This week’s blog post is from Herb Hightower’s column bringing together the cannabis community through strain reviews, tips and tricks, and industry updates.
Cannabis quality guide and how to tell if weed is fresh?
Have you ever wondered how to pick the freshest and strongest weed out at the local dispensary near you? Did you get excited and purchase more cannabis products than you can consume, yeah we’ve all been there. Whether you’re doing your weekly marijuana shopping or you just have more pot than you know what to do with it’s important to understand if your weed is fresh and ultimately effective.
My name is Herb Hightower and here’s some scary news, cannabis, like any plant, degrades over time because of the elements it’s exposed to and just time in general. So how do you know if the buds you are looking at are fresh? Continue reading and we’ll explain all you need to know and how to keep your amazing cannabis flower fresh, tasty, and powerful.
What is fresh cannabis?
The Oxford dictionary defines the word fresh as (of food) recently made or obtained; not canned, frozen, or otherwise preserved. The rabbit hole of what is the perfectly cured weed starts with freshness.
Fresh in my definition in regards to curing cannabis is defined by the cleanliness of the product rather than the age from harvest. Sure, age is a factor in greatly cured cannabis. However, there are countless other factors that play an equal or greater role in the freshness and the proper cure of cannabis flower.
At High Level Health, we have painstakingly focused on the cure for over 11 years. From the time of harvest, there are many controls to the drying process to achieve moisture retention and cleaning from microbial colonization. The time of drying is roughly 2-3 weeks depending on the water activity levels and specifics of the strains within the harvest.
The Oxford dictionary defines curing as – preserving (meat, fish, tobacco, or animal skin) by various methods such as salting, drying, or smoking. I consider the definition that relates to cannabis would be the process that happens after drying takes place. During this time good cannabis can become excellent cannabis. However, bad cannabis can never be cured into excellent cannabis. Changes in the terpene expression take place during this time that exposes a deeper and richer flavor experience as chlorophyll breaks down and Hexenal organic compounds (HOL), the compound reasonable for a lot of the grassy flavor in poorly cured cannabis. At High Level Health, we have a proprietary method that was developed to achieve a clean and very flavorful smoking experience. This process is around one month.
Full circle, freshness in my definition is the cleanliness of cannabis. This fresh and clean cannabis can now be cured. This will allow the cannabis to reach its maximum flavor and smoking experience while having a noncontaminated product… Curing is a science with a lot of effort and a little art.
Once the cannabis is cured properly it reaches a peak in flavor, smoothness, and scent. The flavor transfers from what it smells like to what it tastes like, when this happens it is magical! The smoke is smooth and full-bodied as with perfect water content the embers of the cherry burn at medium heat while not having a hard time burning properly. The scent becomes sharp and expresses its notes with intensity and when smelling your senses light up as your receptors say… I like!
Now curing bad cannabis usually gets only worse in the curing process as there could be issues with oxygen exchange depending on the specifics of the growers curing containers and methods. Oxygen deficient environments will promote non-beneficial bacteria and fungal growth while typically not conducive for beneficial microbes. If problems happen during the growing season (outdoors) or cycle (indoors) it has a higher chance to be proliferated by the curing process.
The smell of yeast or molds is recognizable by the human nose. When smelling properly cured cannabis it is sharp and clear, when contaminated it can smell like ammonia, musty basement, and a dull smell and expression of terpenes.
Judging good vs bad cannabis by sight is a little tougher and at times can be deceiving. Typically, a trusty sign of good cannabis is trichome development. However, if something has trichome development but has a smell of microbial contamination this would be bad weed that has a lot of trichomes. Also, genetics really matter in the way a cannabis plant looks. I have experienced plants with tiny trichome heads that some might look at as bad that were actually some of the best cannabis experiences that I have…. I am literally thinking about strains like High Level Health’s ONYD Bx or Original New York City Diesel backcross, not the frostiest nug but damn, that flavor comes through like fresh laundry sheets and chemical fuel… Yes, it’s delicious.
The growing methods vary largely in cannabis agriculture. There are differences between indoor and outdoor cannabis, type of nutrient program (organic/synthetic), type of substrate (soil/soilless/hydroponic). There can be an endless debate on methods and what makes the methods produce. The best I can touch on the subject without going into a seminar is that each method can provide a purpose for different applications that might be beneficial for some reasons and not others. An example is a debate about indoor vs outdoor cannabis. Indoor cannabis would widely be considered the higher grade “good” cannabis because of its superiority of esthetics that is favorable to the eye for most cannabis users and typically higher THC and terpene %. Yet, outdoor cannabis has a wider spectrum of cannabinoids that are considered more medicinal, found in recent spectrometer cannabinoid findings. So you can see it’s really in the eye of the beholder, each of the listed debates has these perspective differences.
At High Level Health we started with what is the best for our cannabis experience in flavor, smoothness, health, and high. That has led us to Organic methods that have different substrate variances like soil and soilless which is a hybrid proprietary method developed over 15 years. We believe that Organics gives the truest terpene expression that has a soul while giving the holistic approach to microbial-driven nutrient uptake.
To wrap up the discussion of good weed vs bad weed and freshness, I will state that it is becoming more and more important to source and know your cannabis source. What good cannabis is, depends on the needs and preferences of the consumer. It takes a lot of detail to provide amazing cannabis. I would always recommend finding a trusted cannabis company that produces their own product or knows the product they purchase very well. Also, the company’s values and methods should align with your personal preferences and needs. If you are ever in Colorado or Michigan please come and check out our flower at High-Level Health which has won over 130+ awards for product quality.
A fresher flower means more flavor, amazing aroma, and better effects. So what does fresh weed look like?
When the cannabis plant is mature and recently harvested it is fluorescent green and has fabulous bright, multicolored hairs. Depending on the strain, flower can vary immensely but they are always bright in color when fresh. Also, look closely for trichomes and their appearance for judging the pot’s freshness. Trichomes are bulbous crystals covering great cannabis flower which glisten like a diamond in the sun. Grab a magnifying glass after a bowl and you can get lost in good trichomes for an hour if not more. These gorgeously amazing trichomes house much of the cannabinoids and terpenes that make marijuana so great. Fresh, premium cannabis is covered in trichomes but as weed ages trichomes dry out and disappear so use the dispensaries magnifying glass to examine trichome levels as an additional safeguard to freshness.
The last appearance check for freshness is for white mold. Now your local dispensary should never have any mold present if they do run away, but once you’ve had it in your possession for months if any moisture has crept into your weed because of a poor container seal you should never smoke weed that has mold present no matter how bad you don’t want to be wasteful.
How does fresh cannabis feel?
This will be harder to do at the dispensary as most reputable dispensaries won’t let you feel the actual flower but inspecting cannabis texture can be one of the biggest indicators of old or stale weed. Fresh weed is usually moist and most likely sticky because of the aforementioned trichomes as well as resin. High-quality weed is sure to be sticky when you handle it but if it is brittle, crumbly, dusty, and lacks the tackiness that you’ve become accustomed to with premium cannabis that is also a sign that your marijuana product is past its prime. This product may still get you high but not nearly as baked as the potency that fresh buds possess.
The smell of fresh cannabis
Although you can determine the freshness of cannabis in many different ways, possibly the most rewarding way to determine its freshness is the smell test. Now obviously terpenes come in all shapes and sizes which dictate how marijuana smells, fresh weed is sooo much more pungent or distinct than stale weed. One of my favorite things to do when picking out my strain of the day is to jam my sniffer deep into a cannabis container and take a deep whiff. So, put your schnoz to the test next time you pick out your flower to pack your next bowl with.
How to keep weed fresh
Now that legal recreational and medical marijuana is mainstream in Colorado and Michigan we no longer need to rely on sandwich bags or lighter sealed cigarette cellophane as a container for cannabis flower. If you already haven’t, it’s time to step up your game and store your weed properly. To ensure maximum freshness, the best way to store your weed is in an airtight glass container to prevent aging. In a pinch, a mason jar works but there are so many better options available to the cannabis community in the form of marijuana-specific glass containers which are usually available at dispensaries or through a quick online search. No matter the airtight, glass container you choose, remember to also store your container in a cool dry place as even sunlight or fluorescent light and heat can degrade your product but don’t go as far as putting it in the refrigerator or freezer that will reduce quality as well.
Although it’s true that weed doesn’t really go bad, unless the unthinkable happens and it grows mold, it sure doesn’t get better over time. It takes a mixture of ways to investigate your weed to see how fresh it is. You can’t just smell weed and say it’s not fresh. Alternatively, you can’t just look at it and say that’s old. This fresh test relies on all of these ways to check to see if weed has gone bad. And, although storage is key, father time does take its toll and you can never expect him. So, don’t hoard your weed for some holiday next year because instead of being like a fine wine that gets better with time, weed should be smoked before it turns into slime.