Schwag. Mids. Headies. Boof. Quads. Like any agricultural product, there are different grades of cannabis quality. Unlike other agricultural products, the cannabis culture has adopted some really strange and hilarious names for the different grades of ganja you find at the dispensary. If you are new to the wild world of weed, it might all just look like orange hairs and green leaves attached to some stems. However, a more experienced cannabis consumer can tell exactly how good a bag of pot is just by look and smell alone. So how do they grade cannabis? What factors are they comparing to determine the quality scale? Read on to find out.
The Bag Appeal
The first quality to consider when grading cannabis is naturally going to be the bag appeal. Bag appeal means exactly how it sounds – how appealing does the cannabis look at first glance from the bag or container?
Brick Weed and Ditch Weed
Imported compressed bricks are of the lowest grade in the cannabis world, commonly referred to as “schwag”, “brown-frown”, or “reggies”, a nickname for regular old nothing-special weed. Brick weed will have lots of seeds, flattened and squashed looking buds, and noticeably hardcut, straight edges due to the bricking method. This bricking process is extremely rough, and usually done when the weed is still wet and not properly dried, leading to molds and mildews. The bricks are then stored and transported multiple times, losing potency and flavor until eventually reaching the consumer. It's impossible to know how old brick weed is. By the time it finally reaches your hand it's dull brown, lifeless, moldy and rotten. You can tell just by looking at it.
Sometimes you will see purple coloring in cannabis buds. Some folks claim that purple weed is more exotic and stronger than green colored cannabis, but this is not always the case. Considering that most of the time the purpling of the flower is a response to environmental conditions, seeing purple on a cannabis plant could mean it was grown in suboptimal conditions. Most cannabis plants will turn purple when the nighttime temperature is below 60 degrees. Purpling can also be a response to nutrient salt build up in the leaf tissue.
Most molds and mildews can also be detected with a quick visual inspection. Botrytis, or “bud-rot” looks gray to black, and looks like the bud is dead and rotting. In small amounts it will look like small pieces of cotton. Powdery mildew can be hard to spot as it can blend in with the plant’s trichomes. But, if you look closely you can see that powdery mildew has a web-like appearance. Any presence of mold or mildew will knock the bud down a C grade at best.
After a proper visual inspection, the next step is to stick your nose in the jar or bag and get a big whiff. Everyone’s nose is different, but a few universal truths about cannabis smell have been agreed upon. Fresh, grade A weed strains will have an overwhelming aroma that jumps out of the container and can be smelled across the room.
The Smoke Test
After looking the bud over and getting a good smell test, it's time for everyone’s favorite assessment – the smoke test. Upon the first draw and puff, the flavor qualities will immediately become apparent, and you can begin to ask yourself:
- “Does the flavor match the aroma?”
- “Does the flavor overpower the taste of burning plant matter?”
- “Does the flavor taste fresh and enticing?
- “Does the flavor stick around, even a half hour after smoking?”
If you get a yes to all these you are dealing with some grade A ganja for sure. Also be sure to ask yourself:
- “Is the smoke harsh and hurting the back of my throat?”
- “Does the flavor go away after the first puff”
- “Is there any flavor at all other than just burning plant matter?”
- “Does this taste salty? Does the bud crackle and spark while smoking?”
If you can say yes to any of these, you are dealing with nothing better than B grade cannabis.
Legalized cannabis has brought us a world where we can send cannabis to a lab and have it analyzed for potency and terpene content. With some cultivars of cannabis pushing upwards of 35% THC, potency has reached new heights. But potency doesn’t account for the effects of the strain alone. The terpene profile, aka aroma and flavor, has a huge role in driving just how “potent” a strain feels. This means a strain that tests out at 20% THC that has a terpene content of 4% can be more potent than a strain testing 28% THC that has 1% total terpenes.
- Have immediately noticeable effects.
- Have long lasting effects.
- Have overall pleasant effects for the average person. (Won’t give you a headache)
Anything lower than B grade will:
- Have no immediate effects.
- Have quick or fleeting effects.
- Give you a headache or adverse reaction.
The Grading Spectrum
Here is a quick guide to helping you grade cannabis.
AAAA Grade (Presidential, Quads)
Buds so beautiful you feel bad about smoking them. So pungent you can smell this bud in the next town over. Extremely potent, high terpene content. No mold/mildew, no seeds, smoke not harsh at all. Effects and flavor are strong and long lasting. Grown by the experienced.
AAA Grade (Top Shelf)
Gorgeous, photo worthy appearance. The smell should “leap” out of the container. Very potent, maybe too potent. High terpene content. No molds/mildew/seeds. Smoke is smooth and the flavor is delicious. Not quite as strong or pungent as AAAA, but definitely more than grade A.
A Grade (Headies, Primo, Dank)
Perfectly grown and cured. Pungent and enticing flavor. Cannabis you wouldn’t mind smoking all the time. No mold/mildew or seeds. Smoke is great and the bud burns with no crackling sound. Fresh, no more than 3-4 months old.
B Grade (Mid-grade, mids, boof)
Decent looking with an alright smell, good enough for some, but not strong enough for experienced cannabis consumers. Might have been good weed but wasn’t cured properly. Maybe a few seeds, maybe a few spots of mold here and there. Should still be green.
C Grade (Dirt Weed, reggies, schwag, brick weed)
Discolored and brown, smells like hay, lawn clippings or nothing at all. Not very potent. Potentially could give you a headache. Bad Taste. Brick weed. Completely seeded. Visible mold.
D Grade (Rope Dope, Ditch Weed)
Why are you trying to smoke hemp with no THC and little CBD? Not really bud, this will look like leaves, sticks and dirt. Seeds, mold. Doesn’t give you a buzz, but could get you a respiratory infection.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How is cannabis flower graded?
Cannabis flower is graded by looks, how pungent it is, THC content and/or terpene content. Also considered is how it was grown and the type of cure.
Are There Different Grades of Cannabis?
- AAAA- The very best, nothing is more high quality
- AAA - Amazing and unique cultivars grown to perfection
- A - Expertly grown good ol’ dank
- B - Mid grade, might have a few slight imperfections
- C - Brick weed, schwag
- D - Rope Dope, low cannabinoid hemp, ditch weed
What is AAA and AAAA?
AAAA hits all the notes just right, grown to perfection, extremely potent and pungent. High THC and terpene content. AAA will have all the qualities of AAAA but with slightly lower THC and terpene content. This grading system is more common in Canada than in The States.
What are AAA strains?
AAA strains will be expertly grown unique and rare cultivars. They are more desirable than A grade because they are more pungent, potent and rare.