If you grow marijuana to consume but especially if you grow it to sell, grading your buds accurately is very valuable. But if you consume cannabis constantly like many of us do, it’s hard to gauge the potency and effects of your buds because you’re so high all the time. Maybe you’re consuming edibles, dabs, tinctures, live resins, dry sift or other cannabis concentrates too, which clouds your head even more.
We previously talked about methods for evaluation if the buds you grow are good, better, or best. It involved testing your buds yourself, and sharing them with others. Because marijuana affects everybody differently, when you share buds with several people and they all offer similar opinions about the buds’ potency, flavor, and high, that’s a useful assessment. But there are other methods for grading your cannabis, and you do well to use them too. Here they are…
When a weed customer opens a bag or jar of cannabis and is almost knocked out by the kind smell of diesel, skunk, citrus, fruit, pepper or other notable cannabis scents, that’s a good sales pitch for your buds. The same is true when someone vapes or burns those buds to consume them, and what they inhale tastes strong and pleasantly flavorful.
Strong taste and scent is an indicator of properly-grown, potent buds. They’re also indicators that you’re growing an authentic strain. For example, if someone tells me they’ve grown a Haze, but the bud doesn’t smell or taste like Haze, that’s not good.
Many of us who’ve grown in sterile hydroponics grow ops without any beneficial microbes or organic/natural materials in the root zone have noticed that although our plants grew well and we got heavy, potent harvests, taste and scent were missing.
This is especially noticeable if we’d grown the same strain before in soil or soilless mix using organic feeding materials and beneficial root zone microbes.
Some people would argue that if the buds are potent, who cares about taste or scent? Fact is, taste and scent come from flavonoids and other cannabis compounds that have medicinal and psychoactive effects. These compounds aren’t THC or other cannabinoids, but they influence cannabinoid potency and effects, and by themselves are often medicinal. Buds that should be tasty and strong-smelling, but aren’t, are buds missing key compounds that add to the breadth and quality of the marijuana high and medical effects.
One last thing about taste and scent: these traits should at least be somewhat pleasant if not absolutely scintillating. If you smell something rotten, dirty, or otherwise disgusting on buds, it’s likely because they have mold, mildew, pests, debris, contaminants, or foliar spray on them. It can also come from improper drying and curing which can leave too much chlorophyll in the buds.
The other aspects of bag appeal include how crystally, gooey, and well-trimmed your buds look. Consumers want closely-trimmed buds that look like glistening sugar is on them. When your buds glow with resins and they’re cleaned of extra leaves, with no debris or other contamination, your buds are worth more.
How High is the Ceiling
Another way to grade your buds is to see how they interact with your mental and psychological “ceiling.” The ceiling is a term for how high can you get. After your first cannabis use of the day, if you use more cannabis a short time later, do you get higher or not? Do you get higher and higher the more you use, or do you hit a ceiling and after that, no matter how much more of that type of cannabis you use, you don’t feel any more stoned?
Some strains of cannabis are known for having no ceiling. Of course everyone interacts with cannabis differently, but in general, these are strains that get you higher and higher the more you use even if you’re using multiple times in a short period of time, and they’re mostly Sativa strains.
Other cannabis strains get you high when you have your first session of the day, but if you use them again soon after that, they don’t get you higher. In fact, it may make you feel less high or even sedated and sleepy. If you’re smoking a pure Kush or Indica strain and you keep hitting more and more of it, you won’t get higher and higher, you’ll get locked to the couch, and you’ll wake up there in the morning drooling on yourself.
Another ceiling measurement comes when you use a new strain after you’re already high on a different strain. If you’ve just hit some Haze and are super-stoned, but then inhale a different strain and acutely feel the high from that one too, that’s a ceiling-buster strain.
In general, consumers prefer ceiling-busters because they get more and more high the more they use, which is especially good for parties, concerts and other situations where you might have multiple cannabis-use sessions in a short time period.
Cannabis connoisseurs refer to some marijuana strains as “creeper weed.” This doesn’t mean that these strains are used by creepy old pervs in creeper vans on the hunt for little girls. It means you take an inhalation from combustion or a vaporizer, and instead of feeling immediately high, the psychoactive effects creep up on you, taking as long as 5-15 minutes to fully bloom in your head.
Some marijuana consumers see the creeper tendency as negative. They want to take a hit and immediately soar into the cannabis high, with no waiting. And some consumers believe that creeper strains are less potent, but that’s not true. It just takes a while to feel the full effects.
Peak High & Afterwards
Most cannabis strains give you an initial peak high period that lasts 30-90 minutes. This is the peak high when you’re getting the full, most noticeable effects, a super head rush, almost too strong, but really fun. One reason I like to inhale cannabis just before a concert, rave, movie, or other event starts is I want to be at peak high for as long as possible.
Perhaps you’ve noticed strains that give you a very intense but way too short peak high that lasts less than half an hour, and then subsides into feeling almost not-stoned. Those are often strains that have a lot of CBD, which is a limiter that can suddenly sabotage your THC high.
After peak high, there are at least two other phases to the overall high experience. One of these phases is the sub-peak high. That’s when you’re still stoned, but the high has faded slightly or a lot, and/or you’ve gotten used to being high so you don’t notice it as much.
To make the difference clearer, peak high is when you’re so acutely and totally baked that the marijuana experience is by far the most fun thing you’re noticing, and has all your attention. In contrast, sub-peak high is when marijuana effects have receded, and you start focusing on things other than your high.
Some strains produce a burnout phase after peak and sub-peak phases. This is when you’re definitely not high anymore at all, and you feel low—lower than you did before you got high in the first place. The burnout phase may include a mild feeling of depression, laziness, a slight headache.
The burnout phase comes along a couple of hours after the peak and sub-peak phases. With some strains, it might come too soon. This brings us to another bud grading indicator, which is how long the peak and sub-peak phases last. The strongest, most enjoyable cannabis strains gives you at least a couple of hours of peak and sub-peak, and no burnout at all.
One other thing: there are strains that give you no burnout on the day you use them, but the next day, you feel weak or depressed. I avoid those strains.
Bud Moisture & Curing Traits
People who roll joints or burn buds in bongs or other kinds of pipes generally overdry their buds during drying and curing. You almost have to do this, because moist buds don’t burn well. Overdrying isn’t always a bad thing—it depends on whether the buds are so dry that resin glands desiccate, break open, and lose potency. Buds that are crispy and crumbly are overdried, and should be consumed quickly or they’ll rapidly lose potency and be worthless.
Properly-dried buds retain just enough moisture to be slightly springy to the touch and retain a little of the green color and other colors seen in the bud when it was alive. They also retain intact resin gland stalks and heads that are clear, cloudy or amber like they were when the buds were first cut from the main plant.
Properly dried and cured buds retain more of their taste, scent, cannabinoids and terpenoids than overdried buds, and last longer, especially if they’re stored in a freezer or the top part of a refrigerator.
As you’ve probably noticed, many of these grading factors are subjective. Your ability to know your own mind and body, pay close attention to how getting high changes you, and remember what you observed, are all key to your grading accuracy.
We recommend you share your buds with other experienced cannabis connoisseurs, asking them to grade your buds too. When it comes to grading cannabis, many heads are better than just one head.
One of the main factors you’re looking at is whether the high is pleasurable. Some cannabis strains are undoubtedly very strong, but don’t make you feel the way you want to feel.
For example, I use cannabis primarily to enhance my creative ability as a musician, and my enjoyment and effort as an athlete. For creativity, I prefer hybrids that are slightly Sativa dominant. For athletics, I use a pure Sativa such as Kali Mist. After working out, I use a slightly Kush or Indica-dominant hybrid to get rid of pain and help me do yoga and other tune-ups.
I’ve inhaled pure Kush and Indica strains that made me feel sick, dizzy, depressed, lazy, slow, stupid, uncoordinated, shaky and weird. This is often called “greening out.” It’s not caused by excessive potency. It’s caused by the unique suite of cannabinoids and terpenoids in those strains.
The same buds that cause greening out for me are perfect for other growers who can inhale them all day long and function perfectly. Funny thing is, the Sativa buds I love are too stimulating for those growers. They get paranoid and frenzied if they use that kind of weed.
The main thing is: not all cannabis strains cause pleasant feelings in all people who use them. But sometimes you try cannabis that for you has a nasty high. When you’re grading cannabis, ask yourself if the high you consistently feel from a specific strain is recreational, medicinally beneficial, or unpleasant.
You might have marijuana grading criteria I didn’t mention here, but I hope you now have a better understanding of grading cannabis. You’re looking at:
- Bag appeal
- Taste and Scent
- Physical appearance
- Curing & Drying Results
- Type of High
- Duration and Quality of Peak High
- Onset and Duration of High
- Overall Enjoyability of High.
You can bet everyone here at Growing Marijuana Perfectly had fun grading the buds shown in the photo accompanying this article. And here’s something else you can count on: we hope every bud you harvest is an A+!!!