Once again, we come to the end of another jaw-dropping year in the most amazing industry we could ever have the privilege of seeing unfold: The North American Cannabis Industry. Which, seeing as how we’re all branching out into psychedelics at once, we might have to start calling the “North American Retail Entheogens Industry.” But we’re not there yet quite, not this time.
I’ll just take a moment to clue you #StonerFam folks to a behind-the-scenes insight: It’s also the LOONIEST industry I’ve personally ever worked in.
On top of the conflicting and shifting fronts of legalization and regulation, we are also handicapped by being a fresh industry without experienced oversight. That much is given and unavoidable, but the true loony part is: We have a bunch of entrepreneurs desperate to sell something if only they can figure out what it is, why people want it, how to price it, how to package it, and how to sell it. Earlier on, I anticipated that – given a comparison between a veteran hippie stoner now “gone legit” but inexperienced in business – and an experienced business entrepreneur who doesn’t know marijuana from kale – the experienced business entrepreneur would do better. Because, I reckon, the bylaws of business hold true no matter what the product is, right?
A few years’ of observing this industry is starting to show that that’s not the case. Ideally, for every entheogenic retail product company launching in the future, I would strongly recommend they keep one druggie on staff at all times. Hire them off the parole board if they have to. But no company making a psychoactive product should ever again send a product out the door without having their resident druggie test it first and confirm that it’s good stuff.
Right now, the legalized drug market looks like this:[board room meeting executive HQ Monday morning]
- “So what is this product?” “Hell if I know, some kind of drugs.”
- “Why would anyone want this?” “I think they want to get high or experience wellness or something.”
- “How do we price it?” “Well they’re drugs, right? We can charge anything we want!”
- “What about the packaging?” “Just make it trippy and psychedelic so people know it will mess them up really hard.”
- “Uh… marketing?” “Call it Zippy Moon Space Rainbow Hash. You have to speak the hippies’ language if you want them to buy.”
I mean seriously, how many people do we have working in the cannabis industry who have never smoked a joint? And if we have this many people working in the cannabis industry who have no clue about cannabis, we explore the true Heart of Darkness when we venture out into the psychedelics industry. Currently, this industry is populated by the equivalent of Mormons running a brothel and they can’t figure out why people go to brothels.
Surely, some common factors from the successful retailing of other mind-altering substances (tobacco and alcohol) would carry over? Could we someday see cannabis packaged and sold as tastefully as a bottle of J&B scotch or a pack of Newports?
The sheer volume of boondoggles in this market nearly led me to initiate a sort of Golden Raspberry award for the cannabis industry, which I’d call the “Aphid Awards” in honor of the most common pest of weed cultivation. Look for it right around this time next year. But for now, here’s a round-up of how we all dragged through 2023 almost no worse for wear…
US Legalization Marches Forward
Four more states, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, and Ohio, legalized cannabis for recreational use this year, along with the Virgin Islands (pop. ~100K). Most recently, US president Biden pardoned all federal charges for cannabis possession – which is less sweeping than it sounds, given that most cannabis convictions are not federal, it doesn’t pardon related offenses, and we can probably count the number of these cases on two hands. But every little bit helps. In a slightly bigger step, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended cannabis be bumped down to schedule 3 on the federal controlled substances list. This still isn’t the same thing as “just make it legal already!” but again, little biddy steps.
However, all was not blooming buds on the cannabis legalization front. The Senate stalled on the passing of marijuana banking legislation, despite Chuck Schumer’s tireless crusade. Congress, meanwhile, has been filing an absolute flurry of cannabis legalization details – touching on everything from banking reform to gun legislation – but we all know a Congress bill isn’t worth the dead tree it’s printed on until it passes upstream too. Despite this, GOP legislators seem to push back against drug policy reform even when their own constituents are demanding it at a rate of, well, 70%. The DEA and FDA continue to stonewall.
Public Support For Legalization At Record High
Gallup polls now show that 70% of Americans across the board, regardless of resident state or political party, favor full legalization. You would think, in a truly democratic system, that such news would be followed by immediate shredding of all marijuana laws and a national smoke-in the following week, but not so fast.
Here’s one important data point that I think needs to be emphasized: In fully legalized states which have enjoyed legal pot for a good decade now, these states have reported NO major issues with crime, hospital visits, truancy, test scores, traffic accidents, you name it. Whatever the horrors of marijuana preached from dozens of propaganda films in the 1930s, none of those have come to pass. Washington and Colorado have had full access to legal weed for eleven years, people walking down the street face-punching a blunt, and nobody is running around crazy from it. You can’t tell the difference between before and after legalization until you get close enough to smell the smoke (and count their tax revenue).
Anybody opposing cannabis legalization now, when listing the supposed evils of weed, have to explain why those evils have not visited Washington and Colorado. So far the worst fallout Colorado has seen is Lauren Boebert’s vape outing at the theater, but that just comes with the Rocky Mountain territory.
I have a prediction for you: FULL federal and national legalization is now inevitable. Just a question of “how long?” The process of ending marijuana prohibition is almost mirroring the end of alcohol prohibition, just with no Tommy guns and pin-striped suits. We see a clear pattern that indicates the few who oppose cannabis reform are hold-outs. As Mr. History Book reminds us, hold-outs die off, and progress moves on, which is how anything almost ever gets done.
The Major Scandals
US Cannabis companies that folded in 2023 include Skymint (Michigan), distributor Herbl (California), and the extra-nasty matter of Las Vegas’ Weedgenics, which turned out to be a Ponzi scheme with a marijuana leaf serving the same general role as once did Adam deploy the fig leaf. A $60 million dollar scheme, last they counted.
Cookies brand out in California was up to some monkey-shines that drew fraud lawsuits. Multiple lawsuits, SFGate says Cookies are piling up 3 separate lawsuits, investors accusing the company of mishandling funds, not paying out, book-cooking, and whatnot. Now, as a side matter, there was an alleged interview (a phrase that could only happen in the age of AI) with Cookies brand founder and musician Berner, published on Bezinga, then retracted by Bezinga, and we’d never know about it if several other bloggers didn’t repost the trail of public statements by Bezinga. The ghost article was supposedly written by AI. For this story’s source link, I’m going to dump you in the lap of a Twitter tweet mid-drama if you’re idly curious, but you’re not missing much. There’s so much stuff published about Berner on Bezinga already I’d be surprised if even his own mother had read it all. This has been an entire paragraph about Cookies.
We don’t use artificial intelligence here at Dab Connection, by the way. All our content is generated by natural, organic human stupidity. Artisan crafted with authentic vintage laptops.
The Crappiest Things We Reviewed in 2023
Aw heck, it’s not fair to call any brands we review here “crappy,” since even in our negative reviews we try to conduct a spirit of constructive criticism. We speak to the industry as well as the consumer.
But no, really, we do inevitably run into some crappy products. When manufacturers really go the extra mile to not just put out a lousy product, but add several more insults to injury and maybe even a few more injuries just for giggles, I don’t mind calling them crappy. There’s a big difference between an obvious well-intentioned mistake and an attitude baked into a company, from the CEO down to the product, that says “we just don’t care.” Those are the ones I call “crappy.” That makes me a few enemies in this industry, and I proudly stand by every enemy I have made as a testament to my integrity and character.
Don’t forget, careless industry standards led to dozens of deaths from harmful additives in backdoored vape cartridges a few years ago. That’s what makes commercial legalized cannabis and psychedelics so important to produce and label transparently.
I would say “better luck next time” to the companies below, but nobody there was even trying the first time.
Overpriced and Overpackaged Airhead: Airvape Legacy Pro
You know a company has shaky faith in their product when they try to distract you with a trip-toy built into the packaging. By the time you unpack the Airvape Legacy Pro, you discover that it’s an extremely expensive sarcophagus for an object almost, but not quite, entirely unlike a vape. The design suggests a repurposed 2000s cell phone case, with the rest of the unit apparently built by aliens who had learned about vaporizers from watching interpretive dance. In any case, it failed at mission one while also overheating so much that I had to drop it. At $269, any vape one-fifth of its price outperforms it.
Thought I Was Smoking Hay: Plain Jane Delta 8 Flower
Along with this point in my weed-reviewing career, I began to meditate upon aspects of freshness. Oh how little I had previously appreciated moisture packets and flavor seals. Weed can grow stale. It can dry out until it’s little more than spicy dust, and most of all it loses potency per month stored. Max shelf life, I have since determined, is a year after harvest. Using that as a benchmark, I determined that this Plain Jane blunt was rolled from Hemp last harvested during George Washington’s administration. All this in a choking blunt which was exactly like smoking compressed sawdust, and it had zero effect. The bag of loose flower: sad, crackling tumbleweeds which needed no grinding but instead a light crush in the palm. For the record, other Plain Jane products have passed muster in other reviews, but anything this dry sent to a reviewer is inexcusable.
Impressive Levels of Incompetence: Serene Tree carts
The posted COA shows delta 8. The package says Delta 9. Even for that, it was the weakest, oldest Delta 8 oil in existence. When a company botches a product sample this badly, I dig in to see what’s going on. Turns out most of their stock and COAs all conflict, and that’s just the beginning. As a matter of professional courtesy, I notified the company about all the issues I’d found and got a reply from a market droid in carefully worded market speak, the message being shaped roughly like “so who gives a hoot?” All it would have taken to fix the issue is to have their web-guy update lab sheet PDFs; surely they test a cart more often than the year-old PDFs displayed? And that’s what this company says to me, “who cares,” from the poor product to their logo, which is two stacked triangles with the name “Serene Tree” in sans serif font. I have put more effort into customizing my video game characters than these people do running a company.
Most Aptly Named Fake Cart Brand: Ghost
Even though we don’t write up fake cartridge brands that often these days, we still follow nationwide spottings through our own Reddit watchdog forum. Ghost was a brand that appeared – ah, out of nowhere. It turns out that this brand disappeared shortly after I blogged it, but while the poltergeist was still active, this brand briefly flooded the vape cart market. There is no company, owner, website, address, or even point of origin behind the Ghost brand name that our best sleuthing could uncover. It’s almost like this brand… it ghosted us.
Are They Trying To Poison Us?: Rare Cannabinoid Company
It is perhaps fortunate that these are “rare”; we’d like it even better if they didn’t exist entirely. Staff reviewer Kira tried this one and they actually made her barf, then she tried them with another roommate who couldn’t keep them down either. She declared she’d never tasted something so nasty in her life. Even the aroma, again from two people’s opinions, was described as chemical, paint chips, and rotting fruit. So from there, we can conclude that whatever potency these might have had is a moot point, since before these could fail at being infused gummies, they failed at just plain old being gummies. Fifty bucks!
Special “You Suck!” Shout-Out To Half the Psychedelic Gummies Industry
Dozens of brands of mushroom gummies, bags of sugary, gooey diabetes, and not an effect in sight. Even though the good Amanita Muscaria products I have tried have converted me into a raving shroom fanatic, those success stories are sadly rare. The good brands so far score at roughly 3 brands out of 10 – and two of the passing brands were the same company. The bottom line, we need to work on that potency! We’re still in the early days of the psychedelic gummies market, but time is running out for manufacturers to figure out how to get the potency consistent. Now that that’s out of the way, I will address this one specific company, subject of the above photo:
Extra-Super-Duper-Special “Why Are My Eyes Bleeding?” Award: Yumz amanita gummies
I don’t want the people behind Yumz brand to improve, because they’re too stupid to run a business anyway. That’s a Yumz brand product we picture above, in eyeball-rupturing packaging which deliberately obfuscates ingredients, instructions, and even warnings with its stupid “trippy hologram ink” packaging. I braved that and gulped down the contents to discover bunk gummies that had never heard of mushrooms. Yay more empty calories! Thanks for the bag of fat!
Looking ahead to 2024 – are we gonna get it together now?
Here we go, new year, clean slate, and we’re all ready to hit another year of reviewing in this fun industry. Readers, THANK YOU ALL for your continued visits and support, liking and sharing our videos, commenting in our forum to keep us on our toes, and coming to us with your stimulating questions. We love what we do (except when we’re barfing gummies in the toilet) and when we see a comment thanking us for our hard-hitting industry reporting (even giving us credit for saving a life here and there), that makes it all worthwhile. Join us in 2024; we’re going to straighten out this industry yet!
Wha.. what’s that you say, 2024 is a primary election year? Until then, keep your gunpowder dry and your sarcasm drier.