Cannabis Quality Indicators and The Importance of Storefronts and Branding.
Cannabis is a unique and nuanced substance. Unlike alcohol, the physical appearance and aroma of marijuana is a direct indicator of its quality. The majority of informed consumers prefer to personally inspect the bud before purchasing.
For this reason, storefronts that allow customers to view, smell and ask questions about the product are essential. Medical patients only option is to order from licensed producers online and receive their packages days later in the mail. Canada has allowed each individual province to create their own distribution model for recreational cannabis. This has resulted in a variety of different frameworks. It seems that there could have been more consideration to the nuances of purchasing cannabis.
So how do you determine the quality of marijuana? There are both positive qualities that you should search for and negative indicators that you should avoid. The first and most well known attribute is the amount of visible trichomes covering the bud. Trichomes are tiny “crystals” that contain cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. These are the sources of all the medical and recreational benefits of the plant. The more visible crystals, the more likely that the strain is of high quality and potency.
Bud structure is a great signal of the growing techniques used. Each strain has a genetic predisposition to a certain level of density. However, buds that have a mid-density are usually ideal. Cannabis that is too chunky is usually grown with plant growth regulators (PGRs) or other chemicals and is less desirable. The flowers should appear naturally grown without being too leafy or airy.
The feel of a cannabis nug can also indicate quality. The degree of stickiness signifies the amount of resinous trichomes on the bud. Touching the product will allow you to judge the amount of moisture retained. Ideally, cannabis should be brittle enough to crumble in your hand when enough pressure is applied, while also resinous enough to stick to your fingers. This would indicate the bud has been flushed and cured properly and is also potent.
Aroma is an interesting attribute. The amount and type of terpenes will mark how strong and pungent the odour is. Since each terpene has different medical and recreational effects, the smell of cannabis is truly a personal preference. As a rule of thumb, if you love the fragrance profile of a particular strain you will likely enjoy the taste and effects. Find what works best through trial-and-error and research.
Just as importantly, there are negatives that you should try your best to avoid. Improperly grown cannabis is a health issue and needs to be treated seriously. With the dawning of legalization and government inspection, hopefully all of these problems will be eliminated. It is still useful to know the signals of poor quality.
Bud rot is a type of mold that develops deep in the dense cores of cannabis buds. The infection starts at the stem and then moves outwards, which makes it almost impossible to detect in the early stages. Any type of mold is unacceptable and should not be consumed. Bud rot is the most common form of mold and some less-reputable sources of cannabis will try to sell infected products. Carefully inspect buds for any discoloration, usually yellow or white, and fuzziness. Sometimes the cannabis pistils (red/orange hairs) will also appear clumped together.
Light burn is what occurs when marijuana plants get too close to growing lights. It usually causes leaves and buds to turn yellow. Cannabis with light burn is usually easily identifiable due to discoloration and lack of moisture on the tips of the bud only. This condition is unfavorable but not quite as serious as the others.
Seeds found within a cannabis bud indicate that the plant was stressed out during growing. Only female cannabis plants produce consumable buds and should have no seeds. Stress can cause a plant to turn into a hermaphrodite, developing both male and female flowers. Temperature, harvest time, fertilization and diseases all influence a plant’s stress level.
Mites and other insects are known to prey on growing cannabis. Spider mites will cause marijuana leaves to turn yellow and webbing will appear on buds. Any infestation in the grow room may spread and end up in the final product. Inspect your purchases carefully, potentially even under a microscope, to ensure there are no living creatures on your cannabis.
After checking for all of these things, vaporizing or smoking the flower is the last way to measure quality. Cannabis buds should be dry enough to stay lit in a joint or bowl. The smoke shouldn’t be too harsh that it causes pain or large amounts of coughing. The burned ash should be white to a light grey.
Black ash indicates that the bud has not been flushed or cured properly. Flushing is when you stop feeding plants nutrients and only feed them water pre-harvest. This will force the plant to use up nutrients stored within itself. If its nutrient reserves are not utilized by the plant or broken down, they will remain and affect the quality of the harvest’s smoke and flavour. You want to smoke cannabis, not nutrients.
Branding will become increasingly important for cannabis companies and consumers. Brand names that provide consistent high-quality products will win the trust of the market. This will save customers time and create long lasting loyalty. It is essential that the regulatory bodies allow a reasonable amount of advertising and branding on packaging. Without recognizable brands, the market will be a race to the bottom. It is important that consumers get informed. Brands should consider developing and distributing informational content to become that resource.
Lets develop a retail model and industry that is just as nuanced as the wonderful and unique plant we are legalizing.
What to look for:
- Trichomes: visible “crystals” that produce cannabinoids and terpenes
- Bud Structure is ideally not too dense, not too airy/leafy
- The Feel is stickiness and the amount of moisture retained in the bud
- Aroma is mostly a personal preference. What smells good to you?
What to avoid:
- Bud Rot is mold found deep in buds, marked by discoloration and fuzziness
- Light Burn happens when plants get too close to grow lights and turn yellow
- Seeds indicate female plant was stressed out, began hermaphroditism
- Mites are insects that prey on growing plants, make their way into product
- Black Ash indicates the strain has not been flushed properly. Fertilizers retained.
Storefronts are important because they allow consumers to look, smell and touch the product.
Branding is important because it gives consumers trust and saves them time. Brands that create and distribute informational content will win.