Identifying high-quality weed at a dispensary can be difficult if you’ve never been to one. Even if you have, it’s up to the you to trust that the cannabis you’re getting is of high quality. Oftentimes, dispensaries will set up their flower selection based on tiers: bottom-shelf, mid-shelf, and top-shelf, and sometimes, a premium or exclusive level. Low-potency bud is sometimes referred to as “schwag”, “ditch,” “dirt,” or “bammer” weed. In order to learn how to find well-cultivated cannabis flower, check out this brief guide on the different tactile, visual, and other sensory clues that characterize high-quality weed.

Most of the therapeutic cannabinoids and terpenes can be found on cannabis flower, specifically on trichomes. Chemical compounds like the psychedelic THC and anxiety-relieving CBD are produced in these tiny, resinous glands that can vary in color from milky white to amber-colored hairs. When looking for high-quality pot, you’ll want to make sure that your flower is completely frosty from the high concentration of trichomes on the bud itself. The more trichomes, the more pungent your weed will be.

One of the first things you’ll notice when walking into a dispensary is the bouquet of weed aromas from all of the cannabis strains. Every marijuana strain has a unique combination of aromatic terpene compounds. Terpenes are responsible for the scents and can found across the entire plant kingdom. Properly cultivated cannabis usually comes with a powerful aroma ranging from sweet and fruit to diesel and cheese-like scents. In general, the smellier the weed, the better quality it will be. 

Color is another telltale sign to help you determine the quality of your cannabis flower. Bottom-shelf strains tend to be brown and dry-looking. On the other hand, anything above top-shelf weed will have a vibrant green color, sometimes with a flurry of red or orange hairs called pistils sprinkled throughout. Anthocyanins in cannabis can make some strains appear blue or purple. A strain’s color depends on the genetics and growing conditions of the plant. Ultimately, cannabis flower should contain an abundance of trichomes and have a bright green color. If it doesn’t look like a sheet of snow is on your flower, then don’t get it.

Finally, cannabis flower should feel slightly dense, sticky, and easy to break apart. Most dispensaries won’t let you touch the product with your hands before purchase, so you’ll have to rely on sight and checking it when you get home. Low-quality weed tends to be extremely dry and brittle or worse: wet, which can indicate an improperly cured flower that can develop mold or mildew in poor storing conditions. Many dispensaries will market their low-quality weed as “shake,” which can be great for making edibles, teas, topicals, and more, but not so great for smoking.

There are hundreds of cannabis strains, some more accessible than others. It’s all about experimentation and trying out different ones to zero in on your favorite strain. Within that strain, there could exist low-quality and high-quality versions. Keep your eye out for scent, visuals, and tactile clues to identify premium cannabis flower so that you’ll have the best experience every time. 

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