When selecting the best quality cannabis, there are usually a few things in mind for most new buyers: how high is it going to get me, what exactly is considered good quality, and how much can I get without breaking the bank?
Very valid questions. But finding the best quality flower with the price point to match can be an intimidating and daunting task. Have you ever been in a smoke shop? Nuff said.
First, let’s give a brief overview of what’s considered best quality and if THC content has anything to do with it.
Top Shelf Weed & THC Content
Ultimately, the best smoking experiences come from what is termed as “top-shelf weed” or “top-shelf bud”. FYI: “bud”, “flower”, and “nugs” will be used interchangeably in this article and they all mean the same thing. While we’re at it, you might as well add these to your vocabulary before you head over to your local smoke shop.
First, look for the THC content. The higher the content, the more intoxicating the flower. Low content is considered 0 – 5%. High content is considered between 10 – 15 %, with Very High being 15 – 20% and Extremely High can range greater than 20%.
Just keep in mind that most cannabis nowadays can have a THC content of 15% – 18% or higher. Here’s some perspective. This is a lot different than what your dad was smoking back in the 1960’s and 70’s. Prior to the 1990’s, most had a grand potency level of about 2% THC. This is what they called the “devil’s lettuce”? I beg to differ.
Just remember this: higher THC content doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best quality cannabis. Oftentimes, most top-shelf will not have the highest THC content. In fact, some experts suggest that weed with THC content over 20% is a red flag, as it can lead to the common notorious effects like anxiety and paranoia.
What truly distinguishes the good from the bad is a well bodied flower, with a complex mixture of terpenes (which gives the aroma or flavor) and cannabinoids (the natural occurring chemicals like THC & CBD) that give a top-shelf nug a premium smell, appearance, feel, and structure.
But not all labels will have the full chemistry of the flower. Fortunately, there are other ways to find out if what you’re buying is up to par, including purchasing MyDx’s very own hand held chemical analyzer here.
So now, let’s take a look at some specific indicators that will help you decipher the best bud from the bad bud.
Smell & Freshness
The smell of cannabis is the easiest way to find out if it’s high quality. Flower that emits a strong and pleasant aroma, which is referred to as having a “loud” or “dank” odor (yay for new vocab!), indicates that it has been cultivated and cured to the highest standards. The louder the better! If the smell is at all mildewy or musty, don’t give it a second sniff. Most likely it was mishandled, wasn’t cured properly, or hasn’t aged well.
If you’re not friends with your grower, it will be tough to smell the flower before you buy it. So don’t fret. If you are buying cannabis where you can’t open the package and smell it, check for the freshness. Do this by checking the harvest date. Cannabis degrades overtime, lowering the terpene content, therefore lowering its quality. A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything past six months to a year. The closer it is to the actual harvest date, the better.
Also, while we’re on the topic of freshness, proper packaging is a big deal. Good packaging can delay the degrading process of your bud. If you have an option, pick up an opaque jar over a bag or clear jar. It’s worth it. Not only will it have minimal effect on the price, but it will hinder mold, keep the flower fresher longer, and also, keep the sunlight out! Not only does sunlight degrade THC, but it converts it to CBN, which is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid and smoking high levels of this can make you sleepy, not high. But yeah, it’s not bad for you, in fact some research shows that CBN has certain health benefits.
Appearance & Color
Top-shelf also has a few visual give-aways that will also help you determine the quality.
To the surprise of most cannabis newbies, not only should quality flower smell good and be visually appealing to the eye, but it will also exhibit a beautiful array of colors. Yes, green. But not just green. You might also see specks of vibrant orange or red, purples and blues. You’ve found the quintessential pot at the end of the rainbow, my lucky friend!
You will also want to check for the quality, amount, and health of trichomes. Flower with healthy trichomes will appear like tiny, glimmering crystals on the plant’s surface. Trichomes have glands that produce the terpenes, responsible for the smell, flavor and effects you feel when you smoke. If you can see a lot of trichomes with your naked eye, you’re in for a treat. This is a great visual indicator that this flower has great therapeutic properties as well as intoxicating effects.
On the other hand, bad bud will have a lack of vibrancy, appear moldy or brown, will have more stems than flower, and a lack of trichomes (or amberish/brown colored ones – you don’t want that!).
Feel & Structure
Top-shelf flower will be slightly sticky, spongy, and will give a little when you gently squeeze the nug. It should also be able to break apart nicely but not into a dry crumbled mess. Likewise, beware of buds that are too wet or soft, because they are likely to have mold.
As far as structure, there is a difference in shape between sativa and indica. Sativa flowers tend to be lighter and fluffier while indicas are structured a bit more dense.
Keep in mind that both plant structures have little to do with the experience you will have when smoking them, but you should avoid rock hard flowers or overly fluffy flowers, as this is a sign that it was not grown properly and will not have the best flavor.
So there you have it, with a keen eye, delicate fingers, and a nose of german shepherd, you might be on your way to becoming the next skilled weed connoisseur.
But hold on, what about the price?
What’s the Best Bud for the Best Value?
Is the most expensive bud the best bud? Well, it depends.
A low priced flower could mean that it’s past its shelf life, and that should definitely be avoided, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find fresh bud for a good value.
Again, check the harvest date, test the aroma if you can, and look at the THC content. Avoid a pricey flower with high THC content, but most oftentimes, higher price is an indicator of higher quality (aka the attention to detail and the dedicated care of the grower).
Some advice for newer smokers: you might want to start with a lower percentage of THC and a mid price point. Test that discerning eye and nose before you buy the cannabis if you can, take a mental note on how you feel when and after you smoke, and then go from there. Again, a good idea is to also pick up our very own handheld analyzer here, and rest easy when you can test your bud yourself for quality assurance and chemical profile!
Bottom line, your search for great cannabis shouldn’t be complicated. Not all bud is created equal and there are hundreds of strains out there for you to try and experience. So relax. Find a brand, a grower, and the flower that works for you. It might take some time, but that’s part of the fun!
Also remember that every body is different, so your preference, personal taste and even your tolerance is going to be different than your friend’s, your grower’s, or your mom’s. The goal is to find the best strain for you.
Oh, wait. Your mom smokes? Dank…