CANTO DIEM: A COZY CORNER DISPENSARY

Canto Diem exterior
Canto Diem’s big green wall – you can’t miss it! (Photo: Yelp!)

This week’s dispensary field trip took me to Canto Diem, a Pre-ICO and now compliant storefront situated in the north-east end of Studio City, at the intersection of Chiquita St. and Lankershim Blvd., next to the L.A. River. The Universal City-adjacent dispensary is housed in a small, single story, standalone building with a garish green wall facing the street. The building otherwise has an anonymous, industrial feel and would be easy to miss without the green wall. Parking can be tricky, as most of Chiquita St., which is a cul-de-sac, requires a permit. If you do drive to the end of the cul-de-sac, you can catch a view of what was the Eight Is Enough house, although it no longer bears any resemblance to the original.

Eight is Enough house
Original Bradford family home from the tv show Eight is Enough. It was torn down in 1996. (Photo: iamnotastalker blog)

I stopped by Canto Diem for my first visit on a Sunday and seemed to be the only customer. I rang the bell and was buzzed in and greeted by the security guard, who took my doctor’s recommendation while I settled into one of the comfortable black, naugahyde chairs lining the sides of the lobby. After reading and digitally signing pages of the co-op’s many legal stipulations, I took a seat and awaited my budtender.

Canto Diem lobby
Canto Diem lobby is spacious, with comfortable chairs lining the walls. (Photo: Yelp!)

I was greeted warmly by a friendly budtender named Shondee, who brought me inside and introduced me to the modest, yet compelling inventory. The dispensary’s cleanliness, its neatly organized displays, and the crisp white lights illuminating the counters, made it easy to scan the shelves as Shondee and I made our introductions. I wasted no time in letting my budtender know I was interested in dabbable concentrates, and in my haste, probably missed out on a more thorough tour of the cozy interior.

Canto Diem interior
The inner sanctum is clean, well lit and organized. This looks like a pre-compliance inventory. (Photo: Yelp!)

I followed Shondee to the far side of the room where she began to tell me about the NUG Company shatter and sugar they carry. NUG Company was new to me, and Canto Diem had in stock a couple of their shatter strains ($30/g), as well as their strawberry banana sugar strain ($40/g). Other than the NUG products, the only other dabbable concentrates they had in stock were Bloom drop distillate syringes (a variety of strains) and at least one strain of jelly, manufactured by Brite Labs. It was the first time I’d heard of jelly, and I was eager to try it.

Shondee and I started up a friendly conversation about the cannabis industry, about licensed vs. unlicensed dispensaries, the dangers of consuming untested cannabis, our experiences as customer (me) and budtender (she) at different dispensaries, and the economic and logistical challenges facing cannabis manufacturers. Shondee explained this last factor as the reason Canto Diem carried only a few select extracts.

Brite Labs jelly wax
Brite Labs jelly wax is clean, aromatic, tasty and affordable. And becoming scarce on dispensary shelves. (Photo: Brite Labs)

Shondee and I talked for what seemed like a good twenty minutes, and I was all the better for it, having learned a thing or two from my budtender. Shondee seemed to appreciate my enthusiasm about the cannabis industry, and concurred with my observation about the essential link between dispensaries, budtenders and consumers. I was happy to have had the opportunity to speak with an expert, and thanked Shondee for her time and expertise.

After our conversation I decided that I definitely wanted to try the jelly (I had previously enjoyed one of Brite’s PAX Era pods) but wasn’t sure about my second selection (I tend to buy a couple of extracts per dispensary visit). Shondee highlighted the drop distillate syringes as an option and I asked about their dabbability. Shondee asked another budtender, Betsy, to come to the counter to help out. Betsy was also very friendly and happy to help. She confirmed the drop dabbability and we chatted a little bit before I noticed the price of the syringes ($44), which, although totally reasonable, was slightly more than I wanted to spend.

I circled back to the NUG shatter strains and decided on a hybrid variety called “Anytime”, meaning it is shatter that won’t put you to sleep or have you bouncing off the walls. The price for the shatter was right, so I added that to the jelly and decided I was good to go.

NUG shatters
NUG shatter varieties in compliant, child-proofed packaging. (Photo: nuggrandma)

Canto Diem offers a ten percent discount for first time recreational customers and any eighth of flower for twenty dollars for new medical patients. I’m a medical patient, but wasn’t looking for any flower that day, so Shondee kindly put a note in the computer enabling me to use the discount on a future visit. I paid for my meds, paid my tax, told Betsy and Shondee that I was looking forward to writing a review, and headed back to my car. I drove down Chiquita St. to see if the current house at the end of the cul-de-sac still bore any resemblance to its former Bradford glory. It did not.

NUG childproofing
NUG shatters are golden-amber in color and are packaged in plastic childproof matchbox cases inside labeled, branded boxes. (Photo: nuggrandma)

I’ve been very happy with my Canto Diem purchases. The “Anytime” Gorilla Glue shatter is nicely packaged in a matchbox-like, child-proofed plastic container that may be the most functional shatter packaging I’ve ever experienced. No cardboard or paper envelope, but a secure, compact, plastic container. And the shatter, itself, is stuck on a durable glassine sheet rather than parchment paper, which makes dab tool scraping a little different (in some ways easier, in others not so much). The exterior box includes crisp brand graphics and a recommendation for best time to use – daytime, nighttime, anytime – rather than strain information. My GG4 shatter is an “Anytime” “Hybrid Strain” and so far has lived up to its name.

“Anytime” shatter is a sweet smelling resinous dollop of blonde-to-amber colored Gorilla Glue extract. Unlike other shatters that can be hard like candy, or soft like wax, NUG’s “Anytime” extract has the texture of crumbly, brown sugar and is very easy to handle with a dab tool. The shatter is rich in terpenes and gives a floral aroma with pronounced lavender tones, accented by hints of grass, mint and forest meadow. When dabbed, the concentrate’s flavor condenses into a more pungent, diesel and eucalyptus flavor.

The “Anytime” shatter’s moderate THC content (66%) means that it lives up to its name (“Anytime”) in the sense that it isn’t debilitating and doesn’t induce paranoia or interfere with mental focus. It can be dabbed in the morning to complement a caffeine buzz by taking the edge off, or in the afternoon when in need of a lift, or even at night for relaxation before sleep. NUG’s “Anytime” shatter yields a very extended, but moderate, buzz that stays with you, enhancing and not interfering with whatever you’re doing at the time.

Brite Labs Cinderella 99 hybrid jelly wax is equally impressive. The concentrate is gelid in texture and consistency, yellow to amber in color, and emits a sweet mint & citrine-lime aroma which sharpens crisply into clove when dabbed. Brite Labs’ familiar packaging and teardrop Iogo enwrap the jelly, which is every bit as enjoyable as the NUG shatter, thanks to a similar THC level (68%). The jelly has also proven suitable for use anytime, day or night. After a mid-afternoon americano and sativa pick-me-up, a sunset dab of the Cinderella 99 jelly takes the edge off and lets you cruise, smoothly, blissfully into evening. Canto Diem sells Brite Labs jelly for about the same price (maybe a few dollars more) as the NUG shatter, but as of this morning are still out of stock.

After writing a draft of my review, I returned to Canto Diem to see if my first impressions held up. This time it took me a while to find parking, which was unexpected, as there were plenty of spots on my initial visit. After parking and entering the dispensary, I was greeted warmly by the security guard and asked to wait for a budtender. I was happy to see Betsy come out to help me and was hopeful she would tell me that they had replenished their jelly stock. Unfortunately, Betsy confirmed that the Weedmaps menu was accurate and that they were still out of jelly. Not wanting to spend ten dollars more for the strawberry banana sugar, or fourteen dollars more for a drop syringe, I settled for another gram of NUG “Anytime” shatter and also a gram of NUG “Daytime” (Jack Herer strain) shatter.

Although I was happy with my purchases, the lack of a meaningful selection of dabbable concentrates left me feeling like I didn’t really have a choice. I understand the challenges dispensaries face in the rapidly changing, often chaotic, industry, but I’ve been to enough dispensaries to know that it is possible to carry a larger and more diverse inventory than Canto Diem currently does, although the dispensary may have other reasons for not doing so. I was also disappointed not to see Shondee on my return visit and missed the cannabis conversation, but that’s just how some dispensary visits are, and that’s ok. Good customer service doesn’t require a lengthy conversation.

All things considered, Canto Diem is a worthy dispensary for both medical and recreational consumers. Its prices are reasonable, its dabbable concentrates, limited as they may be, are of excellent quality, and the customer service is solid. I may wait until the dispensary carries a larger selection before my next visit, or at least until they restock the Brite Labs jelly wax (soon I hope!) I have a feeling that Canto Diem will offer more dabbable concentrates as the industry pulls itself together, but in the interim, if you’re in search of reasonably priced, quality cannabis and cannabis products, knowledgeable and friendly staff, a convenient location – and if you don’t need a wide selection of dabbable concentrates – you will be a satisfied customer at Canto Diem.

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