Buying Quality Bud: What to Look for When Cannabis Shopping

Not everyone is blessed with a sixth sense of cannabis quality. While some weed enthusiasts can intuitively discern the provenance and taste of a bud from a mile away, the rest of us mere mortals have to rely on our senses and know-how.

Unfortunately, at legal cannabis stores and medical dispensaries, quality varies. It’s not uncommon to find dry weed that’s nose-dived in flavor and potency. A few high-profile cases have even discovered moldy weed for sale at stores. Quality can also vary from grower to grower, strain to strain, harvest to harvest.

It seems like a lot to look out for. However, with a few straightforward tips, you can separate the weed from the chaff. You can even learn how to revive stale cannabis by honing in on the best humidity for weed. Here’s how. 

Pay Attention to the Packaging Stats

Your first line of defense against bad weed will be the package stats. They aren’t a perfect quality indicator (as you’ll see below), but they help. Here, we refer to any copy you can find printed on the box or baggie. This will include:

  • The strain name: This is a handy, if imperfect, indication of how good your bud will be. Some strains are just better than others. Refer to this list of the best cannabis strains for more information.
  • THC/CBD content: Your basic ratio of major cannabinoids, is a strong indication of how potent the product will be – although, with improper storage, that potency falls over time. It’s also worth mentioning that the THC/CBD content does not illustrate the full effect of the product inside the package; you still must account for the entourage effect from various terpenes and phytocannabinoids.
  • Packaging date: The packaging date gives you a rough idea of how old the bud is. Note that this isn’t the harvest date; if the flower spent considerable time between harvest and packaging, it might be drier than the date suggests.

However, there’s only so much a package can tell you. In the following sections, learn how to use your senses to spot quality cannabis.

If possible, Give It the Ol’ Sniff and Squeeze

Some budtenders will allow you to handle the product; others will not. If your budtender lets you get up close and personal with the cannabis, use this as an opportunity for quality control.

A quick squeeze test should tell you how fresh the cannabis is. It should be slightly fluffy and sticky to the touch, springing back with a bit of pressure. It should not crumble under the minimal weight of a pinch (a surefire indicator of dry weed).

As you squeeze, inhale deeply. You should sense some fresh-smelling terpenes on the nose. These might be citrusy notes, piney smells, spicy top notes, or even tropical fruit scents. It shouldn’t smell stale, like a dusty spice cabinet. It should smell like a living forest! For further reading on cannabis aromas and tastes, consult this terpene wheel.

Take Note of Trichomes

If your budtender won’t let you physically handle the product, they may at least allow a visual assessment – better than nothing!

You can typically tell a dried or moldy bud from a fresh one. Dry cannabis has a dull, brittle appearance, whereas mold weed might reveal off-colored splotches of fuzz. Quality cannabis exists somewhere in the middle with a vibrant color and slight sheen of twinkling trichomes.

Trichomes are the delicate, filament-like “hairs” that cover cannabis buds. When fresh, they cling tightly to the bud, appearing in silvery clusters. When cannabis dries, it sheds these terpene-rich trichomes, hence the duller appearance. And when cannabis over-humidifies, fuzzy mold may overtake these delicate trichomes.

Therefore, an acceptable rule of thumb for visual assessment is: if it shimmers, it’s a winner; if it’s fuzzy or duller, it’s not worth your dollar.

Look for Proper Storage Practices

Proper storage is essential for the preservation of cannabis flavors and potency. If cannabis is left to the harmful effects of sunlight, open air, high temperatures, and improper humidity, it experiences a steep decline in quality.

The mark of a great cannabis retailer, therefore, should be its storage practices. Do your budtenders store their products in airtight containers away from direct sunlight? Do they use humidity control solutions like Boveda packs to maintain consistent, ideal relative humidity? These are basic storage protocols that every quality cannabis retailer should follow.

If All Else Fails: How to Revive Your Weed

Despite your best efforts, you may wind up bringing home less-than-fresh cannabis. In some states and provinces, retailers keep their products behind lock and key, enclosed in opaque bags or containers where it’s impossible to assess the quality. It’s a gamble every time you buy.

Luckily, you can revive dry weed and restore it to its former glory. Using Boveda packs (mentioned above), you can rehydrate cannabis, bringing it back up to an ideal relative humidity between 58% and 62%. Stick a two-way humidity control pack inside an airtight container with your cannabis and wait.

When you open the container after a couple of days, you’ll have sticky, flavorful cannabis once again. No one should have to suffer the stale flavors and decreased potency of bad cannabis.

While it takes years to become a cannabis connoisseur able to spot quality cannabis in a flash, you can do your due diligence by following the straightforward tips above. Moreover, you can revive most poor-quality purchases with a bit of help from humidity.

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