Back in the traditional market, we admit we didn’t always think deeply about cannabis quality. And that was… well, under the circumstances, it was probably the right attitude. Still, it’s safe to say most cannabis consumers had inconsistent experiences and limited choices.

In smoke shops today on the other hand, there’s an overwhelming array of cannabis flower options. But how do we know what to choose? And how do we know what quality cannabis flower really is?



No one wants to be too high. No one wants to be not high enough. No one wants to be speeding through a creative vision quest when they need sleep. And no one wants to pass out on the floor they meant to mop.

So, first off, the “best” cannabis flower is the one that gives you the experience you want to have. That means gaining some understanding of cannabis strains, dosing and the highly personalized effects they have on you (more on that soon). We recommend keeping a (short) journal of your experiences with different strains to learn your own reactions. After just a few times, you’ll be surprised how much better you know what you like.



But when people say “quality” flower, they often mean potency: the ability to consume less bud and achieve the same psychoactive effects. Both budtenders and consumers often consider THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content to be an indicator of potency, like alcohol content in wine.

Unfortunately, despite popular opinion, the science is in: higher THC content does not indicate more potent or better cannabis, and even astonishing levels of THC can result in muted, underwhelming effects. Sigh.


So, beyond the THC percentage, there are a bunch of other characteristics that can give you a richer sense of quality. Depending on your situation, some may be easier to assess than others (especially during COVID), but here are some key starting points:

  • Appearance (“bag appeal”): Do the buds look fresh, dense, have a pleasing or intriguing structure and look? Or do they look sparse, airy, orange-tinged, and humdrum?
  • Color: Are all the hues of green and purple vibrant and rich? Or do they look muted and dull?
  • Smell: Does the aroma explode out of the container when you open it? Does that aroma excite and intrigue you? Or is it dull, muted, grassy, nondescript, or boring like hay?
  • Freshness: Check out the harvest and/or packaging dates on the flower. The fresher the better!
  • Trim quality: Do you see nicely manicured buds that are compact and appear exciting to crack open? Or do you see spindly leafy bits sticking out in random directions?
  • Trichome Coverage: Do the buds have a “frosty” look, like they’re covered in layer of ice crystals? Or do you see plain old planty-stuff?
  • Terpene content: If the product has a terpene test result available, are the total terpenes over 1%? Over 1.5%? Over 2%? Terpenes work in synergy with cannabinoids to create a full cannabis experience, so the higher the terpene content the better!


All of these can help give you a better sense of quality, and yes, potency, before trying the flower itself. If you’re just starting, ask your budtender about these specific aspects of the batch you’re considering and how it stacks up. Even if you’re ordering online for delivery, many shops now offer ways to ask questions before you make your selection, so give the shop a call for more info.

Making it easy to judge cannabis quality is definitely a work-in-progress, but the more people understand that THC isn’t the defining factor, the better the cannabis on shelf will be. Potent indeed. Be sure to read our blog post on the Best Way To Enjoy Cannabis Flower.

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