I Sampled My Way Through the Wild World of High-End Cannabis Products

I am not, by and large, a weed guy. Oh, I have tried, but through substantial trial and error I have determined that I lack the essential level of chill to pull the whole thing off. For years, I’ve regarded the stoners in my life with awe and envy; they seem so relaxed and cheerful, while one hit off a vape pen tends to nudge me into the anxiety that is always just over my shoulder. I’ve observed that marijuana has a way of forcing a person to feel their deepest emotion, which for many people is “potato chips taste good,” and for me is “call 911 I’m not breathing the right amount.” Weed strips away a person’s defenses, which is all perfectly fine unless, like me, you are one hundred percent made of defenses.

I’m not good at getting high, is what I’m telling you.

But I am also one of just a couple Esquire writers in the state of California, where cannabis is not only legal but officially an essential business. My New York-based colleagues receive the latest news from the emerging luxury weed segment every day, getting dispatches about exciting new products that they can’t try because it’s illegal to send this stuff through the mail. So a few weeks ago, I said, “Forward those babies to me,” and they did, and tons of elegantly packaged THC (and CBD) goods came to my door, and then immediately the entire world shut down and now I can’t leave my house.

The last month has presented me with the perfect conditions to sample some upscale cannabis stuff and determine whether there’s one brand out there just for me, or if there is such a thing as a bespoke panic attack. It’s been an enlightening experience, and a nice variation on each day’s coffee-to-bourbon trajectory. I’m still not chill enough to be a stoner, not even a high-end weed stoner, but the quarantine period is young. Here are my findings.

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Sleep can sometimes be a problem for me, and when it is, I find I have nowhere to turn; melatonin doesn’t really do the trick, and like any sensible person, I’m absolutely terrified by the possibility of Ambien-tweeting. So I was eager to try these delicious little gummies, which promise to put you to sleep with the great taste of midnight blueberry (just like regular blueberry except it fucks). Each one has 5mg of THC and 1mg of CBN, which I don’t know what that is, but they do as they promise, perhaps a bit too well. One whole gummy knocked me right out, and when I woke up at 3 a.m. for my nightly worry appointment, I found that I was still stoned. Fun fact: If there is one time you don’t want an overactive, weed-fueled imagination, it’s in the middle of the night at the height of a pandemic. One half of one gummy actually does the trick, and stretches your luxury weed dollar as well. But learn from my mistakes, and take it the moment you go to bed. Otherwise you’ll be on the couch thinking, “I’m drowsy, and my friends are only pretending to like me.”


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Edibles intimidate me, and you know why. Everybody knows somebody who had a bite of one, got impatient because they weren’t super-stoned in two seconds, ate the whole rest of it, and then climbed a tree and now they live there. So naturally, I approached these giant granola bricks with extreme caution. My boyfriend and I each tore a tiny little piece off the corner of Atlas’s Ember Sativa Caramel Cashew and Cayenne flavor, ate it, and waited. For hours, nothing happened, then just as we were going to bed, we looked at each other and said, “Oh, no.” I was high as fuck for the next 36 hours, three of which I spent on an airplane that I briefly convinced myself I’d gotten on by accident. (Landed in Dallas—on purpose—and ate a bowl of queso before I left the airport.) Good flavor, though. If you enjoy being terrified by your snacks, go get it.


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A high-tech proprietary system so simple it confused the hell out of me, the Omura device uses “heat-not-burn” technology to “activate the terpenes without charring the plant, allowing the plant’s true flavor to shine.” What this means is that you stick a cardboard tube full of weed into one end of the device, touch a button, wait for it to heat up, and then you have one three-minute session to hit it. Whether you hit it once or as many times as three minutes will allow, the tube is spent at the end. The starter kit came with a pack of 10 tubes, half of which we wasted trying to figure out how the Omura works. The machine will only take the proprietary tubes; the proprietary tubes will not work in any other machine. In the brave new world of upscale weed products, this is exactly like having a Sega Saturn.


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You knew someone was going to use the aspirational marketing speak of Goop culture to sell you joints, and Canndescent’s promise to “marry the mastery of cannabis cultivation with the canvas of your life” tells you it’s the one for the job. The Canndescent sampler pack comes with one joint each of its five strains—Calm, Cruise, Create, Connect, and Charge—and the tasting notes eschew the indica/sativa jargon of the dispensary in favor of more direct language. If it’s “time to laugh, go out with friends, or get intimate, invite Canndescent Connect.” If you’re ready to “paint, jam, code, blog, or game,” then “find your muse in Canndescent Create.” Is it “the perfect stolen moment to sink into the pastel, polyester embrace of a Golden Girls marathon and a full tube of Pringles?” Then really any of them will do, and I made that one up anyway. Maybe it’s the Oprah’s Favorite Things of it all, but these pre-rolls managed to keep the heebie-jeebies at bay, and lighting a joint has such a pleasing, analog feel to it, like putting a warm and crackly old record on a turntable. They were my favorite of the bunch, though at press time I have yet to paint, jam, or code.


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CBD is everywhere, in creams and tinctures and pills, though nobody can tell me exactly what it does. I am skeptical of its powers, largely because we are asked to hold these two ideas in our minds at the same time: CBD has no psychoactive properties and it totally chills you out. I’ve tried it in its many forms, and I’ve never noticed much of an effect, but hope springs eternal. Mello sent me a couple of CBD products, the first of which was an elegant box of infused sea salt caramels that definitely improved my mood, because free snacks always do. They’re tasty! Here’s the other sample they sent!

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Who is this for? Who is this committed both to CBD and to not swallowing? It’s entirely possible that suppositories could be the delivery method that finally sells me on the healing and chilling powers of CBD, but we will never know. Esquire will have to start paying me a lot more if I’m going to put things in my butt.


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Yeah, there is now a CBD Pillow, and I have one. Here’s how it works: The pillowcase has evidently been infused with millions of microcapsules of CBD—using the patented micro-encapsulation technology, naturally—which the friction of your head causes to burst, releasing microdoses into your skin and hair follicles throughout the night to relax you as you sleep. As for if it works: Like CBD itself, I truly have no idea, but it’s a good, solid, comfy memory foam pillow. I have been sleeping better, but it’s possible I’m just tired from telling everyone I’ve ever met that I have a CBD Pillow.


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ALT stands for Advanced Liquid Technology, which in this context means “pot water.” It’s a colorless, flavorless liquid that comes in 5mg vials, which you can pour into the beverage of your choice for the unforgettable experience of roofie-ing yourself. This would seem to be the perfect product for the stoner on the go, for someone who really likes to get high but doesn’t want anyone to know about it, not even themselves. I split one vial between two tequila-and-sodas that my boyfriend and I had at cocktail hour the other night, and while it’s impossible to know where the tequila ended and the advanced liquid technology began, the overall effect was “when’s dinner?”


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The two major selling points of 1906’s drops and chocolates are that the dosages are small, and they start working within 20 minutes. At last, someone to give me my highs exactly the way I like them: fast-acting and barely perceptible. Like Canndescent, 1906 divides its product line-up by general feeling: Genius is for work, Midnight for sleeping, Love for lovin’. Each drop—they look like mints, but take it from me and do not chew them—contains 2.5 to 5mg of THC, perfect for the timid among us and a good start for everyone else. I took one chocolate-covered Go energy drop before a nice long run around my neighborhood recently, and I’ll be damned if the new Dua Lipa didn’t sound better than ever.


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Artet is an alcohol-free cannabis spirit “drawn from the history, the culture, and the very moment of the aperitif,” because this is the way we’re talking now. It’s made with eight botanicals, though the taste is mainly “lemon peel.” I mixed a couple of Artet-and-tonics the other afternoon as we cleaned the house, and though the flavor definitely improved with a few drops of agave syrup, it was a mild, easy-drinking daytime cocktail with a subtle and quick-acting effect. I thought, “I could see myself doing this again.” And then, in celebration of the history, the culture, and the very moment of the weed aperitif, I went to the bathroom in my own home and got lost on the way back.


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Besito makes a line of single-use vape pens in attractive, hexagonal copper tubes. Vapes of all kinds are viewed with suspicion these days, but Besito’s safety message is both reassuring and free of the highfalutin language that luxury weed too often employs: “Our formulations were developed by biochemists, and contain absolutely no Vitamin E, diluents, fillers, or harmful ingredients. Just the good stuff: dank, sweet weed.” The honesty is refreshing. I got the mint brand, which promised an “uplifting, energetic kind of high that’s perfect for all day long.” And while the flavor took me back to the dark period in my life when I smoked menthol cigarettes, the effect was subtle. Anxiety-free. One might even call it “dank.”

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