How to Evaluate Weed Quality
Whether you live in a legal state or not, chances are you have encountered sub-par cannabis flowers. The good news is that this can be avoided 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.
Well-grown, quality cannabis buds should have a pungent, identifiable smell; indicating high terpene content. Alternatively, inferior quality buds often lack any smell or smell like hay; the sign of poorly grown and/or cured cannabis. For reference, rich scents like coffee and chocolate are typically indicative of an indica strain and sharp citrus notes are generally indicative of a sativa.
- Avoid buds that smell like hay or have no smell at all
- Pungency is directly linked to potency and terpene content
Quality cannabis buds should be generally green in color; though the shade can range from lighter green to darker green. 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 red, brown, tan, or yellow in color, it came from an unhealthy plant. Buds that looked bleached white are the victim of light burn (an unfavorable growing condition in which the plant is subjected to extremely high intensity light) and should be avoided.
- 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
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 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.
- Avoid buds with airy, open structures and visible stems
- Indicas are tight and dense, sativas are fluffy with more pistils
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 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.
- Avoid buds that haven't been trimmed well or visibly mangled by a trim machine
- Quality cannabis is trimmed by hand to preserve trichomes and buds
The goal of properly grown cannabis is to produce buds densely packed with ripe trichomes, as this is where the cannabinoids and terpenes are stored. Trichome density is relatively easily 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 too early/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 sacrifice of quality). The color of the glandular trichome head is the easiest way to determine trichome ripeness. Ideally, the trichome heads are milky white with a potential 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 subsequent to peak ripeness.
- 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
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. Alternatively, some more finicky strains will produce female plants with hermaphroditic tendencies; meaning 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 should be avoided. This is your plant’s final attempt to self-pollinate and reproduce after being stressed to a point where it views death as imminent. Thus, the earlier in its lifecycle the plant shows hermaphroditic traits, the higher likelihood the bud is seeded.
- Avoid cannabis with seeds or male flower sites and bananas
- Quality cannabis is only produced by the female plant
Mold and Pests
It should go without saying that quality cannabis buds are free of mold and pests. Mold manifests itself as white powdery mildew or grey fuzzy mold. Insects like mites, gnats, thrips, and aphids can leave fecal matter, eggs and even dead friends behind on your buds.
- Avoid cannabis with evidence of mold and pests
Did You Know?
Aside from the obvious (you 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 consumption stems 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 cannabis compounds is called CBD. Even though it doesn't get you high, athletes and travelers find it incredibly helpful for pain relief.