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How Cookies Brand Cannabis Strains Came to Colorado

Cookies strains have taken root in Colorado.EXPAND
Cookies strains have taken root in Colorado.
Courtesy of Veritas Fine Cannabis

Colorado was hungry for Cookies by the time it finally entered the market this year.

Born in 2012 in California, Cookies is a child of both the cannabis and hip-hop worlds. It was founded by two legends: Berner, aka Gilbert Milam Jr., a rapper and entrepreneur from the Bay Area; and Jigga, a renowned cannabis grower and breeder who was a member of the mythic growing collective known as the Cookie Collective, or Cookies Fam. From these not-so-humble beginnings, it evolved from a beloved strain and San Francisco streetwear clothing storefront to an international group of lifestyle brands — Cookies, Lemonnade, Minntz and Grandiflora — all under the Cookies umbrella. Each line is a part of Cookies’ unique cannabis ecosystem, in which every breeder has their own label.

Cookies storefronts are now popping out of the oven around the world. The company welcomed a cannabis club in Barcelona this year; it already had numerous dispensaries across California. Through grower partnerships, the brand can now be found in every adult-use legal market in the country, from Maryland, Massachusetts and Michigan to Nevada, Washington, Oregon and, at long last, Colorado.

On May 8, Cookies arrived in the state, bringing with it such legendary strains as Gary Payton (made in collaboration with the NBA great himself), Gelatti, Cheetah Piss, Pancakes, White Runtz, Georgia Pie and Sticky Buns, among other wild, sweet and imaginative creations. Lemonnade, another brand in the Cookies box, is now also available in the state for the first time; it focuses on sativa-dominant strains. While Cookies doesn’t sell the original Girl Scout Cookies strain, it does offer consumers popular phenotypes based on it.

Colorado’s Cookies are grown exclusively by local cultivator Veritas Fine Cannabis, a craft-cannabis company born in 2011. It’s a match made in grower heaven.

“We’ve been on the market for about five months now,” says Jon Spadafora, director of sales and marketing for Veritas. “It’s been great; we were really happy with the way the market has responded. Obviously, there’s a bit of concern whenever you launch a brand. The Cookies brand is so popular. … This is a very different product. It found a home very quickly.

“Cookies is a lifestyle; Cookies is a true lifestyle,” he adds. “A lot of brands try to say they’re lifestyle brands, but there are a lot of people who are invested in this culture, and it’s really amazing to see.”

The partnership between Cookies and Veritas came through Slang Worldwide, a distributor of branded products that’s helped champion the Cookies expansion into new markets. “One thing that drew us to it, and what we love about this partnership, is it is authentic,” Spadafora continues. “Berner cares, Berner’s involved. He’s involved in the decision of what strains go to market. And then his music supports those strains. It’s been incredible to watch. We were blown away by the fact that their team shares a similar passion for the plant that our team does. There’s a very personal connection to cannabis, and everyone really cares.”

The California-based Cookies team has been involved with the Colorado expansion from the beginning, with rigorous SOPs and requirements for the vetting process, explains Spadafora. “They actually came to our facility,” he says. “After going through, meeting with our head of cultivation and some of the other team, they understood that we have a really similar style at heart, a very similar nutrient program.”

Even if the Cookies story is unique.

Cookies’ namesake strain, Girl Scout Cookies, is among the most famous and imitated in the growing world. GSC’s roots stretch back to the 2010s in the Bay Area, where it was created by the Cookies Fam, a medical community of powerhouse California growers. The strain was said to be a cross between South Africa’s Durban Poison and Southern California’s OG Kush.

It took off quickly. Less than a decade later, thousands of phenotypes can be found around the world. Seed banks claim to sell the “real Girl Scout Cookies” strain; storefronts from California to Amsterdam sell a GSC strain. Colorado has had versions on the shelves for close to a decade. There is no one true GSC at this point; it’s been bred, crossed and sold far beyond its original form. Unable to formally copyright the strain — a perk not yet available to cannabis — Cookies won’t press charges against any dispensary or grower claiming to grow GSC, not here in Colorado or anywhere else.

But some of those dispensaries have been the focus of other legal action. In 2017, the Girl Scouts of America sent cease-and-desist letters to dispensaries that were using the Girl Scout Cookies name and logo, but the organization has never pressed charges. In the meantime, the scope of GSC has grown wildly out of the group’s control.

Unlike most transplants from California, Cookies received a warm welcome in Colorado.

“There was a concern about how Colorado would respond to a brand out of California,” Spadafora admits. “In Colorado, there are a lot of similarities with the states, but we’re pretty proud of our market. We were really excited. Once we went through and understood that this is more than just a brand with someone’s name on it, the fundamentals are strong. They really understand what they’re talking about, and they truly care. So far, it’s been a really phenomenal partnership.”

The grow room at Veritas, which is serving Cookies in Colorado.EXPAND
The grow room at Veritas, which is serving Cookies in Colorado.
Courtesy of Veritas Fine Cannabis

The introduction of the Cookies brand brought a new level of strain obsession to the Colorado marketplace. One of the more notable differences with Cookies is that the consumer can try a specific strain, as opposed to similar strains on the similar end of the spectrum. “Cookies is very different; for us it was a bit of a learning curve,” Spadafora says.

Veritas’s goal was to get as many Cookies strains on the market as possible from the start in order to familiarize buyers with the brand and its story. Now it’s working to introduce a regular rotation of new strains. “There will always be something new every month to month and a half moving forward,” Spadafora says. “Now that we’re rolling and established, we’ll start adding a lot more strains to the lineup.”

Which strains have proved the most popular in Colorado? “Everyone loves Gary Payton,” he notes. “Georgia Pie is next, another one of my favorites. Then I would say Cake Mix and Blanco from the Lemonnade side of things. Those four have really, really done well. People are big fans of White Runtz, too.”

But according to Spadafora, Colorado consumers can’t go wrong with Cookies. “There hasn’t been a strain someone hasn’t liked,” he promises. “But you do see more velocity with certain ones. The Cookies legacy strains like Gary Payton and Georgia Pie, that have been there for a long time, definitely get a lot of attention on the retail side.”

And what’s coming soon? “All the big Cookies hitters are going to eventually be in the market,” Spadafora says. “A couple that are definitely on the way here are London Pound Cake, Cereal Milk. Some of the new ones, as well; they’re in production. We’ll start seeing new strains toward the end of this year, early next year.”

In the meantime, Spadafora has a hot tip on a secret Cookies strain. “My personal favorite is the Grandiflora Project 4510,” he reveals. “It’s one of the lesser-known Cookies strains. Grandiflora focuses on very complex strains; the flavor profiles are very interesting. The look and the smell of the flower — it doesn’t look like anything else you see in the garden. For me, it’s a very relaxed, very stoney but not too stoned high, which I enjoy. It’s a good way to decompress and not feel out of touch from the rest of the world. All the people in the garden, this is everyone’s secret strain. This is just the most flavorful. It’s really based on the substance of the flower. This cannabis really is super special.”

His second-favorite strain? Pancakes. “My wife describes Pancakes as the Xanax of cannabis, very relaxing,” Spadafora explains. “A good ‘My day is over, I want to just relax’ strain. And both of those have done great for us.”

Even so, launching a brand during a pandemic wasn’t all “butterflies and rainbows,” Spadafora recalls. “It’s funny for our team. The idea of launching a new brand in a market is terrifying in normal times. During a pandemic, it’s even scarier. It’s been cool to be a part of something that people get excited about, and we can see them get excited. In a time that a lot of things that normally make us happy aren’t available, it’s something that has been a bright spot for people.”

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You can find Cookies at plenty of stores in the area, including A Cut Above, Colorado Harvest Company, Diego Pellicer, The Dab, Simply Pure and Wolf Pac. The strains stand out with their playful packaging, with bright, whimsical animation atop an iconic blue backdrop. And you’ll soon see Cookies in more spots.

“They’re the biggest cannabis brand in the country; they’re in every state,” says Spadafora. “But they understand they’re still learning; it’s still very early in this, and they’re looking for feedback, growing — which is phenomenal. They’ve been really open and communicative all along.

“One thing I love about the relationship is that they don’t look at this like McDonald’s, where every place does the same burger,” Spadafora concludes. “They understand that cannabis responds differently to different regions and climates. And they are actually really happy to hear back from our grow team about what’s working, what’s not working, what’s doing well. Refining.”

Cookies is opening its first dispensary in Colorado on Thursday, November 5, at 2057 South Broadway.

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