Keeping The Legacy Alive In Canada – Interview With CAKED Cannabis

CAKED is making a stamp in the Canadian cannabis market offering quality cannabis for cost effective prices; but at the same time, taking notes from the United States when it comes to branding and offering a total cannabis experience.

What is total a cannabis experience? It’s what you see on social media, what you hear in the news and what you find in your joint or dab. It’s the packaging you take home, the premium buds inside of it, and the enjoyment you find every time you crack that bag open. The cannabis experience encompasses every aspect of your cannabis; the purchase through consumption. 

We are talking seed to sale; genetics, growth, harvest, cure, packaging, and positioning in the Canadian cannabis market. CAKED Cannabis is making it known that their genetics are one of a kind and their end products aren’t to play with. Pairing up with some of the world largest hip hop artists, you can find CAKED at a festival near you weather you’re down at Rolling Loud New York or Toronto, expect to the the stamp.

With a massive Canadian launch upcoming May 15, 2022, we wanted to get in touch with the team and find out a little more about the Western Canadian brand with the premium products.  

Can you give us a look at the CAKED cannabis project as a whole. Who is CAKED Cannabis, and tell us a bit about how the CAKED brand developed into what it is today?

We’re a lot different from other brands, we are not profit driven opportunists or following that type of blueprint. We’re a true designer brand that cares about every aspect of our image and products integrity, almost like a certification of high standards as far as cannabis goes. A brand isn’t a corporate logo under an umbrella of other brands designed to distinguish different white labeled or commercial products. A brand has a soul and a heartbeat, with the blood running through it as the culture. Our story is a movie….

This game wasn’t the safe game it is now when we started. We went through the same hardships as any brand, but with the cops on our tail raiding grow spots to losing packs and having to bounce back, along with all the evils that come with the streets. It’s all a part of our story and that’s the side of cannabis that we represent and showcase. Anyone from the legacy that’s really paid their dues and went through it, is who we collab with and support.

We’re not 3 buddies that quit their jobs and started a grow project later in life because it’s legal now and smoke weed, or named after an old war hero grandfather carrying on that story or a corporate funded mega whale looking to steal all the profits made off others hard work. There’s nothing wrong with some of that, and there’s room for everyone, but that’s not us. The cannabis culture has many different windows and roots, we can only represent and speak for the culture that has been our reality.

If I were to take issue, it would be when those type of companies/ambassadors speak for us and try to use us to validate themselves. Or use their political influence and deep pockets to hold others back so they can thrive. Which is the sad reality of much of the legal industry today.

Everyone has their story, but ours comes from those who really went through it and paid their dues, when the risks and consequences were much different. It’s a special love for the plant and as crazy as it sounds, the plant knows, embraces and reflects that in the end product.

Coming from nothing to something with all odds stacked against us and losing it all and having to do it again and again. That’s a different type of dedication and builds a different resilience than a company who’s master grower has a degree in horticulture growing tomatoes or something. We can go places other brands can’t, and we pride ourselves on that. Understanding and being able to navigate those waters is the game we play that they have yet too figure out. Knowing what people want and offering the very best representation of that.

Back then grow rooms were small because they were hidden in crawl spaces, basements, garages etc. So every square foot was important to producing the returns to justify the risks. Investing that valuable space into breeding and advancing your genetic game came at a higher price in those times. It takes a ton of time and space that you don’t see a return on for years, or at all. I’ve lost some of the best strains I’ve had or created in raids or outside bullshit, but that’s the risk for the reward in having that fire, that separates you from the rest. Some of the best brands and growers are still going through it today as they refuse to sell their soul for cheap to some big unqualified company.

At Caked, we are very genetic driven and creators, we pride ourselves in keeping all our genetics and strains in the control of the shops we run. We turn down money all the time from other brands and companies that want us to build their menus or buy or license our genetics. Once everyone has access to it, it loses its value. Good strains end up having their reputations dragged through the mud when it’s is not done properly. But it’s not the money for us, we’re good, it’s us believing in that person or company vs pimping out what’s proprietary to us out to just anyone and for that low hanging fruit. That’s what separates us from others in this space and keeps us unique and contained.

Your website says your team has deep roots in the legacy market and you’ve been some of the drivers of the cannabis culture for decades in the west. How are CAKED roots and history in the black marketing differentiating the end product and quality, and how did the black-market help to shape the CAKED brand as a whole?

Not just the West but all over, even in places and countries we’re not going to get into here. Our roots stem back 20+ years through just about every facet of the black market. We always wanted to have the packs that stood out and marketed themselves, so we always have been pushing our genetic development and pheno collecting to build up our unique catalog.

It’s all in the terps and their uniqueness to us. The thrill of smelling and tasting a new terp is one of our main drivers. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the black market, as that’s what’s put us in position today. The soul of the industry is in and from the black market, those markets are where the trends are set and buzzes begin; that won’t change.

Have you experienced cannabis from the other side (legal market)? Where do you position CAKED’s quality in relation to a say… Tweed or one of the more craft focused cannabis brands, and what are the core differences I’m going to see when I’m smoking the product?

I don’t want to call out anyone specific, that’s not the energy we wanna put out. They’re doing them along with a million other brands like them and we’re doing us. We’re not haters like that but their lane is more commercial cannabis and geared for commercial markets. More of quantity over quality I’ve found. Which is 90 percent of the cannabis space and consumers are right now and where all their marketing is aimed at.

I personally haven’t had a ton those type of products, I like products from those who are trying to be great at their craft. Even at a large scale we will always be small scale very well managed and contained facilities. Quality is in the eye of the beholder and what they hope to accomplish with cannabis. If your main goal is to get wrecked, then we can do that as good or better than the rest of them. But that may not always be our customer. Not everyone is into cannabis like we are and they have just as much right to smoke and have those options available too. It’s all about the terps and how unique each strain is, and as we feel how it should be represented and showcased. It’s how the different cannabinoids pair with your body chemistry and make you feel, and opening that bag, for the whole room to turn around wondering who the fuck is holding that super dank.

When I’m at a club I’m poppin’ bottles, I plan on gettin’ lit, but my table isn’t packed with moonshine or the cheapest options to get me there the fastest. I’m gonna get there still I’m sure, but with a nice bottle of something that I can enjoy while doin it. I’m taking the bottle of XO over the VSOP, because I can taste and appreciate the difference. I’m a fan of nice things, especially those from someone who took time and had the passion to mastering their craft and creativity. That kind of passion is what inspires me and attracts me to a brand or product. Those are the markets we aim to impress and align ourselves with.

What are the biggest differences we would see in processes of cultivation or facility operations in CAKED vs one of the larger producers such as a Canopy brand?

I can’t speak on Canopy’s cultivation processes. But we use small environments, quality organic ingredients and prune each strain a certain way that gives us the representation we chose. That’s a big one for us, because we have strains that could yield far more from, if pruned a bit differently or cut the flower times down. The prune and environment will totally shape every aspect of the final product and each plant and strain grows unique, so it’s never the same.  I feel when we hunt a strain, we have a lot more boxes to check off than many of our competitors. And although yield is important, I can’t tell you have many times I’ve overlooked a heavy yield because it was just that dank and needed to be out there.

Our shops are happy places filled with people who are passion driven and aim to see that plants full potential. If we like it, or people like it, then we won’t stop growing it and the price will follow accordingly. We don’t have to charge twice as much, because we don’t keep the same overhead or formula many of the big corporations do. We don’t need a 30 million dollar facility with thousands of staff. Our main costs are research and development, expanding our genetic program and collabing with artists we believe in, which is where our money is far better spent for our model.

Much of the best cannabis I’ve encountered has come from a retrofitted basement or garage. A lot of it is expensive gimmicks or set for a high turnout high profit business structure, and built buy those for those with little to no understanding of the culture, industry and what consumers really want.

When it comes to the extracts on your site we noticed that you’re pushing solventless both in carts and magma. What’s MAGMA, and what is the difference in end product from say a BHO extraction vs a rosin which uses no chemicals just extreme colds, heats and pressure?

Rosin uses a heat and pressure press without the aid of a solvent to refine the tricombs heads into an oil. I feel the impact of the pressure with rosin is applied a bit different and without adding a foreign solvent achieves a terpier and cleaner experience.

For us, we try to be as clean and pure as possible. I’ve seen a lot of shit flower that was processed into a great extract with solvents, especially with technology these days. Anyone can do that with the right equipment. But with rosin it is a direct representation on the quality of the flower inputted. We feel it preserves and showcases the terps far better with a much cleaner flavor. But this does come at a much larger cost, making rosin and solvent less extracts are much more costly and labor intensive to produce.

There are some unreal solvent extracts out there, don’t get me wrong. But again, that’s not us. We feel rosin is cleaner and does better justice to our strains than other methods.

Magma is the line we created that showcases those extracts and how we feel it’s represented in its  highest quality and purest form.

A topic we’ve heard a lot about is the compensation for those with the legacy experience in cannabis moving to the legal market and a lack there of. What are your thoughts on perfecting the craft, it’s value and the talent floating around trying to find positions that reflect their value in both the legacy and legal context.

This is a strange one, I don’t know any other industry that has gone from black to white like this. I mean you have legitimate companies purchasing and investing in black market companies and products based off undocumented financials and very limited understandings of the products they sell. A bunch of those guys definitely learnt that the hard way or cashed in, depending what side of the fence they were on in that equation.

With the barriers to entry set so high for those who actually have experience in cannabis by those in power or with deep pockets, has created a huge distrust and dislike between the 2 sides in many scenarios. But some have also used that to their advantage and hacked the system, which makes them that much more unique. For me, being offered a low paying job or letting my story be pimped out for someone else’s gain, doesn’t sit well. Guys like us are who bring all the value to the guys with money or new comers to the market. That should be embraced and amplified and respected. It’s what shapes and drives the culture. But money, greed and government has pushed guys like us out, to cash all the gains in for themselves.

It’s insane having someone who has risked it all for years in a make shift grow, in the hardest environments and conditions and yet be able to still achieve the highest success, be then offered some lame salary or position in a company trying to do what they have succeed at for years. It sucks to see the guys who fall for the bait and sell themselves at a discount for a company to reap the benefits and then deem them disposable anyway.

These companies should be empowering and building with the legacy. Anyone who knows their value would never take that bait, so in a lotta ways it’s just cutting out a bunch of the fat from culture that needs to be burned off anyway. That’s not every company, but a lot of the bigger publicly traded and highly funded companies would definitely fall under that umbrella in many or all ways. I hope to see that change more in the future. We currently hold our ground with many of these players in all kinds of ways and in educating the markets properly to make an educated choice.

In the American market it seems more cultivar / “where did my weed come from” focused as opposed to convenience. Regions such as California have engrained the connoisseur culture – not only with that comes the cool branding and packaging, but distinctive brand elements that customers recognize and that represent your brand. When you see Cookies packaging, you know it’s Cookies packaging. Is this just the culture we are exposed to in the media or is this true and how does this differ from the Canadian market and is it behind or just different as a whole?

There is definitely a lot more marketing freedom in the States but both markets will always thrive as cannabis represents different things to each individual. Canada is very behind the times and slow in regards to cannabis and regulations, it is not cannabis friendly to marketing. Which I personally like, because it allows those who really understand the landscape to be creative and stand out in their own ways.

Cookies the brand as Berner grew it, for me, has always been very influential and ingrained in our DNA. Berner is a true representation of the culture and along with taking huge risks and hard work, was able to hit the timing and create what would be considered much of the foundation of cannabis genetics and it’s progression. Many have been doin it before, during and at the same time, but very few were able to market and bring it to the level he has. He is most definitely one of the original and large creators of designer cannabis. Shoutout to Berner !!

Like any business that’s trail blazing and expanding fast, there will be hiccups and that usually come out in consistency and quality. Like moving too fast into commercial or the wrong type of facilities that can’t do them justice. In their case it’s a necessary evil. I also feel that’s part of their plan, and comes with taking over the market share they have been able to reach so quickly. I hope they select smaller and better partners that are able to carry that legacy on and preserve their product integrity that made them who they are.

The 80:20 rule would suggest 20% of cannabis consumers make up for 80% of the spending power in the Canadian market. Some reports have gone as far as suggesting over 50% of the cannabis purchases are now made on the legal market. What do you believe and where do you believe the share of the spending power lies between both markets?

I think that’s impossible to accurately say, as a large portion of the cannabis sales are off the books in the grey markets. A large percentage of the legal market sales would be first time smokers now that it’s legal, and your casual or more recreational smoker.  So if anything it would be good data on that.

A lot of your heavy passionate smokers stay loyal to the guys whom have been sorting them out for years. The legal market overall doesn’t really cater too a lot of the OG smokers because it isn’t a representation of what they want I find much of the time. That’s starting to change with micros coming to market and as the rules change to open up for more legacy guys to enter. The ridiculous barriers to entry, over regulation and high taxes leave little motivation to incentivize those with the sauce. I’ve definitely smoked some good bud in the legal markets, but nothing I’d say is better or as consistent as knowing the right guys in the grey markets.

Again, cannabis is a personal experience and everyone has their own preferences of what they consider good. I’m speaking more for the boutique designer side which is what drives Caked.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen over the years when it comes to the industry as a whole originally facing legal cannabis in 2018, and then the modernization of laws and addition of the legal market through to today?

There has been so many. The government has absolutely no idea what they are doing or any understanding for cannabis. So they do what they do best and over regulate and enforce contradictory and inefficient rules with total bs made job titles. Their approach is that it is better to over regulate and slowly change and remove regulations as they begin to understand it more vs under regulate; lose their opportunity to monopolizing and pimp the industry for those who lobby the most for them.

We’re on the road to a seed to sale type model which is what will start to change the industry, it puts the power more in the hands of who deserves it and allows the markets to decide what they like and at what price point.

We can tell that hip hop is in your roots as a brand.  Can you go into a little detail on how involvement with the North American hip hop scene has helped CAKED stay grounded in an industry where brands often lose touch with their identity?

We just collabed with Kardinal Offishall. We’re also collabing with ground breaking artists such as KTOE who is currently on a Canada Tour hitting all major cities. We stand behind artists we have long standing relationships with and new artists that we believe in. For us music has ridden shotgun and been our soundtrack through the process, telling our stories and giving us a platform when everyone else was too scared and it wasn’t a trendy buzzword. 

Music and especially hip hop have been our allies since the beginning, for me it runs through my blood and is a part of my entire identity. This is how we can showcase and contribute to a culture that has shaped us into who we are by contributing and growing with us. We are a part of hip hop culture as much as it’s a part of us, so we support and showcase whoever we feel is dope. Like pairing a fine red wine to a nice steak. A talent incubator from the perspective of cannabis. We work with and continue to pair and cultivate weed/music through our relationships that we feel are in-line with our brands soul and integrity. We’re a flex, but also from humble beginnings. You can’t be a designer brand without a legacy or story in my opinion, and that longevity only compounds and solidifies a brand’s confidence as long as that integrity is kept intact during its evolution.

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