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How to Evaluate Cannabis Quality and Potency

Many factors will determine the quality of the cannabis you consume and no one wants to smoke harsh dirt weed. Everything from the type of soil, nutrients used, harvesting techniques, storage, and strain genetics will affect the quality of your marijuana. The gap between the quality of weed growing wild in the ditches of Afghanistan and top-shelf cannabis available at your local dispensary is massive.

Competition in the Cannabis Marketplace has become intense now that weed is legal in Canada and sold in most of the United States. Even the illegal market has had to keep pace with the demand for higher and higher quality buds. It doesn’t matter where you get your buds for this guide on cannabis potency. Here you will find information on the most effective tips to get you the best buds possible.

Here’s what to look for – and look out for – to get the best (and strongest) weed for your money.

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Cannabis Quality and Potency According to Colour

While marijuana comes in many shades and colours, the one colour you want to avoid is dark brown. Well manicured and cared for cannabis buds will look fresh like they were just harvested. Different shades of green are the most common colour in cannabis but don’t smoke mouldy green buds.

Brown buds are usually older cannabis that has been left open to the air for too long. This causes oxidization which in turn breaks down the compounds in the buds giving you weaker cannabis. This ageing process also strongly affects the smell and THC levels.

When cannabis sits open for a long time and is exposed to oxygen, THC breaks down into CBN (cannabinol). Although CBN is used in some medical marijuana treatment programs it doesn’t get you buzzed. It’s more likely to put you to sleep than get you high in fact. Older and oxidized cannabis tends to burn fast and is quite harsh to inhale. If you do decide to smoke old weed have a drink handy and maybe a Redbull.

Cannabis Quality and Potency and Terpen Profile(Smell)

Good buds almost always have that deep unmistakable pungent weed scent. We have all had that stinky bag of weed that was super potent! Steer away from any weed that smells like something from the bottom of your lawnmower. Also, forget it if the smell is like the dried hay that you feed a horse.

Cannabis that is too damp will smell like grass and oxidized dried-up weed will have little smell or a musty old smell. Cannabis that has no smell has been exposed to the elements for too long and some of the THC has been destroyed.

And, of course, mouldy cannabis is actually dangerous to consume in almost any way. The only possible salvation would be to chemically filter it and recrystallize the THC into an isolated compound. If you are can’t grow the marijuana yourself then try to buy from a trusted source, but don’t buy without smelling it first. Some people have actually been known to sell cooking herbs for cannabis, so a quick sniff can save your wallet as well.

Taste

Cannabis has a ton of flavour profiles to try and a good-tasting joint is definitely a good sign of quality. A chemical taste may be a sign that the grower didn’t stop fertilizing his plant and do a flush before harvest. If it tastes old or mouldy then stop smoking it as it may give you chest pains or even damage your lungs. Fruity, Piney, Cheesy, Chocolately are all terms that come to mind when smoking good weed.

If it tastes grassy, metallic or mouldy it may be too damp, not cured or stored properly. Remember If you get chest pains while smoking or encounter a funky flavour, stop smoking it immediately. Inhaling fertilizer, mould and other chemical contaminants can cause significant injury to your lungs.

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Orange hairs(Stigmas)

If you see fluffy orange hairs in your marijuana, that’s a positive thing! They are a part of the Female Cannabis plant’s reproductive system, these hairs are called stigmas. These orange hair-like structures function to collect pollen from male marijuana plants. That being said top shelf and smokable weed, in general, comes from unpollinated female flowers. If the stigmas (which start out white) are orange it means your weed was harvested at the end of its natural flowering cycle.

If weed is given extra time in the flowering cycle and gets past its natural time to get harvested, the stigmas will turn brown. You will also see higher counts of stigmas in Sativa Cannabis Strains.


Cannabis Trichomes

The quantity of trichomes is one of the most evident ways to gauge the quality of the cannabis you are viewing. Trichomes are the white resin crystals that coat your buds when they are flowering as shown in the diagram below. The thicker the white crystal layer, the higher the potency of the cannabis flower. The ideal time to harvest cannabis is when the trichomes are milky white, shiny, and look like fully formed crystals with a strong magnifying glass. On good-quality weed, you’ll probably be able to see lots of trichomes on the dried buds with the naked eye.

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Cannabis trichomes magnified view

Trichomes contain most of the flavour and cannabinoid compounds directly responsible for flavourful and medically effective weed. If the dried buds are handled too much between harvest and consumption, some of the trichomes will fall off. This loss of crystals will result in decreasing the potency of the cannabis.

If the marijuana is harvested early, the trichomes will not have completed their cannabinoid-creating cycle. You will be able to see this with a magnifying glass or jewellers loop. If the crystals are amber-coloured, the cannabis was probably harvested late, and the THC is already being converted into CBN. It’s not unheard of for shady weed dealers to shake and rub their buds to harvest the trichomes for other uses.

Trim

Ideally, if they aren’t sugar leaves (leaves coated with trichomes) they should be removed, as excess leafy content will alter the taste and reduce the overall potency of your cannabis. Hand-trimmed weed is superior to machine-trimmed, as it takes a human touch to trim without losing too many trichomes. If the buds look like they were cut haphazardly by a machine or are still covered in fan leaves, it’s probably not good weed.

Feel

Cannabis tastes freshest at 60% humidity, so if it’s allowed to dry out or to get too damp the quality drops. Dried out weed is harsh and irritating to the throat and lungs. Dry bud also burns very quickly and may induce a coughing fit. If cannabis gets too damp, the likelihood of mould is much higher and the flavour is usually very grassy. Well-kept weed will break apart with ease, but it doesn’t crumble to dust when pinched.

The perfect bud density varies by cannabis strain, with high-quality indicas being denser, Sativas being more fluffy, and hybrids falling somewhere in between. The resinous coating covering your buds should feel sticky to the touch. However, try to limit how much you handle it (and use tongs, scissors, or chopsticks if you can) because any resin that gets stuck to your fingers is no longer adding to the potency of your marijuana.

Seeds

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Cannabis with seeds will contain less THC, as the plant is using all its effort producing seeds and not producing THC. Good quality cannabis will not contain any seeds, and even bottom-shelf cannabis shouldn’t if it comes from a reputable source. Seeds also weigh more than dried cannabis so you are getting less weed.

Smoking seeds can be hazardous to your joint as they can explode and burst through the side. Be sure to remove all seeds before smoking and save yourself some aggravation.

Stems

There will always be some stems in the middle of your buds but not too many others. Stems usually make your joint harsh and taste bad so try to remove as many as you can. If your bag contains a ton of stems then you will be paying extra for unsmokable weight, not to mention having to spend time removing them. Stems in a container of cannabis(shake) will be a definite sign of poor cannabis quality and potency.

Mould

Weed that is kept in damp conditions will often contain mould. If your weed smells or tastes funky or hurts your chest to smoke, mould is probably to blame. Inhaling mould can actually make you sick, so immediately stop using any cannabis that may have mould. Black, gray, green, and white are the most common mould colours, but any unusual fuzzy patch is suspect no matter what colour.

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Mouldy Cannabis

Pests

Most cannabis growers avoid the use of toxic pesticides – which is a good thing for cannabis quality and potency! That being said the side effect of no pesticides is the possibility of having spider mites. You never want bugs living in your buds. If you see tiny bugs in your buds, don’t consume them in any way! Spider mites are the most common pest found on cannabis plants. These very tiny spiders (usually orange-red in colour) eat the sap out of the plant and can rapidly destroy a marijuana crop. If you happen to see what looks like fine spiderwebs in your weed forget the cannabis quality and potency, dump those buds and check the rest of your crop.


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