We spent months traveling around testing the world’s best pot, from our High Times Cannabis Cups to the finest dispensaries, seed banks and smoking lounges. Behold our list of the marijuana varieties that pleased our palates and won awards this year.
LA’s Happy Leaf Collective won the 2016 SoCal Cannabis Cup for First Place Sativa Flower with this powerhouse Nameless Genetics strain. From the illustrious creators of Mega Wellness OG, the frosty Mega Queso packs a powerful punch. The dense and sticky nuggets produce incredible concentrates, including a fantastic live resin with an intense terpene profile and appetite-stimulating potency. This sativa-dominant hybrid combines the best of both worlds for an overall buzz that’s both calming and uplifting at the same time.
Founded in 2009, IC Collective represents a West Coast branch of the Chem Dog family, creating boutique strains blessed with some of the best genetics on earth. IC’s Chem Scout, a cross between the original Chem 91 and Thin Mint Cookies, earned the First Place Indica Flower award at the 2014 NorCal Cannabis Cup with a well-balanced combination of euphoric and narcotic effects. Great for treating insomnia and body pain, Chem Scout proves to be a unique indica-dominant variety that honors its roots while remaining contemporary.
Colin Gordon and his crew at Ethos Genetics continue to innovate the cannabis-breeding industry with strain after strain of stable and cerebral varieties that perform exactly as advertised. His indica-dominant feminized Mandarin Cookies, a cross between Mandarin Sunset and Forum Cut Cookies, tastes like a Creamsicle and tests out at over 30 percent THC! Growers love the short flowering time and high calyx-to-leaf ratio, while connoisseurs appreciate the grapefruit citrus terps combined with the rich and earthy undertones.
On January 2, 2017, the cannabis world lost a legend with the untimely passing of Franco Loja, longtime breeder and co-star of the Strain Hunters video series. In his honor, Green House released Franco’s Lemon Cheese, his final crossing of two of his favorite strains—Super Lemon Haze and the famous Exodus Cheese from the UK. This hybrid exhibits what Franco would call “full gas!”—fast-hitting and long-lasting with a vigorous growth rate. Profits are donated to the Strain Hunter Foundation’s Franco Loja Fund to help finance his children’s education.
Like many other amazing strains, this one was born from a seed that the TH Seeds crew found in a sack of some Legendary Platinum Cookies during a road trip in Cali. The phenotype they popped and selfed turned out to be one-of-a-kind kind bud. Brightly glistening flowers are contrasted by dark-colored purple leaves, some looking almost black in appearance. French Cookies tastes spicy with a hint of grape and yields well for a Cookie strain. The high feels euphoric and inspirational—swelling with each puff without a “ceiling.”
Legendary cannabis breeding outfit Brothers Grimm, revived in 2015, returns to the sensi stage with its take on a classic. By pollinating Jack Herer with reversed female pollen from his Cinderella 99 signature strain, Brothers Grimm’s Mr. Soul retained the beloved spicy sandalwood aroma and musky flavor of the Jack, but added resin production, stability and yield while reducing flowering time. Unlike some poorly produced feminized seeds, these beans pop 100 percent female and grow into heavy plants that need extra support or trellising.
The medicinal benefits of CBD (cannabidiol) are well-known, but are there also recreational benefits from achieving a milder psychoactive effect? The Humboldt Seed Organization breeds CBD-rich versions of classic NorCal strains, and its Green Crack CBD tests at over 12 percent CBD and 6 percent THC for a two-to-one CBD/THC ratio. The effects are euphoric—a lasting happy feeling of well-being, perfect for daytime use or for patients with a lower tolerance seeking relief from migraines or anxiety.
Bred by CEO and co-founder JB, Kush Mountains won our prestigious 2018 World Cannabis Cup First Place Hybrid Flower award, defeating other Cup winners for the best of the best OG. She’s a cross between the super-frosty White Walker OG and another Cannabiotix exclusive, Blue Flame OG. JB pheno-hunted through thousands of offspring to find the keeper that, he tells me, “has the tendency to ‘golf ball’ all the way up the plant, but will chunk out with a cool environment and smart feeding schedule.”
Auto-flowering plants are popular due to their stealth factor, ease of use and miniscule lifespan—just 75 days from seed to harvest. New variations continue improving upon taste, yield and potency, and we love Auto Critical Orange Punch from longtime seed stalwarts Dutch Passion. The citrus-flavored strain is a feminized cross of Grand Daddy Purps and Orange Bud that was then crossed with XXL Auto Kritical Bilbo. Dutch Passion recommends 20 hours of light per day throughout the entire growth cycle.
Elev8 specializes in preserving elite clone-only strains and reproducing them in stabilized seed form through backcrossing and meticulous selection from a large gene pool. Its Dosi Sherbet, a cross between 2 Scoops (Grape Sherbet x Orange Sherbet) and Dosidos, represents some of the frostiest flowers available anywhere with terpenes that smell and taste like sweet candy and fruity ice cream. These are regular seeds, stable and perfect for growing out a chosen mother plant from which to take and root clones for many future harvests.