10-step Guide to Judging Weed Quality

bud close-up, judging good bad

If you're new to the world of weed or just need a refresher, check out these pointers for judging cannabis quality.


woman smelling weed

One of the first indications of good or bad weed is immediate: smell. Give the bud a whiff, and the results will likely be telling.

Quality flower should have a clear, pungent, weed smell. Inferior buds will have a dulled, hay-like smell. This is the result of a poorly-cured or poorly-grown plant.

The strong smell of the weed is a sign of a high terpene content. Terpenes are responsible for the smells, tastes and benefits of the cannabis. When weed aromas are strong, it means that terpenes are present, enhancing the smoker's experience. Lots of terpenes means high potency and dankness.


Weed has a lot in common with items found in the produce section of the grocery store — You can usually see if it's good enough to consume based on visual cues. In this case, color is a major determining factor.

Go for green. High-quality cannabis should be predominantly green, ranging from lighter to darker shades. Sometimes, accent colors may be present. These can include flecks of purple, orange, pink, or blue. Never, however, should the marijuana be brown. Keep this in mind: Brown weed is bad weed. The brown can come from additives that shouldn't enter the body — like mold, chemicals, or pesticides.

Other colors to avoid include yellow, red, white, and tan.


Weed tends to follow a specific structure, so it's good to be aware of shape variation. The general rule of thumb is straight forward: Indica buds should be tight and dense, and sativa buds should be light and fluffy. Hybrid strains usually show a mix of characteristics.

Regardless, avoid cannabis that has airy and open structures with visible stems. Also, good to note: sativa buds tend to display more small, orange and red hairs, known as pistils, compared to indica flower.


pistils on marijuana plant

These pistils, which look like little hairs covering the bud, are very telling. They show that the plant was well-pollinated and has completely matured. When the weed has lots of these orange squiggles, it's likely good stuff.


You can feel weed to tell if it's good quality or not. It should be a balanced mix of not too wet and not too dry. The marijuana should be sticky, thanks to the resin.

If the supply is exceptionally dry, it will burn too quickly. Adversely, if the weed is too wet, the moisture can lead to mildew and mold growth. Storage is an important preventative measure.

With the perfect wet-to-dry ratio, the cannabis should be able to be broken apart easily, though not crumble at a light touch. As it's broken apart, test the stickiness. If the weed does not have a sticky texture, it is likely not fresh.

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High quality weed is frosted with crystals, which are easy to spot and identify. These crystals are ripe trichomes, resin glands where the goods (cannabis' terpenes and cannabinoids) are stored.

One of the easiest ways to figure out if the marijuana is good, is if it's frosty, sparkling with thick and shiny trichomes.

Be mindful of the trichome color, which indicates ripeness. The best coloration is milky white with a hint of amber. If they are amber, the cannabis was harvested too late. If they are all clear, it was done too soon. That milky-whiteness is indicative of a cannabinoid-rich plant, so, the more the merrier. With more trichome crystals, the potency is likely to be higher.


marijuana nug on white background

Look for a well-groomed, nicely-trimmed flower. After each harvest, the cannabis buds have to be trimmed to get rid of the surrounding leaves. Before this process, the central bud is surrounded by thin sugar leaves, which have fewer trichomes and just get in the way of the good stuff. When weed has a lot of leafiness, it will have less THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids.

High-quality weed can be measured by the hand-trimming process as opposed to rushed or sloppy machine trimming, which can smash the plant and destroy the sensitive trichomes. A close-cut, hand trim indicates a loving cultivation, and as a result, delicious marijuana.


Shake is the loose weed particles that collect after a flower has dried and fallen apart. Watch out for shake, as it indicates when weed is too dry.

When it comes to prepackaged marijuana, opt for varieties with less shake. If possible, ask the budtender for an in-house sample to get a better idea of the appropriate look and smell. If not, avoid packages with high amounts of shake or ones with broken buds inside the plastic.


Be on the lookout for seeds: They are a sign of bad weed. Seeds are only a good addition if you are hoping to grow your own plant; otherwise, they add weight to the cannabis and detract from the actual product you can smoke.

There should be a few stems in the bud, to hold the flower together. It's a bad sign if there are none, but the amount should be minimal. Overall, the rule is no seeds and barely-any stems, resulting in fresh, thick, smokable buds.


moldy cannabis leaf

Did you know mold is bad for you? This transcends categories — if it grows in your house, on fruit, in old Tupperware containers, and even on weed, it's a lose-lose situation. (Cheese may be the only exception.) On marijuana, mold usually looks like white or grey powder or fluff, though sometimes it can grow black or green. If you see mold or mildew, throw out the weed.

Tiny pests are another thing to watch for. Sometimes, weed can become home to insects, like mites, gnats, and spiders, that can leave behind webs, eggs, and fecal matter. If you see a web, nest, or wispy, white hairs in your weed, remove them and inspect the rest of the marijuana.

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