Does Nevada Grow the Best Cannabis in the Nation?

(Robert Kachelriess for Leafly)

Chris Vickers worked at an Arizona dispensary for about five years before moving to Las Vegas. Once he arrived, something was immediately obvious: the weed was a lot better.

“I think Nevada is doing a great job as far as quality goes,” says Vickers, now general manager of The+Source, a dispensary with locations in both Vegas and Henderson. “One thing that’s uniquely different is the testing requirements compared to a lot of other states.”

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If Nevada doesn’t have the best cannabis in the country, it’s up there. “Right now, I’d group Nevada and Massachusetts at the top with California a close second and Oregon behind that,” says Lori Glauser, co-founder and director of EVIO Labs, a company that conducts cannabis testing in the U.S. and Canada.

As legalized cannabis becomes more commonplace throughout the country, most states are following similar guidelines for potency, pesticides and potentially harmful chemicals like residual solvents. But in Nevada, a lot of small things are adding up to help the Silver State stand out in a country increasingly more likely to light up.

(Courtesy of The+Source)

“The testing is more rigorous,” says Glauser. “For example, Nevada requires pretty much everything California requires, but the batch sizes are smaller. In California, we only have to test one sample for every 50 pounds of flower and in Nevada, it’s a much smaller amount.”

The typical buyer tends to focus on THC and CBD percentages, but Nevada also tests for e coli, salmonella, and aspergillus as well as heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, and mercury. In addition, terpene content is analyzed, which carries value beyond flavor and aroma.

“There is a body of literature and understanding that those flavor components can have medicinal benefits,” adds Glauser. “In certain profiles like limonene or linalool — citrus flavors versus lavender flavors — one might be more energetic while one might be more sedative.”

“Some of these compounds are believed to have benefits at the molecular level,” adds Dr. Kevin Marchitto, lab director for MM Labs. “Cannabis has over 200 terpenes and probably about a dozen of them have been studied by clinicians. There’s still a large amount of anecdotal evidence that these have medicinal benefits for anxiety, pain, or depression.”

MM Labs is one of 10 labs currently licensed by Nevada — four in Las Vegas, four in unincorporated Clark County, and two in Sparks — to test cannabis before it can be legally sold. The state has strict regulations on not only the products themselves, but the labs who actually do the testings.

“There’s an annual inspection, but there are surprise inspections every now and then,” says Dr. Marchitto. “They’re looking at microbiology tests, for example, to make sure they’re able to pick up and identify any organisms that might be contaminating marijuana.”

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A laboratory represents a significant investment, not just on the license itself but also the equipment. “Many of our instrumentation pieces run from $50,000 to 150,000,” adds Dr. Matchitto. “It’s a very costly endeavor. A specialized laboratory has exhaust, temperature, and humidity controls — all of that is very tightly regulated.”

Nevada labs also follow something called GLP or “good laboratory practice,” which is recognized as a very high set of standards for clinical or pharmaceutical science. By the end of the year, labs in the state will be compliant with an even stricter designation (ISO/IEC 17025) by the International Standards Organization.

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The latest numbers show Nevada collected $7.11 million in taxes off $43.74 million in recreational sales in May alone. As more dispensaries open and demand for cannabis increases, so will the demand for quality labs. More licenses will be offered as increased tax revenue comes in, making labs more competitive with one another.

“Cultivators like to have their testing done within five days of submitting a sample,” says Dr. Matcitto. “In other states where there haven’t been enough licenses issued, like Oregon, they can take two or three weeks and sometimes longer. That’s very frustrating for the cultivator because they have all their money tied up on the shelf.”

Nevada is very progressive when it comes to cannabis. ... In many ways, it's leading the country and showing the country how a regulated cannabis industry can work. So obviously, for all those reason, we wanted to be here.
Daniel Yi, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for MedMen

Nevada’s testing requirements aren’t unique when counted individually. But add them all up, and it’s hard to find a more comprehensive scope of standards. MM Labs has even begun experimenting with flavonoid testing, although it’s not required by the state — at least not yet.

“Nevada is very progressive when it comes to cannabis,” says Daniel Yi, senior vice president of corporate communications for MedMen. “In many ways, it’s leading the country and showing the country how a regulated cannabis industry can work. So obviously, for all those reason, we wanted to be here.”

MedMen had dispensaries in California and New York before opening its first Nevada locations, including one Downtown, a pop-up in North Las Vegas, and another on the way near the airport. The company is looking at Florida next. Yi says for the industry to succeed, testing has to be consistent across the board — and Nevada’s regulations reflect that philosophy.

(Courtesy of Medmen)

“It’s the same cannabis,” he points out. “Whether you’re using it to treat chronic pain and anxiety or relax with your friends at a family barbecue, it’s the same plant.”

“I’ve only seen an increase in the quality in Nevada.” adds Chris Vickers of The+Source. “As more licenses have been granted, I think there’s been more of a demand for higher terpene profiles in the flower, which has driven a lot of people to find more quality strains and find more quality product.”

Five Cannabis Producers You Must Try in Nevada

So what’s the best home-grown cannabis to sample the next time you’re in Vegas, Reno, or any other part of the Silver State? Here are a few suggestions.

Kynd

Kynd likes to emphasize its variety of products, whether you want to sink into the couch with a heavy high or take on the great outdoors — just ask the in-house “athlete team” that includes a long distance runner and pro-level mountain bike rider. If you want to skip the butane, Kynd has earned raves for its CO2 Sap, critically extracted with a full spectrum of cannabinoids. The Matanuska Thunder Fuck (MTF) is a top-selling fan favorite, with a delicate floral taste and an undertone of earthiness mixed with a euphoric sense of purpose to begin a productive day.

Cannavative

When Nevada first allowed dispensaries for medical use, Cannavative did a nice job of putting together a CBD-focused line, where even some flower had minimal THC — and sometimes none at all. The company was also one of the first to have flower with CDB over 10 percent. Check out the Motivator, an infused preroll with 40 percent THC that’s proven to be a big seller. However, Cannavative has a well-rounded line with something for everyone. Products are stocked in at least 60 dispensaries throughout the state.

Matrix

Matrix has done a great job of providing high quality flower and an exotic selection that stays true to high THC percentages and hearty terpene profiles. Top strains include the ever-popular Gorilla Glue #4 and Sugar Tits, an in-house indica dominant hybrid that is nearly as sweet as the name suggests. Overall, Matrix has become a favorite in Las Vegas with repeat buyers saying the concentrates are just as good as the flower.

8 Fold

The+Source is more than just a dispensary. It cultivates its own flower under the 8 Fold brand, which can also be utilized for cartridges, pens and disposables. Prismatic is a new product line that focuses on terpene and cannabinoid levels, rather than high THC percentages. The disposable pens are popular for tourists who aren’t allowed to smoke in Vegas hotel rooms. With terpene levels above 10 milligrams and THC generally kept under 60 percent, you’re going to get more flavor and feel — and less of a heavy, cloudy high.

Deep Roots Harvest

Deep Roots Harvest is about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. It’s the only dispensary and grow operation in the small town of Mesquite and the closest one to Utah. Despite its relatively remote location, Deep Roots Harvest has products available in dispensaries throughout the state and is perhaps best known for Segerblom Haze, a strain named after pro-marijuana State Senator Tick Segerblom. Despite the gimmick-factor of the name, the flower is nice and mellow — not super pungent — with a sweet aroma and flavor.

Cannabiotix (Honorable Mention)

It’s hard to leave out Cannabiotix — a company that got its start in California, but expanded operations to Nevada. Featuring a very distinct selection of sticky fresh strains with dense buds, Cannabiotix has great THC and terpene profiles, making it one of the best anywhere in the state.

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