What Does Good Weed Actually Look Like?

There’s a lot you can tell about weed quality simply by its appearance, and in places like Seattle, Washington (where legal cannabis buds are displayed in sealed glass jars on dispensary shelves), knowing what good weed looks like is one of the best ways to differentiate good weed from bad and identify the best high-quality cannabis for smoking, vaping, dabbing, baking cannabis cookies, or doing whatever else you like to do with weed!

Visual Characteristics of Quality Weed

High-quality weed (also referred to as top-shelf weed, dank weed, or loud weed) is marijuana from a healthy plant that has been harvested at the right time, properly cured, properly trimmed (usually by hand), and sold while it’s still fresh. There are several things to look for in high-quality marijuana buds.

Color

High-quality buds are a deep green color with red, orange, purple, and/or blue hairs and frosty white trichome heads. Cannabis flowers that are very light green may indicate premature harvesting. Very dark green or brown weed usually indicates flower that’s past its best.

Well-Developed Trichomes

Trichomes are the sticky, resinous “dew-like” droplets on cannabis flowers that contain the plant’s cannabinoids—including THC and CBD—and terpenes. Generally speaking, the more trichomes on the plant, the better. If the cannabis flowers were harvested at peak ripeness, the trichome heads should have well-developed balls on top that you can see clearly under a magnifying glass.

Excellent Bud Structure

High-quality weed has defined structural traits that make it easier to identify. If you want to know what good weed looks like, look for buds or nugs that look springy rather than flat and aren’t full of stems and seeds. An ideal trim job will ensure that you get as much of the good stuff as possible without any excess leaves, stems, or shake.

Tip: Identify Indica vs. Sativa Strains Visually

In general, indica buds are denser, fatter, and more tightly packed whereas sativa buds are wispier and thinner in appearance. Hybrid strains will lie somewhere between the two.

No Visible Mold or Powdery Mildew

It’s probably obvious, but high-quality buds will never have visible mold or powdery mildew. Moldy weed is often a result of cannabis flowers being improperly dried and then packaged while they’re still wet—creating the perfect breeding ground for mold. Weed that has been properly cured will be spongy and snappable—never wet and never so dry that it turns to powder between your fingers.

Recent Harvest Date

Even top-shelf dank weed will eventually lose its appeal, which is why it’s so important to check the harvest date, expiration date, and any other information on the label. In states where cannabis is legal, marijuana dispensaries typically sell lab-tested products, so you can check to make sure that the cannabis is free from contaminants and contains a varied cannabinoid profile.

Visual Characteristics of Low-Grade Weed

In contrast to high-quality cannabis, bad-quality weed (also known as bad weed, brick weed, dirt weed, bottom-shelf weed, and Reggie weed) is easy to identify just by looking at the buds with the naked eye. While every batch of low-grade marijuana will vary, bad cannabis typically includes:

  • Brown weed

  • A flat appearance

  • Visible stems, seeds, and leaves

  • Few trichomes

  • Underdeveloped trichome heads

When you open it, low-quality weed might smell like fresh-cut grass or have no discernible smell at all. The aroma is usually earthy or skunky—not the best choice if you want to keep your weed consumption on the down-low.

Mid-Grade Bud

Somewhere between bottom-shelf cannabis flower and top-shelf dank weed, there is “middle-shelf” weed quality. For most people, mid-grade cannabis provides a satisfying high at a reasonable price point.

As expected, the visual qualities of mid-grade weed will be somewhere in the middle between bad weed and top-shelf weed. Expect standardized shapes made by trimming machines, trichome heads with some balls at the top (or fewer trichomes in general), a deep green color, and a satisfactory bud structure.

Effects of High, Mid, and Low-Grade Weed

Effects of Low-Grade Weed

If you’re brand-new to weed and just want to feel relaxed or maybe a little bit hungry, low-quality cannabis should do the job. The cannabinoid content is generally lower, so it’s enough to feel some mildly intoxicating effects but not enough for serious pain relief. Of course, you’ll still want to look for third-party lab results to make sure your bud isn’t contaminated with pesticides, fungus, and heavy metals. Otherwise, light up your pre-roll, joint, or bowl and enjoy the ride!

Effects of Mid-Grade Weed

Middle-shelf cannabis is generally more satisfying to smoke than the low-grade stuff, and typically contains a higher percentage of cannabinoids. This cannabis is likely to have a broader terpene profile and a richer aroma as well—think of it as expanding the number of hues on your artist’s palette. If you’re looking for therapeutic benefits, mid-grade weed could start to get you there. Experiment with different strains and you should eventually find some really good cannabis in this range.

Effects of Top-Shelf Weed

Top-shelf cannabis comes with a higher price tag, but many people find that it’s worth the cost. Thanks to a rich array of cannabinoids and terpenes, high-quality cannabis buds generally produce the strongest effects—which is essential if you’re looking for relief. The diverse array of terpenes in these buds also provides stunning aromatic sensations. If you’re a seasoned cannabis consumer, it’s definitely worth giving this stuff a try. 

Good Cannabis Is About More Than Just Looks

You know the answer to the question “what does good weed look like?” But “good weed” is often more than looks. If you really want high-quality cannabis, it’s important to think about the bud’s impact on the community and the environment as well.

True craft cannabis, though it costs more, will often have a superior aroma and taste and will have been grown using sustainable agriculture techniques. Many craft brands are also family-, women-, and minority-owned and run, and some give a portion of their profits to charity.

To differentiate the ethical companies from profit-focused producers, look up the growers’ websites and look for certifications like “Clean Green Certified” and a tab that says “we give back.” Ultimately, the best cannabis will be the one that matches your values and personal tastes while providing the aroma and effects you need. The best way to find that is to do your homework and try some good-looking strains for yourself.