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No one wants to smoke lousy weed. It's harsh, makes you cough, and is low potency compared to the good stuff. Nowadays, it's easier than ever to find top-shelf buds, but there are also some real duds out there.

If you're worried about wasting time and money on low-quality cannabis, we got you covered. Our marijuana assessment guide shows you the main factors to consider before smoking, vaping, or consuming cannabis.

How to Assess Marijuana Quality


Cannabis strains vary in smell. Generally, cannabis flower has an intense aroma. Depending on the terpene profile, cannabis strains can smell earthy, herbal, citrusy, sweet, skunky, fruity, fuel-like, and more. Overall, the cannabis bud smell is supposed to be pleasant.

If your weed lacks any smell or has a hay-like or grassy aroma, it means it wasn't grown or stored correctly. Properly cured cannabis has been dried in a climate-controlled space and cured to bring out the natural scent of the plant. If the good smell it's missing, it's not good weed.


Cannabis, like any other plant, is full of chlorophyll and other pigments that make the buds a vivid green and sometimes purple, blue, pink, and other vibrant shades. Cannabis buds from a healthy plant also contain orange, red, or brown pistil hairs.

However, if your buds are discolored, yellow, brown, or white, they are too dry, old, or contaminated with mold.  For example, cannabis flower that has a bleached white color may indicate a light burn due to being too close to high-intensity lights.


Cannabis bud structure can tell a lot about its growing and storage conditions. Generally, indica buds are small and dense, while sativas are light and fluffy. When grown improperly, buds can be too tiny, fluffy, or hard and have too many stems.


When harvesting, trimmers must remove excess leaves and stems from the cannabis buds to produce a good bag appeal.  Some trimming machines can produce consistent but poorly trimmed buds that remove much of the trichomes. That’s why many cannabis producers will use a trimming machine and complete a final trim by hand. 

If you see too many leaves or stems, it can signify a poor trimming practice. Shortcuts during the harvesting process can ruin months of hard work. For example, storing buds in an environment that is not climate-controlled can lead to dry or moldy weed.


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The therapeutic benefits of cannabis are determined by its trichome density and maturity. Trichomes are the resinous glands that grow mainly on buds and mature from a clear to milky white and then amber color by the end of the harvest season. Generally, a plant is ready to be harvested when most trichomes have turned amber.

One of the most important factors to consider when purchasing cannabis is the trichome density. How many trichomes are on the bud? You can use a jeweler's loupe or magnifying glass to get closer and assess the color. If the trichomes are clear or mostly white, your buds were harvested too early. If all trichomes are amber-colored, they were harvested too late.

Hermaphroditic Traits

Only female cannabis plants can produce flowers, while males have pollen sacs that can fertilize female plants. However, females can develop hermaphroditic traits when exposed to prolonged environmental stresses or due to genetics. Stress can include photoperiod changes, temperature fluctuations, late harvest, pesticides, pests, etc.

When stressed, female plants can develop both female and male flowers. Developing hermaphroditic traits is not ideal because it can reduce yield and potency. If your female plant begins to grow these male reproductive organs, it has less energy to focus on bud and leaf growth.


Mold is one of the most damaging threats when growing cannabis and can ruin an entire crop. Mold can appear as a white powdery mildew, different from trichomes or a gray fuzz. It can also smell musty and grassy.

A cheap microscope or black light can help you quickly identify mold hyphae, the filaments that create a branching structure. For example, a black light can show mold as a bright green color. 

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Consuming mold can worsen respiratory conditions and harm those with a compromised immune system. We recommend storing your cannabis in a dry, cool, and dark place to reduce the risk of high humidity. In addition, a humidity pack inside the jar can regulate humidity levels to a precise degree.

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