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Grape Cake—Preferred Gardens, CA, spring 2023

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92 points out of 100

Spring 2023

Price: $37/eighth

California-based Preferred Gardens have built their reputation on high-caliber affordable flower, and their rendition of Seed Junky’s Grape Cake (Grape Stomper x Cherry Pie x Wedding Cake) exemplifies the quality of their work. The majority of the weight in this jar was carried by one giant bud, absolutely coated in a dense layer of egg cream-colored trichomes that obscure the forest green and aubergine calyxes underneath.

Cracking it open inundates the nose with the scent of sweet grape, with a floral cherry-esque underpinning. The nose translates well to the smoke, as the exhale has a rich, sweet, and musty grape that lingers momentarily on the tongue. It’s a deliciously heavy indica-hybrid smoke that functions well as a nightcap—its powerful sedative qualities will have you headed to bed in no time.

Preferred Gardens packaging. (Courtesy West Coast Weed Reviews)

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About our ratings

Leafly Ratings’ 100-Point Scale

  • 95-100 Perfect: exemplary cannabis
  • 90-94 Outstanding: a cannabis product of superior character and style
  • 85-89 Very good: a weed with special qualities
  • 80-84 Good: a solid, well-made weed
  • 75-79 Mediocre: a smokeable weed that may have minor flaws
  • 50-74 Not recommended

How we rate

Dried, cured, packaged, and sold buds, reviewed from bag in tastings, are given a single score. We focus on aroma, taste, effect, look, pedigree, cultivation method, and more.
Special Designations
Our editors focus on excellent, widely available ganja at a reasonable price. Special qualities include:

Top-shelf: It ain’t cheap, or necessarily plentiful, but it’s really good. Welcome to the top shelf.
Smart Buys: Fine, affordable, broadly available pot.

Leafly News cannabis ratings and ethics

Leafly News aims to retain and expand its expertise, authority, and trust.

Expertise is built through years of reviews, interviews with growers, visits to weed regions, and accumulated knowledge about cannabis horticulture, flavors, history, and culture. Leafly News’ editors and freelancers have a combined 50 years of experience with cannabis.
We aim to be accurate and independent, with policies including:

  1. Actual tastings—If we didn’t smoke it, we’re not reviewing it. At Leafly Ratings, all ratings come from multiple tastings.
  2. Independence—Leafly expert reviewers are paid by Leafly and are independent. We accept review samples with no promise of coverage. Leafly rating staff cannot accept bribes. We generally pay our own expenses and report on what the readers want to see.



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California

Leafly Buzz: 14 hot California pre-rolls of Summer

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Summer plans have kicked into high gear, and that means ready-to-go pre-rolled joints for pit stops, dog walks, inner tubing—you name it.

But getting a good pre-roll is as dicey as getting a good hot dog. There’s a lot of low-grade stuff out there, and most folks struggle to make better choices when everything’s all shrink-wrapped in a pretty package.

Fear not, Leafly Nation. Your editor hit 60 pre-rolls as a 2024 Emerald Cup pre-roll judge this month—for science and the good of mankind. The results are in for the Emerald Cup Awards Show in August in Oakland. Tickets are $65, but you need not wait to start cutting the line of trashy joints and share a puff of something good.

Nearly everyone asked me this month: How do you even judge all those pre-rolls? They learned a lot about how they, too, can smoke at a higher level. 

So now it’s your turn to upgrade your pre-roll buying game and win the summer sesh. Here’s seven key judging tips, with associated picks.

Some non-infused joints to judge. For science. (David Downs/Leafly)

Pass on old rolls

A joint with a packaging date from a year ago might have some value—but the odds are stacked against it. Weed is a plant that loses potency and flavor over time. Maybe that year-old doob tube has been kept in cryo-stasis like a space marine. But if it’s been sitting on a shelf at room temps for months—that’s a Dead Sea Roll. Musty and dusty.

A group that has to pump out affordable rolls on the regular is Sunset Connect here in San Francisco—famous for their “fivers” which are just $5. Sunset Connect is one of the biggest pre-roll sellers in California, and that velocity equals freshness. Even fresher, they’re starting to grow their own.

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Check the seal

The best parts of weed are the flavorful, volatile, essential oils called terpenes that boil off at room temperature. An astoundingly large number of pre-roll containers do not fully seal—meaning that pack is leaking your terps all over the store. A fresh pack that leaks will still hit tasty, but the clock is ticking on any weed product exposed to oxygen, and thus degradation. 

For example, Solful’s in-house rolls are so fresh, you needn’t care about a little leakage. (See the date tip above.) But a lot of the unsealed joints we got tasted like hay by the time we smoked them. So frustrating. All it takes is a classic doob tube with a plastic seal to better lock in freshness. Pick up Alef Labs’ brand pre-rolls for an admirable seal to get and smoke the terps you paid for.

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Sniff the popped jar

OK, so you got a fresh, sealed joint. What does it smell like? Pop the top and take a big, long sniff—it should smell inviting. 

The CAM Cherry Marker hash hole smelled like cherry. 

The Talking Trees farms Lemon Royale smelled like lemons. 

The Most Wanted brand Hogwash Farms Whitethorn Rose has this delicate rose water note. If the terps are in the weed, they will be in the jar when you pop it. If it smells, flat, or musty—you have chosen poorly.

Take a dry hit

Take the joint out and take some un-lit puffs on the end. This is called a dry hit, and it’s a great way to assess the amount of flavor to expect. The Weedlove brand Stoney Point Glitter Bomb had this great dry hit of grape candy. If the dry hit is flat, or smells like hay—you’re gonna have a bad time. See also: Heritage Hash Co. Honey Bananas x Zerealz Infused Preroll Pack.

Take a minute to inspect the roll

Fine craftsmanship in the Rosin Tech Labs hash hole. (David Downs/Leafly)
Fine craftsmanship in the Rosin Tech Labs hash hole. (David Downs/Leafly)

Mass-manufactured weed is still pretty medieval. A lot of hands have to touch the plant and paper to get each one of those legions of joints to market. 

Squeeze the joint and check the packing density. 

Wiggle the crutch to assess the firmness of the pack near the tip. 

Does the joint look beat up, or like some sleek marvel? 

We were thoroughly amazed by the craftsmanship in the Rosin Tech Labs line of hash holes. We simply do not know how they crank out these works of art.

Also—look out for ‘angel kisses’—patches of the paper that are a different shade, because the oil content of the bud has seeped a bit into the paper. Oil content is a great thing. You know like when pizza leaves an oil stain on a paper plate—angel kisses are a little like that, only desirable.

Smoke that thang

Enough with the preamble—give the joint the fire test. Light it up with a bit of hemp wick (if you’re a purist) and get a good hot cherry going at the end. Take a five-second inhale, rotate the joint, then another, and another. The rotation prevents runs. The short inhales prevent the cherry from overheating. Hold the joint cherry down for an optimal burn, according to the connoisseurs at Proper Doinks

Obviously, it should taste like it smelled in the jar and the dry hit, only better. A great joint will be lip-smacking good, and here’s where I want to give a shout out to living soil growers Moon Valley Cannabis and their in-house line of pre-rolls.

Research award-winning growers that make their own pre-rolls—as opposed to no-grow brands buying trimmings from someone else’s floor. The Moon Valley Cannabis brand Hashburger and Grape Gas offered precise, deep strain flavor in a pre-roll package. When the terps are there, you get lifted in a completely different way.

Watch it burn

(David Downs/Leafly)

Does it go out and need relighting? Does it hold up to a little breeze? Is the ash white? Is there a ‘resin ring’ above the cherry? 

The burn can tell you more about how the joint was packed. The ash color can offer information about what was burning. A lot of people swear by white ash, but it’s just a signal. A resin ring offers information on the terpene content. All of those data points can amplify or subtract from the score of a pre-roll. 

The Dunkz brand of hash holes has some sick collaborations with rosin brands like Kalya. We love everything about the way they burned.

Check in with yourself

How does the joint make you feel? This might be the most important part. We smoked some very synthetic, solvent-infused rolls with fake flavors and solvent hash, and we felt straight dysphoric. That’s a clinical word for ‘bad.’

By contrast, the tiny Selfies 12-pack of Black Jack didn’t distinguish themselves at first glance. But we smoked the whole pack over a week walking around in New York City. The Black Jack sativa hybrid high puts a nice sparkle on everything, and we can genuinely say we got lifted in a nice way off the super-short, hilariously tiny dogwalkers. Similarly, we loved the way the Humble Greens Passion Orange Guava felt, and we got keyed on the Humo Churritos 7-Pack of 0.5g Infused Pre-Rolls.

See also: De La Bo brand joints.

Related

All of 2023’s Cannabis Cup winners and where to buy them

Judging the Emerald Cup pre-rolls showed how the range of quality in pre-rolls is so massive, your mileage can really vary. With so many brands, it’s bewildering to find one you love that’s consistent.

Here’s a shortcut, look for the brands in the winner’s circle at The Emerald Cup awards ceremony this August. The industry expert judges raked the entrants over the coals and subjected them to unreal levels of scrutiny. The winners will surely have the gas to go the distance. 

We hope to see you out there, smoking some good-good in that hot summer sun.


About Leafly Buzz

So good they steal it—the popular, monthly strain review roundup Leafly Buzz is in its third year. We report independently on the connoisseur cannabis conversation, focusing on strains and branded flower of the US West. Reporting includes:

  • review samples
  • dispensary shopping
  • grow visits
  • events
  • Leafly search data
  • staff and reader tips, and more

Read back issues of Leafly Buzz





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California

Legal Marijuana Expands As Hard Crime Drops

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The claim crime will increase when you legalize weed was a major talking point, but it seems it doesn’t have the data to back it

Over 50% of the country has access to legal marijuana now. Ohio and Delaware will start selling from state licensed dispensaries this year.  Even Florida, the largest nanny state, is voting for full recreational cannabis sales and has 66% public approval.  But what about the claim allowing access to marijuana will increase crime?  Well, data shows legal marijuana expands as hard crime drops.

RELATED: California or New York, Which Has The Biggest Marijuana Mess

Data released in June 2024 from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) show violent crime from January to March dropped 15.2% compared to the same period in 2023, while murders fell 26.4% and reported rapes decreased by 25.7%. Aggravated assaults decreased during the period when compared to the previous year by 12.5%, according to the data. Robberies fell 17.8% and burglaries by 16.7%. Property crime decreased 15.1%,  while motor vehicle theft decreased by 17.3%. The declines in violent and property crimes were seen in every region of the US.

Photo by Sarah Pender/Getty Images

This follows a trend from last year with crime dropping in the United States. Which makes the marijuana increase crime an an odd talking point saying how legal marijuana will increase crime, but it has not played out. Both local and national trends show a drop and studies have said cannabis doesn’t increase crime.

“We have consistently seen that more access to legal cannabis not only does not increase crime, but it can reduce it. A study in Colorado showed an additional dispensary in a neighborhood led to a reduction of 17 crimes per month per 10,000 residents, which corresponds to roughly a 19 percent decline relative to the average crime rate over the sample period.” shared Jesse Redmond, Managing Director, Water Tower Research, a leading firm in the cannabis industry.

These numbers do not mean the cannabis industry is clean, do gooders.  California is still struggling with a robust black market hammering the legal one. California has burdened licensed companies with multiple high taxes, fees and almost zero help in reducing the black market. The Golden states weed farmers have been shipping products to New York’s mess despite it being clearly against the law.

RELATED: Was There Marijuana In The Old West

New York also seems to be fostering a white collar crime spree with their failed rollout of recreational marijuana.  The states abrupt changed, at the last minute, the process to license legitimate dispensaries and business in the states has created grief, lawsuits, crushed mom and pop dreams and over 1,500 healthy unlicensed, illicit dispensaries in New York City. The state is still grappling with how to fix the mess, but isn’t having much success.  As of this writing, the state has only managed to provide under 100 licensed stores who are competing with a vast number of competitors who don’t have the same tax burden.

 



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Anne Milgram

Will Merrick Garland Help Or Hinder Marijuana Rescheduling

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Attorney General Merrick Garland upended the residential real estate industry, so what will he do to the budding cannabis market.

In the last election, then candidate Biden promised to help the cannabis industry.  It took a while and only as he runs for reelection has the administration made any significant progress.  Just late month, the DEA started the feedback process to reschedule marijuana. It would be a boon to the struggling industry, a benefit to patients, and a big help to veterans with PTSD.  But, as the US Attorney General, will Merrick Garland help or hinder marijuana rescheduling?

RELATED: California or New York, Which Has The Biggest Marijuana Mess

Garland has a reputation for collegiality and meticulous legal reasoning. He has spent most of time in courts deals with regulatory issues which gives him a strong base to understand how rules and regulations can have a powerful impact on day to day business. He is highly circumspect and grasps each how rulings can make significant changes. Garland has the power to reschedule marijuana, and, considering the agencies recommending it be done, it would be unprecedented for him not to.

Garland’s ruling on residential real estate upended the industry.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) falls directly under Garland…and they pushed back on Health and Human Services (HHS) recommendation to reschedule. In its decision, HHS acknowledged cannabis has medical benefits.  It also noted the risks to the public health posed by marijuana are low compared to other drugs of abuse,” such as heroin (Schedule I), cocaine (Schedule II), benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax (Schedule IV), and alcohol (unscheduled). Although “abuse of marijuana produces clear evidence of harmful consequences, including substance use disorder,” HHS said, they are “less common and less harmful” than the negative consequences associated with other drugs. It concluded that “the vast majority of individuals who use marijuana are doing so in a manner that does not lead to dangerous outcomes to themselves or others.

But the DEA was reluctant and Garland used his authority to move the process forward. In a wonky move, The proposed rule was posted by the DEA, and it has a DEA docket number, but it is signed by Garland rather than DEA Administrator Anne Milgram.  This clearly shows the Attorney General is having a larger interest than leaving it to just the DEA.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently released most major crimes are on the decline in 2024, which follows the trend from 2023. On of the reason used to stop marijuana legalization is the potential increase in crime, which the FBI proven isn’t true. In addition, the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries are being supportive of the change.

RELATED: Was There Marijuana In The Old West

As a wonk, Garland seems to understand modern marijuana is on a pathway of acceptance.  While not a cheerleader, he seems in respect the recommendations, the science and the process.



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