I’ve been tasked by our fearless leader Ellen Holland with writing the High Times State of the Heat address for 2022, a celebration of the flame and all things chronic.
Make no mistake about it, 2022 was a good year for the heat. The perils of the ever-expanding cannabis market have forced legacy producers to put their best foot forward or join others in cannabis history if they haven’t already been ruined by the marketplace or the perils of licensing.
To an extent, the quality of product on the legal marketplace in California was one of the bright spots nationally for cannabis as other places like Michigan, Maine, and Oklahoma held their own more than ever. As you make your way east from the coast of The Emerald Triangle in Northern California the numbers start to creep up from the lowest prices even the best cultivators have ever seen.
There are only so many rappers to go around that can afford those $4,000 pounds. These days, many killers are getting half that if they’re lucky.
But with that West Coast price crash it’s been extra lucrative to move product direct to the East Coast where things are going off at the moment. This has led to a wild shift in the heat per capita making it east. Sure, there have always been elite weed boxes heading in that direction, but there is more of the best of it, now more than ever. Longtime California cultivators are stretched thin as they await the dawning of the new era in weed. What was once head stash quality is now the first thing to sell as folks struggle to make a living.
But from these shifting times, the heat shined through the fog again in 2022. We believe these strains were keystones in the arches that held up the hype this year, each one important in its own right with its place in history.
Here are our favorite strains of 2022:
Since arguably the biggest launch of 2021 last summer, the team at Blueprint has lived up to the hype at every step. Be it the winter Zalympix or Hall of Flowers, wherever you ran into Blueprint their cannabis was sure to be a barometer for the heat in the room. If it wasn’t the most excellent jar you’d see, which it was plenty of the time, it was right there at the top of the pack.
Adding to the fun: a grower wildly respected in the right circles and a dash of secrecy. The Blueprint team is constantly hunting for their next hit with just over 140 new phenos dropping every two months from their dedicated propagation setup, and we know the winners are heat as their trophy shelf has proven. They just don’t tell us much else about these magical strains!
Jordan Aguilar, Blueprint’s co-founder and director of indoor cultivation, sat down to talk about the major successes the company has seen in its initial 14 months of operation. It was easy for onlookers to note a blistering start by any standards.
“I mean, honestly, last year just flew by and we’re just staying focused on what we’re doing,” Aguilar told High Times. “It’s unfortunate for people who are struggling. The market is in its infancy stage and figuring stuff out. But as far as us? We’re just so thankful for the community and the opportunity to show the world our craft.”
We asked Aguilar how much pressure there is to keep the rocket fueled with new elite strains. He laughed, comparing it to the performing arts when someone just expects a musician to drop a new hit song.
“What, I got to come up with another one?” he said with a laugh. “I just don’t feel any pressure. Because we’re in the same boat as anybody. Got to get seeds, you got to make seeds, you got to pop the seeds and you got to work. And at the end of the day, put enough time, effort, and energy towards a focused goal that will yield something beautiful.”
Aguilar went into how the Triple Lindy came to be during its initial selection about four months before Blueprint launched in the summer of 2021.
“It was week three in flower. It was like day two. I was just going around trying to check the nose on the plants and smell that one,” Aguilar said. “I just smiled so big.”
They had a true standout and crossed their fingers it would hold up, it did. The flower checked every box you could ask for when it came to uniqueness, flavor, and impact.
Blueprint plans to build even further in 2023 on the strong base of enthusiasm in the community from its first year in operation. While they focused on growing the best cannabis possible, the brand still had to find its footing in year one.
“We didn’t know who we were when we started,” Aguilar said. “We’ve kind of fallen into these characters and we’re kind of maturing into the brand. So I think we’ve laid a good foundation and now it’s time to keep working on that foundation as well as build upon it.”
Over the last two years, few things have mattered more to elite cannabis than the work of Deep East Oakland (DEO) Farms on its Rainbow Sherbert (RS) line and its various famous pheno numbers like RS-11, Studio 54, and the star of the pack, Zoap.
The RS line dates back to 16 packs of OZ Kush seeds DEO bought at the Emerald Cup in the mid-2010s, the last time Dying Breed took part was in 2017. So that’s a testament to years of work in Oakland before the RS line took off. DEO found a bunch of killer phenos. Including a prize Z heavy male.
He F2ed the OZ Kush. It was named Pink Guava and had its own little hype wave in Oakland but nothing compared to its offspring. DEO would conduct an open pollination with the Pink Guava male on six other strains, among them his favorite Sunset Sherbert phenotype he’d ever come across known as the Black Sherb due to its darker than average color.
He would then share the seed stock from the OZ Kush x Pink Guava with Wizard Trees. DEO popped 120 of those seeds and found the #7, #16, #18, and #40. Wizard Trees found the #11 and #54 from the additional 100 he popped. We’re all still riding on the resulting hype wave but some would argue the Rainbow Sherbert #16 F2 #21, now famously known as Zoap, took things to a whole new level.
While those dessert and Z terps have been on the streets for well over a year, it very much invited only as Zoap’s commercial production scaled up to allow its conquest of 2022 full steam. DEO licensed the cut to Wizard Trees in 2021. Eventually, Zoap won the Zalympix Championships in Los Angeles after placing second in the Zalympix prior. It was arguably the most competitive cannabis contest series ever with as big of a feather as there was to go in any cap in 2022.
One cool thing about the build-up to Zoap’s prominence is it gave the DEO team more time to work the line. Zoap ended up serving as the backbone female for the RS F3 line. Much of that was debuted as part of DEO’s Black Box drop this past summer.
Regardless of where it goes from here, it’s hard to point to anyone that had a bigger impact on the exotic cannabis community over the last 24 months than DEO Farms, and Zoap is the flagship of that impact.
It’s fair to say Pink Certz was a bit of a dark horse from Compound Genetics going into 2022. Strains like Jokerz, Red Bullz, Apples & Bananas, and Pave were capturing a lot of the spotlight, all deserving heat in their own right. Nevertheless, it may be fair to say Compound’s pairing of Grape Gas and The Menthol had one of the biggest 2022s of the pack.
Why? Pink Certz would break into Compound’s most elite ranks with a victory at The Transbay Challenge III in San Francisco. Our own Jon Cappetta and Ellen Holland were among the judges that day as Pink Certz took down some of the biggest names in California cannabis to come out as the top dog.
When we asked the team at Sense how many seeds they had to dive through to find their magic pheno loaded with grape and fuel notes, CEO Steve Griffith replied with a laugh.
“We got one pack, so it was 13 seeds,” Griffith said. “We were pheno hunting toward the end of 2021. And it’s actually funny because we weren’t initially… it was kind of one of those strains that we weren’t even sure we were going to keep it.”
It was a bit of a finicky grower, but so is a lot of heat. The Sense team wasn’t going to let that stop them from providing the galaxy with new and exotic terps.
“Frankly when we went to go into the Transbay we had such a hard time deciding because we trimmed up what we wanted to enter and then we’re like, ‘Oh, let’s check out some of these Pink Certz and put the jars side by side,’” Griffith said of Pink Certz winning the head-to-head battle with Sense’s other potential entry. “We literally showed up to the event with both jars in hand and in the final minutes were just like fuck it. We’re gonna drop it.”
So why did Griffith go with that phenotype in the first place? He loves grape candy. He thinks their pheno of Pink Certz has heavier grape terps than any version of its Grape Gas parent. But there are certainly still plenty of fuel notes.
One of the things that helped contribute to Pink Certz hype levels in 2022 is there isn’t that much to go around. Sense is a small batch grower and only produces about 100 pounds of it every month. The process of getting your hands on it has only added to the mystique.
Much of the time the cuts people find from Compound gear are measured against what they have in the house from their hunts at Node Labs or with cultivation partners. With most of their biggest hitters they found the best version. I think it’s fair to say in the case of Pink Certz, Sense took top honors.
Doja Pak had one of the biggest 2022s of anyone with their much-hyped weekly event series and the weed to match. And don’t get mad Hindenburg fans, but we think calling the Permanent Marker the biggest Doja strain of 2022 is a fair call.
Doja Pak’s founder Ryan Bartholomew said it all started with a run-in with J Beezy from Seed Junky Genetics at the Emerald Cup last year. The pair had chatted prior but hit off on the in-person meeting. Bartholomew was invited to the Seed Junky facility on his next trip to L.A. not long after. Bartholomew was given the opportunity to build out a menu for Doja Pak bred and cultivated by Seed Junky.
Early on Bartholomew would lay eyes in on the Permanent Marker. It would be the first official strain to hit the new Seed Junky-curated part of the Doja Pak menu. Bartholomew would start by teasing the strain in New York for this year’s epic 4/20 festivities. From there he would only add to the hype by kicking off Doja Pak’s Thursday Night Hollywood Strain Premieres with Permanent Marker.
So what’s driving all the enthusiasm? Good genetics. Permanent Marker is (Biscotti S1 x Sherb Bx) x (Gelato #41 x Sherb Bx) F2.
“I was able to go into his facility and pick ones that, for instance, with Permanent Marker,” Bartholomew said. “The first thing I did when I smelled it was say, ‘Wow! This kind of reminds me of Zoap.’”
We knew it was something his following would mess with. He brought it back to the rest of the Doja team and they concurred. At that point it was still called HH 1.5.
“The guys that I’m around every day, I kind of consider their consensus to be probably the most accurate in the world for our marketing, for what we do,” Bartholomew said.
Once the Seed Junky team had an idea of what Doja Pak was looking for they started doing a bunch of work with the Permanent Marker. It’s already been paired with a bunch of Seed Junky’s best gear.
“He has the male brother of the Permanent Marker crossed to the G #41 x Animal Mints. The male brother of the Permanent Marker cross to his Orange Pushpop. So it’s like basically once we started he dialed in what I like in the profiles and now it’s easy for him to select,” Bartholomew said.
In the course of the Hollywood strain premieres, they went through five pounds of sample phenos getting feedback on all of the selections. Keep an eye for more Permanent Marker phenos in the future.
Lemon Cherry Gelato is the oldest pick on the list. It was a very protected cut for its first few years in existence. Eventually, it got out there a bit more and is now a coveted cut for any nursery to be in possession of. But it all traces to the Backpack Boyz.
“Lemon Cherry Gelato came from a bag seed out of a Gelato #33 Connected pack in 2016,” Backpack Boyz Founder Juan Quesada told High Times. “That was the hottest shit at the time in 2016, 2017, was those black bags.”
It took a couple of years for everything to get pumped up to full production, but by 2018 they were really getting it out there.
“That was when I finally got it underneath about 50 lights and started getting a little something going with it,” Quesada said.
Quesada had found other seeds in other packs. None ever panned out like the Lemon Cherry Gelato.
Quesada emphasized that part of the mystique, regardless of how many lights he had going at that point, was just that it was something new. In a marketplace that’s seeing a lot of its cannabis come from the Gelato family tree, it still stood out in that pack.
Quesada also argues that branding helped. When the Lemon Cherry Gelato first dropped, he didn’t feel like a lot of people were going as loud as the Backpack Boyz were. At that time there was usually a jar involved when you were describing what top-shelf cannabis looked like.
We asked Quesada when he knew he was onto something special with the Lemon Cherry Gelato. He quickly replied that the first drop at Cookies Melrose changed everything.
“It literally was like overnight,” Quesada said. “The next day a bunch of people were hitting me up about it and knew about it that I would have never thought knew about it. Like I was getting tagged by artists. This was still at the time we still had a Backpack Boyz Instagram page.”
From there it just kind of spread like wildfire.
Now six years removed from when the seed was first popped, 2022 was the year Lemon Cherry Gelato entered a new level of folklore. Now it’ll be forever among those strains that had must-grow years like OG Kush, Blue Dream, or Ice Cream Cake. And of course, that’s not a knock on Lemon Cherry Gelato, that’s just a result of the hype so far.
This article can be found in the December 2022 issue of High Times Magazine.