Identifying good cannabis, effective medical marijuana, or top-shelf flower -- however you prefer to describe it -- can be difficult for consumers. A lot of time has already been spent educating the public on the science of cannabis; however, very little effort is being put into explaining how this information can help people purchase great flower at their local shop. For those of us who work with cannabis, understanding the science behind the plant is important to the integrity of our work; however, this information will remain unhelpful to the average consumer until it translates to better results in learning how to buy quality cannabis.
Having worked in the cannabis industry for the past seven years, I would say that the biggest obstacle facing consumers is that they have no idea what the criteria is for quality cannabis. I found that most people rely on things like THC percentage or the strain name to determine their purchase -- neither of which speaks to the quality of the product. If you are lucky, you will be helped by a knowledgeable budtender who can steer you toward a quality product, but this is not a guarantee.
Thankfully, locating great flower at your cannabis shop on your own is not difficult. You just have to know where to look.
Below, you will find the criteria for quality cannabis. Consider it a how-to on buying better flower and avoiding bad weed. I will walk you through how to identify the characteristics you want in cannabis and the rationale behind those decisions. By the end of this article, you will be on your way to buying cannabis like an expert -- resulting in better purchases and better experiences!
The first things I am trying to find when I am looking over my flower options are things that should not be there. Mold, powdery mildew, and bugs are huge red flags and indicate that the plant is not of high quality and/or safe to consume. If the flower smells acrid, has a brown rust color, looks like it is covered in spider webs, or has white splotches, just move on. There are too many good options in the legal cannabis industry to settle for bad products.
Pay close attention to the trichomes. At the end of the day, the trichomes are what you are paying money for when you buy cannabis. Trichomes are the resinous glands that house all the cannabinoids and terpenes -- the compounds responsible for the experience of the plant; therefore, it is important to make sure they are pristine. Quality cannabis will offer a sea of milky white trichomes. A dense blanket of trichomes is an indication of strong genetics, and the color of the trichomes is an indicator of the ripeness of the trichomes, which is directly tied to potency. A milky trichome is perfectly ripe -- offering a complex chemistry and robust experience. Clear trichomes indicate the plant has not yet reached maturity; therefore, the strain will be lacking in potency. Amber trichomes indicate that the plant is past its peak. This also has a negative impact on the potency and overall effect. In short, think of trichomes like produce. You want to make sure that you are consuming them at the right time so you can get the best experience.
The third thing I am looking for is the presence of terpenes. Terpenes are responsible for the smell of the flower and contribute to the direction and longevity of the high. Terpenes also help curb the anxiety often associated with THC. Unfortunately, terpenes are volatile. They are in a constant state of evaporation and are pretty much gone after six months. What this means is that old cannabis will produce a subpar experience because it is lacking a complex chemistry of terpenes. You can use your nose to determine if terpenes are present -- a “loud” smell indicating a healthy amount; however, if you are in a market where you cannot smell the product, or you want to purchase high-quality weed online through a delivery service, I have found that the easiest way to determine the presence of terpenes is to check the harvest date. This is one of the only pieces of information on the label that speaks to quality. Yes, proper storage can delay the evaporation of terpenes; however, nothing can stop it. It is also important to note that cannabinoids degrade over time as they are exposed to light and oxygen. To put it simply, old cannabis will get you high; however, the experience will be vastly different than if you were to consume the flower at its peak. I typically will avoid purchasing flower that was harvested over four months from the date of purchase. If I am paying for a complex arrangement of compounds, I want to make sure they are there when I purchase the flower.
Lastly, allow me to conclude with two pieces of advice. Find the budtenders who understand quality cannabis, and remember the farms that grow the cannabis you enjoy. Having a great budtender not only gives you a second set of eyes on the product, but you can also trust them to show you something new and wonderful. I know a lot of great budtenders who keep cannabis journals, so they can keep track of their experiences and pass it on to their customers. Find these budtenders in your legal state and tip them well! Also, one of the biggest benefits of understanding what quality looks like in cannabis is becoming familiar with the people who are responsible for growing it. Quality cannabis is consistently produced by quality growers. You may not be familiar with the name of their strains; however, you can tell that they have the skill and put in the work to produce amazing products that offer tremendous effects. Be loyal to quality! You will not regret it!