Venice Alternative Healing Collective (VAHC) founder Craig Taniguchi wants to stay ahead of the cannabis curve.
As a longtime cultivator in Los Angeles’ bustling, mature cannabis scene, Taniguchi is always on the lookout for unique innovations that can help VAHC stand out in a crowded marketplace. He has seen his share of trends – and flops – over more than 10 years of cultivating craft cannabis flower.
“There are a lot of very good cultivators, strains, and products in Los Angeles, so trying to stand out can be challenging, especially if a dispensary doesn’t carry one of the biggest brands in the city,” Taniguchi said. “We had to offer something truly special to differentiate ourselves from other cultivators.”
Taniguchi came across Cryo Cure flower while searching online for up-and-coming game-changers. While intriguing, he initially regarded Cryo Cure with skepticism: Taniguchi had heard “big talk with small promises” from other cannabis innovators, and few, if any, delivered.
But one Cryo Cure sample changed all that. Now, VAHC is the first cultivator in California to offer Cryo Cured flower to discerning consumers in one of the largest cannabis markets in the United States.
Shortly after learning about Cryo Cure in 2020, VAHC reached out to learn more about how the technology worked. Taniguchi received a sample of Cryo Cured hemp flower so he could see and experience the difference for himself.
Taniguchi was captivated by the size of the bud: Large and fluffy, the Cryo Cured flower barely shrank during the drying and curing process. Cryo Cure’s remarkable terpene retention rate – as high as 95% — contributed to the sample’s unforgettable aroma. The chlorophyll taste was completely absent. Notably, its smooth smoke didn’t make Taniguchi cough like traditionally dried and cured flower sometimes did.
“The Cryo Cured hemp was unbelievable – there was no way that the bud could appear as large as it did, but the shrinkage simply wasn’t there,” Taniguchi said. “And once I opened the jar, the smell could not be compared to anything else I experienced.”
Taniguchi, interested in “streamlining processes” at VAHC, was also intrigued by Cryo Cure’s shortened processing time: The machines cut down the drying and curing process, an endeavor that could last two weeks or more, to as little as 13 hours.
Between the unforgettable consumption experience, the shortened drying and curing time, and the unprecedented technology at play, Taniguchi knew that there was something special to Cryo Cure. Soon after trying that sample, VAHC had a Cryo Cure machine in their facility, ready to process its first harvest.
Taniguchi purchased the CC350 model for VAHC’s 28,000-square-foot cultivation facility in downtown Los Angeles. At just a few feet wide and under 15 feet long, the model’s smaller footprint took up minimal space in the facility. The built-in wheels gave VAHC the option to relocate the Cryo Cure machine with ease if needed, too.
To accompany Cryo Cure, VAHC invested in a walk-in freezer that could reach -20°F, the recommended temperature to flash freeze cannabis before it undergoes the Cryo Cure process. (Select Cryo Cure models include a built-in freezer; VAHC opted for a separate unit.) VAHC staff ran tests on several cultivars, fine-tuning precisely how much time each one required in the Cryo Cure machine. All dried and cured in under 24 hours.
“Instead of harvesting the plant, cutting it down, and hanging the branches for traditional drying, we cut down the plant and place it immediately into bucking machines to separate bud from stalk, then put those buds through the Cryo Cure process,” Taniguchi said. “This is basically the fresh frozen method; it saves all the terpenes in an incredible way.”
The freezer and Cryo Cure were set up right as the COVID-19 pandemic hit its peak in Los Angeles. This caused a two-month delay in launching Cryo Cure into the market, as Cryo Cure President Greg Baughman and CEO Tracee McAfee couldn’t travel to LA for training during the peak. But once the peak of infections waned and it was safer to resume in-person activities, VAHC staff trained on how to use Cryo Cure.
“Training was fairly easy, and our staff caught on quickly,” Taniguchi said. “Greg and Tracee are great guides — patient, friendly, and accessible.”
Taniguchi said the first run, which hit the market in early 2021, sold out “immediately.” VAHC has since made five more runs with Cryo Cure technology, with plans to bring Cryo Cure to a second, 40,000-square-foot facility operated by VAHC.
“When I talk to other cultivators trying out freeze dryers, I always point out to them how other methods completely destroy the buds,” Taniguchi said. “Cryo Cure’s results offer an experience no other flower can match.”
Since the initial drop, VAHC has placed Cryo Cure in LA’s most popular dispensaries, right alongside the biggest cannabis brands in California. Taniguchi said that Cryo Cure is catching on in LA, with more inquiries from dispensaries to carry Cryo Cured flower and unbridled enthusiasm among a demographic of consumers who appreciate the finer notes of cannabis.
“Cryo Cure is like drinking a fine wine or sipping a great tequila,” Taniguchi said.
VAHC educates dispensary associates on the differences between Cryo Cure and other top shelf flower, explaining how Cryo Cure technology preserves trichomes and terpenes for a euphoric, flavorful experience.
“Once someone learns about Cryo Cure and why it’s so different, they say, ‘wow, I need to try that,’” Taniguchi said, noting that it was important to explain to customers how Cryo Cure technology produces better bud, not just a prettier, fluffier one. “With nearly all the terpenes intact, you get the full understanding of why each strain tastes different and you get to experience the full profile of what a strain is meant to taste like. No other flower can do that.”
Taniguchi added he encountered several people who have permanently made the switch to Cryo Cure, noting that the smooth smoke creates an “unparalleled” cannabis experience.
“I meet other people who buy other top shelf cannabis and they can’t stop coughing when they smoke it,” Taniguchi said. “That doesn’t happen with Cryo Cure. This is a smooth smoke, and many people who try it can’t go back.”
As the word about Cryo Cure spreads in LA, Taniguchi is proud that VAHC is the first to bring this innovative line to the Golden State.
“Cryo Cure has caught on to the masses here for its flavor and for the quality of the smoke,” Taniguchi said. “Once people taste it, they know immediately that Cryo Cured cannabis is just completely different.”