Ghost Guide: How to Judge the Quality of Cannabis

There are four main categories that the Ghost Drops team uses to assess the quality of weed when deciding which new strains we are going to drop. Those categories are Appearance, Burn, Nose and Strength with a few different factors under each.


Appearance encompasses both the quality of the bud structure and the readiness of the flower.

a. Bud Structure: the structure (size and shape) of a particular bud is typically linked to the cultivar’s genetics. Sativa-dominant cultivars are more associated with a long, thin structure. Indica strains frequently produce much larger, tight, dense buds. To a certain degree, bud structure is a matter of personal preference. However, the Ghost Drops team uses this as a metric to evaluate if the bud is living up to its genetic expression, how the bud was grown and the overall quality of the trim and finish visually.

b. Readiness of the flower: this refers to how “ripe” the trichomes on the plant are and how fully developed and finished the bud is. Premium flower should feature visible, milky-white trichomes – which indicates the plant has been grown to full maturity. Buds should be fully formed and not too “larfy” (wispy, fluffy buds that didn’t reach their full potential).

Burn is assessed while smoking the bud and encompasses smoothness of smoke, flavour conversion, ash colour and structure, oil accumulation and the presence of a resin ring.

a. Smoothness: cannabis should be pleasant and easy to smoke. Vapour or smoke should be able to be inhaled deep in the lungs without causing intense coughing. Bud should be potent and hit hard, but it shouldn’t be harsh in any way. After smoking, your throat and lungs shouldn’t hurt. An important part of assessing cannabis quality is looking at how smooth and enjoyable the smoking experience is.

b. Flavour Conversion: does the strain taste how it smells? Some cannabis cultivars have an amazing aroma with zero or a bad taste, and vice versa. Does the aroma translate into the flavour when smoking? High quality cannabis will have a similar, pleasant flavour and pleasant aroma.

c. Ash Colour and Structure: there is some debate around the importance of ash colour when it comes to cannabis quality. The traditional belief is that white ash signifies that cannabis has been flushed, cured, and finished properly while black, darker ash indicates the opposite. Ash colour is influenced by growing methods, genetics and more. However, generally, ash that is stable and light/white is preferable to darker, inconsistent ash.

d. Oil Accumulation / Resin Ring: if your cannabis is trichome-dense and high quality, it will frequently lead to oil accumulation near the end of the joint where it is burning. This resin naturally forms a circle around the joint, hence why it is called a “resin ring”. The presence of a resin ring indicates potency of the plant. Look for a wet, drippy resin ring as a positive indicator of cannabis quality.

Nose is judging the aroma of the plant and includes the genetic expression of the phenotype and the overall pungency.

a. Genetic Expression: certain genetic lineages of cannabis are associated with certain flavours and aromas. If it is named “haze”, does it smell like a haze? If it has kush in the name– does it smell like a kush? If it has Gelato, Wedding Cake or GSC in its lineage – does it smell like a dessert strain? How accurate is the aromatic profile to its genetic parents and lineage? Bud that is incredibly accurate to its cultivar name is preferable to bud that is not.

b. Pungency: how loud is the aroma overall? When you crack the jar, does it fill up the room with its scent? Or do you have to break open the buds and get up close to get a good sense of the smell? Cannabis that is flavourful and aromatic is preferable to cannabis that is more subtle and odourless. Pungency is typically reflected by overall terpene content.

Strength assesses the potency and the overall effect that the cannabis plant produces after it is smoked.

a. Potency Plainly, how strong is the weed? Do you feel the effects when you consume it? Potency is sometimes (but not exclusively) linked to the presence of THC and the percentage of cannabinoids found in a particular lot.

b. Overall Effect How enjoyable are the felt effects after consuming the cultivar? Do you feel good? Are there any negative side effects such as headaches or dry mouth? How enjoyable is the high in your personal opinion? Because the effects of cannabis are so subjective, both potency and overall effect will vary widely from person to person.

When the Ghost Drops team tests out new product, each of these factors is judged with a x/10 score. All these scores add up to a x/100 score – easily allowing you to convert the final score into a percentage.

How do you judge the quality of cannabis? Hit us up on Twitter at @ghostdrops_ and let us know!

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