By Jimi Devine, Ellen Holland, and Matt Jackson
It’s tough to make it in weed these days, but these brands show us that they can survive and thrive. Here are the cannabis companies that came out on top for us in 2023.
These solventless rosin edibles break the mold of traditional gummy flavors through the incorporation of tropical fruits. Created by Natura and available in California, Dee Thai is the brainchild of Josh Schmidt, Natura’s vice president of business development. Schmidt grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and loved eating Asian candy and collecting baseball cards as a child. Two of Natura’s brands, Dee Thai and Sluggers (pre-rolls designed to look like the flashy Upper Deck baseball card packs), invoke a nostalgia factor in respect to Schmidt’s youth.
Originally envisioned as a CBD edible, after saying “CBD” so many times it clicked for Schmidt that “dee” in Thai means “good.” Dee Thai incorporates his longtime connections with Thailand, and started with six flavors: mangosteen, guava, lychee, pineapple, mango, and jackfruit.
“Exotic is everything in cannabis and marketing and these were like the most exotic fruits,” Schmidt says.
A few of the gummy flavors represent partnerships with other brands such as Your Highness and West Coast Alchemy. The papaya gummy crafted with Kalya Extracts rosin that we taste tested was true to the musky taste of papaya and resulted in a potent stone. Dee Thai has also expanded to offer hash-infused joints and blunts as well as vape pens.
This year the brand was on hand at the Outside Lands and BottleRock music festivals. In terms of brand recognition Dee Thai also capitalizes on the weed world’s expanding interest in Thailand, which sprouted an overnight industry after the government removed cannabis flowers from its list of prohibited narcotics in June 2022. -EH
Fig Farms continues winning over the hearts and lungs of the cannabis-smoking public with their award-winning flowers. In 2023 the family-owned cannabis company took first place in indoor flower at The Emerald Cup—a competition that up until a few years ago only judged cannabis grown outdoors. That same night, they changed the face of The Emerald Cup all together when Blue Face went on to win Best in Show.
That accomplishment came courtesy of serious professional pot-smoking judges—including our own Jon Cappetta—but Fig Farms also celebrated a whole different kind of competition success this year with a first place for indica flower for Blue Face at the High Times Cannabis Cup SoCal: People’s Choice competition. The People’s Choice is judged by, well, the people.
Fig Farms is constantly popping off single-plant testers of new strain possibilities. Included in an assortment of Z crosses they’ve recently been experimenting with is a Figment x Z. Its aroma expresses the dank gas from the Figment (Purple Fig x Animal Mints 199 #4) with a bit of bergamot citrus essence from the Z. This strain is incredibly frosty. I broke it up and really shouldn’t even be typing right now, there are trichomes in my keyboard and my fingers risk sticking to the keys.
Fig Farms expanded to Illinois in 2022 and plans to soon offer seeds of their award-winning genetics. -EH
A legendary New York name that’s begun to ring out again in the streets. This year GOAT Global in Los Angeles helped launch the California dispensary line for Gotti, the cannabis brand built by the family of iconic mob figure John Gotti.
This team came onto the scene last year and, since then, has created lasting relationships with West Coast figures like Deep East, Greendawg, and Blueprint. They’ve built a lot of traction through releases of their Blue Sapphire, Zattie, and Seabiscuit. This last example is one that helped them win a coveted spot in the Transbay Challenge qualifying event in Los Angeles. The story of this strain is pretty incredible.
Originally this Zkittlez x Zoap was bred by Deep East for Greendawg. They ended up keeping two phenotypes from that batch but the rest were going to get chucked out the window. The team at Gotti were on the hunt for new cuts when they heard about this #25 pheno that was up for grabs if they wanted to save it. This special strain which also took honors as a part of the recent Zalympics box, was the jump off point for the relationship between Deep East and Gotti. -MJ
Over this last year, Have Hash has been dominating the game and adding to the overwhelming legacy of Humboldt County hashmakers. With trophies from Cannafest, Transbay Challenge, King of Z Hill, Northern California Rosin Championship, Ego Clash, Pure Melt’s Melt Down, and Europe’s Masters of Rosin, it’s getting hard to keep up with the ways they’re breaking hearts and taking names.
Despite only having an 800-square-foot facility, the partnerships Have Hash formed with a select number of NorCal farms like Mendoja Farms, Booney Acres, and Pop Stops Growing have given the brand a strong product that’s managed to get them singled out by hash judges worldwide. Right now, Have Hash’s owner Jacob said he’s concentrating on creating exciting seasonal drops instead of offering smokers a never-ending faucet of rosin flavors (something he sees as a big flaw in the hash market). For this recent release they’ve dropped new jars like Mochi, Uvas y Crema, and Pleazure, which they made happen through fostering a collaboration between Mendo Mikey and Mendoja Farms.
Since starting in 2015, the goal for Have Hash has been to bring the kind of quality we see on the trap market over to the recreational side, something that seems to be an award-winning concept for them (literally). -MJ
In the oncoming storm of psilocybin companies, Mycology Oakland has proven on a wildly different level than its peers.
In its hometown of Oakland, California there are probably about 30 to 40 mushroom chocolate entities now in operation. I’ve tried most of them—The Clout Boy stuff, Deadhead bars, Save the Planet bars, the whole nine yards. Nothing comes remotely close to the impact of a Myco bar. The brand is also building recognition with cool merchandise, including a peyote-covered bag.
In the age of fentanyl, mushrooms have turned into more of a party drug over the last few years. People dose enough to stay up all night laughing and partying but not enough to talk to God unless they accidentally take enough. This actually happened to me with a Myco Oakland 4 gram cookies and cream bar.
I had previously been splitting a chocolate bar over the course of the night at festivals. After nine or so of these adventures across different chocolate bars I thought I was dialed in. Then I ran into half of a Myco bar. I ended up somewhere between Jupiter and Saturn and went back to the tent to chill for an hour. After I came down a pinch I went exploring until 4 a.m. It was awesome. -JD
There is a legitimate argument to be made that Preferred Gardens is the best indoor cultivator on both coasts. Oh wait, we didn’t even mention they probably have the best mixed-light product in California. These realities have led to a lot of respect across the board for the company.
The dedication to excellence in flowers has turned Preferred into one of the most mom-and-pop multistate operators out there. Much of the workload on the cultivation side is handled by the founder David Polley, while his wife Nicki oversees the books and takes care of the actual business side of things.
The last few years of growth at Preferred were backboned by mixed-light cannabis, which means it was grown light-deprivation style, during which the cultivator uses tarps and supplemental lighting to maintain a steady light cycle. Those $35 eighths that Preferred is pumping to the stores that are lucky enough to be on their list are gold, but now their indoor is in the mix.
Florida won the race to Preferred’s indoor, but it has finally dropped in California and we’re thrilled with the results as they included one of the best renditions of Zoap yet seen by the marketplace.
Preferred also just built out a massive new mixed-light facility. Expect to see even more of their flowers available across America as time rolls on. -JD
Based in Detroit, Michigan, Pressure Pack caught our eye for both their flowers and their concentrates. Their collaboration with North Coast brought wins in our Cannabis Cup Michigan: People’s Choice Edition 2023 competition for a Blue Zorbet hash rosin, a Lemon Rain infused donut pre-roll and another pre-roll filled with one of our 2022 strains of the year, Permanent Marker. Pressure Pack has a few growing facilities and works hard to ensure its flowers are top notch. Its Orange Bomb, exploding with bright tangerine citrus aromas, was awarded second place for sativa flower.
“We work really hard to try and get the best product because we only want to enjoy the best products,” cultivator Ian says. “I come from a medical background and so, for me, I use cannabis in a medical sense. I use the entourage effect to its full nature. I try to maximize the output that the plants will allow us.”
Look out for Pressure Pack newest offering which jumps in on a certified weed smoking trend, hand-rolled hash holes. -EH
Every year Puffco hits us with new devices, firmware tweaks, and general improvements to their products from generation to generation. The most famous being back in 2020 when they totally rebuilt the atomizer on their flagship Peak device.
It’s been eight years since Puffco dropped the Plus. A lot of people would still put the Plus right at or near the top of the list for the dab pen format. There was a period of time before the Peak dropped when the best extractors in the world all used the Plus, but then we saw the Peak drop in 2018 and it changed the game. The Pro model dropped in 2020, and then this year we saw the launch of the upgraded Pro Model, Puffco’s best hardware yet for its famed electronic dab rig.
While the new Peak Pro model was nice, it’s hard to argue that the new XL 3D chamber won’t be the biggest release of the year for them. The new giant atomizer is the company’s hardest hitting yet. It starts with the 3D chamber tech that was first designed for the Proxy and eventually made its way to the Peak. They essentially upgraded the size one more time and produced an absolute ripper in the process.
Ripping a fat glob of hash in the XL chamber on max vapor mode will do wonders for your sinuses and soul. -JD
The Ten Co.
By now, everyone has heard about the legendary Blue Zushi rosin that shocked the whole community by going for an unheard of price of $500 a gram. These buckets, which reached a new high water mark for the cannabis industry, were an amazing lightning in a bottle situation for The Ten Co. but there’s so much more to this brand than the hype of the hash.
Coming to Los Angeles by way of London, creator Staks and his partner Gerry have brought consumers to their knees with the Blue, Yellow, and Pink versions of Zushi (all combos of Zkittlez and Kush Mints), along with Wazabi, Zoyi, Wagyu, and Tenbanger. These bright bags with their playful, manga-style characters have inspired more than a few other designs and drawn crowds who claim The Ten Co.’s flower to be some of the best they’ve ever smoked.
Back in 2019 people were going crazy for Zushi and the past few years have done nothing to slake that thirst with prices going buck wild on both coasts. -MJ
West Coast Alchemy
It’s hard to say if anyone else in the game right now has a higher output or longer reach than West Coast Alchemy. Even message boards out in Europe are filled with people trying to figure out what jars to try and cop.
These guys push an impressive amount of jars out a day and never seem to have any problems dropping new flavors and cutting edge single-origin cultivars. Though finding them online might take wading through a pool of fakes, these jars never fail to deliver on flavor since they partner with some of the best names in the scene right now.
The recent drops with Pure Melt have been incredible and worth the hunt for scooping a couple jars. -MJ
This story was originally published in the December 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.