’d only ever imagined before. I also enjoyed a Cannabis Supper Club event with Team Elite Genetics for the first time. As I keep proselytizing: Cannabis pairings are better than cannabis infusions as a gustatory experience.

What is cannabis premiumization? It’ll be easier to define once the Budist 100 point system has proliferated further. Listen to this High Spirits podcast with Budist cofounders Claudio and Jocelyn for a good sneak peak of what I’m talking about.

HoF Ventura 2024 Recap

This was my first time attending a SoCal Hall of Flowers – it was well attended and I got to meet a lot of brands that I otherwise wouldn’t cross paths with.

hall of flowers 2024 ventura welcome sign

Despite some hiccups on the first day with Hall of Flowers’ transition from a physical ticket system for buying samples to a cashless system reliant on an app, that process was generally smooth for those able to buy samples. Part of the smoothness was the fact that overall, total number of samples distributed was probably down per capita. The new system did severely hamper the ability of buyers to sample flower. With only 2 oz of flower samples allowed through the system, even with avoiding prerolls, only being able to secure samples from a few dozen of the total hundreds of booths is a very big bummer and something that I heard complained about by many industry insiders.

Additionally, when an item was out of stock, it would mess up your entire order without indicating which item was out of stock leading you to have to remove items at random until the error disappeared. At the end of the day, the legal purchase limits and technical issues severely restricted or streamlined the sample distribution process that Hall of Flowers is so well known for – depending on which side you ask.

Despite being unfortunately hampered in my ability to secure samples to try, I was free to smell floor samples and ask questions about cultivation practices. And also to catch a speaker series with Lili Hayes and David Bienenstock.

hall of flowers 2024 ventura speaker series

People ask me what I’m looking for when I attend an event like this… Simply put: I want to highlight the brands that are doing things differently. The ones that aren’t just running the same ol’ cultivars as everyone else. The ones that are just running their same ol’ cultivars are some of my favorite, too. I want to highlight the people that are trying new stuff or preserving old stuff. There’s plenty of wave riders, I want to find the ones making new waves.

The Good Good aka What The Highest Critic searches for at Hall of Flowers

One of the searches that I run while at events is “The search for haze.” I walked around smelling as much as I could on the first day – and found one that hit the spot – but it wasn’t available for sampling. I was told to come back and unfortunately in the hustle and bustle, I forgot which booth had the best haze at Hall of Flowers – but the smell stuck with me.

After HoF, I took a detour to visit an old boss of mine on my drive back upnorth. Someone who I’ve burned down pounds of haze with all over the country and who shares my drive to experience the highs that are no longer common – but all focused towards finding dat piff. While we smoked some J1, Blue Dream, and Sour Diesel – paltry substitutes for the real deal – I told him about how I had finally found a singular nice indoor haze on the California legal market which I was told was a cross of Amnesia and SSH and that I really wanted to share with him, but wasn’t able to get a sample of it.

He immediately pulled an eighth jar of LAX Packs’ Golden Haze out of his drawer and recognizing the cross, and then the smell, I sat back and smiled. Another event, another lost eighth of rare weed that ended up finding its way back to me anyways.

lax packs golden haze from hall of flowers ventura 2024

LAX Packs’ Golden Haze IS the real deal. I’d never smoked Amnesia in the Americas before but the first smell took me back to Spain in a way that I’d been missing for nearly a decade. How real is this haze? I may or may not have seen a popular NYC brand inquiring on how to obtain the genetics (on the gram not at the event).

Another classical quest I often embark on is the exodus for cheese. While I was able to find some from a legacy grower at Jerry’s Seed Swap, I had not had any luck finding any on the legal market (besides Polaris Cheese in Nevada) for years. Team Elite Genetics has a G.O.A.T. Cheese which I was able to sniff some rosin of. The nostalgia hit me like a metric tonne of bricks fresh from the UK.

team elite genetics goat cheese rosin at hall of flowers 2024 ventura

Most brands have completely bastardized the use of the adjectives indica and sativa. TEG actually runs some pretty uppity cultivars such as J1, Orange Juice, Pearadise, Nova Cane, that Goat Cheese, and more. At the same time, everyone knows their styrofoam cup will actually hit you and have you leaning like a double stack of styrofoam cups.

Speaking of proper uppers, ever since moving to Arcata I have been looking for Arcata Trainwreck. While this is unlikely to be the same cut, I did find some Trainwreck from White Rabbit Cannabis ala PoundTown Distribution. As Rachelle Gordon of Green State noted: Terpinolene is back.

white rabbit cannabis trainwreck at hall of flowers 2024 ventura

The coolest thing that I saw, hands down the Big Sur Holy Weed flower at The Bohemian Chemist booth and separately being offered big sur holy weed seeds in a trade. I got a Black African Magic cart to try, and I’m so excited.

the bohemian chemist big sur holy weed at hall of flowers ventura 2024

To walk into the cannabis industry’s premier event and be able to find one of the first named strains in California being grown and sold legally – that alone restored my long-shattered faith in the industry. The Bohemian Chemist is a rare gem in this state. Anybody of age can visit their location in Philo, CA and try these true exotics at their consumption lounge.

In a world where cereal milk clones can still go for 10 or 12k, good cereal milk is a flex. Once is Enough is my fave cereal milk cross and Amplified Farms was on deck with it at HoF this year like last year. This year, they had doubled down on branding for specific cuts that can only be found with them. This Super Sour Diesel is a good example.

super sour diesel by amplified farms graphic at hall of flowers 2024 ventura

A cool SoCal brand with a nice staple that I got to try was Greenline Organics with their famous Orange Tree.

orange tree by greenline organics at hallof flowers 2024 ventura

Again, brands that run staples are aces in my book. Why chase brand loyalty and “strain” loyalty when you can actually have both?

Another great indoor batch that really hit the nose was Life Is Not Grape’s BOLO Papaya – a combo of BOLO Runtz and Papaya. It’s not something that you’re likely to see much of this year – Even before the event was over, it was already all spoken for. I’m very excited to see how that washes and anticipate telling rosin heads to BOLO that BOLO Papaya in a few cycles.

At the end of the day, I’m looking for unique cultivars whether they are grown indoors or outdoors. I’m also down for cool new edibles. Last year, it was cannabis infused ice cubes – this year, I’m excited to try some cannabis infused brown sugar from Anthony of ____ who I met at the Cannabis Equity Network’s section. Which is also where Sanctuary Farms had their Blunicorn and Purple Chewy on deck. That’s some of the most fire flower I’ve just discovered this year.

hall of flowres 2024 cannabis equity network and cannabis trail

Right next to the Equity Trade Network, I was tipped off to the presence of some Ridgeline Farms product in rosin form, and I knew I wanted to try some. Cue Proper Wellness. Shout out to Seamus.

humboldt county line at hall of flowers ventura 2024

Despite all the searching and finding stuff I hadn’t found in previous years, none of it prepared me for the one that found me. The best weed I smoked at Hall of Flowers was grown in Humboldt. I smoked some Congo Kashmiri bred by Bodhi – some of that new new from Cookies’ latest RnD. This was the first time in nearly a decade when I hit a rolled joint that was handed to me and I immediately had to know more about what it was and where it came from. The person who handed it to me knew it was special and was already explaining the plant’s journey to the ciph… Suffice to say, I witnessed first hand the positive possibilities that big money, well sourced cannabis genetics, and careful selection can bring to the legal market.

Similarly, the THCV craze is being approached from both sides, too.

On one end, small companies like Country Cannabis which have been focused on minor cannabinoids from plant sources for years are able to craft THCV products like these prerolls with blends of open source cannabis cultivars that include cultivars that contain THCV.

lemon zest thcv prerolls by country cannabis from hall of flowers 2024 ventura

On the other end of the spectrum, larger companies are able to enter into licensing deals with the singular company that has access to a specially developed highest testing THCV cultivar known to man – and use that differentiator for marketing.

genetics matter thcv from hall of flowers ventura 2024

All this to say, THCV isn’t just coming – it’s already here, and if you don’t know the difference between hemp derived THCV and natural THCV – it’s time to catch up. The two pictured above are stellar examples of the latter, not the former and are generating well deserved kudos for it.

The Bad aka What is killing the range of medicinal benefits of cannabis

My research at Cal Poly Humboldt is on changes in cannabis genetics over time. One thing I’ve noticed while talking with cannabis breeders to explore my question is a strong recurring note on economic considerations which I’ve witnessed as an observant informal markets economist as well.

If you ask the right questions, you’ll hear the signs. My question of the year has been: “What’s the longest flowering strain y’all run?” First off, it’s sad but understandable that most people need to say, “let me wait til X person that’s more familiar with the grow is here to answer that question.” On the other side of that coin are those that have heard that question and actually have a trained answer which comes from an investor pitch deck. I understand why there is pride when people say: “We run 8-week cycles only.” The thing with 8 week cycles is the amount of different cultivars that you can actually run properly and have enough yield to make a profit in that timeframe limits you to a handful of very specific smells, looks, and highs. The samesameification of cannabis is real and it’s caused by economic strain. The move away from whole plant, as Green Flower’s Max Simon put it, puts another knowledge gate between consumers, producers, and the growers they work with. Cannabis Breeders? Not even in that picture.

I’m happy for every brand that locks in a cycle that works for them and their bottom line. My tip is to dedicate a room to RnD. Put in other terms, if you can crop steer a rare cannabis cultivar to commercial yields while maintaining its unique high and therefore medicinal effects, you will have contributed something to cannabis culture and an appreciative market will form.

I repeat: There is absolutely a market for that. I will personally help you find the genetics and the people who want to buy it.

The Ugly – ‘nuf said

Imagine my surprise when I saw lots of examples of cultivars which were obviously pulled too early. While this issue gets compounded in the color conscious world of hash – it’s nowhere near the saddest thing I observed at HoF. Let me be clear, the saddest thing I saw was a pair of suits going around with the express purpose of securing THCA kief from brands that tumble trim their flower. They were quite ambiguous about where that THCA would be sold. I admire the moxie and hustle but come on… Just a little anecdata if anyone has noticed that machine trimmed weed seems to be getting jankier and jankier each year – there are dual economic incentives to quickly overtrim: less trimming cost and more secondary product to sell.

An obviously mislabeled cultivar also really, really threw me off – or maybe Triangle Kush x Wedding Cake is actually Terpinolene dominant. I highly doubt it though. It’s so much more likely that a Blue Dream clone got mislabeled. It’s super sad to see what was probably not a malicious mistake somewhere along the supply chain contribute to the confusion that cannabis consumers face when trying to track down the specific cultivars that they need for specific medicinal effect.

I’m glad I ventured to Hall of Flowers Ventura

If it didn’t fall on my spring break, I wouldn’t have made it. As always at HoF. You run into people you didn’t expect to see – but the flip side of that coin is that you completely miss seeing others. For me that was the opportunity to burn one down with The THC Spot Reviews. For those that saw him at HoF – I’m Hella Jelly. As I go through these samples, my impression of this snapshot of the California cannabis industry might update. Whether it’s 8 week cycles, the economic strain on everybody’s mind, California defining regenerative agriculture, coming rescheduling, the need for descheduling instead, premiumization, 100 point scales, new hash tech, or never before smoked landrace combinations… Hall of Flowers is a focal point of it all. A Locus point of where legacy and legal cannabis culture clash. This is evident in the way people prioritize which events to go to, which booths to go to, which peoples’ weed to smoke for headstash and which peoples’ weed to sell at the shop to the masses.

Despite how much people complain about the suits, I can confirm that Hall of Flowers still has enough cultural capital to bring in people that wouldn’t be caught dead in a suit. Surprise surprise, those people still have the better weed.

hall of flowers 2024 ventura group pic

Thanks to the HoF team for having the THC team at the event, and to all the real ones, Budists, and Ganjiers for making SoCal feel so welcoming. Looking forward to the next one.

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Founder of The Highest Critic
Unpaid /r/trees mod
Certified Ganjier
Kine bud enthusiast

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Caleb Chen

Founder of The Highest Critic Unpaid /r/trees mod Certified Ganjier Kine bud enthusiast

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