When I first started budtending in California’s then-medical marijuana industry in 2015, cannabis “brands’” were few.
This was before METRC, before Proposition 64 and the taxation squeeze, and before cannabis entrepreneurs had to rely on a lot more than word of mouth to ensure their edibles and pounds moved off the shelf. Some would leave dispensary staff with free nugs, a sample edible here and there, maybe a t-shirt, and a handful of stickers. What a simple time.
But by 2016, it was evident that legalization was happening, and that weed companies would need brand identities. Some companies, like Cookies, Kiva Confections, and Alien Labs, were doing this years in advance.
Solidifying merch style
Ted Lidie, Alien Labs’ co-founder, remembers what it was like back then. His company’s extraterrestrial aesthetic was part love for all things deep space, but more so a way to strike out from the crowd and help cultivate a visual identity for their brand that wasn’t inundated in weed leaves, that people could wear out and about and if you know, you know.
“I made Alien Labs so I could smoke the weed I wanted to smoke and share it with the people that I wanted to share it with,” he says. “We’ve worked for several years on dialing in our merch, and our customers really enjoy that. The biggest thing that we have in this industry is trust.”
From a budtender’s point of view
Fast-forward to when the pandemic started, I began to almost rely on the regular non-cannabis gifts from sales reps when they would make their socially distanced deliveries. I wasn’t alone. Patients and consumers alike needed quality equipment and paraphernalia to mitigate both their pre-existing conditions and new health challenges, both mental and physical, brought on by the pandemic.
And let me say, just because a cannabis brand doles out the free swag doesn’t make it good. Many a weed tchotchke gets passed along to friends and family, or (sadly) goes to the recycling bin because has more novelty than function.
Now that you know my relative standards, I’m happy to reveal the Cali cannabis companies that go above and beyond to give you good greens and the accessories and merch to make the most of them.
For a while there, enamel pins had cannabis companies in a chokehold. There are some really creative ones nowadays produced by some of the other names on this list, but to this day my favorite pin I’ve ever received is a bespectacled flamingo smoking a joint, and it comes from a little-known company named Paradiso.
I’m also a sucker for pastels, so every time a Paradiso demo or product drop came around, I was sure to grab a box of matches, a tote bag or more pins. I’m also a disciple of the paper and tips hybrid pack, which Paradiso provides in abundance.
2. Flow Kana
Even as evidence surfaces that indoor cannabis is a contributor to climate change, sun-grown weed is still chronically underrated.
I have received an abundance of swag and paraphernalia from the sustainable, sungrown cannabis brand, Flow Kana, over the years, and it doesn’t shock me at all that back in 2018 they managed to become the first cannabis company to send (sustainable, of course) gift boxes to that year’s Academy Award nominees.
I have yet to be nominated for an Oscar, but I have used the Flow Kana grinder gifted to me many moons ago almost every day since, and it shows no signs of slowing down. I’ve packed my grinder, papers, and lighter (sometimes some hemp wick) into their handy stash bags, which I then threw in a branded tote bag and went about my canna-business.
3. Alien Labs
One of my favorite things about Alien Labs, besides their exemplary pre-rolls and galactic-level flower, is the intention in their branding. Lidie says the brand is an extension of his own love for streetwear fashion and skate culture, saying:
Their wearable merch includes a “Krypto Stonks” satirical two-piece set and some enamel pins you can spot through a dab cloud, even a timely capsule collection for Halloween.
My favorite of their offerings are the funky-colored Pelican cases, the glow-in-the-dark rolling tray, and most importantly, their astral Re:Stash jars.
Is this cheating? CannaCraft isn’t actually one brand, but an umbrella of cannabis companies producing everything from THC-V beverages to artisanal chocolates to broad-spectrum CBD tinctures, and many smokables and vapables in between.
There is no guaranteed, reliable formula to ensure a cannabis company’s success, but providing the masses with functionally complementary (and complimentary) accessories has yet to prove detrimental.
They provide reusable bottle caps for the Lagunitas Hi-Fi line, recipes for their Satori artisanal chocolates, multiple branded masks, and a variety of bags that aren’t your standard cotton tote.
5. Sessions Supply Co.
If you want to start a Session, you gotta be prepared, right? It’s hard to be the new kid on the recreational cannabis block, especially in the pandemic era, but Sessions Supply Co. stuck out to me immediately because of the vibrant and consistent branding.
Their flowers and dabs are potent yet affordably priced, and their reps have been generous with innovative gifts—I’ve received a lot of cannabis-branded water bottles, but my Sessions Hydro Flask is probably my favorite item.
I know, I know. Seth Rogen is a multimillionaire and there’s no excuse for his weed and subsequent line of goods to NOT be the creme de la creme. But if I’m being honest…it’s all hella cute!
From Houseplant’s colorful mod-design jars for the flower to the un-stealable lighters to the gravity bongs and ashtrays that could be found at Pottery Barn, there’s a lot to be said for brands that take the time to cultivate products beyond the greenhouse.
Know any weed brands with outstanding accessories and merch? Let us know on Twitter!