Choosing Cannabis: Visual Cues

up close shot of bud in jar

From desired effects to price point, a variety of factors play a part in the type of cannabis you select. But without even consuming it, can you tell the difference between poor and high-quality bud? Just like when selecting produce at the grocery store, you want to choose cannabis that looks appealing and has an enticing aroma.

The next time you’re at the dispensary, use these visual cues to help you differentiate between top-quality and bottom-shelf bud.



Vibrant, exaggerated colors indicate good pot. Top-shelf bud is green and may contain hints of blue, purple, or black areas of coloration. Typically, low-quality cannabis is muted in color or noticeably brown. However, white or yellow is never favorable. These colors are usually a sign that the plant was contaminated by mold, mildew, insects, or pesticides.

Additionally, it’s important to check out the color of a plant’s trichomes, if possible. Trichomes are the tiny nodules dotting a plant’s leaves. They make up the majority of a plant’s THC content.

With the help of a magnifying glass, look to see if these trichomes are cloudy or clear. If they’re clear, that means the plant was harvested too soon. Plants left to reach full maturation produce cloudy or amber trichomes and are, consequently, more potent.


Light, leafy, and brittle weed is a result of the harsh growing conditions typical for sub-par, improperly cared-for cannabis. Often, this low-grade weed is compacted into bricks, plagued with stems and seeds. When you attempt to break it up or separate the sticks, it tends to crumble.

The finest cannabis is usually grown by hand and not manicured by machine. Growers take time to groom each dense and chunky nug so only the choicest parts of the plant remain; no seeds or stems here. Instead, primo bud will look shiny and feel sticky due to a frosting of trichrome crystals.


High-quality weed has a powerful aroma. If your pot doesn’t have an apparent smell, pick it up and gently squeeze it. This will coax the scent out of dryer buds. If you still can’t smell anything, the weed is stale.

Low-quality pot smells like earth and cut grass or hay. Superior bud emits a variety of pleasant aromas, ranging from fruity and floral to skunky and cheesy. If you notice any foul or offensive scents, you can trust the taste of the bud will be the same.

The cannabis you select ultimately comes down to personal preference. The usually discounted price of low-grade pot is an attractive benefit for bargain hunters. And for others, the taste and effects of premium weed is worth the hefty price tag. Choose what you enjoy and what you can afford.