Can you tell the potency of cannabis by look and smell?

Whether you’re using marijuana for recreation or medication, its potency and quality are the most important factors. Today there are 1420 recorded strains of hybrid marijuana besides the basic Indica and Sativa strain. Knowing which strain to pick will help you get your money’s worth. So today we’ll discuss whether someone can tell the potency and quality of weed just by looking at it. The traits that can be used to determine cannabis quality and potency other than color and appearance will also be discussed.


Thanks to marijuana legalization in certain states in the USA, many new smokers now buy cannabis from pharmacies. But this is still limited to a few states. In other states cannabis consumers often depend on unauthorized dealers for their marijuana supply. As pharmacies have begun selling pot in bottles wrapped with the medical information, it’s understandable if our old school, traditional methods of verifying cannabis quality and potency are being questioned. Fortunately, these traditional methods of determining the quality and potency are effective. When buying cannabis it’s easy to differentiate between good and quality by look and smell of the bud. This might be confusing to some because there are many different strains in today’s market which have blurred the lines between high and low quality cannabis.


In an interview with Sean Myles an associate professor in agricultural genetics in Canada’s Dalhousie University said that the current labeling and packaging process of pharmaceutical marijuana is misleading. A study conducted by Miles and his team back in 2015 showed that packaging details for most pharmaceutical cannabis products are inaccurate. The details in the label rarely matched the cannabis sold. This makes cannabis quality verification by sight and smell very important. Pharmacy shelves are no longer a guaranteed indicator of quality. So physical characteristics and aromatic factors are more important to figuring out the quality of cannabis rather than reading the label.


Generally, good quality marijuana is green in color. But this isn’t always a dependable indicator anymore. The reason being that hybrid strains can have a greenish appearance and still have low CBD and THC count. This is where the aroma factor comes in. Much like fine wine, most cannabis connoisseurs prefer to look at aroma along with the physical traits. In the past, a green hue alone was indicative of high cannabis quality and potency. Many potent strains have different colorful hues, making visual quality verification impractical. With all the different fancy strains being sold these days, it’s difficult to find out the quality of certain strains by color alone. To avoid any confusion, most cannabis consumers stick to the strains that have a green or purple hue. These are classic indicators of fresh marijuana that is potent in CBD or THC. Cannabis buds that have a brownish hue and a crusty stem typically have a low quality. Low-quality marijuana like this is usually called Brick Weed or Bobby Brown for its brown tint. When marijuana isn’t properly stored, it takes this color. But this does not apply in all parts of the world. In Asia, there are certain strains that have a brownish hue but are highly potent.


Compared to color, looking at crystal formations in the outer bud of the plant is more practical. There is also another type of formation called trichome. Dense trichome formations indicate high cannabis potency. Irrespective of strain type or color, potent marijuana will have crystal formations in the outer bud. So keep this trait in mind when making your first or next buy. But be sure not to confuse it with fungus which leaves a white layer that is different from the crystal formations. Trichome formations have a bronze-like hue to it, like molasses. Ideally, a high-quality, potent cannabis nug will look like a fleshy green nug generously sprinkled with sugar and molasses.


Its’ generally advisable to avoid buds and nugs that look like cabbages no matter how green it looks. But there is an exception to the rule- if the leaves of the bud have dense crystal formations then the leafy appearance is forgivable. Usually, a leafy appearance is a red flag even for purple-colored strains. Go for buds that feel wet and chunky.

The easiest way to tell that you’re looking at quality cannabis is by the smell. Ask any regular cannabis enthusiast and they’ll tell you the same. High-quality potent cannabis has a distinct grassy smell complementing its color. Low-quality cannabis, on the other hand, can smell like anything from a damp and sweaty musk to odors that are thick and pungent. A quick tour through some cannabis user forums can attest to smells that are much weirder! The strong smell that indicates a bud’s potency is determined by terpenes. The aroma is quite distinct; you’ll be able to tell the difference after smelling it once. There isn’t an exact word to describe it but the most commonly used adjectives to describe it are: earthy, woody, herbal, citrus and sweet. As a rule of thumb, it’s generally advisable to avoid cannabis that has an artificial aroma to it. If the bud smells like soap or perfume, just walk away. The presence of chemicals in cannabis can cause headaches instead of curing them.


You can end up with low quality cannabis in a pharmacy just as easily as a shady dealer, so knowing how to identify good quality cannabis is critical irrespective of where you live. Hopefully, we’ve provided enough details throughout our discussion to help you make the right choice if you are new to the cannabis community.