Gray or White: Does Ash Color Represent Quality Cannabis
Published on 1/16/22
"Data, data, data," Sherlock Holmes famously said, "I cannot build bricks without clay." The famous fictional sleuth meant that he could not solve a case without information. Throughout each adventure of Holmes and sidekick Dr. Watson, a great deal of information comes across his path in the famous novels and short stories. Holmes was interested in the science, and the art, of smoking: in some stories, he identifies culprits based upon what, when, or how they smoke tobacco. What is true of the analysis of tobacco is also true of cannabis: if you are new to the hobby, you should know a few things about how ash can indicate the quality of bud.
Just the Facts
Like so many other aspects of cannabis culture, you can find a lot of debates about the quality of bud and the color of ash it leaves behind. Look no further than the nearest marijuana message board for a treasure trove of opinions, some positive, some negative, some all over the place. Since there hasn't been a significant initiative to study cannabis ash, much of what we are left with is simple science and recorded observations. That would not be sufficient for a Sherlock Holmes deduction, but the stakes of our analysis are quite lower than his typical case.
The origin of the ash debate may come from tobacco debates. In the 20th century, purists debated the color of cigar ash, claiming that white ash indicated higher quality cigars made in Cuba. In contrast, gray ash indicated low-quality cigars made in another country. The argument held that Cuban soil had more nutrients, it burned hotter and cleaner and gave off white ash. How warm are gray ashes? It depends on many things, but generally, they are cooler than white ash because they cannot burn with the same purity.
The argument about cannabis ash color is an argument about its preservation. It involves curing, the process by which bud fresh from the plant is turned into ready to smoke bud. Drying, curing, and flushing are all part of the process that makes weed smokeable; if you've ever tried raw weed, you probably know it's not nearly as much fun to smoke, in part because the trichomes aren't well preserved. But curing or flushing doesn't turn bad weed good or good weed great. Instead, it reflects a process where the quality can vary widely.
Gray, White, and Red all Over
Most cannabis ash will fall under one of two colors: gray and white. Sometimes the dividing line between the two colors is hard to tell, meaning that white ashes can look gray and vice-versa. Weed burns white, the purists say, when it is properly flushed and/or cured. According to this hypothesis, Gray ash indicates that you've paid out for lower-quality pot, possibly after having been promised that you're about to smoke the good stuff.
Gray ash may be left behind if cannabis has any additives in the curing process. Just like tobacco can come full of additives to give it longer shelf life, hence why cigarettes contain not just nicotine but formaldehyde, some cannabis producers add chemicals to make sure that their bud stays "fresh" longer. That's not necessarily bad, but if you consistently see gray ash in the bottom of your bowl or bong, you may want to ask yourself exactly what you're smoking each time.
A white ash weed cure that indicates few additives and high quality, the advocates say, is called flushing. Flushing takes place at the end of a cannabis plant's life. In the last two weeks, all its nutrients or fertilizers are taken away, replaced with nothing but clear, clean water. This can eliminate buildup around the roots and in the soil (which will likely be re-used for the next plant). Experts swear by flushing, but not for the color of the ash, only for the flavor of the weed itself. Since two weeks of just water is a significant portion of a cannabis plant's lifespan, this is an intensive method for ensuring quality, one that not many growers will work towards. However, flushing may make cannabis easier to smoke by leaving behind less chemical residue and thus white ash bud.
Marijuana is cured in much the same manner as bacon: hung out to dry for an extended period of time, then collected in an airtight container that will retain the last bit of moisture while allowing gases to escape. Curing weed not only dries out the bud but also allows bacteria to grow that have a beneficial relationship with cannabis, giving it a better taste and/or potency. However, no evidence indicates how curing affects the color of ash.
Do you like weed with gray or white ash more? How have you done any further research about the quality of the ganja you smoke? Let us know in the comments below!