When was the last time you walked out of a pot store with a few grams of (allegedly) fresh cannabis – only to be overwhelmed with disappointment as soon as you smoked it?
‘Accidentally’ buying low quality cannabis buds is, unfortunately, a common experience that even seasoned consumers sometimes end up having to bear – despite the fact that the herb has been legalized in so many states.
So what can you do to handpick only quality buds, after being presented a plethora of options by your somewhat unhelpful and uptight budtender? It could be tempting to try out the ‘new kid on the block’ and equally enticing to buy buds that look like they just landed on Earth from somewhere in outer space.
Needless to say, one of the best tools for initially differentiating between good and bad quality buds is your nose. If you’re accustomed to having high quality cannabis, then you should be able to instantly pick up the iconic smell of terpenes and cannabinoids present in those buds.
However, this isn’t often the most reliable method because legalizing marijuana means that they are mostly sold in sealed packages – perhaps those days are gone for good when a cannabis store owner would let you pop the lid off a few jars to ‘assess the merchandise’.
Even though buying from a highly reliable budtender who’s also willing to share knowhow from time to time is definitely one way of bypassing bad quality marijuana buds – this is often not practical and even time-consuming at times.
Therefore, in this article, we’ve put together a few visual ques which can indefinitely help you decide if you’re about to buy good or bad quality buds.
All high-quality cannabis buds are covered with frosty, almost salt-like, white crystals which are actually small glands in the plant responsible for producing oils known as cannabinoids – the good stuff that gives us feelings of relaxation and euphoria.
A really salty or frosty looking plant, in our books, is a clear winner, because those buds are high in cannabinoids. So the more cannabinoids your bud produces, particularly the signature one, THC, the more potent its effects will be. However, that’s not all – these cannabinoid producing glands will display big bubbles at their tip – the bigger the bubbles, the more potent your cannabis is.
So go ahead and take a close look at the crystals on top of your bud – do they look like mere white dots or do they resemble bubbles/balls full of oil? If the latter is true, you’re in for an experience to remember.
However, all the while, it is entirely possible that cannabis buds may show super-frosty trichomes that are still not be filled up with cannabinoids. Remember, those trichome crystals need to not only look really frosty but also nice and full – practically bursting cannabinoid-rich with oil.
Some brick and mortar cannabis shops might be friendly and generous enough to let you take a close look at the flower through a magnifying glass. So go ahead and take a good look at your bud – don’t feel like you have to rush just because the budtender wants to get your money and call it a day.
A professional budtender will never rush you or push you into buying a specific kind of bud. So take your time and utilise all the tools at your disposal.
50 Shades of Green
Now – here’s what we need to understand – great quality marijuana does not mean that it has to have a specific colour which ticks all the boxes. There so many different and unique strains available, each one displaying its own signature hues. So while some may be bright green, others might be dark purple or even gold. However, that being said, a discoloured bud is always a sign you should look out for.
Discoloured buds mean that they have been bleached as a result of harsh exposure to indoor growing light. And we’re not just talking about a lighter shade of cannabis – because some strains are characterized by lighter shades – we’re talking about buds that show irregular patches of discolouration.
Instead of the entire bud being a specific colour, it’s quite likely that only a part of the bud was exposed to indoor light, which will take a discoloured and bleached appearance – while the rest maintains its natural hue. Remember, products that have been bleached this way lose a lot of their aromatic terpenes and therefore are not as potent as fresh, high-quality buds.
Apart from this evidence of bleaching, colour may not be the best element to determine quality. For example, a deep and dark green shade may indicate that the grower took shortcuts during the curing process – however, this could also simply point to the fact that a particularly green-looking bud was carefully put through the curing process, following immediately after harvest.
A faded light white colour, on the other hand, might initially lead you to believe that it’s stale and way past its shelf life – but, it could also mean that the strain is light-coloured in nature. So in short, you need to pay close attention to irregular bleaching spots on the bud leaves – different colours and shades are not necessarily indicative of good or bad quality.
With this being said, brown-looking marijuana is something you want to avoid completely as the buds are not only humid but also way past their shelf life.
Size Matters – for the Most Part
The size of your bud can tell part of the story in regards to quality. Flowers that have been grown higher up on the cannabis plant or on the outer edges, get more energy from it – they grow larger and even more potent.
However, we’re not saying that smaller buds (popcorn nugs) are defective or don’t live up to the task – we’re only saying that if you ever have a choice between a single 3-gram ‘nug’ or three 1-gram nugs, you should always pick the 3-gram single one.
The biggest buds on the cannabis plant are referred to as ‘colas’ by growers – in fact, they often tower over the plant like a small UFO. Cannabis farmers are quick to reserve these large colas for bulk quantity sales such as eights and quarters – this is why you should generally avoid picking up single-gram buds. If you do, you are essentially getting buds that were plucked from the lower-levels of the plant, which are often not as potent.
Even black market farmers hold on to these colas for themselves, so that’s really saying something, isn’t it?
Pay Attention to that Structure
Taking a good look to the shape of the bud can also reveal telltale signs of quality. Seasoned growers will always trim the leaves off their herb before it’s sold – which should ideally be hand-trimmed and not machine-trimmed. The latter will shake off the trichomes too much, causing a decrease in potency and quality. Machine-trimmed buds will typically look asymmetrical and will have perfectly uniform edges.
Irregular edges are always a good sign – it means the bud was cared for properly and underwent careful hand-trimming.
Look for debris at the base of the container – are there a lot of tiny leaves and trichome crystals at the bottom? Cannabis buds that have been properly handled will never leave crystal trichome deposits or leaves at the bottom of the packaging.
A Hairy and Sticky Affair
Good-quality buds are always very sticky to the touch. In fact, they will coat your grinder with a nice (but potentially annoying) layer of resin. Humidity is not to blame for this but the ‘goeey’ trichomes, which are responsible for the potent effects you feel. However, despite being sticky, your buds should feel crunchy to the touch when you try to crumble them.
And then there are white microscopic crystals; the more of these tiny hairy crystals, the better. This is where THC resides, the main psychoactive compound that gives you the euphoric effects. What you see these falling in the bottom-most layer of your 3-piece grinder – that’s THC. And of course, next to the delightful frost, you’ll also notice a few brown hairs.
Even though these hairs have nothing to do with experiencing a ‘high’, they have everything to do with quality. Technically referred to as pistils, the brown hairs mean the flower has matured properly – meaning the grower went to painstaking lengths to ensure that the end product is of high quality.
Aromatic Compounds and ‘Ash Quality’
What truly sets apart great-quality buds from average quality ones are the number of aromatic compounds or terpenes, and not the total percentages of cannabinoids. High THC does not mean the marijuana you’re buying is high quality.
You might also want to light up your buds and inhale slowly – do you start to get that warm feeling on your face, particularly around the forehead as if you’re sweating when you’re actually not? Boom – high quality buds!
As you smoke, you may notice white ash – if it’s grey or black, the bud is too humid meaning that you’re in for a headache and just paying extra for the water content.
Now that you’re armed with all this information, you can certainly look forward to many memorable sessions with great quality buds and great company right at your side.