At first glance, Southern California is one of the most gorgeous places on Earth, with its glitz, glamour, and beaches as far as the eye can see. But in reality, the lower half of California is a dry and unforgiving desert, one in which cannabis — and most other vegetation — struggles to thrive.
Luckily, just a short flight or long scenic drive up the coast is all that stands between Southern Californians and the best sun-grown marijuana farms in the world. While the cannabis that’s grown indoors around the country may look enticing, there is still nothing quite like the real deal.
But what if, like me, you don’t have the time to make the trek up to Northern California to tour hundreds of top-notch cultivators looking for your perfect match? That’s where the Emerald Exchange comes in.
The third annual Emerald Exchange took place in Malibu this weekend, gathering some of NorCal’s finest growers and SoCal’s most passionate connoisseurs in one picturesque locale to experience the best the Emerald Triangle has to offer. The Emerald Exchange was created as a way to connect NorCal-based cultivators of sun-grown cannabis with a Southern California market hungry for quality product grown with care.
SoCal residents are known for being quite particular about what products they use or put in their body, so why would it be any different when it comes to their weed?
Sitting in traffic for nearly two hours on the way to Malibu made me exponentially more excited to spend a day in the beautiful Thousand Oaks countryside sampling Mother Nature’s most popular produce. Once we made it up the windy mountainside to the Emerald Exchange grounds, beautiful handcrafted art and friendly farm animals offered constant escapes from the hustle and bustle of Greater Los Angeles that allowed us to truly feel like we were on an Emerald Triangle vacation.
The view of the surrounding landscape was breathtaking, especially after a dab of some Sativa live resin upon entry to really make the colors pop. Shades of purple and orange were strewn across the sky as if somebody “up there” was trying to emulate the magnificent flower we were witnessing at every turn.
My goal for the day was to soak up as much knowledge about Northern California cannabis culture as I could, and the Emerald Exchange had organized a full schedule of experts — the Speaker’s Panel was my first stop. I stumbled into a discussion on cannabis appellations, which was both a completely new concept to me and immensely fascinating.
Justin Calvino, an experienced marijuana cultivator and Co-Founder of the event, was explaining how a zoning process utilized by the wine industry for hundreds, if not thousands, of years could benefit the cannabis farming industry greatly. The process of appellation, where a defined geographical location gets legal protection for its crops based on farming history, ecological characteristics of the land, growing techniques, and a wide range of other factors, was started by wine vineyards to ensure that standards were maintained worldwide. For example, any bottle that bears the title of “champagne” must be made with grapes from the historical province of Champagne in the northeast of France. Otherwise, it’s simply sparkling wine. Calvino and others involved with the Mendocino Appellation Project believe the unique soil profile and climates of certain areas of the Emerald Triangle warrant their own appellation to prevent farms in other locales from using terms like “Humboldt,” “Mendocino,” or “Emerald Triangle” to market their products.
The concept makes a lot of sense, and with more and more individuals starting home grows, you can understand why these farmers would want to protect what they believe to be a superior product compared to what’s available elsewhere.
After listening to a number of informative panels, I was ready to sample some of the NorCal exports I had heard so much about. However, as I hiked up the hill to the summit, there were a number of attractions along the way that called for a momentary detour.
The Healing Lounge offered a selection of deeply relaxing massages and sound therapy to allow you to fully immerse yourself in the tranquil surroundings, the perfect rest stop after a long hike and a sampling of cannabis concentrates. A Healing Yurt across the way offered essential oil treatments and Canna Yoga sessions for those looking for an infused stretch. My next stop on my way to the Emerald Exchange’s crown jewel attraction was the 99 Hightide Movie Tent, where cannabis-enthused filmmakers proudly displayed their work to a tent full of pleasantly content moviegoers indulging in the finest Indicas the Exchange had to offer. My medicated popcorn and I stuck around to watch a movie called “Trim” in its entirety and sit in on a Q&A session with the film’s Director. The film focused on the crucial role women play within the cannabis industry, from farming to positions at the executive level, and how companies like Women Grow are empowering women from all around the world to embrace the marijuana industry and get involved.
Before I sunk into my movie seat for the rest of the night, I slipped out of the tent and continued my quest to the event’s holy grail: The Farmer’s Market.
The Emerald Market was unlike anything I had ever laid my eyes upon — or my nose, for that matter. Each booth represented a small farm from the Emerald Triangle eager to bestow the products of their hard work upon willing visitors. While some of the vendors portrayed the chilled-out Humboldt County vibes I had envisioned prior to the event, others were pitching revolutionary ideas and products that would surely flourish in the southern half of the state’s cannabis industry if given the chance. Regardless of the booth, one thing was abundantly clear — each of these companies cares immensely about the products they create, whether they grow just a couple strains on a few acres or have visions of providing medicine to the masses.
The Market was peppered with live performance artists and musicians to set the mood, and plenty of consumption stations to ensure everyone could sample the best products NorCal had to offer.
After trying almost every sample I brought home over the last 48 hours, there were some definite standouts among the vendors.
As far as the total package is concerned, Canndescent won Best in Show in my eyes. The innovative cannabis brand creates unique proprietary strains built around a number of different end-user experiences. For example, the “Cruise” strain will help you “keep up the pace, relax your mind, and sail through the day,” while the “Create” strain is better suited for those looking to “paint, jam, code, blog or game.” Not only are Canndescent strains expertly tailored to an individual smoker but their packaging is next-level. The eighth of “Connect” I received included a beautiful box that contained a high-end jar filled with flower, a pack of king-size rolling papers and crutches affixed with a magnet to keep it closed when not in use, a pack of matches, and a hemp wick. It was the first time I had seen such a complete package presented so beautifully and efficiently.
Beautiful packaging aside, there were more farms with incredible products than I can ever dream of including, so I’ll highlight some of the absolute best.
In terms of flower, the best samples I tried throughout the day were Spire Ridge’s Blueberry Afghan, Sunnabis Farm’s AK-47, and Humboldt Brothers’ Blue Cookies. These three strains not only looked impeccably grown and manicured but smoked amazingly, too. If you can find any of these strains in a dispensary near you, I encourage you to stock up before the word gets out.
Now, I just have to figure out how to make all of these samples last until next year’s Emerald Exchange.