Cannabis quality matters, especially if you're using weed as a medical patient. So how can you tell good weed from bad weed? Fortunately, some form of cannabis is legal in most states. You're almost certainly able to access CBD products no matter where you live, and a growing number of states are making whole-plant cannabis accessible for adult and medical use. Legal weed means more accountability when it comes to quality.

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Most states require cannabis growers to submit batches of their harvest to independent labs for testing. The thoroughness of a lab test can vary, but results will usually identify the presence of mold and mildew, pesticides, residual solvents, cannabinoids, and terpenes. Though some genuinely care about providing their customers with dank weed, most unregulated dealers won’t check for quality.

If you’re an obvious novice to weed and a dealer senses that, they may take advantage of your naivete and try to get rid of their oldest product by selling it to you. Don’t want to spend your money on trash? Keep reading to learn five ways that you can tell dank from ditch weed.

Give Your Cannabis the Sniff Test

Cannabis gets the nickname "skunk" for a reason. Different strains express different scents, but all quality cannabis buds have one thing in common: they lack subtlety. It's important to distinguish the good smells from the bad (even dangerous) ones, though. That's why smelling cannabis is one of the most important ways you can tell good weed from bad weed.

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What Does Good Weed Smell Like?

High-quality weed smells… loud. If your weed has a strong scent similar to skunk, flowers, fruit, sage, and other spices, it's rich in terpenes, chemicals that give all plants a unique aromatic bouquet and enhance the therapeutic efficacy of pot.  The more terpenes, the richer the fragrance, and the higher quality the weed.

What does Bad Weed Smell Like?

Not all smelly weed is high quality or safe. Re-think packing your bowl if your cannabis smells like one of the following:

  • A hair salon. That's the chemical scent of residual solvents. Smoking weed with enough chemical residue to be detected by smell exposes you to volatile organic compounds, chemicals toxic for human consumption.
  • Mowed grass. Weed that hasn't been dried or cured long enough contains excess chlorophyll, a plant pigment that causes a harsh and unpleasant experience when smoked.
  • Must, sweat, or ammonia. These are the tell-tale scents of mold and mildew. Inhaling mold and mildew spores is dangerous, especially for patients with compromised immune systems.   

Pay Attention to How Your Weed Looks

Identifying weed quality by looks alone is tricky, but some characteristics may suggest superior potency.

What Does Good Weed Look Like?

High-quality weed is often a deep, vibrant green color speckled with orange, purple, or red tones. A white, crystal-like coating should also cover the flowers, giving them an almost dusty appearance. If you take a close look, you'll see that those white crystals are tiny and mushroom-shaped. They're called trichomes, and they're packed with cannabinoids. The more trichomes you can see, the more potent your cannabis medicine is likely to be.  

What Does Bad Weed Look Like?

If your weed is a dull brown or yellow color, it's probably old. That doesn't mean it's dangerous, but it does mean that its cannabinoid content has likely degraded. Don't expect a lot of THC from old weed. You can expect a high concentration of CBN, the byproduct of THC degradation known for inducing sleepiness. Dangerous signs to look out for include black or white fuzz or dense patches of white—the type of ugly colors you might find on rotting fruit.

That's mold and mildew, and smoking those spores can make you sick. Finally, low-quality weed may contain seeds, leaves, and stems. If you can see any of these cannabis pieces mixed in with your flower, you've purchased a bottom-shelf product diluted with plant parts that have little to no cannabinoid content.

Research the Cannabis Brand

If you're shopping for weed at a licensed dispensary, you're choosing from the crème de la crème. You can improve your chances by doing some online research before you even leave your home. Find a dispensary near you, and check out the brands on its shelves. You can to learn more about their growing and selling processes and ethics.

Some brands pride themselves on using organic methods and products to grow and manufacture their products. From promoting social equity to environmental justice, a growing number of brands also make social responsibility an essential part of their identity. Identifying socially responsible brands is another way to separate good from bad weed—ethically speaking.  

Read the Label

Another advantage of shopping for weed at a licensed dispensary is the opportunity to examine product labels. Products placed on the top shelves are typically the highest quality (and most expensive) you can get. Quality and price usually decline as you go from top to bottom shelves. The labels will help you confirm that.

The labels on cannabis products should tell you what and how much of each cannabinoid is present, which terpenes are traceable, and whether pesticide, mold, mildew or residual solvents are detectable. Understanding how to read a cannabis label is a powerful way to identify the best weed for your body.

Know Your Endocannabinoid System

A cannabis product that your best friend considers high quality may not be a good choice for you. Why? Everyone's bodies and endocannabinoid systems are different, so people process various cannabis products differently. Some people have the best experience when their cannabis products contain 20% or more THC.

Others may experience paranoia and anxiety if they consume any more than 10% THC. Some bodies are sensitive to the cannabinoid-enhancing effects of terpenes in ways that can be either beneficial or unsettling. You'll have to do some experimenting to figure out what combination of cannabinoids and terpenes are ideal for you. Smoke small amounts between long periods as you try different strains and record the terpene and cannabinoid profiles of each product along the way. Ultimately, whether weed is good or bad depends on your body, budget, and what you're looking to get from your cannabis experience.