As the dominant cannabis market with a massive population and powerful media presence, California has an oversized influence on strain popularity across the country. This year, the West Coast’s strong appetite for the sweeter side of the plant has been apparent with six of the top ten strains falling into the trendy dessert category with strains like Lemon Cherry Gelato, Apple Fritter, and Wedding Cake topping the list. However, true classics like Blue Dream and Durban Poison have remained popular choices over the years.
From citrusy scents and sweet-but-savory flavors to indica dominance and THC content that sits on the higher side, this list helps the entire industry understand what consumers in one of the most developed markets desire: stress and anxiety reduction, dessert-like flavors, earthy and gassy scents, and reliable herbal solutions to help with sleep.
To assess strain popularity in 2023, we looked at the top-selling eighths by the total number of units sold in California from January 1, 2023, through October 24, 2023, using nearly 800,000 data points provided by New Frontier Data.
1. Lemon Cherry Gelato
A bright mix of Sunset Sherbert and Girl Scout Cookies, this Michigan-born energetic hybrid is known for soothing anxiety or stress with about 25 percent THC. Caryophyllene dominates in Lemon Cherry Gelato, resulting in a citrusy taste and aroma that is complemented by subtle notes of lemon and berry.
Lemon Cherry Gelato is recommended for more experienced consumers, often for its high THC content. For shops that tend to cater to high-dose consumers who prefer upbeat hybrids that simultaneously relax and energize, we recommend keeping your shelves stocked with this strain. Lemon Cherry Gelato accounts for nearly 14 percent of all units sold in the top ten.
2. Apple Fritter
The second-most popular strain in the state this year was NorCal’s own Apple Fritter: a tasty hybrid cross between Sour Apples and Animal Cookies. This one is both powerful and relaxing, often utilized by consumers struggling with anxiety and/or depression.
Apple Fritter strain typically has a sweet, earthy scent and a cheesy-apple, pastry-inspired taste. It’s also noted for its 50/50 balance between indica vs sativa with a quick onset and strong cerebral effect. Apple Fritter accounts for about 11 percent of all units sold in the top ten.
3. Cereal Milk
Breakfast cereal milk options can be as divisive as pineapple on pizza these days, but the Cereal Milk strain is much more likely to be universally loved. Developed by Berner’s Cookies, Cereal Milk is the result of a popular Cookies pheno Y Life crossed with the sativa-dominant Snowman.
The strain has an unsurprisingly sweet, milky flavor with euphoric, energizing effects. Cereal Milk is commonly utilized by consumers seeking a lift from depression and/or stress. It’s also aesthetically pleasing, so if you’re looking to decorate your display cases with gorgeous, glistening sugary nugs, Cereal Milk is a great option. Cereal Milk accounts for just over 11 percent of all units sold in the top ten.
4. Wedding Cake
Wedding Cake or “Triangle Mints #23” is an indica-dominant hybrid mix of Triangle Kush and Animal Mints. It’s considered a slightly indica-dominant hybrid that’s expected to produce THC content of around 27 percent.
Known as “Pink Cookies” in Canada, Wedding Cake is desirable for its calming body and mind effects as well as appetite stimulation. Most consumers report experiencing the munchies after consuming Wedding Cake, which means it’s a great strain to pair with a snack section or one to offer at a consumption cafe. Wedding Cake accounts for nearly 11 percent of all units sold in the top ten.
Also known as GMO Garlic Cookies or just Garlic Cookies, GMO is a newer indica-dominant hybrid that Californians love. A cross between the classic Chemdawg and the ubiquitous Girl Scout Cookies, GMO is known for providing euphoric, mentally uplifting, and physically sedating effects.
Medically-focused consumers may gravitate toward the strain to treat things like anxiety, stress, and chronic pain. Its name comes from its spicy, garlic, mushroom, and onion flavor with the quintessentially Chemdawg diesel scent many older cannabis enthusiasts know and love. GMO strain sales account for roughly 11 percent of all units sold in the top ten.
6. Blue Dream
Practically synonymous with California cannabis, Blue Dream is one of the most well-known strains in the world and a major staple at popular Los Angeles Dispensaries. With 18 percent THC and traces of CBD, this Blueberry-Haze hybrid is ideal for energetic creativity and overall mood boosting.
If your consumer base is largely artistic and you know they use cannabis to help think outside of the box, you’ll want to recommend Blue Dream. However, its full-body relaxation effects are just as potent as the cerebral stimulation it provides, so it’s a great choice for nearly any type of consumer. Blue Dream accounts for nearly 10 percent of all units sold in the top ten.
7. Maui Waui
Another cannabis classic is Maui Waui: a famous sativa hailing from Hawaii. With light, tropical flavors and largely effective stress-relieving properties, Maui Waui is known for being energetic, uplifting, and inspiring consumers to take a spontaneous trip to the shoreline.
This is a great seasonal selection for spring breakers, tropical vacationers, and tourists in general who know the strain’s name from pop culture. If you’re located in a popular travel destination like Las Vegas, take notes. Maui Waui is known for making consumers feel carefree and creative, which means you can pitch this strain as an affordable way to emulate the zen of island life in any part of the country. Maui Waui accounts for nearly 9 percent of all units sold in the top ten.
8. Durban Poison
Born in South Africa, Durban Poison is a bonafide classic sativa popular for its uplifting and energizing effects. It’s perfect for consumers who like to smoke for productivity and/or creativity, so if you know that’s your crowd, keep this in mind as a top budtender recommendation.
When it comes to treating ailments, Durban Poison is often used for stress, anxiety, and depression. It also smells sweet and looks pretty, with large, resinous nugs covered in beautiful trichomes to make for an eye-catching display and upsell opportunity at the counter. Durban Poison accounts for just under 9 percent of all units sold in the top ten.
9. Ice Cream Cake
Cannabis that smells like French vanilla and tastes like sugar-dusted dough? Californians are screaming for it.
Ice Cream Cake is an indica-dominant cross between Gelato #33 and the aforementioned Wedding Cake. The ninth-most popular strain in California through October 2023, the hybrid is popular among medical patients struggling with anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain.
A nighttime-use favorite, consumers will want to save Ice Cream Cake for chill time, so if your location has a section of products that are known for battling insomnia, consider recommending this strain as your latest yawn-inducing fit. Ice Cream Cake accounts for nearly 8 percent of all units sold in the top 10.
10. Northern Lights
Rumored to have first sprouted near Seattle, Northern Lights or NL is a potent indica-dominant strain with just a touch of sativa lineage. It typically hovers around 20 percent THC with about 0.1 percent CBD. Northern Lights is notorious for inducing “couch-lock” fatigue and insatiable munchies. It’s known for its sweet and spicy flavor and smooth hits.
When it comes to soothing ailments, consumers turn to Northern Lights for stress, pain, and depression reduction. We suggest placing Northern Lights near your CBN-heavy products, as it’s sure to be a hit among consumers with trouble sleeping who are looking for some evening relief. Northern Lights accounts for around 8 percent of all units sold in the top ten.