How to Determine Cannabis Quality – Part 1

Many elements come into play in consideration to cannabis quality. The look, feel, and scent all play an integral role in knowing if your bud is of a high standard or not. Of course price and potency of cannabinoids and terpenes are important, though there are many other factors to consider. Follow this guide to further understand the various roles and differences in flower quality that include:

  1. Aroma
  2. Bud Size
  3. Colour
  4. Moisture
  5. Texture & Structure
  6. Undesirables

1. Aroma

Aroma is usually the first indicator cannabis consumers are faced with. Experienced consumers can quickly determine if something is “off” about their flower. For example, old or overly dried cannabis products have a stale, hay-like aroma. In contrast, fresh and properly produced cannabis is filled with strong scents of gas, fruit, coniferous trees, tartness, and sweetness. It has been debated among cannabis industry workers that terpenes and cannabinoids begin to deplete 3-6 months post packaging. Aroma power can also reflect the potency of terpenes and the freshness of your cannabis. To keep aroma intact for as long as possible, make sure you are storing your cannabis properly in a seal-proof container. Always remember, after opening specific cannabis containers, there is no secondary sealer, resulting in a higher chance of oxidization (drying out). Unsure about where to begin? Ask a Prarie Cannabis Budtender about what is the best storage option for your dried cannabis flower.

2. Bud Size

Bud size is a wide misconception among cannabis users, small bud or popcorn bud is not always an indicator of low-quality flower. Smaller buds can be a result of various items, including:

  • They are flowers harvested from the lower parts of the plant where light is not as easily accessible
  • Strain types vary in development resulting in different-sized buds
  • Lack of fertilizer or proper growing environment

That being said, big buds are regularly sought after and are usually associated with higher quality cannabis flowers like craft cannabis. Realistically, size comes down to whether it's important to have visually appealing cannabis. What is important is the moisture, structure, and potency.

Amante's Tropicanna Banana usually has multiple buds in each jar. However, this does not affect this flower's potency or quality.

Amante's Tropicanna Banana usually has multiple buds in each jar. However, this does not affect this flower's potency or quality.


Bud density is related to the growth development and size of your cannabis flower. Density can also be influenced by trimming curing and drying methods. The best way to determine if your bud has a desired density is by looking at its formation. If you can see the stem through the openings of your flower, the bud is leaning toward a “bloomed” formation. On the other hand, if your flower seems to be hugging itself and in the form of a teardrop without gaps, it's a packed density. The main influences of dried cannabis flower density can be related to:

  • Grow conditions
  • Grow methods (organic fertilizers, living soil, etc.)
  • Strain genetics

3. Color

There are four main structures you want to look at when evaluating the colour of your cannabis. These include:

  • Sugar leaves
  • Trichomes
  • Pistils
  • Calyx Core (near the stem)

Investigating colours of the sugar leaves, pistils, trichomes, and core of calyx can help you understand the growing environment and conditions. The observed colours reflect flavonoids and dominant genetics present within the specific cultivar (strain). The desired colors range can include various green hues on sugar leaves and golden-red pistils. Low-quality cannabis will have prominent colors like yellow, tan, and brown.

Did you know purple, blue, and red hues can be found in various cannabis strains based on their genetic heritage? You may notice these in strains with this hereditary gene triggered by environmental elements like low-temperature growing conditions.

4. Moisture

The best way to determine if your cannabis has the right moisture can be simply achieved through a squeeze test. Simply press the bud in between your index finger and thumb. If your dried cannabis flower:

a) Does not break apart, stick to your fingers, or bounces back into its original structure; your cannabis has a high moisture content.
b) Breaks apart or deteriorates; it has low moisture content and is most likely dried out.

Hot Tip: Some cannabis licensed producers provide a Certificate of Analysis (COA) on their websites for each product and the current lot being distributed. If you have the chance to come across one, look at the moisture content. Percentages should be 10-12, considering the package and harvest dates.

5. Texture & Structure

Texture and structure can be understood by reviewing the trim's cleanliness, the bud's overall form, and the reflection of the genetics of the flower strain. Ask yourself, is the bud contained within a specific rounded tear-drop-like calyx shape without deviations? What is the construction of the flower's composition like? It is important to focus on areas with the most trichomes, ridges/bumps, and general shape. These all can help you confirm the proper harvesting time for optimal THC & CBD levels.


Trimming cannabis creates the overall structure of bud. There are two practices, by hand and machine. Though hand trimming is more sought after by cannabis connoisseurs, machine-trimmed nugs can still tie into a premium cannabis production process. The reason why hand trimming is more popular is it has less of a risk of losing trichomes in an already- delicate process. In addition, because trichomes are where most cannabinoids and terpenes are contained, attention to detail and precise trimming ensures you get a high-quality product.

GMO by Partake has a genetic characteristic that results in "fox tail" structures. Many experienced cannabis users look for unique characteristics in their flower to further understand the growing technique results and genetic traits strains can have.

6. Undesirables

Undesirables in cannabis can be harmful to your body, lungs, and immune system. Always remember cannabis is a plant and unforeseeable circumstances do occur. If you find any of the following items in your cannabis, it may be best to contact your retailer and the Licensed Producer and avoid consuming it.

  • Mold
  • Jar rot
  • Pests & bugs
  • Non-organic materials like clothing fibers

Busting Myths: "If it burns white, it was a good light"

One cannabis myth that has grown widely popular is white ash means a clean flower. That said, there has been no valid evidence of this being true. In the case of white ash being a measurable qualifier for premium flower, there are too many factors to play into what could be the cause. At the end of the day, the best option for choosing cannabis that’s more likely to be high quality, shop for organically grown, craft, and micro-produced flowers.

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