When sales of recreational marijuana kick off next year, many Illinoisans visiting pot shops for the first time will face the daunting task of choosing from shelves of products with cheeky names like Purple Urkle, Sour Diesel and Trainwreck.
So how does a novice toker pick out the dopest dope to smoke?
Enter the reviewers. Medical marijuana has been legal in Illinois for several years, and in that time those reviewers have tried strains available at pretty much every pot dispensary in the state — and posted their thoughts. There are literally hundreds of reviews about nearly every strain offered for sale.
Though purchasing the best bud in Illinois can get pricey, with an eighth of an ounce of top-shelf herb costing anywhere from $60 to $70, Illinois residents will be able to find quality cannabis products at any price point, said Will Hyde, a cannabis expert at Leafly, the world’s largest pot-centric website.
“It sort of depends on how you personally define quality,” Hyde said “Are you just looking for something that’s enjoyable to consume? Are you looking for a specific flavor? Are you looking for a specific effect?”
Here are some top picks from some of the state’s most prolific cannabis connoisseurs:
Because Illinois is a little late to the legal weed game, it might not be surprising that many of the state’s best weed originates from elsewhere, particularly out west in places like California and Colorado.
Rated Leafly’s best strain of 2018, Gelato — which was first sold in San Francisco — is a hybrid of the two overarching types of cannabis, indica and sativa. While indica strains have relaxing and even sedative effects, sativa varietals offer a more energizing high. Hyde noted that Gold Leaf, a brand created by Illinois-based Ataraxia, currently grows and sells its own take on Gelato.
“It presents a very unique flavor profile,” Hyde said. “It’s got sort of a minty fruitiness like you could imagine of a lot of gelato flavors.”
Mark Anderson, a writer from Naperville who reviews medical cannabis, favors Ataraxia’s Gelato live resin, a high-powered cannabis extract made using ethanol. Anderson gave the resin the highest rating on his website, Officer Downey’s Pot Report, telling readers that it helped with stress and other issues.
Anderson also recommends Gold Leaf’s version of G6, a powerful sativa-dominant hybrid with effects that are “instantaneous and very cerebral.”
“The intact buds were dank all by themselves, emitting lots of pungent-sweet fuel with citrus and earth notes,” Anderson wrote in his glowing review. “Once ground, the pungent fuel really takes front and center — very intense. When smoked, this bud tasted of sweet fuel with earth notes on the exhale. On my palate, there was also a hint of berry in there too.”
Anderson, who mostly uses medical cannabis to treat complex PTSD, said G6 is a reliable strain he has “leaned on a lot since the beginning of the program.”
DJ Short Flo
Chris Trudeau, a Springfield brewery owner who has been posting pot reviews to his ILLBUDS website for about two years, singled out the DJ Short Flo varietal grown by River North-based Cresco Labs.
The sativa-dominant hybrid, originally cultivated by the pioneering cannabis breeder DJ Short, serves as Trudeau’s “North Star” and “flavor calibration” when he’s reviewing other strains. In his review, Trudeau compared its taste to a purple Gatorade “in a very good way.”
Anderson’s other recommendations include Lime Sorbet, an “incredible” indica varietal that’s part of Cresco’s top shelf Reserve brand.
“Wonderful cascades of steady euphoria with a moderately-intense body melt. For some, this set of effects will work as a daytime Indica, while for others it’s perfect for total chilling,” he wrote of the strain’s effects, noting that it also has “lots of wide-ranging, medicinal potential, too.”
In his perfect review, Anderson said smoking the strain tastes like “eating a [bittersweet] key lime with earthy, sweet notes.”
Cherry Hash Plant
Trudeau also endorsed three strains grown by Elmhurst-based Revolution Enterprises, but the company’s take on Cherry Hashplant earned his strongest review. Despite lowering the strain’s rating due to its harshness, he said the indica-dominant hybrid had “wonderful effects” that put him into a “super-chiller mode.”
“The deep funk rises to the surface,” he said in the review. “It’s a sharp sweet herb.”
Trudeau, who began using medical marijuana to manage a seizure disorder, compared the pot’s flavor to a mix of mothballs and tropical fruit.
How to find the best of the rest
Anderson advised new dispensary patrons to check for manufacturing dates, recommending they avoid buying flower that’s older than four months, extracts that are more than six months old and edibles that were made more than nine months ago. He also urged Illinoisans to ask about the different ways of ingesting marijuana and what types of experiences they can expect.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Anderson said.
Other expert picks:
Anderson: Grassroots Cannabis’ Mob Boss budder extract; Revolution’s extracts