Cannabis 101 

Cannabis education and information on ways to consume, how to grow or harvest, and more.

Ask a Budtender: How Do You Determine Cannabis Quality?

As a budtender, I am your in-store tour guide, here to help you choose the best product for your personal needs or desired mood. Consider me the cannabis industry’s version of a sommelier (but much more casually dressed), and imagine your shopping experience as something akin to a wine tasting as you look at as many products as you want in order to get a good assessment of which is right for you.

I try a lot of products each month in order to be as familiar as possible with all of my store’s brands and strains, but cannabis has to be pretty special these days in order for me to make a repeat purchase. I have honed in on a first impressions technique, my own cannabis-specific version of wine tasting, and these are some of the routines I follow as well as qualities I look for when trying new strains.

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1. Start Out Sober

This may seem obvious, but it bears pointing out that in order to get a true impression of what the effect is like on a particular strain, it is important to start fresh. I usually try a new product as my first smoke after getting home from work, or when I am waking up on a day off. Going into it with this clear-headedness allows for me to examine the properties of just the strain I am trying.

2. Use a Clean Pipe 

Taste can be just as important as effect (taste plays into effect as well, thanks to terpenes), so using a clean piece matters when finding out if you like a new product. I always like to make sure that at the very least, my bong or dab rig has fresh water in it before smoking something new. If something doesn’t taste good on that first hit, I know it is the product and not my pipe.

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3. Pay Attention to Your Lungs

Cannabis makes people cough as a general rule, but if you are smoking something that is making you hack, that isn’t normal. Sure, some folks say that “you have to cough to get off,” but there’s coughing and there’s choking, and one does not equal the other. I look for strains that are fairly smooth on the exhale even after larger tokes or dabs, and that don’t leave me with a lingering cough.

4. Make It A One Hit Wonder 

Instead of smoking your whole bowl (or joint, or doing a few dabs back-to-back), try taking one hit and then taking a break for a bit to ride out the effect of just that toke. I like to do this to test how potent and long-lasting a strain’s high is; personally, if I feel the effect of one hit for longer than a half-hour, that’s a strain I want more of.

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5. With Flower, Ash Color Matters

Bud that has been properly flushed and cured has lost all of its chlorophyll and moisture content, which makes for a much cleaner smoke as well as a cleaner residual ash. Ash should be, well, ash-colored: white or grey, never black. I also suggest paying attention to whether or not your bowl cherries (stays smoking in between hits without having to be consistently torched with a lighter), as this is another good indicator of whether or not your cannabis has been appropriately dried and cured.

6. Go With Your Gut

This tip is probably the most important one I can leave you with. Each person’s relationship with cannabis is unique because each person’s endocannabinoid system is unique. When it comes to trying new products and strains, these tips are here to assist, but they are not by any means hard and fast rules for what is or isn’t a good choice. Follow your instincts; if you are in the store and torn between two products, pick the one you were drawn to first. I practice that method and it has yet to let me down.

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