Science Behind the Texture: Dry Weed vs Sticky Weed

What makes those cannabis flowers so sticky, and does that stickiness determine quality?

Detail of assored dried cannabis buds in a line over natural landscape Source: Shutterstock

Ever notice that some buds are dry while others feel like they’re coated in syrup? What makes those cannabis flowers so sticky, and does that stickiness determine quality? If sticky weed really is better, does that mean you should just toss your stash of dry weed? 

If you’ve ever wondered about the varying textures of cannabis flower, keep reading to get the answers to all your questions about that sticky-icky. 

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What Makes Weed Sticky?

Here’s the really simple answer:

Cannabis is harvested for its flower. Cannabis flowers are coated in trichomes. Trichomes are the things that make weed feel sticky. 

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Now here’s the breakdown: 

Trichomes are the thin, nearly microscopic mushroom-shaped hairs that give cannabis flowers their fuzzy appearance. Scientists have identified three types of trichomes:

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  • Bulbous trichomes – These are the smallest type of trichomes. Bulbous trichomes do not have stalks and produce very small quantities of metabolites.  
  • Sessile trichomes – These are the middle-sized of the three. Sessile trichomes have a short stalk and a round head containing metabolite-producing secretory glands. 
  • Stalked trichomes –  These are the giants of all trichome types. Like sessile trichomes, stalked trichomes are topped with globular heads, but they have much taller stalks than the other two trichome types. 

Why exactly do trichomes feel so sticky? The answer to that has to do with what’s teeming inside of those ethereal, mushroom-shaped hairs. 

What’s in a Trichome?

Trichomes contain a variety of metabolites, chemicals that plants produce in order to repel predators, attract pollinators, and protect against diseases. 

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When it comes to cannabis plants, there are two groups of metabolites that you should really care about: phytocannabinoids and terpenes. 

Phytocannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have so much therapeutic potential, huge segments of the global population are switching from strict anti-cannabis laws to full-on legalization. It’s about time, too, because cannabinoids are associated with the following health outcomes:

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  • Relaxation
  • Improved mood 
  • Increased appetite 
  • Improved sleep 
  • Decreased pain 

Terpenes are aromatic oils, and pretty much all living plants have them. They’re the chemicals that make plants smell either fragrant or noxious. 

The most abundant terpenes found in cannabis include β-Carophyllene, Pinene, Mycrene, Himulene, Terpinolene, Limonene, and β-Ocimene. Like cannabinoids, terpenes are associated with benefits including the following therapeutic properties:

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  • Analgesic 
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anxiolytic 
  • Anti-microbial 
  • Anti-addictive 

Trichomes feel sticky because they’re packed with these chemicals. The terpene and cannabinoid-rich resin inside of a trichome is extremely sensitive to heat. When you touch sticky flower, you’re feeling that resin melt against your skin. 

So what does all of this chemistry have to do with the quality of sticky weed? Keep reading to find out. It’s about to get really good. 

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Does Sticky Weed Mean Good Weed?

Long-time cannabis veterans don’t need research to tell you what the science is beginning to confirm: the stickier the weed, the more potent the medicine. 

Dry bud isn’t useless, but its texture is a sign that the flower is missing trichomes, the most metabolite-dense components of the plant. 

A 2019 study published in The Plant Journal found that the largest trichomes on a cannabis flower—those stalked trichomes we talked about earlier—contain the densest concentrations of THC, CBD, and terpenes on the entire cannabis plant. 

According to the researchers, you can think of stalked trichomes as both factories and storage facilities where cannabis plants produce and keep most of their medicinal chemical compounds. 

Here’s another way of putting it. Sticky weed has that Velcro-like texture because it’s covered in large trichomes. Those trichomes are packed with medicine. So the more frost on your flower, the more medicine in your bloodstream. 

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Sticky weed is more than just good weed. It’s great medicine. 

Does Curing Cannabis Dry Out Trichomes?

This is a good example of how the cannabis lexicon can be somewhat misleading. Cured weed can (and should) still be sticky with trichomes. 

When the cannabis plant is first harvested, it’s moist. Like all plants, cannabis requires a lot of water to grow. Its leaf veins and plant stalks are full of water before the plants are cut and hung upside down to dry. Cannabis producers dry out their cannabis to prevent mold contamination. 

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In fact, the one time that wet weed might actually be a huge problem is when it’s wet with moisture. Some growers (particularly growers who don’t have to worry about lab testing in the unregulated space) may rush the drying process and give you weed that’s damper than it is dank. This can be dangerous because moisture is the number one factor leading to moldy weed. 

In that sense, dry weed is a really good thing. 

Once cannabis plants are completely dried of moisture (not trichomes), they can be cured in order to break down excess chlorophyll and plant sugars. These compounds can create an unpleasant grassy flavor and even increased the likelihood of anxiety. 

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When weed is properly cured, the result is often a more fragrant and potent smoking experience. The more desirable cannabis metabolites are amplified as the chlorophyll and sugars break down. 

If My Weed Isn’t Sticky, Should I Toss It?

Please don’t throw away your less tactile stash of weed. Sticky weed is the best of the best, but it’s not necessarily the norm. 

Dry weed still contains terpenes and cannabinoids, just not as many. Dry weed can get you really high. It just won’t be the same experience you’d get from consuming weed dripping with resin. 

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There are even strategic reasons to shop for dry weed over sticky weed. Trichome coated weed is going to cost you more than dry pot because it’s heavier and it’s just better quality. If you’re buying in bulk and don’t have a ton of cash to spare, purchasing dry pot might make a lot more sense than going for the most expensive flower in the dispensary

Bottom line? Whether your weed is sticky or dry, you’re probably going to have a great time either way. 

Science Behind the Texture: Dry Weed vs Sticky Weed was last modified: by