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Quality Over Quantity: Craft Cannabis Explained

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

MedLock | September 28, 2021


If you are a cannabis connoisseur, you are likely on the hunt for quality bud and strains with unique genetics. This is where craft cannabis comes in. Also referred to as artisanal or small-batch cannabis, craft cannabis LPs focus on producing exceptional premium bud using high-caliber growing techniques.

Cannabis branches hanging on a line to dry.
Craft cannabis companies stress quality over quantity, carefully doing all processing by hand and hang drying the flower.

This article explores the topic of craft cannabis brands and the reasons they matter to the greater cannabis industry.


What Constitutes Craft?

There are several key criteria that brands must meet to be considered craft. This includes:

  • Hands-on: Instead of relying on automated processing machinery, craft brands do everything by hand. This means hand trimming to prevent loss of trichomes as well as hand packaging. Everything is done with immense focus and care - all by hand.

  • Smaller physical footprint: Craft cannabis growers have facilities with significantly smaller square footage than commercial grow operations. Because craft brands rely more heavily on manual labour, these facilities do not require additional space for large, mass-processing machinery. It's all about quality over quantity.

  • Smaller carbon footprint: Craft brands use environmentally-friendly growing and processing practices. This means less use of artificial light, less electricity, and less water waste. A smaller physical footprint requires fewer resources than commercial facilities.

  • Organic farming practices: Craft cannabis is certified organic. These small-scale growers refrain from using harmful pesticides and instead rely on naturally-derived pest control products and nutrients. Elimination of the use of commercial pesticides protects both the plant and the user.

  • Premium packaging and clear brand values: Craft growers spend an immense amount of time and effort perfecting the genetics of their signature strains. These growers are passionate about their cannabis products and want the packaging to reflect this as well as to maintain product integrity. As such, craft brands often use premium packaging. Brands that value sustainability often choose packaging made from materials that further communicate their care for the environment.


It's All About the Trichomes


As the name "small-batch" suggests, craft cannabis is grown in smaller volumes with a focus on quality over quantity. Besides being grown in smaller batches, craft cannabis is very much hands-on when it comes to processing the flower. Specifically, craft brands hang their bud to dry as well as trimming the flower by hand and packaging the end product by hand.


How do these techniques result in better bud? It's all about the trichomes. If you are not familiar with this term, trichomes are the tiny appendages protruding from the surface of cannabis flower that look like crystals. These sticky glands found on smaller cannabis leaves are responsible for housing the plant's cannabinoids and terpenes.

A 4x4 grid of close-ups of cannabis leaves showing the trichomes.
Trichomes house cannabinoids and terpenes, both of which are important in producing superior cannabis flower.

To further explain, cannabinoids are the naturally occurring chemical compounds found in cannabis plants that produce psychoactive and medicinal effects. The two main cannabinoids that you have likely heard of are tetrahydrocannabinol - THC - and cannabidiol - CBD. While there are at least 100 cannabinoids that have been identified, THC and CBD are the two we focus on the most.


Terpenes, on the other hand, are responsible for the plant's unique aroma, colour, and even flavour. When cannabis is trimmed using a machine, the flower is aggressively tumbled resulting in a loss of the precious trichome outgrowths. A loss of trichomes means a loss of cannabinoids and terpenes.


Since machine trimming leads to a loss of trichomes, this means the flower may lose some of its potency resulting in a lower quality bud. Hand trimming cannabis flower maintains the integrity of the plant's trichomes. This means strain-dependent psychoactive effects are stronger and the smell, colour, and taste are better reflective of the plant's unique genetics.


What Makes Craft Cannabis Unique?

Not just anyone can grow top shelf cannabis. It takes skills, knowledge, expertise, and experience to develop and grow unique, high-quality strains. Growing cannabis is truly a scientific endeavor. Craft cannabis growers may therefore be the most passionate and patient growers in the industry. Developing new strains requires a solid understanding of genetics and plant biology. This is why craft growers take such pride in their plants (as they should).


The degree of expertise and the processing techniques required to grow premium bud translates to premium prices. For the seasoned, daily user, it can get pretty pricey. For the connoisseur, it is absolutely worth the money.


The Price of Packaging

The growers are not the only reason craft cannabis products have a higher price tag. Since craft growers put so much time, effort, and passion into growing and processing their plants, many craft cannabis brands opt for premium packaging to store their premium bud. This can mean glass packaging, UV-protected packaging, airtight packaging, sleek boxes, and sustainable packaging. Craft growers often choose premium packaging to protect the integrity of the cannabis products they passionately grew and produced.


Craft cannabis brands will also often choose packaging that clearly reflects their core values. Reef Organic, for example, is an organically grown craft cannabis brand that operates in a facility designed to decrease energy and water consumption. The company also uses packaging made from reclaimed ocean plastic. In this way, the packaging puts further emphasis on the brand's reference to water and the ocean, which effectively communicates the value Reef Organic places on sustainable practices and ocean preservation.


Unfortunately for consumers, sustainable products are significantly more expensive than non-environmentally friendly options. This is not unique to the cannabis industry. However, many consumers will still choose to pay the heftier price to do their part in reducing their carbon footprints. This is another factor that leads cannabis users to choose craft brands.


Does This Mean Commercially Grown Cannabis Is Bad?

While craft cannabis brands offer superior products, this is not to say that commercially grown cannabis is "bad". It comes down to what the consumer is looking for. Think of it like the wine section in a liquor store. You have the regular selection of wines and the vintage section. If you're a wine connoisseur, you likely gravitate towards the vintages because you appreciate subtle differences in texture, body, tannins, age, type of grape used, and so on. If not, you may think all wine tastes the same and simply opt for the cheapest bottle, perhaps only buying a vintage as a gift.


The same goes for cannabis. Some people don't pay attention to terpenes, flavour, aroma, and variations in the psychoactive effects of the cannabinoids. Other people may love analyzing the different characteristics of various strains, which is why they choose trichome-rich craft cannabis. Craft is higher in quality, but not necessary for all buyers.


However, craft is better than commercial when it comes to the environment. As discussed, craft brands implement sustainable growing practices and operate out of facilities with smaller carbon footprints. Depending on their degree of social and environmental responsibility, consumers may only choose to purchase eco-friendly, craft cannabis brands. In addition, many consumers will choose craft cannabis because it is grown organically and free from harmful pesticides.


Conclusion

Craft cannabis is not for every cannabis consumer. If you can afford to be environmentally conscious, purchasing craft cannabis is the more sustainable choice. If you are a connoisseur who appreciates the subtle differences caused by distinct genetics, craft brands can offer you more precision in terms of a given strain's characteristics. However, if you are on a budget or are not interested in the subtle differences between distinct strains, craft may not be for you.



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