How to Tell if Weed Is Good or Bad

Do you know all the ways to tell good weed from bad quality weed? A quick observation can tell you a lot about the overall quality of your marijuana, but you have to know what to look—or smell—for. You don’t want to get stuck with an ounce of low quality cannabis, so it pays to know how to rate your product at a glance.

Good Bud Is On the Top Shelf

If you’re purchasing cannabis from a dispensary, you can often make an immediate estimation of a strain’s quality simply by observing where it’s located. “Top-shelf weed” isn’t just an expression to replace the common slang term “dank buds”. The best, most valuable herb really is kept on the top shelf in most cases.

A typical display will have three shelves, each of which showcases a different grade of marijuana. The top shelf is your “dank weed” assortment; it contains high-quality cannabis, usually with a lot of THC (north of 20% in many cases). But it’s not just about the cannabinoid content. Top-shelf weed is the cannabis equivalent of filet mignon. It’s grown under ideal conditions and then cured and dried with great care. A good top-shelf weed will provide a euphoric high while also smelling and tasting amazing.

Then there are the mid-shelf varieties of marijuana flower. They’re not exceptional, but they do the trick. They’re more affordable than top-shelf options, and they provide an excellent high for most users with an average tolerance.

Bottom-shelf cannabis is your “budget bud,” sometimes called reggie or ditch weed. It’s cheap, not super potent, and often made from a mishmash of leftover trim. It may have little color, minimal aroma, and very little moisture. For beginners, bottom-shelf weed may provide a decent high. For intermediate and advanced tokers, the bottom shelf should be avoided at all costs.

Research the Strain

When you’re trying to gauge the quality of a cannabis product, it helps to know what strain you’re dealing with. Resources like Leafly can be extremely helpful in this regard. When you know the strain, you can determine the THC content, the CBD content, and the concentration of other cannabinoids like CBG and CBN. You can also learn where the strain originated, what effects it has, and what users are saying about it.

For instance, if you encounter a supply of Acapulco Gold at your local dispensary, you can do a quick online search and find that Acapulco Gold is one of the highest-quality and most sought-after strains around. With its high THC concentration (averaging around 18.5%), its peppery and citrusy aroma, and its powerfully uplifting effects, it may be the ultimate sativa.

Of course, knowing the strain is only one piece of the puzzle. Even an awesome strain may disappoint you if it wasn’t grown, cured, or stored properly. That’s why you need to know how to spot bad weed on your own.

Use Your Senses to Distinguish Good Weed

The easiest ways to tell if you’ve found good weed is to use your five senses: smell, sight, touch, taste, and hearing (yes, even your ears can help you to tell if weed is good).


Good quality weed should smell like good weed. Marijuana buds are rich in terpenes; these are the plant oils that give weed its familiar fragrances. Each strain has its own unique terpene profile, which is why no two strains smell exactly alike. Some have a strong citrus aroma, while others are more herbal. Some are peppery, while some have a distinct pine scent.

A good-smelling herb is a good-quality herb. On the other hand, low quality bud might smell dirty or earthy. In that case you’re probably dealing with bad quality ditch weed. If it smells musty, the weed is probably growing mold; steer clear at all costs. If there’s little to no distinguishable smell at all, you’re probably dealing with cannabis that has been poorly stored or is past its prime. Terpenes degrade with time, and improper storage can speed up the degradation process.


The first thing you’ll see when examining weed is the color. High quality weed should be a lush green with contrasting hues and undertones. If the weed looks like it has more brown than green, that’s a bad sign.

You’ll also want to observe the overall structure of the cannabis flower itself. Bad weed may consist largely of stems and seeds, both of which are useless for helping you get high. A good product, on the other hand, will consist predominantly of buds.

In addition, good cannabis will be covered in glistening trichomes, those small and sticky growths that look like fine hairs to the naked eye and resemble mushrooms up close. The trichomes contain the cannabinoids and terpenes, so you want as many of these outgrowths as possible.

If you have a magnifying glass, you can examine the trichomes on the cannabis buds carefully and get a better idea of just how abundant they are. A magnifying glass will also allow you to observe the quality of the trichomes. The majority of them should have a milky white color, indicating ripeness. If the trichomes look underdeveloped, this usually means that the weed was harvested prematurely and isn’t very good. If the majority of trichomes are amber-colored, they may have been harvested too late. This is also a bad sign, as it can lead to a less satisfying high.


Make sure to touch the cannabis flower to determine weed quality. High-quality marijuana buds strike the perfect moisture balance. If the cannabis is noticeably wet, it might contain mold. If it’s bone dry, it was most likely cured or stored improperly, which significantly degrades the THC and makes it less potent.

Bad weed is brittle and will break apart in your hands (surefire signs of dehydrated bud) and result in an unpleasant smoking experience complete with a sting in the back of your throat and little psychoactive benefit. Good weed should be soft and firm with just enough moisture to hold everything together.


Speaking of firmness, good quality marijuana flower should make a clearly audible snapping sound when you break the nugs apart. Bad weed might not snap at all, or it might crumble apart like dying leaves. Yes, good weed even sounds better.


This one might seem pretty obvious, but good cannabis flower will taste fresh. If the taste of your marijuana is rank or has no flavor at all when you smoke it, it’s probably not going to afford you much psychoactive benefit either. You should have robust flavors and aromas that complement one another, indicating a healthy concentration of terpenes.

The weed should also be easy to inhale. Bad-tasting marijuana flower can indicate a number of problems: degraded terpenes, plant dehydration, moldy weed, poor growing conditions, or just an inferior strain. Nobody wants to smoke bad weed.

Good Sativa vs Good Indica

Some cannabis quality indicators are strain-specific. For instance, if you’re a discriminating connoisseur shopping for Northern Lights #5, you might look for dense buds and try to identify the signature pine scent with fruity undertones. If it checks all those boxes, you know you’re getting the real deal.

Sativa-dominant strains commonly have clear citrus notes whereas indicas often have more of an earthy or skunky flavor. There are exceptions, of course, such as the aforementioned Northern Lights (an indica). In addition, indica buds are commonly round and dense whereas sativa buds are leaner and airier.

Hybrid cannabis strains, as the name suggests, contain both sativa and indica characteristics. So if a bud is fat like an indica but slightly hollow like a sativa, it’s likely a hybrid. However, if you’re looking for something that’s either indica- or sativa-dominant, the hybrid should favor the characteristics of your preferred cultivar.

How to Keep Weed in Good Condition

When you spend your hard-earned money on a premium cannabis, you want to ensure that it maintains its quality. Under normal conditions, your marijuana should keep its flavor and potency for six months to a year. If it’s poorly stored, it may degrade much sooner; but if it’s stored under ideal conditions, it may stay good for up to two full years.

  • Avoid excess moisture. High humidity and moisture can degrade the cannabinoids and terpenes in marijuana and even cause mold growth and microbial contamination. Ideally, your marijuana should be stored in an environment with less than 65% relative humidity.
  • Avoid unnecessary light. All types of light can prematurely degrade THC, and ultraviolet light is the worst. Sunlight, CFL bulbs, and LED bulbs all emit some degree of UV light. Keep your weed in a dark environment for best results.
  • Avoid heat. Hot and cold conditions can both degrade cannabis. The ideal storage temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) or as close as you can get to that number.

Mason jars work extremely well, especially when kept in a dark location. You can also invest in cannabis storage solutions that are specially designed to preserve your stash.

For instance, Grasscity offers an assortment of humidor boxes, airtight stash jars, humidity control packs, and more. They offer the Sigaro Personal Humidor Wood Box, a beautifully handcrafted box with a removable 70-micron pollen screen and gold hygrometer. It includes a magnetized lid for an airtight seal and is designed to lock in just the right amount of moisture. Save On Cannabis is currently running an exclusive deal at Grasscity: Use our coupon code SAVE12CAN to get 12% off your order.

Of course, in order to keep your weed in good condition, you need to ensure that it’s excellent-quality in the first place. So use your five senses to ensure that:

  • It’s robust and green with plenty of nugs and few seeds and stems
  • It has a rich, pleasing aroma
  • It’s soft and firm to the touch; not too dry and not too wet
  • It makes a snapping sound when you break the nugs apart
  • It tastes great and is easy to inhale

Remember, life’s too short to smoke bad weed. So always do your due diligence when shopping!

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