Know Your Herbs

The CAM Come Up

Few names loom as large over exotic American cannabis as Anna Willey. In a legal industry where jokes about quality have become the norm, not many companies have been able to float on top of that noise based on the quality of the product. Hers, California Artisanal Medicine or CAM, is like a battleship ripping through the waves of the decimated California industry.

While many struggle to sell middle-tier products as elite, Willey can barely feed the monster. She’s on the cusp of opening her 2,000-plus-light cathedral of hype in Sacramento, on top of a new facility she just opened in Long Beach. The facility will be her second in California’s capital, with the ground now breaking on a third. Willey jokes she’ll run back to her 500-lighter if she screws it up, but many insiders expect the facility to become one of America’s premier heat factories once it’s finished. Some even inquired with Willey about her helping their own production needs.

But how did a bubbly Indian-born retired software engineer climb to the highest heights of California’s cannabis industry with a stop on the Colorado throne along the way? It all started in what is currently the wildest frontier in legal cannabis, New York City.

High Times Magazine, November 2022

Working Your Way Up

Willey arrived in NYC with her parents at the age of 6. At one point, her dad would leave mom in NYC while he headed north to get a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the top engineering schools on the planet. Her mom would become a nurse. By sixth grade in 1985, Willey would become a courier for one of NYC’s famed old-school weed delivery services. She pointed to that moment as where her real cannabis adventure started, but before that, she had enjoyed the smell the first time she was around someone smoking.

“Back then, it was all about the service in New York City,” Willey told High Times. “To get into cannabis, you had to get a job delivering weed, and you needed to kind of work your way up the system.”

When she came home with the cash from her efforts, her parents’ conservative household took a no-questions-asked policy. She would work for the service for a few years. If you ordered cannabis from the service between 2nd and Gold and Murray Hill, Willey would show up right out of school with her Catholic schoolgirl uniform and 1.2 grams for $120 bucks. Willey said it sounds steep, but buyers had to say yes or they would get a visit from a large Puerto Rican man.

Her parents still turned a blind eye.

“I think that they thought it stopped for a little bit in college,” Willey said, smiling. “As all Indian people and children when they’re born, they tell you that you can be many different types of a doctor. You can just pick a type of doctor. So, obviously, I did not want to be a doctor.”

CAM Owner Anna Willey

Growing & Coding

Willey noted her sister skipped the medical school plan too, but her mom still tells people she’s a pharmacist. By 10th grade, Willey was bodega hopping in Harlem and the Lower East Side looking for the newest issues of High Times. After graduating from college, Willey would move west to Colorado in 1998.

When she arrived, she immediately met a grower named John from Fort Collins. He offered to set her up in a grow house. There she would learn to grow. She laughed, noting how much easier it is in the modern era to get the info you need, “Nowadays, you just get on to YouTube. And it’s crazy, right?”

When she did get on the internet forums, she felt there was a ton of support. She was amazed by just how many people were open to helping her. With her background in tech, she also didn’t have any fears about covering her tracks as she searched for the answers to her growroom problems on sites that would eventually be shut down by the feds.

Nevertheless, her first round would not go to plan.

“All males,” Willey said. “And I’m talking about ripe ball sacks covering the plant. I kept posting to IC Mag and Overgrow like, ‘These are new strains.’ I thought I created a new strain.”

Willey noted that pollen stuck around for about a year and a half and caused a lot of headaches. The first strains she would work with included DJ Short’s Blueberry and Fort Collins Cough.

Through all this, Willey continued writing code for IBM and Computer Associates. It was the early beginnings of the move towards automation in as many sectors as possible. Willey’s STEM background from childhood through college would give her much more faith in technology than her peers back then. She applied this knowledge to the grow.

“So it was a huge breakthrough, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m breaking through in technology,’ because I was one of the first people to do automated grows,” Willey said. “So everyone that I met would boast about hand watering and [was] also constantly talking about how they want to be there when the lights are on.”

Willey thought the idea of needing to be completely hands-on was dumb, and people needed to learn about timers. What if they got sick or had a flat tire on the way to the grow? There are a thousand reasons to have some redundancy when talking about getting your lights powered up on time.

During that era in Colorado, she would start growing in rockwool. Eventually, she would make the move to Hydroton and use it through 2009 before making the jump to an ebb-and-flow system with Hydroton.

While continuing to develop her skills, she would open Colorado’s third dispensary. Her first fully legal grow would be 30 lights, the next 150. She thought she was in heaven.

The next major factor in her rise came in 2011. She decided she was going to get her general contractor’s license.

“It took me two years. I worked under a bunch of subcontractors, mechanical, plumbing, electrical. l learned enough about those trades to actually get a general contractor license,” Willey said. “And then I was able to do my own builds. That’s when it was over. I had a 40,000-square-foot warehouse. I had 760 lights. I had three warehouses.”

Her weed started to take off. As demand increased, she started the ongoing quest of growing as much fire as possible that she’s on to this day. At the peak of her Colorado cultivation capacity she would have 1,250 lights.

“We would literally do it like New York City deli style,” Willey said. “When we ran out of weed that day, we were out of weed.”

The store would close early every day for three years. Every single day they ran out of weed, even as Willey expanded she just couldn’t keep up. Another thing helping push numbers was the fact hers was the first shop in Colorado offering half-eighths. This allowed people to mix and match more than other dispensaries. When Willey worked the counter herself, the half-eighths weighed a little heavy. The patients loved it.

La Paleta

Moving on from Magic Dust 

In 2013 and 2014, she started plotting her move west. She was already getting a lot of her genetics from California.

“I was very aware of how much better California cannabis was; even five months old light deps were severely better than what I call the magic dust,” Willey said.

No matter how good Willey was at growing pot, it was never going to be able to compete with the cannabis being grown at sea level in California. Even to this day, indoor farms skirting the waster in the San Francisco Bay Area are considered among the best in the world.

Willey would eventually sell everything she owned. But as with much of her life, it all started on the forums. They were alive and well through the cannabis floods and droughts of the mid-2010s. As she continued to watch the landscape, it was very obvious to her that those with the heat were in the best shape. California was the land of the heat, and it was before the price crashes we’d start to see later in the decade.

When she arrived in California to start her conquests in 2018, she wanted to get on METRC as soon as possible. Her buildout ended up taking eight months, and everything was on the books. Her friends already here balked at the idea, but her first California runs were basically as compliant as they could be at that moment.

But how did she end up in Sacramento? In her early goings, she would attempt to get set up in Oakland. She quickly realized it was not the most friendly place for cannabis with everyone from the city council to the landlords lining up to milk the industry. But as she worked to fund the California move, one of the jobs she was doing was licensing work. Through that work, she would become familiar with just how friendly Sacramento is to cannabis businesses.

“I noticed it was the number one place that was super friendly to other people. I had a great connection with the Connected team, and Sacramento was celebrating Connected, giving them a store license, whatever they applied for,” Willey said of the observation. “So I was like, ‘OK, this town seems much friendlier.’”

There is an argument to be made that her decision to move to Sacramento has crafted one of the biggest cannabis companies to hit the top-shelf market following legalization. There was always going to be a boutique class of bougie top shelf selection for those who wanted to pay big money. When Willey hit Sacramento, it was the beginning of that kind of quality being normalized for everyone.

She laughed and noted it wasn’t that easy out the gate. When she went all-in on California and sold her last Colorado warehouse, she brought 19 OGs with her that nobody wanted. It was all good though! She found a guy in the desert with a Harvard business degree that would buy all this pot, but he quickly realized consumers couldn’t tell the difference between light deps and indoor, especially if they couldn’t look before they bought it. He ended up making the switch to pounds he could get for $850 as opposed to Willey’s indoor.

“He ditched me for deps in October,” Willey said. “It was brutal and hilarious at the same time.”

Eventually, Willey would get her hands on cuts more suited to Californians’ tastes. As soon as CAM flowers started hitting shelves, it was always priced at least $5 cheaper than things of comparable quality, sometimes even $15 bucks cheaper as others attempted to cash in on whatever hype had gotten them that far. Shelf by shelf, CAM began to dot California from north to south.

One of the reasons for that competitive price point was how much cheaper it was to operate in Sacramento compared to her initial potential home in Oakland.

“I got super lucky with my landlord in Sacramento,” Willey said. “It was still insanely expensive, $1.75 a square foot. But the building was good. We all had a good foundation and relatively good TPO [thermoplastic polyolefin] roofs. They already had some basic power, 800 to 1,000 amps. It had some good bones if you can say that about a building.”

Things were eventually going well. Someone offered to buy her out. But two days before making the deal she pulled out. She was destined to grow the heat for the masses, how could she stop now?

In the end, it would work out.

“Everybody talks about how we got all these investors and whatever. I got lucky and I got one partner and that’s all I really needed. And then one of my closest friends, a grower in Colorado at Grand LAX, Josh Granville, had already come up before, and he was, you know, doing his own thing.”

Mystery Machine

Easy as Apple Pie

Eventually, Willey got her hands on some Apple Pie. It was some kind of bastardized version of Apple Fritter that her friends at the kings of apple weed, Lumpy’s, had vetted as something close to the original Fritter but not exactly the same thing. This was also the strain that put CAM on my radar back in the day. It was the absolute top of the mountain. There is a strong argument to be made at the peak of apple terps hype a couple of years ago, the three most popular strains were CAM’s Apple Pie, Lumpy’s original Fritter phenos, and Alien Labs’s Atomic Apple. The trio firmly separated themselves from the pack.

She would send a box of that primo Apple Pie to Berner from Cookies. His lineup of dispensaries is now one of CAM’s biggest clients. Willey transitioned to all the doors that have opened for her over the years through her dedication to the flame and regardless of plumbing.

“My experience of being a woman in cannabis is that I’ve just been surrounded by older brothers, mentors, people that have embraced me and shown me so much love and respect,” Willey said. “I’m not here to tell people there is not sexism or misogyny inside the industry. I’m not here to say that. I’m just here to talk about my experience and my experience with all these people that are in cannabis that have moms and sisters and girlfriends, and whatever, like really treated me as such.”

Things would change a lot from those early runs. Gone were the Harvard MBAs that were flush with newly raised capital and ready to buy anything in a jar that tested half decent. Then came the consolidation of many companies. Those with the heat like Willey would be survivors, but it was nuts. She started seeing things like dehydrated nugs going through testing to make the THC numbers higher. She didn’t even realize for a bit you could shop around the same batch for the highest THC numbers since there are no standardized cannabis lab operating procedures (plans are set to change next year.).

“And it’s about to happen. The homogenization of the testing process is going to be revolutionary for cannabis in California. I really do believe that because you will finally be able to grow a lot of strains [that you can’t in a THC-driven market,]” Willey said.

She’s been sitting on cuts for years, waiting for the moment lab testing wouldn’t be as big a factor. About 80% of them are mother plants; the rest are in tissue culture.

We asked Willey if there was a moment where she knew her weed was doing better than most as the walls were caving in on the California industry. She explained it’s not about the hundreds of stores she finds herself in but the sell-through. That’s when she knows she is connecting with the shop’s clientele.

“The one thing I really want to convey is how lucky I am with how much love California has shown some small transplant,” Willey said. “I have the best team. I can’t like, I mean, I want like a whole segment of this conversation to be about how lucky I got.”

This article was originally published in the November 2022 issue of High Times Magazine.

The post The CAM Come Up appeared first on High Times.

Source: Hightimes

Jon’s Stone-Cold Cop List #38: Y’ALL LOVE FLOWERS?

Hall of Flowers felt a little different this year. Widely regarded as the flagship trade show for the industry at this point, this was the first year that HOF felt a little BizCon-y, and I mean that in the absolute nicest way possible. With less flower than ever on display, and less rooms to view even, I wouldn’t blame this as much on the production team as I will the state of the industry right now. Shit’s tough out here, especially in California, and the only ones with real budget to spend are the picks & axes guys, like service and technology providers. Most of the brands simply can’t afford the booth price, and many that can believe they’ll find more ROI keeping their heads down on their various specialties. It’s a hard time to be outside, despite probably needing to be more than ever. I went on a little rant about this on my instagram yesterday, but let’s all try to remember that all our OG’s could really use our support right now, and every jar purchased or ticket acquired is voting with your dollar, and your attention. So while I’m about to list my favorites below, I would also encourage you think about who wasn’t able to make it out this year for whatever reason, and consider that your business makes all the difference to most of us. This goes double when times are tough, like right now.

It’s not all bad though! I actually want to call out a very smart move by the HOF team, something that shows where their head’s at and illustrates the helping hand they’re trying to offer to the little guy, and that was that small business section that topped off the big room. Not only was that incredibly valuable for all of the participants, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how well trafficked they were both days. You’ll see a few of those names below, but I was impressed by (almost) the entire section. (I didn’t feel comfortable pulling up to the lube kissing booth – let’s just call it out of my coverage area. Sorry guys!)

It’s also worth mentioning that there were some staples to my consumption diet, like CAM and Fig Farms, in attendance, who while I won’t mention below are always stars of every show. I’m trying to cycle in new names and there are always too many dope people to mention, and I just can’t be here all day. But I’m trying! If you don’t see your name below that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. Just… maybe next time! It’s going to be a long summer.

For everyone else, if you’re not texting to say ‘why not me?’, blow me up on social and let me know what gear I missed, or what I should heat-check next! Until next time, I DO love you. 


Wood Wide

Courtesy Wood Wide

I’ve written about these guys before, and while you already know that I’m a big fan of their flower, it’s worth noting that this was the very first brand I mentioned to anyone that asked about what to check out on the floor after I did my first run through. In fact, I walked several people over to their booth, and the secondhand joy I got watching my friends discover these guys in real-time filled my soul with warmth. But I’m not just here to relish in good feelings. While I’ve told you about the Cowgirl Cookies before, today I’ve got to mention its sister plant, Grumpy Tiger. This one’s got a more complex profile, and almost reminds me of mendo breath in terms of the nose and flavor, but it was the high that was worth shouting from the rooftops about – which is, realistically, the most important part of cannabis. This one had my eyes red and heavy from the first puff, and transported my attitude back to how I used to feel smoking bones after class. I can’t recommend this one enough.

Rosin Tech’s Hash Holes

Photo by @heyitsalexx757

These guys are old friends at this point. I’ve seen their growth since basically the first cannabis event I went to in California, and they’re due their shine for the work they’ve done just proliferating squish culture alone – shouts out to Vinny, one of my first real friends in the scene. That said, as someone who’s not a huge hash guy myself, there hasn’t been a ton of times I’ve really consumed their products, just cheered them on from afar. That is, until now. Their new product is probably the most flavorful hash hole I’ve smoked to date, and while I’m not sure what sorcery is producing such potent flavor in their roll, it’s an absolute showstopper. These immediately stand up next to the most well-known rolls in the space, and they’ve only dropped like two styles so far. Really excited to see where they take this.

A Golden State

Courtesy A Golden State

You might have seen this on Jimi’s story already, and while I do my best to avoid too much overlap between the two of us, some things are just too fun to leave out. This year A Golden State brought some still unnamed R&D batches for a few of the journalists in attendance, and while I will say upfront I’ve never *not liked* their flower, what they’ve got coming is actually *exciting*, and it’s pretty hard to excite me anymore. Sure I’m partially biased because instead of strain info my name was on the packaging, but I’m a rather big fan of ‘Cappetta C’ – it’s got an almost spicy musk to it, and it transfers well. They’ll have to let you know what that actually is in the future, but for now I’m not mad at the working title. Also, wouldn’t it be funny if both Jimi & Lindsey pick different favs? I vote you just run with ‘em like that. I’d smoke on some Bartlett B & Devine A any day!

Oakfruitland’s R&D Batches

Courtesy Oakfruitland

Another R&D run I’ve got to shout out is Oakfruitland’s. Although they were arbitrarily labeled so I can’t give you the specifics on the details of either, it’s nice to see some people working on bringing more diverse profiles to market. While one of these has an almost stew-y nose and taste to it, the other, greener of the pair, presents more cheese-y – but like those cheeses that they make mold a little for whatever reason. Both have a funk to ‘em that you’ll remember, and are pretty significantly different from what’s popular right now. Here’s to hoping this encourages a trend towards new profiles!

Talking Trees & Space Gem

Courtesy Space Gem

Two for one because if they’re not actually a team they sure act like one, but these guys are a staple every year. That said, the display they put together for this year’s event was pretty show-stopping. As sparkly as Wendy’s spirit, you couldn’t walk into the big room without being in awe of their razzle-dazzle, and it had people fixated, with a line waiting to chat that lasted basically the whole show. Talking Trees was premiering a new infused shorty, but perhaps more interesting to my readers, on display Craig had some of the most impressive freeze-dried flower I’ve seen yet. Although I know it’s early for this tech, and that even Craig wasn’t sure of the shelf-life yet as this was still in early testing for him, it’s hard to complain about the look or smell of those nugs. It’s also worth mentioning, in a piece that leans so heavily into supporting the real OG’s, that both Wendy and Craig couldn’t be nicer people (Obe is also the man) and if there were ever people who I wanted to say ‘shut up and take my money’ based on energy and personality alone, it would surely be these two.

Real Deal Resin’s Hasher Snacks

Courtesy Real Deal Rosin

I feel like every time I see these guys I want to write about them. From the wrestling aesthetic to their frankly world class staff, there’s not much I don’t love about these guys. However, even I wasn’t expecting the Hasher Snacks, RDR’s flip on crackerjacks. These medicated honey roasted chipotle peanuts are made with the brand’s hash rosin, and while the pack holds 100mg, they’re dosed appropriately so no one has to eat just one. In a world that’s seen a million gummies and chocolate bars, RDR is once again refreshing the landscape with a tasty, savory snack. It even comes with a prize inside!


Courtesy Traditional

Another brand that’s been on my radar awhile, I have got to call attention to the fact that Traditional is absolutely showing out at every event I see them at. And while being the most visible in the show always helps, it’s clear they’ve got a great culture over there. Their marketing team is amazing, they have a grazillion merch items and canna SKU’s, they’re tapped in with every level of celebrity, but my favorite part? I told them to be careful sampling at the event bc both the DCC and the cops are walking around and homie grabs a jar and goes to find the cops to show them what good weed looks like. If that’s not standing on it I don’t know what is.

High 90’s

Courtesy High 90’s

I remember when these guys launched, and while I remember thinking that ‘the kids will love this’ back when I mentioned them in the 3rd edition, I’ll admit I kind of tuned them out from there. I didn’t expect to consume much of their products in the future given how much I actually like the taste of the plant, but with bubblegum nicsticks taking off the way they were it was pretty clear a certain demographic would pick up on ‘em. That said, I also didn’t expect them to pivot towards quality the way they have. Flash forward to today and I’m pleased to report that High 90’s isn’t just that flavored noise anymore, these guys are actually bringing impressive flower to market, too! While they haven’t turned off the Tropical Punch prerolls, and they HAVE turned on a vape that looks an awful lot like an elf bar, there’s more to this brand than you’d initially expect, and I’m not afraid to stand corrected.

Errl Hill

Courtesy Errl Hill

The funny thing about this one is I’m actually the one that’s late here. These guys aren’t new, and their work has always hit, but sometimes things slip through the cracks and unfortunately, these have been one of those things in my coverage thus far. Well that ends today, because if you’re consuming concentrates and don’t want to break the bank in the process, this is one you should have been known about. Their Blueberry Muffin has already won a bunch of awards, and is one of the only things I will actually take a dab of while working the floor of an event. It’s also worth noting that this live rosin I just saw for the first time, Banana Bob, absolutely smacks as well.

Ice Box Flat Farms

Courtesy Ice Box Flat Farms

Another from the high tops, Ice Box Flat Farms was pointed out to me by my friend and former colleague Daniella. She mentioned that these guys were messing with their preroll machine and realized they could fit another gram inside their traditionally one gram cone, so of course I had to see what this business was about. I’m pleased to report that these things were actually smoking, and in a world where everyone wants to over-infuse for the sake of fooling their consumers into believing the listed THC percentage, it’s nice to see someone bringing a straight flower roll to market as their pilot offering.

Bonus Off the Floor Finds:

Funk Farm

Courtesy Funk Farm

I’ll be honest, this is probably my favorite score of last week. And it’s less on the strength of the flower as it is the personality of the cultivator. I met Funk Farm while waiting to get a fried chicken sandwich. I wasn’t expecting to chat, I was checking my phone for maybe the first time all day, and here’s homie, talking about the scene out in Montana – or lack thereof. There wasn’t much going on out there, and while he is growing back at home, he felt foreign to the culture we have out here, and had to experience it for himself. I don’t know what it was specifically that made the flip switch for me, but the passion I could hear he had for this plant was clear, and hearing it coming from a state that I knew frankly nothing about – I don’t even know if they have mountains or flatlands there – was refreshing. It reminded me that we still have so much ground to cover here domestically, and I’d spent the front part of this year thinking about just about anywhere else to travel to. Well homie, now Montana’s on the list, and it’s on the strength of your farm. I don’t know wtf we’re going to do there, but I’m coming to hang just as soon as possible.

MK Mints

Courtesy MK Mints

Now these little guys were a great surprise last week. I’d been spritz’ing heavy all week (more to come on that later) and I needed to change my perspective in a new way. Enter MK’s Mints – delightfully flavored mushroom microdose mints. Aptly shaped like lil’ toadstools, and leaning into a certain happiest place in the world aesthetic, these guys are my favorite new fungi product I’ve seen in months. It’s also worth noting this was much more powerful than the typical ‘micro’dose. You’ll feel the first one. They say with 8 you’re flying, which is approximately half the package, and while I haven’t gotten there quite yet, i’m excited for the next night off to see how far down this rabbit hole really goes…

Cadre Verde

Courtesy Cadre Verde

This was a new name for me, but they came highly recommended by my friend Carter of CAD, and he has a particularly distinguished palate, so when he tells me to check something out I listen. I’m glad I did, because not only was it a pleasure to smoke with HB, but the Georgia Pie Z she broke me off with was one of my favorite take homes from the show. Although they were playing the traditional game of showing up with a backpack, it just goes to show that with really good flower it doesn’t matter how flashy your display is. We’re here for the heat!

Surefire Selections

Courtesy Surefire Selections

This kind of feels like my anniversary with Surefire. We met like three May Santa Rosa halls back, and everytime I’ve pulled up since he’s had some new gear to knock my socks off. This time we met before the show started, and I got my favorite score of the week before even entering the showrooms. I’ve raved about his Candy Fumez in the past, and while they are still just as on point as I remember, his Sureberry is the ONE man. A sister pheno of Sherbanger, this one’s got a bit more of an ocimene taste – that is to say that almost apple-y flavor. But the one thing that’s important to remember when that terp shows up is that it’s going to transfer heavily to the flavor, and this is a particularly lip smacking experience. Also worth noting the Larry Z he showed me, which was less Z and more cake than I expected, was a hit with every typically gas focused connoisseur I showed it to.

Green Dawg’s D1

Courtesy Green Dawg

One of my favorite parts about going to Santa Rosa every year is pulling up to Sazon to eat a quality Peruvian meal with the homies. This year Barney and I got there early to have a nice pseudo-romantic dinner before the Rosin Tech afterparty so we could actually relax and talk for a change, and he broke out some of Green Dawg’s new D1 – a cross of Sour Dubb and a Dosido / Face on Fire cut from Always be Flowering. After we smoked it, the relaxing definitely happened, but I’m not sure if I was making any sense because I got insanely lit. Drew’s calling this Sour 2.0, and however I tell you this weed brought me back to my teens would not be doing justice to the time traveling that took place there at the table. Not only are we talking real green weed, but the nose and flavor are so strangely close to that elusive profile we all loved back then, with a new gas focus that makes it a sure favorite for today’s smokers.

Heritage Hash Co

Courtesy Heritage Hash Co

Finally, I want to give a shout to Mendo’s own, Heritage. These guys have won a bunch of awards in the past, including 1st place for Rosin at Ego Clash, and 1st place for Ice Water Hash in the Emerald Cup in the past year alone, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that they know what they’re doing. That said, I had never met any of the team over there, and I’m happy to report they’re just as delightful as their hash is delicious. Of their selection my favorites were the Sour Diesel and ‘Mom’s Terps’, though the Amarello was a close third. I haven’t gotten to the infused prerolls yet, but I’m confident they’ll be smokin’ too!

The post Jon’s Stone-Cold Cop List #38: Y’ALL LOVE FLOWERS? appeared first on High Times.

Source: Hightimes