What is craft cannabis?

What is craft cannabis in Canada?

To begin to answer this question we have to first ask ourselves what the word craft really means. 

The dictionary has three meanings: 

Noun – an activity involving skill in making things by hand

Noun – a skill used in deceiving others.

Verb – exercise skill in making (something) 

This can go a long way in explaining why we disagree so strongly. The second definition is what some individuals view craft cannabis is, namely a marketing scam.  

Yet if we focus on the other two definitions we also get closer to defining what craft cannabis is and, most importantly, is not. Certainly “skill in making things by hand” is helpful and so is “exercising skill in making something”. 

Why we can’t agree on a universal definition of craft cannabis?

The keywords here are skill and make. As we dive down into what craft cannabis is, let’s remember that craft is about a high degree of skill and making something by hand. It’s the little things, the details that matter. 

One of the reasons why craft cannabis is so hotly debated is that there doesn’t exist a universal definition. We don’t know when someone says “craft cannabis” what variables they use to define it. 

From region to region there isn’t one way that craft, aka artisanal, cannabis is understood by growers or consumers.

Towards a definition of craft cannabis 

Yet there is consistency around the types of variables that constitute craft cannabis. We have broken them down into seven sub-definitions: 

  1. Craft cannabis is small batch 
  2. Craft cannabis is hand-trimmed 
  3. Craft cannabis is not big business 
  4. Craft cannabis respects the legacy of cannabis
  5. Craft cannabis is not just a marketing term 
  6. Craft cannabis is intentional 
  7. Craft cannabis is consistent over time

Craft is small batch 

Whatever craft cannabis is comes down to some level of focus, dedication, care and love by the grower. While there may be producers who can produce absolute fire at scale, craft cannabis speaks to an artisanal spirit. 

We feel that hand-crafted cannabis, top-shelf gas that feels like it was cultivated by an ancient wizard, can only be recreated in small batch production. We mean no disrespect to those larger operators, especially those who focus on sustainability, terpene-rich cannabis and respect for the environment. 

Yet there’s something about craft cannabis that seems to insist that size does matter. 

And in this case, smaller is better. Just how small is up for debate. 

In our research we found some different ways to quantify small: 

  • Size of grow -> <10,000 square feet 
  • Size of yield -> 10-15 lbs yields is a number one Twitter user suggested 
  • Number of Cultivars -> 5-10 cuts in production at one time 
  • Number of SKUs -> 1-2 products in the market at one time.
  • The proximity of the leadership team to the crop, the further away the less likely to be a craft cannabis grower 

What would you add to this list? 

We accept that there are many different ways to define “small batch” but we do see an emerging consensus that small is a characteristic of craft cannabis. 

Craft cannabis is hand-trimmed 

One of the factors that everyone seems to agree on is that craft cannabis must be hand-trimmed. The reasons are varied but seem to boil down to this: quality of the bud and the ability to keep trichomes intact during packaging and distribution are key for terpene rich cannabis. 

Another aspect that’s spoken about slightly less often in cannabis circles is the importance of quality control in craft cannabis and how important the trimmer is in ensuring that. 

There may be in the future some machine-trimmed process that is able to replicate the skill, passion, patience and care of an experienced human but that day seems safe in the future. 

Craft cannabis is not big business  

The question when it comes to the size and culture of a large company being considered “craft” is a divisive one. 

On one hand, there are producers well respected in the Canadian industry that is consistently among the top choices of craft consumers. Some, though certainly not all, deserve to be considered as top-shelf, AAAA, bomb-ass weed. 

Yet as we discussed above, the size of the operation matters. 

How big is too big to be considered craft? 

  1. Publicly-traded corporations? 
  2. What about private corporations? 
  3. Revenue? >$5 million, >$10 million? 
  4. Size of grow? Again, how big is too big? 
  5. The number of production licences? How many? 

The answers are wide open to debate. Our focus at JustCraft will be to include as many smaller players as possible while being strict with any larger producer we include.

Ultimately we may get this calculation wrong from time to time. We may include products that shouldn’t really be considered craft and exclude craft cannabis producers who should be. 

All we can do is promise to our readers that we will course correct when needed and are always open to suggestions on how to improve our coverage. With us the tie will always go to the smaller craft cannabis producers. 

We will cheer and encourage a shift in the balance of power in the industry back towards the grassroots, dedicated teams growing craft cannabis. 

One caveat is that if there’s some truly mouth-watering cannon fire out there that happens to be cultivated by a big player, we reserve the right to smoke the shit out of it! 

Craft cannabis respects legacy 

Whether it’s craft producers or independent retailers, JustCraft is all about supporting the grassroots cannabis community. We don’t think that anyone who uses law enforcement against legacy operators or disrespects First Nations craft cannabis growers deserves the distinction. 

That’s not a universal rule and you can disagree. 

But we see the role of craft cannabis is to nurture and carry forward the beautiful and painful legacy cultivated during prohibition. When we speak of respecting the legacy we also mean the culture of cannabis. Any money-hungry type who wish to “sanitize” or edit out the “stoner culture” from the community can kick rocks. 

We give homage to those caretakers of the plant under prohibition. Craft cannabis growers who risk their lives and freedom to ensure that the medicine is still available today. 

Craft cannabis is not just a marketing term  

One argument we’ve heard is craft cannabis is just a marketing term. Like “eco-friendly” “craft cannabis” doesn’t actually exist and is just used to push products. 

There’s definitely something to this argument, especially when larger operators start using the craft label in their products (see above). 

However, to reduce all of the heart and soul of craft producers, retailers and consumers to a buzzword feel like an overreach. It may not always apply and its rules sometimes contradict but the term craft cannabis still gives the consumer an ability to differentiate in an unstable marketplace.  

Craft Cannabis is Consistent 

During prohibition, the industry was kept alive through multiple generations by using old-school farming methods. While the methods have changed and the technology has improved, it’s on this bedrock of brave legacy cannabis growers that we have an industry to speak of. 

If the cannabis world insists that the term craft cannabis be backed up with fire products and stellar reputations, we feel the term will hold up with integrity.  

The key for us is that craft cannabis producers dedicate themselves to excellence. Longevity, consistency, time honoured quality will make or break what we consider artisanal cannabis or not.  

Craft Cannabis is Intentional  

Beyond the metrics, past the fierce disagreements, there exists a beautiful and happy place where great weed is cultivated by great people and sold to great people. 

The main difference, as we see it, between craft and not craft is intention. It’s both the why and the how that distinguishes craft from other cannabis growers. We can’t always touch it or articulate why we feel the way we do about craft cannabis but we know the feeling is there. It’s an energy, without getting too woo, that the consumer can taste, smell, see, and feel. 

Eco-friendly craft? 

Another intention that matters is around sustainability. How eco-friendly a brand is will be taken into account whether we include it on this site. 

Our hope is that from seed to sale, eco-friendly standard operating procedures (SOPs) will become more widespread. Chemical pesticides and complicated high end machinery have little place in the cultivation of craft cannabis as we see it. 

The natural resources of the Earth are not infinite and given the looming climate crisis, we feel eco-friendly cannabis needs to be highlighted. 

Conclusion 

Craft cannabis is in the legacy and the intention behind that legacy. 

  • Quality over quantity. 
  • People over profit. 
  • Plant over everything. 

We don’t see the argument over what is craft cannabis going away anytime soon. 

Between the fierce disagreements over the broad definitions of craft cannabis, there doesn’t even exist agreement on the metrics to be used or the variables to be tested. 

However, we isolated seven possible ways to begin the conversation of what is craft cannabis? 

  • Craft cannabis is small batch 
  • Craft cannabis is hand trimmed 
  • Craft cannabis is not big business 
  • Craft cannabis respects the legacy of cannabis
  • Craft cannabis is just a marketing term 
  • Craft cannabis is intentional 

Our aim with JustCraft is to showcase the true craft producers while trying not to exclude anyone who legitimately should be considered. We may get this balance wrong from time to time so we will be looking to you, dear reader, to tell us when we are out of pocket. 

Until then remember that all craft weed is fire but not all fire weed is craft! 

Nick Ward

Nick Ward

https://twitter.com/nicvatar
writing, travel, self-care, cannabis