While many Americans can now buy and grow marijuana legally — choosing from an endlessly varied selection of premium bud — some still have to take it wherever they can find it. Even U.S. government researchers are forced to work with what most experienced cannabis users would deem pretty bad weed.
In this sense, marijuana is like any produce you might buy at the grocery store: You can just tell when it’s healthy and ripe for consumption. Good weed has more vibrant color, like a thriving plant. It has a heady, pungent aroma and taste. It’s somewhat springy, dense and coated with sticky, frosty, crystalline trichomes — tiny glands packed with THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid that gets you high. Bad weed, by comparison, looks like some junk you yanked out from underneath your lawnmower.
It’s full of stems and seeds
You don’t want to get ripped off and smoke an inferior product, of course. So how can you tell if your flower isn’t up to snuff (or puff)? Believe it or not, you don’t need a doctorate in botany or chromatography instruments to tell whether your stash is shit. Read on, esteemed stoner, and learn some simple warning signs.
Another visual red flag would be larger marijuana leaves attached to your nugs, which indicates a sloppy "trim" when the buds were separated from the plant. Cannabis that gets trimmed by machines (as opposed to carefully trimmed by hand) might have diminished potency, and the leaves themselves don’t offer much of the cannabinoid compounds that people prize in marijuana.
It’s paler or duller in color, sometimes brown or yellowish. It’s often dry or more crumbly, and it lacks a distinctive smell (although sometimes it smells like hay or grass). It’s also sure to taste terrible. In certain cases, this kind of marijuana may have been "blasted," or entirely stripped of its cannabinoids to make butane hash oil. Either way, avoid it.
High-grade. Top-shelf. Fire.
Although you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can definitely judge cannabis buds by their appearance. There are many factors that indicate quality to a trained eye, and colour is one of the most important.
The substance contains a complex array of molecules. Those of interest to us include cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, along with terpenes like myrcene, pinene, and limonene. The more trichomes a flower possesses, the more resin it will produce. The more resin coating the surface of a bud, the more cannabinoids and terpenes sit ready to be combusted, vaporized, or chewed and swallowed.
If you’re looking for medium-quality bud, or simply trying to dodge the bad stuff, look for these traits:
Premium-quality bud goes by many names, yet they all describe its immense flavour and mind-shattering effects. These buds are hard to come by outside of big cities and weed-growing areas. Generally, they’re the products of skilled farmers and master breeders in hotspots like Northern California, Spain, and the Netherlands.
There’s a seed in my bud!
Seeds are the result of pollination. That means the seedy cannabis buds (which come from a female plant) may have come into contact with pollen from a male plant. Therefore, it’s possible the grower didn’t identify and remove all the male plants before the released pollen. It’s also possible that the plant self-pollinated (sometimes called herming) which is often the result of plant stress during the budding phase but can also be caused by genetics.
What causes seeds?
I’ve seen some growers get impressive results with bagseed, but overall results seem to be hit or miss. Plants can grow in odd ways and often either the yields or quality isn’t as expected. The problem is that seeds often don’t “breed true” to the buds that they came from. That is why many growers either stick to clones (which are exactly the same as the “mother” plant) or purchase seeds of a stabilized strain from a trustworthy breeder, where each of the plants will grow the way you expect, and buds more consistently have the smell, yield and potency they’re supposed to.
What does it mean to find seeds in your marijuana buds? Is it something to be worried about?
If it’s very seedy the buds may not feel as potent, though a few seeds here and there won’t make much difference in potency. The main problem with seedy weed is that you are getting less smokeable bud for the amount of total mass there. If it is seedless, you will get a lot more bang for your buck. Seedless bud (sinsemilla) is considered to be the highest quality and most potent type of weed.