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The Leafly Buyer’s Guide to Northern California Cannabis Flower

Published on January 26, 2018 · Last updated July 28, 2020

The Leafly Buyer’s Guide provides a curated editorial list of top cannabis product picks on the market now, chosen by local experts in each region.

Northern Emeralds: Titan OG

(Courtesy of Northern Emeralds)

Based in: Humboldt County

On the site of a former blueberry farm in Humboldt County, master grower Cody Stross and his team of expert cultivators produce connoisseur-quality indoor cannabis to the highest possible environmental standards. That includes powering their operations only with energy from renewable sources and recycling up to 85% of the water they use. The crown jewel of their strain family is Titan OG, a highly potent indica that’s lime green with orange hairs, white frosted crystals, and the powerful aroma of earthy pine. Excellent for addressing insomnia and anxiety, or perfect to pair with Netflix/chill.

Three places to find it:Purple Lotus Patient Center in San Jose; The Green Door in San Francisco; Green Door Metro in Sacramento

Swami Select: Durban Sherbet

(Courtesy of Swami Select)

Based in: Mendocino County

From a small sustainable farm nestled in the mountainous woodlands of Northern California’s famed Emerald Triangle comes Swami Select cannabis. Sun-grown from seed in an organic, regenerative living soil, by one of the region’s legendary OG cultivators, Swami’s incredibly fragrant and tasty buds are harvested by hand, expertly cured, hand-trimmed, and then packaged in violet UV-friendly jars. Keep a keen eye out for Durban Sherbet, their hybrid of Durban Poison and Sunset Sherbet, “a colorful beauty with exotic scents of musk, incense and a bit of citrus.”

Three places to find it:Emerald Pharms in Hopland; Harborside Health Center in Oakland; Barbary Coast in San Francisco

3rd Gen Family: Zkittlez


Based in: Mendocino County

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As their name would indicate, 3rd Gen Family have deep roots in the Northern California cultivation scene, going back three generations. Their signature strain is Zkittlez, an indica-dominant mix of Grape Ape and Grapefruit that ranks among the most distinguished new hybrids of the past five years, having taken home top honors at the Emerald Cup, The Golden Tarp Awards, and multiple High Times Cannabis Cups.

Three places to find it:East Bay Meds in Danville; Natural Herbal Pain Relief in San Jose; Treehouse in Soquel

Butterbrand: Ghost OG

(Courtesy of Butterbrand)

Based in: San Francisco

Cultivated to craft cannabis standards in a series of warehouses scattered around San Francisco, Butterbrand’s top-shelf flowers and extracts have earned a reputation for both quality and consistency. Their Ghost OG is a premium cut of OG Kush with crystal-coated buds that emit a strong citrus aroma and provide powerful therapeutic relief from pain, insomnia, and anxiety.

Three places to find it:Green Remedy Collective in Richmond; SPARC in San Francisco; Green Door in San Francisco

Kamatree: GSC


Based in: Mendocino County

Profiled in the book Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution by Doug Fine, Kamatree is committed to bringing “sun grown, sustainable, simple” cannabis from Mendocino County’s top cultivators to conscious consumers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their take on GSC (originally bred by San Francisco’s own Cookie Fam) delivers a pungent, potent, primo expression of the blockbuster strain.

Three places to find it:Berkeley Patients Group in Berkeley; Magnolia Wellness in Oakland; Blum in Oakland

Utopia Cannabis: Chiquita Banana

(Courtesy of Utopia Cannabis)

Based in: Santa Cruz

Grown indoors with all-natural fertilizers and organic pest management techniques, Utopia’s entire line of cannabis flowers and extracts are Envirocann certified and full-spectrum lab tested to ensure purity and potency. Their signature strain takes the classic Banana OG cut to the next level, providing a powerful, sustained “creeper” high that—at an average of around 33% THC—makes Chiquita Banana a much beloved varietal, but one that’s definitely not for amateurs.

Three places to find it:Bay Area Safe Alternatives in San Francisco; CBCB in Berkeley; Canna Culture Collective in San Jose

Humboldt’s Finest: XJ-13 Pre-Rolled Joints

(Courtesy of Humboldt’s Finest)

Based in: Humboldt County

All of Humboldt’s Finest cannabis is sourced from small-scale farms that produce top-shelf sun-grown buds while adhering to strict ecological standards—for instance, without diverting groundwater or using any fossil fuels. Even the packaging is compostable, and the joints themselves (which clock in at 0.5g each) are wrapped in raw, natural, unbleached paper with filters included, so they’re ready to go. Choose from OG Kush, Sunset Sherbet, Scout Master, and (our favorite) XJ-13.

Three places to find it:Mission Organic in San Francisco; East Bay Meds in Danville; Herbal Cruz in Santa Cruz

Ganja Gold: Green Tarantula

(Courtesy of Ganja Gold)

Based in: Oakland

Sometimes you want a joint, and sometimes you want a joint of Clean Green certified cannabis flower mixed with hash and wax, dipped in hash oil, rolled into a Rawcone, and dusted in kief. Now, if you had to google “wax” and “kief” the Tarantula might be a bit over your head, but for seasoned smokers or as an icebreaker at a 420-friendly party, it definitely makes a lasting impression.

Three places to find it:Purple Star in San Francisco; Phytologie in Oakland; KindPeoples in Santa Cruz

Bayflower: Gelato Quickies

(Courtesy of Bayflower)

Based in: San Francisco

One of the Bay Area’s hottest strains is now available in a pre-rolled joint. Originally bred by the award-winning geniuses at Cookie Fam, Gelato is a powerful indica-dominant cross of Sunset Sherbet and Thin Mint GSC with “buds that tend to bloom in dark purple hues illuminated by fiery orange hairs and a shining white coat of crystal resin.” Rich in the terpenesmyrcene, limonene, and linalool, it’s a fragrant, potent varietal that’s ready to smoke as soon as you open the package.

Three places to find it:Mission Organic in San Francisco; Dutchman’s Flat in San Francisco; Patient’s Care Collective in Berkeley

Madrone: Ingrid

(Courtesy of Madrone)

Based in: Mendocino County

From a collection of mom-and-pop Mendocino County craft cannabis cultivators comes Madrone’s impressive line of rare and heirloom cannabis, all grown “with precision and soul” using clean practices. Ingrid is a lesser known indica-dominant strain that’s rapidly gaining in recognition based on its relaxing, creative effects and pleasantly cheesy, skunky aroma.

Three places to find it:Caliva in San Jose; Barbary Coast in San Francisco; The Leonard Moore Cooperative in Mendocino

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David Bienenstock
David Bienenstock
Veteran cannabis journalist David Bienenstock is the author of "How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High" (2016 - Penguin/Random House), and the co-host and co-creator of the podcast "Great Moments in Weed History with Abdullah and Bean." Follow him on Twitter @pot_handbook.
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