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A Beginner's Guide to Determining Cannabis Quality Without Leaving the Dispensary You can toss it, and lose out on all of that hard work, or you could process the plant materials Why does cannabis potency matter? 29 June 2009 – Of the many people worldwide who use cannabis, also known as marijuana, very few understand the increase in its potency over the years. Cannabis

A Beginner’s Guide to Determining Cannabis Quality

Shopping for the best bud in your price range can be tricky, especially when you don’t know exactly what to look for. While prices on the recreational market range anywhere from $5-$6 per gram all the way up to $15-$20, not all grams are grown equally . Despite common belief, sussing out potency is more complex than checking percentage points on each sack. Not every gram that tests at “30%” will send you to the stars. And not every gram that tests at 15% will be bunk shwag (read more about this here) . How can consumers navigate this occasionally overwhelming industry and pick out the most potent products? This guide breaks down the basic cues for quality when shopping for flower.

The first and most important lesson to internalize is know the nature of the products you’re shopping for. Cannabis is a crop, similar to fresh produce or flowers (the vase kind). Different growers in different environments with different methods produce radically different results. Just like no two fujis are the same in the apple isle, no two nugs will be exactly the same.

But cannabis products, just like produce, can be assessed for quality through visual cues you can implement in the store. Here are a few tips to distinguish the shwag from the fire:

Frost is one of the biggest indicators of quality. You should be able to see the THC. Well produced flower should have visibly evident trichomes dusting the bud. The most concentrated amounts of cannabinoids live in the trichomes. The more visible the crystals are, the more cannabinoids were able to develop.

Side tip: when storing bud, avoid using plastic baggies. The static cling can pull those precious trichomes from the bud!


Weed comes in a lot of shapes, sizes, and colors. Different genetics can produce beautiful purples, reds, and oranges in the flower. But cannabis should never be brown. Brown or blonde colored weed can indicate light damage and a degradation of potency. Exposure to light and/or air is the fastest way to ruin your stash and destroy precious cannabinoids and terpenes.


This can be subject to personal preference, but dense bud signals advanced CO2 levels during the flowering process –an excellent indication of plant health and quality.

With denser buds, you’ll likely require a grinder to successfully break it apart. Some folks may have personal smoking preferences which lean toward fluffier nugs, but density can indicate well-grown product.

However, don’t confuse density for anything related to brick weed. Brick weed–found primarily on the black market–refers to cannabis condensed into bricks for travel. It’s the toker’s condensed milk. Low potency. Super dry. All around yukers peppers.

Density refers to the individual buds. Give it a feel; when you pick it up does it surprise you with its heft versus size? Good. But it should still look like a nug–not a cube.

Harvest Date

Numbers are one of the cooler things about legalization for Washington. But I’m definitely not talking about unreliable THC percentages. Rather, the most important number on labels is the harvest date. The birthday for bud. In this market, old weed probably won’t serve you well. While it’s true that proper storage means your bud will stay fresh for a while , the conditions of a retail dispensary will likely not provide the best storage for longevity.

See-through plastic bags allow light damage and tend not to seal as airtight as jars. This exposure to light and air decomposes cannabinoids and decreases potency after enough time. Dispensaries won’t often know harvest dates of a particular lot when they place an order until the product is sitting in the store. Or maybe a product doesn’t move as fast as expected. Whatever the reason, expect older weed to have spent time over-exposed to light and air.

But fresh weed won’t be great either. Bud needs some time to dry and cure. Different processes, strains, and environments can affect how long this takes. But drying should take at least 3-7 days, plus a month or so to then cure. Fresh flower won’t burn correctly, will taste and smell like hay, and won’t have fully developed its cannabinoids and terpenes yet. All that equals less potent pot.

If a product has a recent harvest date–say, within the month –check its stems to see if it had time to dry properly: if stems feel like a cooked noodle–that’s bad. That means the bud is still too moist before it was sealed and likely hasn’t had the proper time to dry out before curing.

If a product has an older harvest date than about the last six or more months, give the bud a pinch. Is it turning to dust and crumbling from slight pressure? Hard pass. That bud is going to be old and dry.

It’s easier to home-cure fresher bud than to reconstitute dried dust. Fresher is generally better.

Trim Job

The really high potency parts of the plant exist in and on the bud itself. While fan leaves and stems do contain cannabinoids, it’s to a much lower degree. Sometimes those little baby leaves will be so caked in trichomes , the grower prefers to leave some on the bud. This indicates a well grown product, so flavor and potency won’t be compromised from a few leaves.

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Plus, the degree of trimming can be indicative of the environment the flower was dried and dured in. In very humid climates, removing as much stem and leaf as possible is critical to helping the bud properly dry. But in dry environments (like Eastern Washington), leaving some leaf can help the bud from over drying .

The biggest thing to look for here is the care taken into the trim. Was the flower hand trimmed or machine trimmed? It can make a colossal difference in potency and yield. How can you tell the difference? Machine-trimmed bud tends to all look the same– like tiny pine trees.

Why is machine trimming an issue? Machines are programmed to treat each nug as the same nug . Same size. Same density. Same shape. So while it shaves away at a nug, machines tend to shake off and trim away all those delicious trichomes that make weed so potent.

Professional trimmers know how to handle each bud with care. They know where and when to trim–making sure to leave behind plenty of crystaly frost. Trimmers assess each bud’s shape, considering things like genetic structure and size, where the machine cannot.

Seeds and Stems

We’re talking about a plant here, so stems are unavoidable . And the bigger the nug, the larger the stem has to be to support it. So the presence of a stem shouldn’t deter you too badly. The presence of seeds however can indicate a lower quality product.

Seeds appear when male plants continue to grow and pollinate female plants. When a plant starts to develop seeds it spends more time on that growth than it does growing big, beautiful, potent flowers to be dried and smoked. There’s a time and a place for seed production, but it isn’t when you’re trying to smoke. If your bag is nothing but seeds and stems, stear clear–it isn’t worth your time.


In Washington, getting your nose on a product before you take it home is virtually impossible. Due to the nature of legalization in this state, we cannot have any open containers inside a dispensary at any time. But because of this, smell becomes more of a tell for quality.

If you’re looking at some beautiful product, sniff it out! Can you smell it through the bag or container? If yes: blamo! That’s an excellent sign that you’ve got some loud bud. If not, don’t stress–packaging may simply make smelling through the sack an impossibility, so ask your budtender! They likely have already interacted with the product and have some insight on quality, smell, and flavor.

Once It’s Home

There are a few more tests of quality that can’t legally be performed inside a Washington State dispensary which may help determine the quality level of your cannabis.

Your cannabis should break apart easily in a grinder, but without becoming dust. If it’s turning to a powder, you’ve picked up some dry herb and it will likely taste harsh with a lower potency.

Sometimes you just can’t tell until you taste it. So once you’ve lit up, check it out for harshness and flavor! You’ll realize right away if it isn’t burning or burns up instantly. One more tip: if your bud burns black , it’s probably not great– perfectly dried bud should smoke down to a white ash.

When In Doubt

Ask your budtender! Ask for a review from someone you know has tried that product before (likely the person selling it to you has). Even better than a random person, your budtender likely has the experience and exposure to be able to provide an accurate, helpful qualities of a particular product–just ask them to steer to the fire!

Everything that you need to know about smoking seedy weed

It can happen to the best of us, especially when it comes to outdoor crops, as it really doesn’t take much for one lonely male to pollinate hundreds of females within a several mile-wide radius. Cannabis seeds can appear when we least expect them to, and that’s why it’s so extremely common to get a crop or a bag from your local dispensary that has these annoying pieces scattered throughout the flower.

This is one of the reasons why so many cultivators take such strict steps to avoid contamination by wearing full-body gear and even PPE that is completely sanitary and disposable, but once you’re past the point of no return, and left with a pile of weed seeds in your buds, there are only so many options. You can toss it, and lose out on all of that hard work, or you could process the plant materials along with the marijuana seeds into oil or some other concentrate, but for those who have invested their last few dollars, or prefer the enjoyment that pure flowers can offer, one question remains.

Many people wonder if cannabis is safe to smoke when it’s full of a bunch of seeds, and if it is, in fact, safe as far as the lungs are concerned, whether or not there are any other potentially adverse effects that they should be privy to. Since this is such a common problem, we feel the need to answer these questions in-depth, so that consumers know what they’re getting into when they’re inevitably faced with this scenario.

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Is it risky for your health to smoke cannabis seeds?

Marijuana seeds consist of completely non-toxic plant matter, so they are entirely safe, as far as we can tell, to smoke along with flower, which means that if you find them in a bag, they aren’t going to make you sick, but unfortunately that doesn’t necessarily translate to a truly enjoyable experience, as you will soon find out.

Adverse effects on taste

Cannabis seeds are incredibly annoying when they get lodged in a joint roll or stuck in your grinder, but the absolute worst thing about them is that they taste terrible when they’re smoked, which can completely ruin the normally delicious flavors of your weed. This might sound strange at first, after all, the materials all come from the very same plant, but those yummy trichomes and terpenes that you’d normally bask in simply don’t exist in weed seeds.

Unfortunately, what they do have is a whole lot of fibrous material, so when these bits of the cannabis plant are burnt, they leave behind a distinctive and shocking level of taste that many compare to charred popcorn. It’s certainly not going to be enough to hurt you, but they could leave you coughing or with a burnt tongue feeling, and both of those things can significantly impact the flavor of your herb in a bad way.

Reduced potency

If you’re one of the truly unlucky ones that have a crop that gets hit really hard with a foreign dose of pollen, then the weed seeds that develop could seriously reduce the quality of your cannabis, and it’s not just the taste that is impacted. Since cannabis seeds are a fair-sized, they take up a whole lot of room and add weight that otherwise wouldn’t be there, which results in a double whammy as far as potency is concerned because they also don’t contribute any cannabinoids to the harvest.

That’s right, those heavy, irritating cannabis seeds might look pretty and be attached to a fully matured plant, but they have absolutely nothing in common with the flower materials that surround them. To put it more simply, if you had one gram of two identical plants, with one that had been pollinated, the bud would weigh more, but it would have far less for cannabinoids like THC or CBD, which are the elements that influence how you feel right after taking a bit hit off of a joint.

In their absence, your buds won’t be nearly as strong or effective, which means that you will need to smoke way more to get the same results, so you’re also going to find that you go through a whole lot more weed than you’re probably used to with better quality product, and you still might not be satisfied once all is said and done. Now, of course, this isn’t the case with all seedy cannabis as there are various levels of seed production to consider, but it will greatly reduce the potency of what could have been a stellar harvest.


So now that you know what smoking seedy weed can do, it’s time to highlight one of the only real dangers of applying heat to cannabis seeds. These little balls seem nearly indestructible, and carry a wood-like texture that might have you believe that they’d burn away slowly just like a chunk of wood, but the way it works is much more like popcorn kernels which explode to produce the light and fluffy snack.

Sadly, marijuana seeds aren’t nearly as fun to watch heat up, especially when they’re in a joint or well-packed bowl, because they can and often will explode, and that can result in flying hot coals and joints that get ripped wide open due to the incredible amount of pressure. These things might not be overly dangerous, but they are something that every cannabis consumer should be aware of, as they tend to hit sensitive areas like the eyes or mouth, which can be quite painful.

The best ways to deal with weed seeds in your flower

Now that you know everything there is to know about smoking seedy cannabis, it’s time for us to discuss some of the different ways that you can choose to deal with the problem. Some are certainly more effective than others. However, all three of these solutions will work to at least reduce the effects that cannabis seeds can have on the experience of getting high.

1. Remove them manually
If you have a really bad case of seedy weed, then this might not be the best option, as it can be time-consuming to do, and even if you do manage to remove every single one, they will leave behind dried up shells that will still produce that lingering taste we talked about earlier. The best way to use this is by hand, using your fingers to gently shuffle through the bud and pinch any seed casings which should make them fall right out.

2. Make the flowers into a cannabis concentrate
If removing the marijuana seeds sounds like way too much work, and you’re open to trying or using other more potent cannabis concentrates like cannabis oil or cannabutter, then the best choice might be to toss the whole pile into the solution. Cannabis seeds might taste awful when they’re smoked, but that quality doesn’t carry over when they’re included in plant materials that are used to make concentrates. They strain right out, and you’re left with only the best element, which is why this is a preferred method of dealing with seedy weed for many cannabis consumers.

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3. Use an electric grinder to break them down
If you aren’t willing to budge on the idea of a freshly packed bowl, and you’re really not interested in dedicating a whole bunch of time to the removal of the cannabis seeds, then you are left with only one option other than tossing it out, which would be a waste. Using an electric grinder will help you to avoid clogged or broken manual grinder, and it will reduce the cannabis seeds into dust so that you won’t see any sparks flying that may cause burns when you smoke them, but unfortunately, this method isn’t typically ideal, because it still leaves the strong taste that can ruin the natural flavors of your buds.

Why does cannabis potency matter?

29 June 2009 – Of the many people worldwide who use cannabis, also known as marijuana, very few understand the increase in its potency over the years. Cannabis has changed dramatically since the 1970s. New methods of production such as hydroponic cultivation have increased the potency and the negative effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most psychoactive of the chemical substances found in marijuana. It is important to understand cannabis potency because of its link to health problems including mental health.

The amount of THC present in a cannabis sample is generally used as a measure of cannabis potency. One of the most comprehensive studies, conducted by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in 2004, concluded that a modest increase in aggregate cannabis potency had occurred, possibly attributable to the use of intensive indoor cultivation methods. The authors of the study noted that, nonetheless, THC content varied widely.

While a United Kingdom Home Office study in 2008 found little change in cannabis potency: samples of sinsemilla cannabis from 2008 had a median potency of 15 per cent, compared with 14 per cent for samples from 2004/5. Long-term increases have been reported in the United States, with an average potency of 10 per cent reported in 2008.

There are several methodological factors that influence the ability to generate comparable data and infer trends with respect to cannabis potency. Important variables to be considered include the phytochemistry, the type of cannabis product, cultivation method, sampling and stability.

As detailed below, each of these factors can affect the measurement of cannabis potency.

Plant part used: The secretion of THC is most abundant in the flowering heads and surrounding leaves of the cannabis plant. The amount of resin secreted is influenced by environmental conditions during growth (light, temperature and humidity), sex of the plant and time of harvest. The THC content varies in the different parts of the plant: from 10-12 per cent in flowers, 1-2 per cent in leaves, 0.1-0.3 per cent in stalks, to less than 0.03 per cent in the roots.

Product type: There are three main types of cannabis products: herb (marijuana), resin (hashish) and oil (hash oil). Cannabis herb comprises the dried and crushed flower heads and surrounding leaves. It often contains up to 5 per cent THC content. However, sinsemilla, derived from the unfertilized female plant, can be much more potent. Cannabis resin can contain up to 20 per cent THC content.

The most potent form of cannabis is cannabis oil, derived from the concentrated

resin extract. It may contain more than 60 per cent THC content. The increase in market share of a particular product type can influence the reported average potency values. For example, the rise to an average 10 per cent CH content in samples seized in 2008 as reported by the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy is attributed to the fact that high potency cannabis (presumably indoor-grown) has gained a 40-per-cent share of the market.

Cultivation methods: The cannabis plant grows in a variety of climates. The amount and quality of the resin produced depends on the temperature, humidity, light and soil acidity/

alkalinity. Accordingly, herbal cannabis grown outdoors varies considerably in potency. Intensive indoor cultivation of female plants and clones, grown under artificial light,

often without soil (using hydroponic cultivation) and with optimized cultivation conditions, produces cannabis of a consistently higher potency.

Sampling: Most data on cannabis potency are derived from the analysis of seized samples. This means that those samples must be representative of the entire seizure so that inferences and extrapolations can be made.

Stability: THC is converted to cannabinol on exposure to air and light. This process reduces the THC concentration, especially in old samples which have not been stored under suitable conditions (that is, a cool, dark place). It is believed that claimed increases in the potency of cannabis preparations confiscated in the United States over a period of 18 years may not adequately take into account the issue of the stability of THC in older samples.

Only through careful examination of these factors can we make a more systematic, scientific and comparable assessment of cannabis potency in different places and over time.

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