How to Know Good Cannabis From the Bad and the Ugly

If the concept of a beautiful weed-shopping experience is foreign to you, you’re not alone. In the U.S., such things have only recently begun to take root.

Dispensaries are no longer bare-bones operations offering quick in-and-out options. Many have extensive (and technical) menus, wide selection of products, and displays of high-quality weed. Regardless of your level of cannabis connoisseurship, no one wants to look like a newbie when browsing bud, and you’ll want to know how to tell good weed from bad.

Fortunately, all you have to do is use your senses.

The good stuff.


Sight is probably your best tool for ensuring you’re buying high-quality cannabis. Train your eyes to pick up on a few tell-tale signs:

  • Crystals on your flower indicate a desirable high trichome content. You should be able to see these structures, which look like small sugar crystals, with your naked eye.
  • Orange “hairs” on your flower are another positive sign that the weed was grown well and to the right maturity.
  • Color is important. It may seem obvious, but good cannabis is primarily deep green. It may have overtones of other colors (Purple Haze may appear slightly purple). As when buying almost any plant, avoid brown.
  • Shape is also a useful signal. Good quality flower will have been trimmed and packed with care, and so it will have a nugget-like shape. If the bud looks compressed, it might have been low quality and packed in bulk.
  • Obvious seeds and sticks are a sign that you’ve got some bad quality cannabis in front of you.
Brown, dry, and compacted — all signs that this is low-quality schwag.

Smell (and Taste)

Healthy plants are often fragrant, and that’s true of high-quality cannabis too. Here’s what to smell for:

  • You want a potent smell that you don’t have to strain your nose to detect.
  • The smell should have a bit of that characteristic skunkiness, but it should also be fresh and spicy.
  • You most likely won’t be able to taste the flower in the dispensary, but the aroma should have notes of the flavors that you enjoy (pepper, apple, etc.).
  • If you pick up on the scent of mold, turn around from that mediocre marijuana.

Touch and Sound

Now’s the time to get your hands on weed, literally. Here’s what to feel and hear for:

  • You don’t want your bud to be too damp or too dry. Cannabis flowers shouldn’t feel like they’ll crumble in your hands, nor should they feel wet.
  • While you can’t start crumbling the buds in the dispensary, high-quality weed should feel like it will come apart in a grinder but with some sticky resistance in the process.
  • Listen to the flowers as you feel their texture. You don’t want to hear a sound resembling crunchy fall leaves.

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