Sunset Connect has made an impact on the scene since they debuted on the Rec market in 2020. After the covid shutdown, Sunset Connect pivoted to focusing on high-end prerolls, a part of the market that they saw lacking. The brand is continuing to expand their offering of artisanal prerolls that fits with the brand’s ethos.
Sunset Connect’s founder Ali Jamalian is fiercely committed to promoting the authentic legacy culture of weed in San Francisco. That connection goes back to the Nineties, when Jamalian, as a student studying in the US from Germany, grew and sold weed. Sunset Connect was formed in 2014, and in 2020 opened on the Recreational market with the first San Francisco Social Equity cannabis manufacturing and distribution business license.
Once Jamalian got through the period of legal trouble he built Sunset Connect during the Legacy Prop 215 days. He looked to the potential growth of the Recreational cannabis market and saw that manufacturing was a big potential area for him.
“I knew manufacturing was going to be the first arm that will come back online post legacy days,” Jamalian said. “I looked at the preroll market–this was in 2020–and I saw that there was a lot of inferior products, a lot of corporate products out there,” Jamalian said.
He felt there was a lot of room to innovate in the preroll space.
“As a heavy joint smoker, that’s really the only way that I consume, joints and blunts. I saw an opportunity to place us and make a really good affordable craft joint,” Jamalian said.
“That panned out, and now we’re one of the bestselling prerolls in California according to Headset. And we’re only in about 30 stores.”
The craft preroll as a product category has grown a lot in the past two years. With things like infused prerolls, consumers have come to shop for a premium craft preroll. That’s what Jamalian has his sights set on now.
“I’m really working on becoming one of the major craft preroll brands. That’s my current goal. I want to diversify our portfolio and our SKUs with more flavors because we see how well they’re selling now and how the market embraces it,” Jamalian said.
“That’s something I’m really excited about, expanding the preroll portfolio and making it available statewide,” he said.
Below, Jamalian tells us what makes a Sunset Connection preroll special, and what he has coming down the pike.
What is unique about a Sunset Connect preroll?
What we do differently than anybody that I’ve seen is we grind really small batches. I’m talking about 100 grams, quarter-pound batches that we grind.
We don’t use commercial or agricultural grinders. We use other equipment that we repurposed. And 100% Bay Area Indoor. That’s kind of our secret sauce.
I also think it’s our QC, and anyone that’s ever done the White Label with us will attest to the fact that our quality controls were insane, super picky. We have a really strong isolation process.
In addition to that, we do two different grinds. So, we build our prerolls up like a French drain. So, you have a coarse grind right at the bottom of the fine grind at the top, which makes them burn really well.
One thing we’ve also refused to do any outside of the paper infusions. All of our hashes are in the grind, really well emulsified within the grind, and really well spread.
The hash that we put in our joints is also really high quality and made in-house. The hash that we make that’s A- or B grade is processed into topicals and other edibles, so we don’t have to use that to smoke.
What papers do you use?
Having grown up in Europe, I’m pretty partial to French and Indonesian paper is kind of like OCB, or Smoking blacks, Spanish or French or Indonesian. So, we source our paper from a French-Indonesian outfit that has the exact paper that we want. And for our blunts, it’s the same company that Packwoods works with. For the blunts for 40 Tons, we had a special roast of hemp wraps made for us.
The one thing that we haven’t done, but we will be releasing soon is we’re going to be releasing our first glass tip product. We were a little reluctant to do it at first because of the environmental impact. But given that people have really asked us for a single gram infused glass tipped joint, that’s one of the items that we are going to bring out. So far, we’ve been a firm believer in paper tips and anything biodegradable.
For 40 Tons, we rolled about 400 of the batch. And we loved the grind, we had tried the grind before, we had 400 blunt rolls and I tried it with my team. And I was like something is falsifying the taste, this doesn’t taste right. And it turned out to be the paper from the former supplier and then we undid those, we just straight up unrolled them back. Got different hemp wraps and we rolled them. So, we are really particular about what we put out.
This is also I think the reason our single gram is the bestseller it is a straight sugar shake joint. It’s a sugar trim joint, there’s no flower and it constantly has above 23% to 26%.
You’ve offered joints for as low as $5. How can you offer a premium joint at such a low price?
We saw that dispensaries really becoming unapproachable for the daily smoker and for the blue-collar workers that are mostly our friends and in our network, and people who have been smoking our weed for a decade. So, we set out to bring a one-gram preroll, all sugar trim SF indoor preroll to the market that would retail at $5. And that’s the number one selling single preroll in California in that category. It was really interesting to have a really affordable low rate product that is made with the same craft as the Dog Walker. And I think people appreciate that.
Where do you source your flower?
Currently, it’s all from the friendly indoor growers in San Francisco and Oakland. Compound Genetics, Gold Seal, Delta Boys, Sense Grown, all these guys, we buy from all of them. They are our friends and our peers for over a decade, most of them.
I’m building out a 10,000 square foot facility to grow. We’re hoping to be done with phase one and have about 180 lights up and running by March or April. And then subsequently another 260 lights will go up in the same facility over the next year or two.
So eventually you will get into growing.
We are growers, so for us, it’s like we’re sitting on our genetics that we have lots of respect for. I have the original Sherb cuts from a friend of Mario. Our five-star menthol is insane. There are a couple of cuts that we are so excited to bring back to the market.
What strains will you be brining back?
In the legacy days we were really well known for our Lambs bread, which is one of the old school original landrace strains from Jamaica. Bob Marley’s favorite strain, the only one I think he ever named my name in a song. Do-Si-Pie is one of our well-known Bay Area strains.
You’re also known for your artisanal hash production.
We’ve been making hash for about 20 years, we started in college doing that. So, we have an inherent love for hash, being from Europe myself and the Italian heritage of our hash maker Alex of course.
We apply only landrace techniques. We have a rosin press that literally never gets used. So, we also saw that we as hash makers just really enjoy the landrace techniques, whether that’s temple balls, whether that’s Moroccan, whether that’s just like your classic Cali bubble hash, Lebanese gold, Zero Zero.
What does Sunset Connect represent?
It represents your legacy to equity story that’s just against corporate cannabis. That’s really what I stand for. And I don’t hate corporate cannabis to be clear. You need to have access to the other stuff to appreciate the good stuff.
I want to show that Sunset Connect is a sophisticated legacy to equity crew, that we can keep up with the corporates by just being really good at what we do. I definitely pride myself in our craft, but also in how we run our ship.
We were able to grow in smaller increments than some large companies that had more funding behind them. And that’s okay, I’ve been in this game for long enough, I’m totally fine moving the pace of a turtle, but steady. That’s my philosophy.
What’s next for Sunset Connect?
We’re gearing up to bring out almost double the amount of pre-roll flavors that we have right now. So, our goal towards the end of the year is to have two $5 Sativa skews that are different flavors, two Indicas, two Hybrids, and two Infused Sativa, Indica and Hybrid Dogwalkers. Currently, we only have one of each currently.
And then we see that people want more flavors. We don’t want to be a Cookies carousel or anything like that, but expanding our preroll portfolio and gearing up to be available in SoCal Q1 of next year. That’s sort of the big two projects for Sunset Connect Manufacturing. And obviously, to get this grow built as fast as possible.