Irrespective of whether you live in cannabis-legal state or not, it’s quite likely that you have come across low-quality cannabis plants. It’s also quite possible that you may have had little choice at the time but to consume it, and ignore the headache and other nasty after effects experienced later.
However, we have written this piece to bring you glad tidings: average or poor quality marijuana can be avoided altogether if you simply know how to separate the good lot from the bad.
In our very humble experience, there is historically nothing better than a good old fashioned smoke test in a superbly rolled blunt or joint – but if you want to bypass all that trouble and not live with the guilt of a wasted investment – a methodical approach such as the one we’ve discussed below will give you a very good idea about the strain type and conditions it was grown in.
Once you know all this, you’ll always have the best quality marijuana in your stash. Without further ado:
Take a Deep Whiff of the Good Stuff (or Not so Good)
Quality cannabis buds that have been well-grown and looked after properly will always give off a pungent and signature ‘marijuana smell’ – which indicates the abundant presence of terpenes – organic compounds generously produced in good quality cannabis plants.
Poor quality buds, on the other hand, have a smell that’s reminiscent of hay or, in some cases, have no smell at all. Look the other way, because these are telltale signs of poorly grown cannabis, often that which has not even been properly dried and cured – a process necessary to maximise potency.
Also, as a reference point, when you do come across good quality buds that give off strong terpene-rich smells – know that sharp and citrus notes are indicative of a sativa strain, while coffee-rich and ‘chocolaty’ scents point to an indica strain.
So all in all, you’d want to look for that pungent smell which is directly linked to terpene content and potency, all the while avoiding buds that have zero smell or smell like hay.
Careful Visual Inspection – Look at Those Colours
The best quality marijuana strains are a pure green and almost look like well looked-after grass – the colour practically pops. However, don’t be surprised if the colour ranges between lighter and darker tones of green, as there are many different strains that exhibit their own unique colour.
The key thing to remember is this: does it actually look like the bud was extracted from a healthy cannabis plant? Despite what we just said about quality buds looking green or having different shades of green, it is not at all unusual for high-quality buds to have hints of blue, purple or pink. But – and that’s a major but – if most of your bud is brown, yellow, tan or red in colour, it was extracted from a dying or generally unhealthy plant.
Furthermore, buds that look like they’ve almost been bleached white have been subjected to light burn as a result of indoor growing – avoid these under all circumstances.
Therefore, you should always look for shades of green as the primary colour along with any other accent colours they may have (as described above). But those that have taken a white, tan, yellow, red or brown colour are practically useless.
The Structure Says a Lot about the Bud’s Origins
If what you’re inspecting appears to be light and fluffy – lo and behold, you’re looking at a sativa bud! If it appears to have a tightly packed and dense structure, it’s an indica bud.
But here’s a kicker: indica buds may look like sativa buds only if grown improperly, proudly displaying those trademark open and incomplete buds along with visible stems.
Interestingly, hybrid strains exhibit structural traits of sativa and indica buds. Does this all sound a bit too much to take in?
No need to worry – just know that sativa buds are characterized by tiny orange/almost red hair coverings called pistils. Indica buds will have these as well but in a significantly lower quantity. At the end of the day, all you need to know, really, is that sativas look fluffy with lots of pistils, while indicas have less pistils and are characterized by a tight and dense appearance.
In any case, you’re going to avoid buds with visible stems, as well as airy and open structures.
The Trim Plays an Important Role for Determining Quality
As part of a proper harvest, cannabis buds are always trimmed so that leaves can be eliminated around the bud. High-quality buds are always hand-trimmed and not machine-trimmed.
This is a crucial sign to look for because machine-trimmed buds are usually mangled which disrupts the fragile trichomes inside them – the good stuff that keeps them fresh and provides the maximum euphoric and/or medicinal effects.
So, you’d want to avoid machine-trimmed buds in any case or even those that are untrimmed and have too many leaves surrounding them – a hallmark of rushed, amateur cultivation practices. Quality buds are always (always) hand-trimmed in order to preserve those wonderful trichomes.
Which Brings Us to Trichomes
Every batch of cannabis that has been grown with great care will produce buds that contain ripe trichomes – it’s crucial that these are densely packed together on your bud because they house all the terpenes and cannabinoids – in other words, the respective profile of your individual strain, preserved as-is.
Lucky for us, trichome density can be easily observed by the naked eye. If your buds look frosty and sparkle almost like crystals, they are densely packed with trichomes.
However, this is just one component of the trichome equation as we also need to determine how ripe they are. For this, you will need a magnifying glass – after careful inspection, you should be able to tell if the plant was allowed to mature properly if it was harvested too early, or even too late. But that’s not to say that it isn’t a cause for concern.
Even though overripe buds are not a major issue, since sativa strains in particular have a longer flowering phase – but the problem, however, arises when buds are prematurely harvested.
This practice is common in states where marijuana cultivation is not legal – as a result, cultivators work ‘underground’ to try and complete the most amount of flowering phases per year to maximize yield but at the cost of quality. This may be compared with a direct, real-world example of cows being injected with hormones to have them produce far more milk than they are capable of each year.
Look closely at the glandular trichome heads of your bud – the colour says a lot about the level of ripeness. For instance, if the heads look completely clear, your plant was harvested too early. If all trichome heads look amber, the plant was harvested in an over-ripe state.
Ideally, your trichome heads should look milky white with just a touch of amber – you’ll know for sure that they are rich in cannabinoids. Additionally, they should also look frosty, just to reiterate.
Is Your Bud Hermaphroditic (Male and Female)?
Even though there is some potential to be found in male buds, majority of quality buds that you smoke today are in fact harvested from female plants. Since males produce pollen sacks, they don’t offer the best experience.
One of the best traits of strong female plants is that their genetics remain female even if they’re subjected to harsh environmental stresses during the growth and flowering process. However, some ‘finicky’ strains do have a tendency to produce female plants which will exhibit hermaphroditic tendencies – that is, with enough environmental stress or time, they may produce male flower sites or nanners (also called bananas).
Why should you pay attention to this? Because hermaphroditic plants have undesirable characteristics which adversely affect the cannabis consumption experience. This typically happens when the plant makes a ‘last ditch attempt’ to self-pollinate (rather than being pollinated as a female by a male counterpart) and reproduce as a direct result of being environmentally stressed where it thinks that death is inevitable. Therefore, you can bet the bud was seeded if the plants they came from show hermaphroditic traits early in their lifecycle.
If this sounds a bit too complicated, just remember that quality cannabis is, for the most part, produced by female plants and shouldn’t come from seeds or male flower sites/bananas.
Presence of Mold and Pests
Naturally, quality buds will always be free of mold and pests. If you see grey fuzzy deposits or a white powdery mildew, mold has manifested itself on the bud, unfortunately. Pests like aphids, gnats, thrips and mites may leave fecal matter and eggs on your buds, rendering them unfit for consumption.
Finally, make it a habit and personal choice to only buy cannabis from a reliable and knowledgeable source. Check out reviews on TrustPilot, talk to friends and family and don’t be afraid to do a little extra research on Google – it always pays.
Cultivation information, and media is given for those of our clients who live in countries where cannabis cultivation is decriminalised or legal, or to those that operate within a licensed model. We encourage all readers to be aware of their local laws and to ensure they do not break them.