Consumers say Massachusetts weed stinks – and not in a good way

“That’s garbage,” Warren Lynch, a 47-year-old Malden resident and longtime cannabis connoisseur, said of the marijuana flower offered at licensed stores in Massachusetts. “The market here is dominated by nasty corporate schwag” – a derisive term that enthusiasts reserve for the lowest quality pot.

Lynch is among dozens of medical marijuana users and patients who have shared with The Globe their impressions of the quality, variety and value of cannabis products sold legally in Massachusetts.

In interviews and social media posts, many have said that marijuana here — all of which must be grown in the state — has steadily improved since recreational sales began in late 2018. But their prevailing perception was negative, most having responded to the Globe’s call for critics saying the market remains riddled with mediocre or even faulty flowers being sold at high prices.

“People from other states don’t want our weed when they visit,” said Chandra Batra, a Cambridge resident who uses the drug to treat her fibromyalgia. “They think it’s a bad joke.”

Many of those surveyed complained that it’s hard to spot a shoddy pot before buying it because most flowers come pre-packaged – a drawback exacerbated by COVID, which has prompted many retailers to ban customers from sniffing and handle products at the counter. Several consumers said stores refused to reimburse them even for marijuana that turned out to contain seeds or had other obvious defects. They insist that the onus is on dispensaries to prove they offer superior reliability and value to the illicit market, especially given the prevailing prices, which often start at $55 per eighth of an ounce. plus a heavy tax.

Local growers, for their part, acknowledged that Massachusetts’ cannabis industry got off to a shaky start.

Executives and cultivation experts at six major cannabis growers (all of which also operate retail stores) said it took them months to refine their indoor growing and drying techniques to account for the climate. state variable and strict testing standards for microbes. This might help explain one of consumers’ biggest gripes: dried flower that is difficult to smoke or vape.

“What you’ve seen a lot in Massachusetts, especially early on, is people sacrificing quality to pass the tests through a quick-drying process” that removes moisture that could harbor mold, Brandon said. Pollock, chief executive of multistate cannabis company Theory Wellness.

“Some organizations use radiation and heat treatments during the curing process,” Pollock added, “and those things have a negative effect on the final product,” especially the compounds that give each variety its flavor and smell. distinctive.

Growers attributed another common complaint — stale, bland-smelling cannabis being sold months after its harvest date — to COVID-related staffing shortages and a backlog at the relatively small number of marijuana testing labs. state licensed which has since improved resulting in higher quality weed. arrive earlier on the shelves.

The literal and figurative growing pains of inexperienced operators are also to blame for other common consumer complaints, executives acknowledged. These included buds that smelled of mold or contained seeds, a sure sign of poor quality that indicates the source plant was accidentally pollinated. For example, Holistic Industries, which operates the Liberty dispensary chain and sells flowers under the Strane brand, said it destroyed all of its plants and remodeled its Monson grow facility after customer complaints last year about the smell of mold.

Overall, cannabis growers said, any negative perceptions stemming from past and flawed cultivations quickly become obsolete as competition and increasing competence increase. They cautioned against the romance of cannabis from other states such as California and Oregon, noting that those markets also feature a wide range of quality.

“I’m proud of what Massachusetts does,” said Meg Sanders, chief executive of Massachusetts-based company Canna Provisions. “I really don’t think the quality of Russian Roulette is as good as it is sometimes depicted. We cultivate fire. I will hold my flower against any California grower all day.

Fair or not, negative perceptions of Massachusetts dispensary products risk pushing buyers into the lingering illicit market, undermining a key goal of legalization. Several patients said they make frequent pilgrimages to Maine, where a loosely regulated medical marijuana industry, made up mostly of small, artisan-minded companies, has earned a national reputation for growing excellent bud. at lower prices, but without any lab testing requirements.

What makes good weed is, of course, ultimately a subjective matter. But as is the case with coffee, beer, and wine, you don’t have to be a dedicated aficionado or a trained marijuana sommelier to distinguish between high-end nuggets and “boofs.” “non-smokable (another term for exceptionally bad pot). . And just as craft beer enthusiasts favor a well-balanced, well-brewed beer over a simply high-alcohol beer, cannabis cultivation experts and seasoned smokers said they place more importance on smell, taste , to the appearance and effect of the flower than to its potency.

They look for dense buds that are slightly sticky, but not wet and spongy, or dry and crumbly. The smell should be pungent but pleasant, never reminiscent of wet hay. And while different strains may be streaked with orange, purple, or a host of other colors, the best flower typically features a glaze of milky-white trichomes, the tiny gland-like structures that produce much of the THC. of the plant and other psychoactive cannabinoid compounds.

Again, growers and retailers have argued that only a small fraction of cannabis consumers are genre connoisseurs who could methodically sniff a sample of a classic strain like OG Kush as if it were a Bordeaux. 30 years old. The majority settle for the marijuana equivalent of Bud Light, if the price is right and the quality is consistent.

Kobie Evans, co-owner of Boston marijuana retailer Pure Oasis, said he noticed many buyers simply chase the strains with the highest concentration of THC at the lowest price, mistakenly equating potency with quality – a lie that many companies reinforce by marking the strongest varieties instead of flower with more balanced characteristics.

Regardless of consumer tastes, Evans said he agreed the quality and variety of Massachusetts pot was lacking. It’s a problem he faces every time he makes bulk purchases to fill the shelves of his shop.

“We struggle to get our hands on a big flower like everyone else,” Evans said. “Our mandate is to find the right things, but to be honest, that may be less than 10% of what we offer.”

More craft-grade cannabis could soon to hit the Massachusetts market: A steady stream of former underground growers and other small growers with a “plants-first” philosophy are emerging from the state’s licensing pipeline, thanks in part to the policies of the Cannabis control prioritizing approval of businesses owned not by out-of-state investors, but local residents impacted by decades of racially disproportionate marijuana arrests. Such a flower can be expensive, but Evans said he hopes the competition pushes the bigger chains that opened earlier to start growing better weed (a good thing, in this case).

“Once you get into smaller batches that are grown with love, that’s when you get better results,” Evans said. “Unfortunately, much of what is produced here in Massachusetts is determined more in an Excel spreadsheet than based on what they think consumers are going to like.”

Dan Adams can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.

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