Categories
BLOG

weed quality guide

Cannabis Quality: A Quick Guide to Choosing Good Weed

Before we delve into the topic of how to evaluate the quality of weed, it is important to note that each individual has different preferences and enjoys different characteristics in their consumption habits. So how can you tell if the cannabis you just bought is worth the price? The easiest and safest method is a simple visual test. The things to look for are:

Seeds, stems and leaves

Seeds, stems and leaves found in bud is the easiest sign of bad quality. It affects the overall weight and ultimately the amount of usable product. This usually occurs due to “improper trimming and bud selection”. For those purchasing their products from the black market, be wary, uneducated consumers can often be duped into buying these buds at regular prices.

Signs of mold

If cannabis is dried or stored improperly, mold can develop on the flower. In the legal market this is rarely an issue due to rigorous testing requirements. However mold can take the form of white powdery mildew or fuzzy grey fungus. Inhaling a considerable quantity of these mold spores can lead to serious infections and should be avoided at all costs.

Trichome density (crystal density)

Often the easiest visual representation of quality is what is referred to as “Frost”. Because trichomes reflects light, they are easily distinguishable and have an appealing visual effect. Trichomes are paramount for synthesizing and storing all the cannabinoids and essential oils that give cannabis is unique psychoactive and physiological effects. In short, a good indicator of quality and potency is how “shiny” the bud is.

Color and Smell

The colors and smells of cannabis vary greatly. Many different strains have unique aromas and vivid colors. However, brown colored and stale smelling weed is usually an indicator of low quality cannabis. A good rule of thumb is, the more pungent the smell the better.

If a magnifying glass is readily available another property that can be used to distinguish quality is the trichome head color. Ideally This should be milky white with possible traces of amber. Too clear or too amberish may indicate that the bud was harvested prematurely or post-ripeness respectively.

A more scientific approach to analyzing cannabis quality is through lab tests. Lab tests can provide detailed insights on cannabinoids percentages, terpenes and contaminants. While these methods are cost ineffective for the normal consumer, many of the statistics are readily available in the legal cannabis market. THC quantity, for example, directly correlates with cannabis potency and is printed on almost every legal cannabis product as required by the state.

More recently, mobile cannabis testing products have infiltrated the market. Although there are considerable margins of errors, these devices are useful due to their mobility, ease of use and cost. Unfortunately, these devices can only tell you if you made the right choice after your purchase because they require you to manipulate the flower in order for it to be analyzed. But for growers, they are great ‘on the spot’ options for testing the quality and potency of their plants.

For those willing to put in the work, another way to make sure you are making a good purchase is by checking reviews online. Weedmaps is a great resource for researching retailers, products and brands with plenty of peer customer reviews. To make sure you are not only buying “good” weed, but also the “right” weed, Leafly and Wikileaf are also some of the best strain specific databases available.

Ultimately, the best test for quality is by trying it. Which is obviously not easy when purchasing products from a dispensary or delivery service. The tips provided in this article will allow you to select quality products before you purchase. It is important to not e however, that while I seem to place a lot of emphasis on THC quantity, cannabis connoisseurs will be quick to tell you that often the strains they prefer are not necessarily the most potent. Instead they have unique and flavorful terpene profiles. The percentage of THC is merely the simplest statistic available to regular consumers.

Finally, one more thing to keep in mind; even though THC is often credited with causing the intoxicating effects of cannabis, more research is emerging showing CBD as a crucial agent in the therapeutic properties of cannabis. Whereas THC content is a good indicator of potency, some may place more weight on CBD percentage.

Curious about terpenes? Check out Ministry of Hemp’s article: “A Complete Introduction to Terpenes” to stay educated.

Before we delve into the topic of how to evaluate the quality of weed, it is important to note that each individual has different preferences and enjoys different characteristics in their consumption…

How to Evaluate Weed Quality

Whether you live in a legal state or not (and perhaps especially if not), chances are you have encountered subpar cannabis flowers before. The era of weak, brown “brick weed” is long over, but that doesn’t mean that all flower is created equally.

The good news is that you can avoid being stuck with subpar weed if you know what to look for. In our experience, there is no substitute for a smoke test in a perfectly rolled joint or blunt, but a methodical visual inspection of the buds will give you a good idea as to the type of strain and the conditions in which it was grown. Once you know what to look for, you’ll always have the best in your 420 travel kit.

Table of contents

Smell
KEY TAKEAWAYS
Color
KEY TAKEAWAYS
Bud Structure
KEY TAKEAWAYS
Trimming
KEY TAKEAWAYS
Trichomes
KEY TAKEAWAYS
Hermaphroditic Traits
KEY TAKEAWAYS
Mold and Pests
KEY TAKEAWAYS
Did You Know?

Smell

Well-grown, quality cannabis buds should have a pungent, identifiable smell — that skunky aroma that ranges from slightly sweet to earthy to diesel-like — indicating high terpene content. Alternatively, inferior buds often lack any smell or smell similarly to hay or alfalfa, a sure sign of poorly grown and/or cured cannabis.

For reference, rich scents like coffee and chocolate are typically indicative of an indica strain, while bright, acidic citrus notes are generally characteristic of a sativa. Hybrid strains will likely contain components of both profiles.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid buds that smell like hay or have no discernible smell at all. If it doesn’t have that characteristic dankness, you probably don’t want it.

Pungency is directly linked to potency and terpene content.

Color

Quality cannabis buds should be generally green in color, not brown! The exact shade can range from lighter, frosty greens to darker, forest greens, with undertones that range from purple to rosy to golden.

The important question to ask is: does the bud look like it came from a healthy plant? It is not uncommon for quality buds to have hints of purple, pink, blue, etc. However, if the majority of the bud is rusty red, brown, tan, or yellow in color, it came from an unhealthy plant.

Buds that looked bleached white (not frosty with crystals) are the unfortunate victims of light burn, an unfavorable growing condition in which the plant is subjected to extremely high-intensity light. Avoid these buds, as they won’t give you a quality smoking or vaping experience.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid buds that are brown, tan, yellow, red, or white in color.

Quality cannabis is primarily green in color, with a wide range of accent colors and undertones.

Bud Structure

As a general rule of thumb, indica buds should be tight and dense, while sativa buds are often more light and fluffy. However, when grown carelessly, indica buds can take on sativa-like appearance, with open, incomplete buds and visible stems. Hybrid strains often share structural traits of both indicas and sativas.

For reference, sativa buds are typically covered in more pistils (little orange/red hairs) than indica buds. The pistils should be dispersed throughout the bud, not clustered in some areas and absent from others.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid buds with loose, open structures and visible stems

Indicas are generally tight and dense, while sativas are fluffier with more pistils

Trimming

Following the harvest, cannabis buds must be trimmed in order to eliminate the leaves surrounding the bud. Quality cannabis buds should be tightly hand-trimmed as opposed to machine-trimmed.

Trimming machines tend to mangle buds and disrupt the fragile trichomes they harbor. Avoid buds that have been machine trimmed or untrimmed buds with excessive leaves; typical indications of rushed cultivation practices.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid buds that haven’t been trimmed well, or are visibly mangled by a trim machine

Quality cannabis is trimmed by hand to preserve trichomes and buds

Trichomes

The goal of properly grown cannabis is to produce buds densely packed with ripe trichomes, the visible crystals on the surface of the buds. This is because trichomes are where the cannabinoids and terpenes are stored.

Trichome density is relatively easy to distinguish with the naked eye; i.e. how ‘frosty’ is the bud? Quality buds will be covered in trichomes that sparkle like crystals, whereas poor quality buds will lack trichome coverage.

Trichome ripeness, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to assess without the aid of a magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe. The question at hand; was the plant grown to maturity, or was it harvested prematurely (or even late)?

Usually, the problem is prematurely harvested buds as opposed to those which are over-ripened (especially with sativa strains, as they have longer flowering periods). Premature harvesting is especially common in illegal states where the underground cultivators seek to complete more flower cycles in a year to maximize yield (at the expense of quality).

The color of the glandular trichome head is the easiest way to determine trichome ripeness. Ideally, the trichome heads should be milky white, possibly with a hint of amber. If the trichome heads are clear, the plant was harvested prematurely, and if all the heads are amber, the plant was harvested after peak ripeness.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid buds that don’t look ‘frosty,’ as they were not grown to peak ripeness

Quality cannabis is dense with cannabinoid-rich, milky-white trichome heads

Hermaphroditic Traits

Quality buds are only produced by female cannabis plants – males produce pollen sacks, which you don’t want to smoke! Strong female genetics remain female even through the potential stresses encountered while growing.

The key here is strong female genetics; some more finicky strains will produce female plants with hermaphroditic traits. This means that, with enough stress or time, the plant has a tendency to produce either male flower sites or “bananas” (also called nanners).

These are generally not desirable characteristics and buds showing these traits should be avoided. This is a plant’s final attempt to self-pollinate and reproduce after being stressed to a point where it views death as imminent. All that stress means that the plant hasn’t had the energy to devote to becoming potent — it’s been in survival mode. Thus, the earlier in its lifecycle the plant shows hermaphroditic traits, the higher likelihood the bud is seeded.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid cannabis with seeds, male flower sites, or “bananas.”

Quality cannabis is only produced by the female plant – male characteristics indicate the plant was cultivated under stress and the quality of the buds will be substantially lower.

Mold and Pests

It should go without saying that quality cannabis buds are free of mold and pests, but these issues can sometimes surface in cannabis purchased from a source outside the regulated legal market.

Mold manifests itself as white, powdery mildew (distinct from the crystalline trichomes) or a grey, fuzzy mold, depending on the particular fungal pest. Insects like mites, gnats, thrips, and aphids can leave fecal matter, eggs and even dead friends behind on your buds — ew. If any of these critters, or traces of them, are in your herb, don’t smoke it!

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Avoid cannabis with any evidence of mold and pests

Did You Know?

Aside from the obvious (not wanting to smoke bad weed), those same buds pictured above comprise the starting material used to make all other forms of cannabis. Whether you prefer vaporizing concentrates or consuming edibles, every form of cannabis consumptionstems from the flower the plant produces.

Healthy plants have the best chance of producing a robust cannabinoid profile, and while most people are looking for maximum THC content, one of the most beneficial cannabinoids is called cannabidiol, or CBD.

Though it doesn’t get you high (unlike THC, it is non-psychoactive), athletes and travelers find CBD incredibly helpful for pain relief. Others find help with anxiety and stress, and it is used to treat drug-resistant epilepsy and other inflammatory disorders.

Commonly sold in concentrated forms such as tinctures or softgels, CBD can also be found in high concentrations in organic hemp flower (Lifter strain from Canna Comforts shown below), the source material from which those concentrates are extracted.

Recently, TSA released guidelines on how to take your vape pen on a plane, the rules for flying with weed so that people can make appropriate plans for safely taking their medication on the go.

The era of weak, brown "brick weed" is long over, but that doesn't mean that all flower is created equally. Here's our guide on how to evaluate the quality of your weed.