How to Tell the Good Weed from the Bad [5 Techniques]

How to choose high-quality bud and avoid getting ripped off
MarijuanaBreak Staff MarijuanaBreak Staff / Updated on November 20, 2018

How to Tell Good Weed from Bad Weed

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.

  1. Karen Lewis
    Simple check

    Good weed will have glittery trichomes before you smoke, and a pure white ash after you smoke. If these two are present, your weed is good.

  2. John OMalley
    Thanks for spreading your knowledge brother.

    Hahaha all the love is cracking me the fuck up. Everyone has their thoughts and ideas and knowledge should be shared. Just make sure to check facts before moving forward. Peace People

  3. homer green
    good for newbies but

    article was not really very helpful

  4. Ivanhoe
    Comment Caliber

    The caliber of these comments is proof enough of the pathology of psychedelics. Particularly “Mr Grower”.

  5. ryan

    Stephan with a p is right tho

  6. Stephan

    You forgot the most important flaw 97 percent of growers do you ignorant know it all ! You’re a fucking lobotomize partridge
    Always can tell if your grass is good by the ashes if you smoke it pure the cannabis ashes supposed to be white and worst case mildly gruesome more towards the white ! If it’s black or makes fizzle sounds that the sounds of fertilizers the phosphor fizzle if it’s just black numb your lips it’s the fertilizer or the pesticide and if it hurt your throat when smoking it it’s because it was dried to fast and if not a lot of trichines meaning not enough lights watt per square foot or shitty genetics and or you don’t drop the temp at night low enough to help stimulate the productivity of trichimes!!! The biggest problem was and will always be not enough flushing soil 21 days
    I’m aeroponics and I flush 10 days
    Idiots writing things like this lol
    You are educating people with bullshit
    The mould is rare on the street grass buddy ok and most growers will destroy their crop and some won’t buy bud Roth very easy mild to spot

    The biggest and only problem is flushing

    1. David
      Lash out much???

      You seem to be kind of a know it all dick yourself, aren’t you? I’ve been smoking it for over 35 years and I have gotten moldy weed before. We were young so we smoked it anyway. Didn’t kill us. And if it sizzles when you burn it it just means that it is still moist. Indicating that the grower and/or dealer weighed it and bagged it up while it was still heavy with water weight. So if you let it dry out when you get it you’re going to lose about 1/4 of the total weight you bought. And fertilizer chemical burns? Damn, man! Where the fuck are you buying your weed from?! Never, not once ever have I seen that come up as an issue. Quit pretending to be the super grower and Mr. freakin’ know it all and crawl back into your little shanty shack and toke on your penis pipe, get your security blanket, and reassess your angry, jealous, frustrated existence and see if you can find something to be happy about. Best of luck not being a dick!

      1. Mike
        Good comment. To the point and correct.

        That Stephen guy is smoking his breakfast with that comment. Content etc needs alot of work. Would be better suited to keep his mouth shut. Found your comment to be pretty spot on.

      2. Nope Not Today
        Smoke before you comment please

        Ya’ll are just cracking me up! The seriousness is hilarious.

      3. Larry
        Well Done

        Awesome , he tried to turn a good read into his own ” Legend Complex ” ..

    2. Disko boii

      Wow your so knowledgabe. We get it

    3. Remy

      2 more things:

      yes, phosphorus fizzles when it burns. but that throat burn is not always related to fast dry … magnesium has same effect if overused in feeding and will make you cough like crazy (“this is some good shit man”)

      and as far as mold/bud rot being easy to spot … true but you forgot to mention leaf rust (black fungus)! that shit is not so easy to spot if the bud is trimmed properly by hand and smoking black fungus will get you some tuberclosis. it also feels nothing more than a mild “sting” in your mouth/throat when you smoke it and you will not “see” it as the bud closes/shrinks when it dries/cures and the fungus won’t grow any further (like mold/budrot for example) because it more sensitive to overall moisture content (usually it comes up through the roots of the plant and moves upwards … it cannot be stopped with foliar sprays, you need heavy duty systemic fungicides and that leaves your primo weed not so primo afterall).

      check your facts mr lobotomized porridge. maybe stop eating so much porridge and flush your plants more often and for longer periods of time.


    4. Remy
      he got some good points.

      even though Stephan there is running around with blue balls in his sack, he does bring up some good points.

      you can tell clean weed from “dirty” grown weed by the color of the ash left behind … that’s only true if you smoke it in a crack pipe like him. if you vaporize it, this does not apply! if you ingest it as edibles good luck to you … playing russian roulette may be for you.

      flushing is a BIG problem in the industry … sorry Stephan but you’re dreaming and need to take some courses on horticulture. the reason why plants need nutrients is to BUILD CELL WALLS and CONTINUE TO GROW so when you feed your plants your usual NUTES (chelated nutrients usually) they use them in their plant structure (think magnesium, calcium to mention but a few essential ingredients in building cell walls). you can flush until christmas but they ain’t leaving and you will smoke some EDTA inevitably. enjoy that primo bud Stephan! the average recommended flush is about 21 days but in my experience you can never flush it completely … this is why i no longer grow hydroponically/aeroponically (sorry Stephan but it’s just simply not good enough for me, TLO is the way to go – the Rev was right all along).

      if you smoke weed and end up talking like Stephan … you need to take a break from smoking all that “good shit” and reset your tolerance. otherwise you’ll blow a gasket every time you wake up in the morning until you blow a blood vessel in your brain and end up a vegetable in a hospital bed.

      another big problem in the cannabis industry is the use of fungicides especially! myclobutanil (releases hydrogen cyanide when heated), bifenazate, carbaryl, abamectin (this one is a synthetic version of neem oil, absorbed by plant systemically and cannot be flushed as many believe), the pyrethrins (large family derived from chrysanthemum but now all synthetic), diazinon (an organophosphate) … just to name a few! lots of “medical grade” cannabis is grown using some of these to control fungus/mold problems because humidity can spike quickly inside growhouses/tents and that encourages spores to fourish … industrial growers cannot afford to lose an entire crop so they pass on these benefits to you.

      like the old rasta adage goes: homegrown is always best! learn how to grow your own clean weed. and yes, Stephan was right: good genetics make a BIG difference is you find the good seedbanks!

      best of luck to all

    5. Geo
      Temperature anf humidity

      So what are the optimal daytime and night temperatures? How about humidity?

    6. Steff-On Isangryasallhell
      Stephen wasn't hugged as a child. Obviously!

      Jesus! You sound more like a guy running a Meth Lab, than one growing weed. Maybe try actually smoking some of it, or something huh? Chill the f@ck out bro!

    7. perky
      Please relax ! nobodys here to hurt, only to help

      Wow ! Please relax dud, You need to take a extra big draw off that big glass dick and you be fine.

    8. Steve
      Stephen is a Douche

      Only a Stephen with a P would be as douchie as this guy^

      1. Lauren


        1. Fred
          This is great, the comments. Love it


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