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Over the last few years of cannabis consumption I have discovered one thing: if you’re going to shop the Vancouver cannabis industry, you need to be your own advocate.Last weekend I popped in to Weeds on Richards Street. With 17 locations across the country it’s one of the more established and recognized cannabis retailers. I’ll begin by saying I’ve never before had an issue with customer service or product from any of their Vancouver locations.As I walked into the store, I noticed a staggering divide between customers. There were the gutsy experts, pressed right up to the glass showcases inspecting the bins of bud for their next purchase. Behind these seasoned cannabis hunters were what looked like several timid newcomers.I decided then to conduct a little experiment.I joined the group of apprehensive onlookers and waited to be ushered up to the counter. It didn’t happen. Finally, after growing a little bored with my test, I approached one of the budtenders and asked: “what is your most popular sativa?” to which it looked like I might have zapped the poor girl with a stun gun. She stood there scanning the glass case in front of her and finally pulled out a white bin full of pre-packaged baggies of weed.“Well, it would be this one,” she said. “But we’re out of single grams.”Odd, as I hadn’t asked for single grams…but I decided to try again. “Okay,” I responded. “What’s your second most popular sativa?”She grabbed another bin and handed me one gram of…something.“And why do people like this one so much?” And this was the part that threw me off.“Well,” she paused. “Because of its uplifting effects.” That’s it. Then she began to walk to the cash register.To clarify my dismay at this lifeless response: saying a specific sativa strain is popular merely for its “uplifting effects” is like saying you enjoy your rare vanilla-infused Peruvian dark roast because it has caffeine in it. I had to stop myself from releasing my inner Cher Horowitz from Clueless: “well…duh.”I was left dramatically shy of the amount of knowledge one should be provided with when buying a strain for medical or recreational purposes. I knew nothing about the effect it would provide, the strain’s lineage, the scent or flavour profile or what other consumers use it for. She never asked what I needed it for, and if I were new to the cannabis market, I wouldn’t have known to ask. Frankly, up until this point I didn’t even know the name of what I was about to buy.
Saying a specific sativa strain is popular merely for its “uplifting effects” is like saying you enjoy your rare vanilla-infused Peruvian dark roast because it has caffeine in it.
I looked down at the bag in my hand and it was a gram of Jack Herer…one of the most popular strains in the world. Taking its namesake from a legendary activist, the genetic formula for this strain is a guarded secret. It has won nine Cannabis Cup titles and is celebrated for its variety of medical applications. The sales pitch practically writes itself!Luckily, I hadn’t tried it before and it was on the top of my list.I hurried home to pack a bowl full of my new purchase, still slightly bothered by my lacklustre retail experience. To my surprise, it was relatively odourless, save a very light spicy and citrusy scent. It was incredibly easy to smoke, with a cooling and rather flavourless pull. I was expecting a sweet aftertaste, but instead found it was herbal, like sage and green tea. The head high was fast-acting and hit me almost immediately after I smoked, and a very soft body high followed soon after.I made the mistake of trying it for the first time at night while binge-watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Not a great idea. I became irritable, bored, and underwhelmed by the effects of this supposedly infamous strain.When I smoked up again the next day, however, I discovered it had all the elements of the ideal wake-and-bake weed. It delivers stimulation and a boost in mental focus without that excess sativa energy that can leave you jittery or inspired to run up the Grind.Jack Herer is a great strain for newcomers. For tried and true stoners, it may come off as a little underwhelming. I found it lacking in strength. I realized, however, that this may be the magic of the strain. Thinking back to when I first started experimenting with different hybrids, I would try something that was way too powerful or unbalanced and it would almost throw me off my whole journey. This allows you to remain active and functional, while softening tension in your body and giving you just enough of a boost to enhance what you’re doing.All of this I discovered at my own risk. Had I needed it for a specific purpose, it would have been a blind trial-and-error experiment.Moral of the story: be a responsible consumer. This is a burgeoning industry meaning there are little in the way of standards and testing for budtenders. For every amazing encounter I have had with a knowledgeable and passionate retailer, I have had a poor experience with an ill-equipped one. Know your body, research the product and don’t be afraid to keep asking questions until you find the right answer.
The breakdown: $11 per gran, Weeds, 1108 Richards St.