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Do you know how to tell if weed is good? Can you tell good weed from bad weed? If you are a regular user, you know how to spot bad-quality weed from a mile away. But beginners will need some guidance on how to avoid low-quality weed and buy good quality buds.

High-quality marijuana buds are not hard to come by. If you want to get the most bang out of your buck, check out our guide on weed quality to buy potent cannabis that smells, looks, and tastes great. Here is how you can tell good weed from bad.

Low-Shelf vs. Mid-Shelf vs. Top-Shelf Weed

Dispensaries make buying quality cannabis easy and simple by categorizing its weed in terms of quality. All weed sold at licensed dispensaries will be quality, but some strains will be better than others. Generally, dispensaries organize weed by low, mid, or top-shelf quality.

Low Shelf

Low-shelf cannabis products are the lowest in quality and price. While not bad weed, low-shelf may have lower cannabinoid concentrations. Low-shelf cannabis may consist of dried and cured trim or shake.


Mid-shelf weed, traditionally displayed between the low and top-shelf, is the most popular option. Mid-shelf weed offers users a great value of quality cannabis at an affordable price.


Top-shelf weed, also known as dank weed, is the highest quality cannabis available at dispensaries. Top-shelf weed has the highest cannabinoid concentrations. It smells and tastes great and has a vibrant color.

Private Reserve

In some dispensaries, you may find a private reserve shelf for the connoisseur-grade weed. These exotic cannabis strains are grown under the best cultivation practices from the industry’s top growers.

How to Tell if  Weed is Good

How easy is it to determine quality weed from bad weed? Consider the following factors when assessing weed quality.

Aroma and Flavor

Aroma and flavor are some of the best indicators of good or bad weed. Good weed is supposed to have a rich and complex smell and taste. Quality buds are grown, dried, and cured to have a high concentration of terpenes, their aromatic compounds.

Cannabis strains vary in smell and taste. Common notes found in good weed include pine, skunk, fuel, fruit, flowers, and much more. Some strains might have a more subtle but bright aromas while others may have strong and pungent ones.


Good weed often has a striking and colorful appearance, known as “bag appeal.” Most cannabis strains display vivid green shades with rusty-colored pistil hairs. Some strains may produce various colors such as purple, blue, pink, and more, depending on their genetics and growing environment.

One of the most important factors to consider when buying cannabis flower buds is their trichome density and quality. Its trichomes are the small and resinous glands that glisten over the cannabis buds.

It is in these trichomes that cannabis produces cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other essential oils. A higher concentration of trichomes correlates with stronger effects and a better flavor and aroma.

In terms of the trichome color, clear trichomes have a lower potency. As the trichomes mature, they turn a milky white and then a golden yellow color at their peak maturity. When about half of the buds' trichomes are amber, it is the perfect time to harvest.

If necessary, a magnifying glass can help you assess the quality of the trichomes. Dispensaries with magnifying capabilities on their bud jars can help you determine the bud quality.


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Cannabis consistency and texture are related to its quality. Good weed has a slightly sticky and dense feel due to its heavy resin content. Good weed must be easy to break down with your hands and should not feel dry or brittle. It should not be too soft or wet since this environment can increase the risk of mold and mildew formation.


Generally, quality sativa buds are fluffy and light, while indica buds tend to be dense and chunky. Hybrid strains have characteristics of sativa and indica genetics. Extra-firm or very wispy flower buds can indicate improper growing practices.

Other Factors to Consider When Buying Weed

Buying good weed requires more than just assessing its qualities with your senses. Consider its cultivation practices, chemical profile, price, and how dispensaries handle the product. All of these factors contribute to its overall quality.

Cultivation Practices

Organic and sustainable cultivation practices eliminate the need for synthetic fertilizers and are better for the environment. Look for organic cannabis with a Certified Kind and Clean Green label.


Generally, a higher cost is associated with top-shelf weed compared to low-quality weed. However, you can get a good deal by buying relatively lower quality weed, such as shake, with a high cannabinoid and terpene content, for an affordable price.

Chemical Profile

What cannabinoids and terpenes are in your strain? Consult the product’s certificate of analysis for its cannabinoid content. Most products do not list their terpene content.

Retail Practices

How do the budtenders handle the cannabis material? Cannabis budtenders must handle the buds carefully to avoid destroying their trichomes. We recommend buying from dispensaries that use tongs, chopsticks, or a similar device to carefully handle weed.

How Do You Know If You Have Bad Weed?

Bad weed, also known as reggie weed and dirt weed, is easy to spot once you know what good weed looks like. Essentially, dry, brittle, and odorless cannabis buds are considered low quality. Here is how you can tell if you have quality weed or not.

Aroma and Flavor

If your buds have a musty or hay-like aroma, they are low quality. Cannabis buds with a moldy aroma can indicate mold formation and be harmful if consumed. Bad aromas and flavors can also be due to improper drying and curing or aged cannabis.


What does bad weed look like? Bad weed can have a dull color with a high concentration of stems and seeds. Look for trichome density and color. If your weed has a low trichome density with a majority of amber-colored trichomes, you have bad weed.

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Bad weed can feel dry and brittle or soft and moist. Dry weed will feel extremely light unlike top-shelf weed, which is dense and sticky. Soft and wet nugs can lead to mold formation. “Shake” refers to sugar leaf trim that has a lower concentration of trichomes than flower buds.


Poor bud structure is instantly noticeable. Cannabis buds can be too fluffy or firm, indicating poor growing practices. Airy buds can be caused by inefficient lighting during the flowering stage.

Learn How to Buy Quality Weed

Learn how to buy high-grade weed by enrolling in Cannabis Training University’s marijuana training classes. Our comprehensive cannabis curriculum breaks down the components of cannabis, from its trichomes to its seeds and stems. Learn how cannabis works in the body and how to buy the right cannabis product for your needs.

Fred Hernandez - Cannabis industry expert writer
Fred Hernandez

Fred Hernandez is a highly accomplished and versatile writer, boasting an extensive background in the cannabis industry. With an in-depth understanding of various sectors including cultivators, processors, retailers, and brands, Fred's expertise spans across the entire cannabis landscape. As a prominent contributor to CTU, he consistently delivers insightful articles exploring the latest developments, news, and regulations shaping the cannabis industry. Whether it's delving into the intricacies of cannabis products, cannabis strain reviews, or providing comprehensive analyses of cannabis laws, or sharing expert insights on cannabis cultivation techniques, Fred's wealth of knowledge positions him as an invaluable writer and educator for all cannabis-related subjects.

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