The biggest bummer about legal weed is that it’s expensive. Depending on which city or state you live in, you can expect to spend up to 35% more on top of the retail price, thanks to sales taxes. Additionally, all sorts of taxes levied on growers and manufacturers require them to bake increased costs into their final product prices, pushing the retail price above what’s sold on the illegal market before sales taxes are even applied.
That said, consumers have also gained a lot thanks to weed going legal. Quality control, strain and product variety, and accessibility are all greatly improved from the days when everyone was relegated to buying from “a guy.” Still, at the end of the day, if people can’t afford it, they won’t buy it. Which has led to a boom in “value brands” or “value strains” to meet the cost-conscious cannabis consumer. It’s important to note that — like with booze — some of the cheap stuff is just flat-out crap. But the best in the business have figured out creative ways to make the supply chain work in their favor so they keep high quality alongside lower prices.
Brett Fink, who today runs the cannabis branding and consulting agency GRTR, was once a founding member of California brand Old Pal. Old Pal was the first value brand on the market, basically inventing the to-go packs of pre-ground weed, which comes in a pouch along with attached crutches and rolling papers. He says Old Pal broke the mold by going after “smalls,” which refers to bud size. Smalls, or popcorn buds, typically sell at a lower price compared with larger buds from the top of the plant.
“From the launch, Old Pal’s specific focus was the value shelf,” Fink says. “We started the brand as a response to a large dispensary partner we knew, who was looking for a value product on their menu. Another friend who had a manufacturing license helped put it together.”
With that, Fink says, a new category was born, one that “didn’t really exist” pre-2018. He explains that the brand uses “premium, lower canopy product from high-quality growers” — referring to the spot on the plant where they pull buds from. Though general potency and quality are there, value flowers don’t look like the dense, chunky nugs that have become highly prized in the cannabis market, so they sell for less money — savings that are (hopefully) passed down to you.
The only way the quality value brands could be considered “less than” is when compared directly to top-shelf designer cannabis. Potency-wise, there will never be a value bud that clocks in over 30% THC. But there are still some fantastic products out there that definitely perform as well or better than far more expensive products. Here are the eight best “value weed” brands on the market — no sacrifice in quality required.
Price: $45 for a 1/2 ounce
Perfect for every kind of summer hang, Stone Road’s Roll Your Own kit comes with a 1/2 ounce of biodynamic, sun-grown California flower and is available in three fruit-tasting and smelling strains. The packs come with natural rolling papers and tear-and-use crutches. The package is 100% recyclable.
The quality of this flower is quite good for a pre-ground pack — the pack I tried was sticky, rather than dry, and the taste and smell showed through all the way from sniffing the bag to lighting up. Color me impressed. My favorite is the Banana Split strain, which is an energizing mix of Tangie and Banana Sherbet and clocks in at a chill 23.11% THC.
Perfect for daytime smoking.
Price: $50 for a 1/2 ounce
The OG of value brands, Old Pal takes high-quality small buds, grinds ’em up, and throws them into a handy pack that now serves as a model for other value brands in the game. Standard with every stylish 1/2 ounce Ready to Roll pack are rolling papers and disposable crutches.
Old Pal’s Ready to Roll packs come in three designations: Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid. The Hybrid pack is a nice middle-of-the-road option with neither too strong of a head or body high, but for me was more cerebral and less couch lock.
It clocks in at around 20% THC, so it makes for a super functional high that is good for prefacing any activity.
Price: $19.50 for an eighth
Roots is a value brand under the umbrella Flow Cannabis Co. brand (formerly known as Flow Kana), which sources all of its sun-grown weed from Northern California’s Emerald Triangle. In addition to ounces, eighths of flower and pre-rolled joints, Roots also makes live resin carts and dabs.
One of the benefits of smoking sun-grown cannabis is that plants grown fully or partially outdoors (with greenhouses) get their energy from the sun, which provides the plant with a greater opportunity to produce different terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids. This results in a more dynamic and multi-faceted high.
Roots’ weed delivers, producing a mild, balanced body and head high with exceptionally tasty flower and pre-rolled joints.
Price: $75 for an ounce
Union Electric is another value brand with simple offerings: ounce bags of dense, sticky popcorn buds of either Indica, Sativa, or Hybrid. The brand, which bills itself as serving an “underserved market in cannabis,” the working class, sources its flower from three California farms: Natura Life Sciences, Wave Rider Nursery and POSSIBL.
Holy gas! I tried the hybrid Chem Driver strain, which clocks in at 24.88% THC and is a cross between Sundae Driver and Chem Dawg. This is a true hybrid: a strong head change eventually settles into a stoney body high.
It smells gassy and tastes sweet, which is probably owing to the Myrcene terpene, as well as piney, owing to Pinene.
Baker’s Cannabis Co.
Price: $57 for 1/2 ounce
Baker’s is the value brand under the Canndescent umbrella, which is known for producing high-quality indoor cannabis. The Baker’s brand displays similarly high quality — the 1/2 ounce pre-ground packs come with 40 rolling papers, and crutches and are available in Indica, hybrid, and Sativa. Like with all pre-ground weed, it’s a mechanical grind, but Baker’s isn’t quite as fine as the grind from other brands, which I think helps retain good texture, smell, and taste. In addition to 1/2 ounce pre-ground packs, Baker’s also sells 1/2 ounces of whole flower, as well as shake packs.
I tried the Sativa pack, which in this case is the Peach Ozz strain. The resulting feeling is concentrated right in the head — a cerebral hit that centers in the face, almost like an electric cloud. At 14.62% THC, it is quite literally perfect for the daytime or active smoker.
I’ve kept this pack on hand for a little toke throughout my days since I first tried it.
San Diego-based, aptly named Weed uses that classic tagline that anyone who has bought off the legal market will remember: “buy a pound, break it down.” Like other value companies, Weed buys in bulk from large indoor cultivators to sell 1 gram, eighth, and 1/2 ounce Indica, Sativa, or hybrid flowers, as well as pre-ground packs of sugar trim, and pre-rolled gram joints.
The Sativa pouch produces an upbeat, effervescent high that isn’t too overpowering.
Overall, the weed sampled from the flower, pouches, and pre-rolls is good quality — it’s not too dry and smells and tastes potent.
Price: $110 for either a grinder or vaporizer and three grams of flower
Cloudious9 has released a product bundle that combines gear with low-priced flower. There are two options for the Gravi7y bundle: one with a battery-powered grinder (it’s great) or a portable dry flower vaporizer. Either option comes with three grams of indica, sativa, and hybrid flower from either indoor or mixed-light cultivation facilities.
Cloudious9 is a leader in low-cost cannabis tech and, purists be damned, their automatic grinder is a pleasure to use. Their portable vaporizer is a good buy, too, especially if someone doesn’t already own one and is looking for a low-cost way to enter the market.
The flower is potent, not too dry, and a good product to kick off using one of the brand’s tech products with.
Price: $28 for an eighth
Skymint Brands’ Two Joints is a value brand sold exclusively at Skymint locations. Their specialty is eighths of ground flower packs of non-strain-specific Indica, Sativa, or hybrid.
Expect the same quality found in Skymint’s other indoor-grown buds, but with lower THC.
For those who like a side of activism with their weed, Two Joints donates a portion of all proceeds to the Last Prisoner Project, which works to achieve clemency and expungement for those incarcerated on cannabis charges.