At the time of writing, 33 states plus D.C. allow marijuana to be purchased medicinally or recreationally. That number is subject to change as other states are likely to hold ballots to decide whether to change the legal status of weed. In states such as California or Colorado, where cannabis is fully legal, it is relatively easy to find good Mary Jane – all you have to do is find a licensed dispensary. The level of competition in these states means places that sell bad marijuana will go out of business quickly.
However, not everyone is so fortunate. In states where it is illegal, or where you need an MMJ card (and you don’t have one), users have to take what they can get. This could mean purchasing cannabis from a black-market dealer. As well as risking arrest, you’re potentially exposing yourself to low-grade schwag.
Let’s face it; if you’re not an experienced user, dealers will see you coming and offload their brick weed. If you’re in this situation, or else you simply want to boost your knowledge of cannabis, it is essential that you learn to differentiate between high-grade ‘dank,’ mid-grade marijuana, and low standard garbage. Here are five easy ‘tells.’
1 – The ‘Shelf’ System
This is a tip for readers able to purchase their weed from a dispensary. Although employees aren’t going to rip you off, it is still useful to understand the different grades of weed. In a standard dispensary, you should see three distinct shelves.
Marijuana on the top shelf is the cream of the crop. This is the bud that contains a significant amount of THC (you’ll find some strains with 22%+). It is grown with great care and is cured and dried to perfection. Not only will this kind of weed provide you with an exceptional high, but it also has a splendid taste and aroma.
Also known as ‘mids,’ the marijuana on the center shelf is middle of the road weed. It isn’t exceptional but does the job if you don’t already have a high tolerance. Top shelf cannabis is too expensive for most people, so mids is probably your best bet.
Marijuana on the bottom shelf of a dispensary is the cheapest and least potent bud. It will have an impact on beginners, but intermediates will probably feel that they wasted their hard-earned cash. The standard is still higher than if you get it on the streets, but we recommend saving up for mids cannabis.
2 – Content
In an ideal world, you will get nothing but wonderful, potent buds in your weed. Alas, low grade weed contains lots of stems and seeds. Imagine paying $50 for an eighth only to discover that half of it is filled with stuff you can’t smoke! Stems are useless and will do nothing to aid your high.
Seeds are even worse because they have a nasty tendency to explode when set on fire! If you have seeds in your bowl, their destruction could ruin the rest of the weed. Sellers who want repeat business won’t give you weed with seeds in it.
3 – Aroma & Taste
When marijuana is properly grown, harvested, dried, and cured, it has an unmistakable smell and taste. Look for weed that has a clear scent of some kind; bad weed often has little or no scent whatsoever. A powerful smell, even if it doesn’t appeal to you, is a sign of a high terpene content.
Also, low-grade buds might also smell like hay; a clear sign that the weed was badly grown and/or cured. Incidentally, cannabis that has a hint of coffee or chocolate in the scent indicates that the strain is heavily indica. If it has citrus notes, it is probably sativa-dominant.
As a rule of thumb, good quality marijuana is green, although the shade can vary from dark to light green. Most importantly, take a close look at the weed to see if you believe it came from a healthy plant. Quality buds may have a hint of blue or purple in them. If most of the bud is yellow, red, brown, or tan, it is low grade. Bud that has been bleached white should also be avoided because it is generally a sign of light burn.
4 – Trichomes
You’ll need a magnifying glass for this tip. Properly grown marijuana will produce buds packed with ripe trichomes. This is important because the trichomes store the terpenes and cannabinoids that provide the smell, taste, and most importantly, the high (or medicinal benefit). When terpenes are dry, they become ‘kief’, which can contain over 50% THC!
High-quality buds are covered with trichomes that are akin to sparkling crystals. You can probably spot trichome density with the naked eye, but you’ll need a jeweler’s loupe or something similar to check out ripeness. Ideally, weed is harvested when the trichomes have a milky white color. Sometimes, they resemble mushrooms.
When you check trichome ripeness, you are looking to avoid prematurely harvested weed because it is less potent. If you can see transparent trichomes, the plant was harvested before it was fully ripe, and you should avoid. If the trichomes look amber, the plant was harvested too late and contains a high level of CBN. Although this cannabinoid has some potential medical benefits, it can result in a high that makes you feel queasy.
5 – Structure & Trim
Although it is not always the case, high-quality indica buds are dense and tight while sativa buds are light and fluffy. Poorly grown indica plants contain visible stems, unfinished buds, and resemble a sativa. Hybrid strains contain traits of both indica and sativa plants. By the way, sativa buds should have more pistils than their indica counterparts.
After being harvested, marijuana buds should be trimmed to remove the leaves around the bud. We recommend purchasing cannabis that has been hand-trimmed. Unfortunately, an increasing number of companies use trimming machines. Why? Because they trim the weed at lightning speed.
However, there is a price to pay. Trimming machines lack the care of experienced human trimmers and can wreck the buds and trichome content of weed. As a result, you end up with less potent marijuana. If the cannabis has been mangled by a machine or contains a lot of leaves, buy something else.
Final Thoughts on Good versus Bad Weed
Don’t underestimate the impact bad weed can have on your health. Low-grade marijuana could cause chest pain upon inhalation as it could be a sign that your purchase has been contaminated with bacteria or residual pesticides. Don’t forget to check your weed for signs of mold and rot; it will look like the mold you find on cheese or bread.
Weed that contains leaves is also likely to be a harsh smoke that causes you to cough more than usual. If possible, make sure you purchase your marijuana from reputable sources, such as a licensed dispensary. If there are none near you, or else you live in an area where marijuana is not yet legal, you have to take your chances with a local dealer. In that case, make sure you thoroughly check the produce before making a purchase. If it fails any of the above tests, walk away.