A Cannabis Consumer Review: Canndescent Charge (No 514)

It was absolutely inevitable that the instant cannabis became legal, it also would become corporate. There’s a staggering amount of money to be made. What more do we need to say?

To be fair though, there’s really no “middle way” to come in from the cold. The whole idea of calling it “cannabis” instead of “marijuana” is to try and separate this amazing product from its outlaw past. Important caveat — that outlaw past was the product of racism; we did not “illegalize” marijuana because of what it did or because it was bad for anyone — a the time it was illegalized, even the AMA thought it was actually efficacious. It only EVER had to do with WHO was smoking it. At first Mexicans in the Southwest states (after the Mexican Revolution sent a wave of immigration across the border starting in 1910) but then, a little later, mostly Black musicians based out of New Orleans. These musicians — Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver — were inventing jazz and found marijuana great both for chilling but also for articulating the music in their heads. It was only after these musicians headed north — starting with the Great Depression in 1929 — taking their dope with them — that anyone started to care. The trigger: white people started smoking marijuana.

And that — per America’s first-ever Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger — was unacceptable. Anslinger changed from thinking “marijuana was harmless” to “marihuana [Anslinger’s preferred spelling] is the most wretched, most dangerous scourge on earth” specifically because this “non-white” thing was now “infecting” white people.

My long-winded point: none of marijuana’s bad reputation was deserved. Everything “criminal” about it is wrong and wrong-headed. Of course cannabis isn’t for everyone. What product is? Mis-use or profound over-use of any product — household or otherwise could put you in a hospital or morgue. And way faster than mis-use or profound over-use of pot ever will. It’s just a stone cold fact: cannabis is way more benign than alcohol. It causes far less death and destruction.

As drugs go, cannabis has one particular distinction that will always set it head and shoulders above every other drug: it is entirely natural. Aside from watering a pot plant and feeding it (organically of course), one can grow, harvest and enjoy cannabis all by oneself. If I got good at growing the strains I most enjoyed, I could (if I was really, really, REALLY obsessive-compulsive about it) become completely self-sufficient with my “drug-o-choice”.

While I may have smoked pot occasionally when I was in high school, my distinct impression of it was: it put me to sleep. That wasn’t appealing to me at the time. That fact remained a constant through my college, after college, early, mid and late professional periods. Cocaine got my business (in addition to copious drinking). Ecstasy (a very good drug under normal circumstances, an excellent drug under just the right ones). Mushrooms (just once but so memorable, so demanding of an encore!) Not being a smoker, marijuana wasn’t something I felt naturally drawn to.

But then a decade-long depression made sleep damned near impossible. That wasn’t helped by years of taking OTC sleep meds almost nightly. They produced little good sleep but plenty of memory loss. “Hey,” I reminded myself, “You live in California. You can buy marijuana legally — you know, that thing that always put you right to sleep when you were a kid?” Overcoming all that nonsense mythology that was planted in my brain, I went and got a prescription then went and got it filled with my first purchase of Skywalker.

I slept wonderfully that first night — as I have pretty much most nights ever since (edibles travel). Indicas, it turned out, produced real quality sleep with zero lassitude the next morning. That’s not just a benefit, it’s a life-saving benefit. You can’t get mentally healthy if you can’t sleep. But a sleeping med that impacts your productivity is no improvement. My First Big Lesson about Cannabis: it works as a sleep med like nothing else.

Then I learned my Second Big Lesson about Cannabis: sativas work differently.

That, I think, was the biggest revelation of all to me: cannabis really can be a useful product from the start of your day to the very end of it. The first time a hit of Durban Poison rolled gently across my mind, focusing my thoughts in a way I didn’t know I could be focused — well, it stood out in my mind. When I learned (about an hour and a half later) that I could keep that focus going (keep the snacks handy though), in fact, building on it slightly with the fresh hit? My whole life style changed.

Then, when I discovered that different sativas (and hybrids — most strains these days are pretty hybridized anyway) had discernibly different effects, I became fixated on trying everything I could — fascinated both that there were subtle but discernible differences between many strains and that those differences were pretty much repeatable each and every time I bought that strain.

Here’s the point. The first thing Legal Cannabis had to do — and it did — was to be as faithful as they could be to creating a uniform product. Within the context of a plant subject to local growing conditions and farming expertise, Legal Cannabis made strain specificity a “thing”. Whether grown from seeds or as clones, strains became distinct in the way that cabernet sauvignon clones become distinct statements of what we want that particular grape to be.

When I order cannabis from my favorite delivery services, I expect the Strawberry Diesel I get this time to be roughly on par with the Strawberry Diesel I bought last time from them. It might even be from a completely different grow — it probably will be (I buy large-ish quantities). But the effect the product produces should be pretty much the same.

I think of this as the “Big Mac-ification” of Cannabis. On the one hand, who wants to see something as wonderful as cannabis be “Big Mac-ed”? But, on the other hand, that is what real legalization will look like. What it probably must look like. That hurt to type. But, the truth is, if cannabis had never been demonized, never illegalized, never treated as a pariah or even as a bad thing, it would have been “corporatized” long, long ago.

Like tobacco. Or alcohol.

My natural instinct with cannabis is the same instinct I had with red wine. I was a collector and a “terroir” guy. My passion was for big, dark, inky reds that screamed their heads off about the grapes they were made from — the specific grape and where it was specifically grown. I told myself I was less interested in what we, in America, call “meritages” — blends.

But then, I had plenty of “meritages” in my collection. They didn’t call themselves that, they called themselves “Bourdeaux”. For instance — the couple of bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild I inherited from my dad were blends of cabernet sauvignon (70%), merlot (25%), cabernet franc (3%) and petit verdot (2%). I’ve bought and enjoyed bottles of each of those grape varietals. Know what? They were all great by themselves and great put together in that one bottle as a “meritage”.

Corporate cannabis produces plenty of good, reliable cannabis strains. The Big Mac-ificiation has already happened — like it had to. But there’s another corner of corporate cannabis — the meritage makers — who are busily carving out territory of their own in the growing legal marijuana marketplace.

Full confession: my gut instinct is to avoid meritages. My gut instinct is not trustworthy.

I recently broke down and purchased an eighth of “Charge (No 514)” one of the Canndescent Company’s 5 flower products. Now here’s the thing about Canndescent’s approach. They start out by asking the question “what do you want your cannabis experience to be?” They see five curated possible answers — Calm, Cruise, Create, Connect, Charge that mix and match the effects of body up or down and mind up or down — with the resulting experiences of working, socializing, exercising, meditating, . For instance, their “Calm” is meant to answer your “end of the day” cannabis needs — like sleep.

Being as I’m always looking for another sativa to add to my collection, I chose to try Canndescent’s Charge which, its label says “fires you up with rising energy that clears the head and activates the body so you can dine and dance the night away”. I wasn’t looking to dine or dance. I was looking to be productive.

Though Canndescent has a product “Create”, I tend to shy away from what cannabis reviewers call “creative strains”. Yes, they deliver plenty of psychoactive creativity, but I want focus with my creativity. Great ideas are great especially when they get flowing. But, if I can’t corral them, they’re not doing me the good I need them to do.

The benchmark for me will always be Durban Poison. DP delivers a smooth, even focus for a good 90 minutes to two hours with a gradual drop off and little to not tiredness. I use DP to play tennis because it slows my mind down — gives me a chance to “see” my timing and truly see the ball. I also use strains like the aforementioned Strawberry Diesel, Alaskan Thunderf*ck, Willy Wonka, White Buffalo, Ghost Train Haze, Kali Mist and Trainwreck. I want mental focus and a feeling of “energy”. I want the sense of contentment that sits beneath it all.

One more note: while I certainly don’t want my tongue to feel like I’m smoking ditch weed, I’m way, way more focused on what a strain does than on how it tastes. When I was still drinking, my cocktail of choice was a gin martini, served icy cold. A little paper umbrella in a drink for adults? You jest. Candy and fruit flavors — for alcohol? If you have to put training wheels on your drink, maybe drinking’s not your thing.

The bottom line for me — where Charge is concerned: how does it impact my productivity? The answer? This is a great product.

The “high” comes on quickly, suffusing the mind with an increasing sense of focus. Important details stick out a little more prominently. While some strains bring a little edge with their mental energy (the Alaskan Thunderf*ck for instance — which diminishes its value to me on the tennis court), the Charge absolutely does not. Not to me anyway. I would describe it as Durban Poison Plus.

Being a proprietary product, the Canndescent Company doesn’t say exactly what strains go into Charge. They intimate through their box copy and via their web site that they use a combination of known strains and proprietary strains, crafting the whole thing into a meritage-style blend that deliver a particular set of effects.

Charge platforms beautifully with itself, by itself. Meaning — if you kept re-upping the “stone” exclusively with Charge every 90 minutes or so, you could maintain a strong, even, cannabis focus the entire working day. But Charge also platforms nicely with other strains. This morning, I platformed some Casey Jones from my collection on top of the Charge (my second hit of Charge of the day — having waked and baked already to a full hit of Charge all by itself). The Casey was one of my go-to morning strains for a while. I haven’t found any Casey nearby in a while which sent it to “the bench” for occasional use.

The platformed Casey and Charge got me into some very deep thinking. It was awesome. Every strain I’ve platformed atop the Charge has been goosed by it.

Charge’s flavor profile is pleasant. It doesn’t strike my palette in any particular way. There’s no harshness to the smoke whatsoever and the slower — well ground — burns cleanly and completely in my favorite glass piece.

As undeserved as cannabis’ criminal past was, the truth is, cannabis wore its outlaw status beautifully. It’s hard to let go of. Canndescent’s Charge makes it a little easier to see that, yeah, there’s another way to think of this product and sell this product. I’m sold on Charge’s ability to deliver on its promises. I will absolutely try their other flower products.

It wouldn’t shock me if Canndescent’s approach — selling cannabis by its desired effect — didn’t become a kind of industry standard. It couldn’t replace the strain-by-strain experience. It shouldn’t.

Thinking back to my former red wine collection, there was a good mix of everything — including mixes. Canndescent’s product line are a perfect complement to anyone’s cannabis collection.

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