Weed Education:Quality is Everything


Summer is in full swing, Miami! Time for beach blankets, icy Coronas, powerful sunblock, and if you’re anything like me: a fat sack of herb. One of life’s pleasures is a fire strain of weed on a chill day with friends.

But here in Florida the illegality of marijuana prevents a lot of tokers from procuring the best of the best. Many times we’re stuck with the “best of the rest,” chief-ing on stuff some grower in California couldn’t sell to a dispensary. At least that’s my educated guess considering I’ve witnessed countless dealers unpack FedEx shipments of bud from California only to find it badly dried, carelessly trimmed, moldy, or just plain shwaggy. It’s smokeable I suppose but far from the medical grade cannabis I’ve sampled from legitimate sources.


Now, not all sub-par weed is necessarily “un-smokable” or “dangerous” to a healthy person. Taste, smell, appearance, and potency may suffer but it might still get you stoned. Even the moldy stuff rarely gets a healthy body sick, but who wants to smoke mold? Who wants anything but properly grown, properly cured, clean, delicious marijuana buds? Some call me a snob but once you’ve had the good stuff, you’ll never want to go back.

The following is a list I’ve cobbled together of traits and characteristics to look for when evaluating the quality of your cannabis. For the first time in this article, we’re introducing Tropicult’s very own cannabis photographer: The Phunktographer.

I’m sure it’s not perfect and I’m not infallible, so any supplemental knowledge would be much appreciated in the comments section below or on social media.

Let’s begin.


On a bud, leaves surround the densely clustered, trichome covered calyxes. (Photo by Brennan Linsley/AP)

To start, there are key visual factors that indicate marijuana quality. I’ll split them into (sort of) four subcategories: trimming, trichomes, color, and mold/insects/seeds.


Trimming is exactly what it sounds like. When cannabis buds are harvested, leaves which sprout outwards and cover the buds must be trimmed down until the cannabis takes a typical, compact bud structure. Calyxes (the desirable, small flowering part of the weed) and orange hairs should be visible.


Trichomes are the tiny crystals found on a cannabis bud. They are made up of cannabinoids – the psychoactive and therapeutic chemicals found in cannabis. A large presence of these indicates high potency. Many trichomes on the outside is certainly good, but a glistening forest should also be visible after cracking open a bud. Buds that seem not to have many trichomes on the outside may have “crystal caverns” as I like to call them on the inside.


Good weed can have colors ranging from a healthy dark green, to a vibrant bright green, to a striking purple hue.

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An example of some purple colored weed from a Miami dealer. (Photo by the Phunktographer)

Look out for unattractive brown coloration or a shade of green that is too dark or appears to have come from an unhealthy plant. A light brown/gold with no alarming ugliness is probably fine and smokable.

Mold, Insects, Seeds

A rude surprise could be hidden inside otherwise healthy looking buds. Sometimes it’s no surprise at all, tainting the outside of the bud as well.

  • Mold, insects, and seeds are three things to look out for when breaking up your pot.
  • Seeds are not only inconvenient to pick out but they also mean the plant spent less energy on THC and more on reproduction. Smoking seeds really sucks because they tend to pop under the extreme heat and taste disgusting.
  • An unmonitored or poorly located grow room could become infested with insects like spider mites, worms, or other nasty pests. Keep an eye out for those little fuckers as you break up your nugs unless you want to smoke some ant guts.
A microscopic picture of mold on cannabis leaves. To the human eye, the mold usually looks like a white fuzzy substance that smells musky or unpleasant. (Photo from University of New Haven/AP)
  • Mold will usually present as a white fuzzy substance which at first glance could be mistaken for trichomes. This, while unsettling and musky smelling, usually does not cause harm. However there are other, darker molds that might. There’s also a mold referred to as “bud rot” which turns the cannabis a sickly yellow or brown and makes it unsmokable.


If the terms “musky,””chlorophyl,” or “some bad chemical” come to mind when diving your nose into that fat sack there might be a problem. “Musky” could be a sign of mold and “chlorophyl” could mean the plant wasn’t properly dried. Also, a chlorophyl-smelling bud may create harsh smoke that irritates the throat and lungs. The last one, “obviously some chemical” means, well… it’s probably some chemical. Not all growers care about your health and there might be pesticide or another harmful residue on the weed.


The same goes with taste as the aroma. If it tastes moldy or mildewy, like chlorophyll, or like bad chemicals then it’s probably those things. Weed is supposed to taste smooth and sweet, skunky, flowery, or the same as any common smell for cannabis – depending on the strain. As far as throat and lung feel, good smoke might cause some coughing and discomfort at first. If you end up with a scratchy throat, lingering cough, or sore lungs then there’s something awry.


Our next topic is the practice of “flushing”: feeding cannabis plants only pH balanced water up to two weeks prior to harvest. Its purpose is to “flush out” from the plant any leftover chemicals and nutrients from the growing process. These elements are believed to add a harsh and unnatural smell/taste to the bud. The alleged indication of well-flushed buds? White ash.

Until now I heeded YouTube videos about the link between flushing and production of top quality nuggets.

Lately though I’ve found myself second guessing the importance of all this – after hours of reading highly botanical, extremely confusing discussions between growers on various hot spot cannabis forums (rollitup.org, 420magazine.com, etc.). It seems most growers adhere to flushing at least some of the time, with an emphasis on chemically fed plants (hydroponic, as opposed to organic soil grown).

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A decently dried, decently cured, well trimmed, and overall good quality specimen of some herb from a Miami dealer. This is from our upcoming first strain review ever! (Photo by the Phunktographer)

Does non-white ash mean the weed is unsafe to consume? Not particularly. The smoke may be harsh and the quality may not be top shelf but other than a legitimate long term concern for your lungs, no horrible malady will consume you days after smoking weed with dark ash. Sometimes it can even be very fire weed.

Still, those who argued against the necessity of flushing said white ash is an indicator of quality. A good drying and curing job can also produce white ash which leads us to the next thing…


Proper drying and curing are two of the most important factors leading to good bud.  After cannabis is harvested it must go through a specific process to reach maximum quality. Drying gets the bud to a smokable level of dryness, and curing is the more delicate method of aging buds to perfection.

To tell if your weed is properly dried you’ll need to get hands on. Pick up the nugget – feel it, squeeze it (insert dick joke here). If your bud feels moist, too spongy, and bends without starting to break or crack, then it is not dry enough yet. One test is to try snapping a stem. If the stem just bends you’ve got some drying to do.

If your bud is wet you can probably still smoke it but it won’t be as enjoyable or tasty – possibly not even as potent! Plus your blunt might not stay lit.

Leaving the buds spread out on a dry surface overnight in a moderately ventilated area usually seems to do the trick for me. It’s not professional but it’s the best a lot of regular tokers can do. Take some time to inspect the drying environment for mold or dust to prevent contamination. Microwaving or other means to quickly dry the bud can be counterproductive, causing the smoke to feel harsh and taste unpleasant.

It is rare to find expertly dried weed in Miami even from California Fed-Exers. Expertly cured weed is, however, practically impossible to find here. Connoisseur grade niceties are a corner often cut in the black market.

Glass jars containing various strains of marijuana sit on a counter as sales associate Mattt Hart works at the 3D Dispensary on Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, in Denver. While polls show more voters favoring the legalization of marijuana, law enforcement officials in Nebraska and Oklahoma have asked the U.S. Supreme court to end Colorado's legalized pot experiment. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

But connoisseur grade bud is exactly what one can achieve after a good curing job. Here’s how it works:

Once bud is initially dried it is placed into a medium sized jar which is opened once a day for several days and then even less for a week or more (curing techniques vary between growers). The bud very slowly finishes drying. This process breaks down elements in the bud that would impart a grassy, chlorophyll tinged taste – leaving the weed nothing but smooth, flavorful, and easy to break up or pack in a bowl.

The supplies needed for curing are a medium sized mason jar and patience so it can easily be done at home to enhance your smoking experience. A quick google search on ‘curing cannabis’ will give you endless specifics on curing methods from various growers.


The effects of cannabis come on fast when smoked or vaporized (five seconds to five minutes), and quite slowly when eaten (45 minutes to an hour and a half). That means the quickest way to test the potency and effectiveness of your cannabis is through smoking or vaporizing.


Within five minutes after taking one substantial inhalation the effects should be noticed – that is, if the cannabis is anywhere near high-grade. For particularly strong stuff this may be extremely intoxicating while a more chilled out buzz is to be expected from middle grade.

If you’re not trying to smoke shwaggy weed this summer, hold up a nug and go through this list to make sure you’re blazing the finest and the kindest. A good cannabis specimen should smell pleasing, look attractive, and feel great on both the throat and brain.

Some “meh” quality weed from a Miami dealer. Not much fun to look at,  doesn’t smell very strong, and the trim was haphazard. Still has some trichomes and a decent bud structure though.

Previously unmentioned here is the long established marijuana quality-tiering system of “regs,” “mids,” and “high-grade.” This is because of the renaissance period cannabis is going through in the USA rendering cheap imported schwag a thing of the past. Even the mediocre stuff from illegal states is getting better and better. In some communities and circles “regs” or “mids” are still passed around (low income neighborhoods, high schools, etc.), but for maximum effect and safety it’s always recommended to smoke the most properly cared for herb.

Thanks for floating through this newest addition to the TropiCanna branch of Tropicult.

We’ll be back sooner than later with a Stoned Storytime reader submission and our very first Miami strain review!

– Your stoney friend, Emma Jane