What You Should Smell in Good Weed

What You Should Smell in Good Weed

Published on 12/17/21

Have you ever wondered "what does weed smell like at its best?" There's a lot of different cannabis out there with a wide variety of aromas. Especially if you're new to the world of cannabis, it can be difficult to know good weed from bad. Luckily, one way you can quickly learn a little more about the quality of your bud is through smell. If you're looking to make better decisions the next time you visit the dispensary, just read this introduction to the smell of weed and how to tell the good from the bad.

What Makes Weed Smell?


Any terpenes definition you find online is likely to mention one thing first and foremost: it's the terpenes in weed that are responsible for the smell. Terpenes, also known as terpenoids (or terps for short), are oils secreted from the trichomes of cannabis flower. Trichomes are small crystalline glands that grow out of cannabis flower to protect the plant from natural predators. Terpenes are also a natural defense mechanism, meant to repel unwanted predators but also attract insects that will help the pollination process. All of this is great, but what are terps good for other than smell? Do they contribute to the flavor of weed? Yes. They are responsible for most of the flavors in cannabis, and they also offer a variety of medicinal benefits. Terpenes do a lot of heavy lifting for cannabis, although it's important to note that they are not only found in cannabis. In fact, terpenes are found in nearly every plant.

Types of Terpenes Benefits & Aromas

There are many types of terpenes, all of which offer unique benefits. Here's a quick list of terpenes, their associated aromas, and their benefits:

  • Myrcene: smells of musky herbs and citrus (Ever wonder "why does weed smell like skunk?" This terp is likely the culprit). Thought to help treat chronic pain and inflammation.
  • Caryophyllene: smells of wood and pepper. Thought to help treat anxiety and inflammation.
  • Limonene: smells of lemon and citrus. Thought to help as an antidepressant and antioxidant.
  • Humulene: smells of herbs and spices. Thought to help treat chronic pain and inflammation.
  • Pinene: smells of wooded pine. Thought to help treat asthma and inflammation.
  • Linalool: smells floral and citrusy. Thought to help treat anxiety, chronic pain, and stress.

Just like how not all marijuana smells the same, not every strain contains the same terpenes. And of course, while terpenes are inextricably important to the flavor and smell of weed, they aren't the only thing that can help you decide the good bud from the bad. 

What Does Marijuana Smell Like?


Let's take a look at three stages in the cannabis lifecycle: growing weed, cured weed, and smoked weed. At each point in its life, your cannabis is going to smell just a little different.

The Smell of Cannabis While Growing

The only time cannabis doesn't smell is at the very beginning. This quickly changes, though. After roughly 3-6 weeks, cannabis plants begin to produce a distinct odor. It reaches full potency when it flowers (cannabis flower produces most of the plant's aromas). During this early stage, cannabis should smell a little musty and piney - more earthy than a strain might be once it is cured.

The Smell of Cannabis After Being Cured

During the curing process, cannabis will likely smell more grassy. This hay smell usually sticks around for roughly the first 7-10 days of drying. However, after the curing process, cannabis should return to its more natural smell. A health bud's smell will be dictated by how it is stored and the terpenes it contains. Weed, compared to other dried plants, has a much stronger smell. Cannabis stored in properly sealed, dry containers, can smell floral, citrusy, piney, candied, sweet like vanilla, earthy, grassy, skunky, and anywhere in between these flavor profiles. We'll get into what cannabis smells like if it isn't correctly stored in the next section.

The Smell of Cannabis While Smoked

Smoked cannabis is going to intensify its natural flavors and distribute them as far as the smoke carries. It will also, naturally, smell like smoke. If you properly grind your cannabis and apply the correct amount of heat, your weed shouldn't smell too burnt. However, it's easy to overheat your cannabis, which results in a charred, burnt, bitter smell that also translates into the flavor. 

What Does Pot Smell Like That's Bad?

There are two types of "bad" cannabis we're going to discuss today: poor quality weed and unsafe weed. Poor quality weed is either going to be very old or poorly cultivated, meaning its primarily leaves and stems. Over time, marijuana will lose its potent smell (along with its potent psychoactive effects). Old marijuana will look brown and dried up,  it will smell far less intense than fresh healthy cannabis and might even smell like the container it's stored in (especially if not properly stored). The same goes for cannabis that's primarily leaves and stems. The flower is where the cannabis smell is strongest. If you don't smell much when you take a sniff at the dispensary, you probably want to steer clear. 

The other, much worse type of bad weed is moldy or improperly cured weed. Cannabis that has been improperly cured or stored can easily begin to grow mold. Mold, when consumed, can be incredibly harmful to your health. A tell-tale sign that weed is moldy (or well on its way) is the smell. Moldy cannabis will smell mustier, almost like mildew. Another smell to watch out for is potent chemical, acrid aromas. This could be an indicator that the weed was grown with improper pesticide use. If you want good weed, stick to the stuff that smells fresh and potent (refer to the aromas above for an ideal list). 

Do you have a favorite strain because of how it smells? Are there certain smells you look for when buying new cannabis? Tell us your tips and tricks in the comments below!

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