“I got five on it; grab your 40, let’s get keyed
I got five on it; messin’ with that Indo weed
I got five on it; it’s got me stuck and I’m tore back
I got five on it; partner, let’s go half on a sack”

—Luniz, “I Got 5 on It”

From local billboards to the back of this very paper, there’s ample evidence that Oregon’s cannabis oversupply issue—while a crisis for growers, processors, and their investors—has become a major boon for consumers. Prices have fallen at such a rate that people in prohibitionist states think we’re lying about them: Ounces regularly go for less than $100, and sometimes even as low as $40. These are daily prices, and sales for the high holy day of April 20 will undoubtedly see them drop even lower.

But this bargain bud is looked down upon by many, dismissed as being old, schwaggy, sun-grown “mids.” And there is truth that some of what’s being offered at fire-sale prices is well past its prime, and probably wasn’t all that prime to begin. But that isn’t an absolute truth—quality cannabis can be found at remarkably low prices right now.

I set out to find some of the cheapest cannabis in Portland, using these criteria:

• I only purchased cannabis at $5 a gram or less. In some cases, I was able to buy an eighth (3.5 grams) for $5 or $10.

• I only purchased whole flower—no pre-rolled joints.

• I only purchased through a dispensary.

• I used my Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) card, so I didn’t pay the 20 percent sales tax. Recreational users will want to add 20 percent for their adult-use purchases.

I signed up to an email list for one dispensary in order to obtain a half-ounce for $39, and the day I visited most dispensaries was St. Patrick’s Day, with some offering up to 25 percent discounts on flower. They all assured me they have ongoing specials that are close to the discounts I received.

I sourced the eight dispensaries I visited through print ads, by Googling “cheap cannabis deals in Portland,” getting recommendations from friends, and using sites like Leafly and Weedmaps. Most every neighborhood in Portland had at least one dispensary with offerings that met my low-cost needs, to the degree that I didn’t have time, budget, or print space to visit all of them. I chose to focus on seven in Northeast Portland, as well as Farma on Southeast Hawthorne. Keeping it as affordable as possible, I visited six of the eight using a 2.5-hour Trimet ticket for $2.50.

At each dispensary, I explained my $5 rule, and stressed that I was not as interested in the THC number as I was how the flower smelled and looked. This was met by enthusiasm from most of the budtenders, who offered more candidates than I expected to find. When finished, I had purchased 35 different strains. Of those, 33 were bud, and two were impressive-looking shake for a rock-bottom $20 per ounce. For comparison, I also purchased one gram each of two more expensive strains—Tropicana Cookies and Fresh Squeezed OG—that cost $10.80 per gram. Because I’m a fancy little prince.

I spent $185.53 for the 35 strains which met my $5 rule, $2.50 for transportation, and $20 for tips because you should always, always tip your budtender, especially when you are “that customer” smelling every single bargain jar and buying one measly gram at a time. In total, I came home with 68 grams of flower, or nearly two and a half ounces. Adding the two ounces of shake, it came to more than a quarter pound of weed. I had my work cut out for me.

The majority of the stuff was sun-grown, which should never be taken as a deficit or qualifier. Some of the finest weed I have ever smoked was grown under sunlight. Done right, the flavor and terpenes of sun-grown weed can surpass the same strain grown indoors. Some of the worst weed I’ve had was also sun-grown, but that was more a factor of the grower sacrificing quality for quantity. Trying to precisely trim, cure, and store a typical sun-grown harvest of several hundred or thousand pounds can overwhelm even the best cultivators, resulting in those aspects being compromised.

Some of the strains were in the, uh, “vintage” category, diplomatically speaking, and had been lab-tested six months ago or longer. Under optimum storage conditions, some strains can gain desirable attributes, such as developing a complexity of flavors. But under most wholesale systems, pounds of herb usually aren’t handled like Fabergé eggs, which can result broken or crushed buds, and dried-out flower that’s lost most of its scent, flavor, and moisture.

I smelled and saw product across the spectrum. One dispensary had some jars where the shake far surpassed the bud ratio, and another with flower that offered scent notes of hay and, um, dried hay. I passed on anything that didn’t smell good, knowing the taste would follow suit. And I honestly didn’t even look at the THC numbers, and while I expressed a preference for sativas, I took anything if it had the smell and look.

I used a variety of vaporizers set at between 330 and 380 degrees Fahrenheit, as a way to get the most controlled extraction of flavor and effects. For comparison, I also smoked a one-hitter with a small bowl of each strain, and found a homogenous taste, and a less noticeable variation of effects. As expected, the older the weed, the more it gave me “couch lock,” most likely due to a proportion of the THC having denigrated into CBN, a cannabinoid that induces sleepiness. The $10 grams were fresher and had more flavor in most cases, but some of the budget brands definitely held their own.

So how did the weed fare? For the vast majority, I had no complaints. It mostly tasted as it smelled, and scent was one of the two deciding factors when I made my purchases. I also looked for good bud formation and a nice coating of crystals. By using a vaporizer and starting at a low temperature, I found a wider range of flavors than I did by smoking the same strains. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two strains I paid more for—at $10.80 per gram—did give me a bolder expression of flavors, and were standouts appearance-wise.

But I got higher on the cheaper stuff, in part because I was able to sample a wide variety at once: The far lower prices (in some cases, I paid less than $3 a gram) allowed me to not feel wasteful about vaping only around three to five hits, then load another bowl of a different strain and do the same. In this manner, I was able to try engage with a wider variety of terpenes and cannabinoids than I did just vaping a solitary, higher-priced strain until it was spent. The effects were more comprehensive and longer lasting.

There were at least a third of the strains for which I would have gladly paid twice the price. A few of the older strains gave up their remaining terpenes by the third vape hit, leaving a generic weed taste for all subsequent hits. And the $20-per-ounce shake gave me a solid high for the price, but as expected, I found it would’ve been better suited for cooking or processing.

Cannabis is an agricultural product, and most growers see some variance with each harvest. I wasn’t familiar with all of the farms that produced the flower I purchased, and their websites didn’t give me much information about their growing methods or anything else to make them standouts. In some cases, the branding on the package was of a distribution company rather than a farm—further evidence of the ever-shifting landscape of Oregon’s weed cultivators. 

The bottom line? If you’re delving into bargain-bin weed, forgo looking at the numbers, and trust your nose—it knows.

Standout Strains:

Golden Pineapple (Beehive)
Gorgeous, light green, with great bud tightness and crystal. Had a strong smell and an appealingly active vibe. ($2.86/gram)

Watermelon Zkittles (Everest Holdings)
Enjoyable sweetness and an actual watermelon Jolly Rancher/Skittles flavor. ($2.36/gram)

Fresh Squeezed OG (Bula Farms)
One of the higher priced strains sampled for comparison’s sake, this offered a taste explosion, with tight, crystal-y buds. ($10.80/gram)

Strawberry Cough (Pruf Cultivars)
Great terpenes and mid-level THC led to a highly functional high, and gave me a better experience than a few of the strains that clocked in at nearly twice that amount of THC.  ($10/eighth)

Citrus Farmer #10 (Trellis Farms)
This sativa had that laser-beam focus, straight-behind-the-eyes quality. Green, tight buds, and a nice taste. ($10/eighth)

Granola Funk #17 (Trellis Farms)
A clean, enjoyable menthol/fuel taste. ($10/eighth)

Forbidden Fruit (Million Elephants)
This had a big, sweet burst of authentic strawberry jam and fruit punch flavors. ($4.17/gram)

All the Strains

(One eighth = 3.5 grams)

Attis Trading Company (4920 NE Cully)

Dogwalker LTRMN 26.10% THC, $2.86/gram

Pineapple Express LTRMN 22.40% THC, $2.86/gram

Agent Orange LTRMN 25.70% THC, $2.86/gram

Golden Pineapple Beehive 27.80% THC, $2.86/gram

Blackberry Cream William Young 26.53% THC, $4.17/eighth

DoSiDo William Young 25.65% THC, $4.17/eighth

Master Kush William Young 21.04% THC, $4.17/eighth

The Canna Shoppe (6316 NE Halsey)

Blueberry Fire Grown Rogue 22.30% THC, $3.33/gram

Doctor’s Orders (3424 NE 82nd)

Cannon Beach Cookies Trellis Farms 19.40% THC, $10/eighth

Dominion Skunk #9 Trellis Farms 27.10% THC, $15/eighth

Citrus Farmer #10 Trellis Farms 23% THC, $10/eighth

Granola Funk #17 Trellis Farms 21.50% THC, $10/eighth

Farma (916 SE Hawthorne)

Strawberry Cough Pruf Cultivars 16.50% THC, $10/eighth

Floyd’s Fine Cannabis (801 NE Broadway)

Snowland Urban Pharms 29.37% THC, $5/eighth

Blueberry Cookies Everest Holdings 22.20% THC, $5/eighth

Jack Herer Urban Pharms 22.65% THC, $5/eighth

OT2 Urban Pharms 18.73% THC, $5/eighth

The Grass Shack (6802 NE Broadway)

Obama Kush Fr33dom Farms 16.26% THC, $2/gram

Forbidden Fruit Million Elephants 22.28% THC, $4.17/gram

Mendo Queen Dreamfield 6.64% THC / 8.64% CBD $4.20/gram

Blueberry Fire Highly Distributed 20.75% THC, $3/gram

Jayne (2145 NE MLK)

Lambs in Space Pilot Farm 21.22% THC, $3/gram

Mountain Girl Lemon Sky Pilot Farm 24.14% THC, $3/gram

The Kings of Canna (1465 NE Prescott, Suite C)

Samoa Cookies Anthos Distribution 21.63% THC, $2.36/gram

Lemon Skunk Everest Holdings 21.10% THC, $2.36/gram

Purple Pineapple Packaging Brothers 24.30% THC, $2.36/gram

Jack Herer Packaging Brothers 26.10% THC, $2.36/gram

Grand Daddy Kush Everest Holdings 21% THC, $2.36/gram

Purple Gorilla Glue Everest Holdings 20.80% THC, $2.36/gram

Watermelon Zkittles Everest Holdings 20.70% THC, $2.36/gram

Animal Cookies Pharmers Market 20.50% THC, $2.36/gram

Cinderella 99 Packaging Brothers 21.70% THC, $2.36/gram

Orange Cookies Anthos Distribution 21.47% THC, $2.36/gram

Tropicana Cookies Boring Weed Co. 21.15% THC, $10.80/gram

Fresh Squeezed OG Bula Farms 27.50% THC, $10.80/gram

Pineapple Thai Kings of Kush 18.60% THC, $20/ounce (shake)

Tangie Shennong 18.30% THC, $20/ounce (shake)