How to Tell Good Weed From Bad Weed

What you need to know to avoid wasting money on bad weed at the dispensary.

Good weed vs bad weed illustration Source: Travis Gobeil

If you’re in the market for cannabis, you want to get the most bang for your buck. Just because it’s a great price doesn’t mean it’s a great value. We’ll show you how to tell good weed from bad weed, so you can make an educated purchasing decision.

Visual qualities

Cannabis comes in all shapes and colors, so how do you know what good quality weed looks like? There are a few factors to look for:

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Plant pigments, such as chlorophyll and carotenoids, are present in cannabis and are what give your weed its range of purple, red-orange, amber, and green hues. Some strains even display blue or pink pigments.

Good weed will likely appear green all the way through or contain a combination of these colors. The main color to avoid when it comes to cannabis is brown.

If your bud clusters lack most of their green pigment and appear dull and brown, this is generally due to improper curing and storage.


Good quality weed will have a dusty coating of white, powdery trichomes throughout the buds. Trichomes are resin-producing glands responsible for the production of cannabinoids in the plant, including THC.

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Potent weed will be coated with this shimmery dust, while lower quality weed will have very little. Proper handling during harvest, curing, storage, and transport all contribute to maintaining a high concentration of trichomes in top-shelf cannabis.

Avoid Mold or Pests

The last thing you want in your weed are contaminants that can make you sick or are just kind of gross. Mold often appears as white or grey masses on the bud. You’ll also want to look for anything that looks like tiny spider webs, which can indicate the presence of spider mites.

Aphids are another common pest that can leave behind eggs, larvae, and dead exoskeletons. Don’t accept your cannabis until you have inspected it for mold and pests.

Stems, Seeds, and Leaves

The presence of stems and seeds in your cannabis can be a red flag indicating low-quality weed. When combusted, stems tend to ruin the overall flavor of the rest of your weed.

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They also add to the weight of your purchase, meaning you’re paying for a part of the cannabis plant that’s not even smokeable, although you can put stems to good use with our recipe for weed stem tea.

Seeds also add weight to your purchase and you certainly don’t want them in your bowl or joint. Additionally, seeds indicate that the cannabis plant was fertilized prior to harvesting.

This is possible when not all of the male or hermaphrodite cannabis plants have been removed in the pre-flowering stage and were instead allowed to pollinate the females.

Once pollinated, female plants cease to produce cannabinoids and divert the bulk of their energy to seed production. If this occurs early in the flowering stage, it’s likely that your weed will not reach peak potency and will contain a lower concentration of THC.

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The small leaves that protrude from between the flower clusters of the cannabis plant are known as sugar leaves. While these leaves contain some THC, they can lead to a hasher smoke that may cause you to cough more.

Producers of high-quality cannabis will trim the sugar leaves for the visual appeal as well as a smoother smoking experience.

Moisture content

Although cannabis is considered “dry flower,” there should still be a touch of stickiness to your buds. If your weed is completely dried out and falls apart easily, it’s usually a sign of improper curing and storage.

When exposed to too much light and air, buds become dry and THC degrades to the cannabinoid CBN. While CBN has benefits of its own, the degradation of THC means that your weed won’t get you nearly as high.

On the other hand, your cannabis should not feel damp. Dampness indicates that the final product was stored at high humidity or that it has not been fully and properly cured after harvest or both. Moisture can promote the growth of mold. The ideal moisture level for storing your weed is 62% humidity.

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Shelf Level

Many legal dispensaries organize their bud selection the same way a cocktail bar arranges liquor—the best stuff is almost always on the top shelf. If you’re purchasing from a reputable source, this can be your first visual cue to evaluate the quality of your bud. Cannabis retail spaces are likely to have three tiers:

Top shelf

Known by many names including dank, fire, and loud, top shelf is some of the best weed you can buy at the dispensary. Top shelf strains generally offer the highest THC content, the most unique flavor profiles, and the highest price tag.

These strains may also be more rare and hard-to-find, which adds to their value. Stoners with a high tolerance may prefer top shelf weed for a truly phenomenal high, while novice smokers may find these strains a bit too intense.

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Commonly known as “middies,” the middle shelf at a dispensary often represents average-quality bud. For folks with a reasonable tolerance, mid-shelf can be a more cost-effective way to get high.

These buds are likely to offer a pleasant aroma and smoking experience but may not be as visually appealing or potent as the shelf above.

Bottom shelf

Just like “rail” or “house” liquor at the bar, low-shelf weed generally comes with the lowest price tag. The quality of bottom shelf will vary from location to location.

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This bud may simply be less potent than the other strains, or it could contain the shake, or leftover bits of weed, from a mixture of different types of weed. While it may not be the best for smoking, this lower shelf weed can be a savvy choice for making edibles.

Keep in mind that these terms may be used differently when purchasing from your local connect. Bottom shelf at a dispensary is usually still much better than the dirt or brick(very low-quality) weed you’ll find on the street.

Dealers may also use the term “middies” to put a more-positive label on their worst selections of weed.

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While shelf level can be a good indicator of the quality of weed at a dispensary, less reputable businesses may also use this hierarchy as a marketing ploy to artificially inflate the prices of their wares.

Furthermore, if you don’t have access to a dispensary with a knowledgeable budtender to assist you, you will need to rely on your own senses and these tips to tell good weed from bad.

How to Tell Good Weed From Bad Weed was last modified: by