Buying bud can be treacherous territory. How do you know whether your bud is worth your hard earned cash? If it is everything that your dealer says it is? If it’s quality? If it’s crap? Or if you’re being just plain ripped off?
So here are a few pointers on what to look out for on your quest for good herb at a good price.
What is a bud?
In a word… flowers. Female cannabis plants develop dense clusters of flowers known as buds. The flowers are where all the action is at. Leaves look great, but won’t get you high. Male plants will also not get you high.
Which bud to choose?
There is an overwhelming amount of cannabis strains out there, thousands upon thousands of them with all sorts of names. Effects of cannabis strains are mostly dependant on whether the strain is a Sativa or an Indica. Sativas give a functional head high while Indicas are great for crashing on the couch due to their body high. You can find a strain for every occasion though as the many pure Sativas and Indicas, as well as their numerous crosses/hybrids allow you to pick strains with the best effects for your needs.
There is no guarantee that the strain you are getting is everything it is made out to be.
DO NOT ever take a bud as being what the dealer says it is, unless you have a good reason to trust your dealer or connection, you will be making a blind leap of faith that what’s said is what you get. It is practically impossible to identify the strain of a bud at face value. Not only are there thousands of different strains, and there are variations (phenotypes) in many of these strains. Hence something to consider is not only if it is the strain claimed, but whether the strain has been grown well, as this will also define the quality of the bud.
How then do you tell the quality of a bud?
Judging a bud
These are the little things on the bud that make it sticky and sparkle. Trichomes are also the part of the bud that get’s you high so the more the merrier.
- Mostly clear = Plant harvested early. Least potential for getting high.
- Mostly cloudy/milky = Plant has been harvested on time. The strongest high.
- Mostly amber = Plants have been harvested late. The high could go either way depending on how late the plant was harvested.
Many growers and smokers have their preferred balance of trichome colours. Buds with a higher ratio of clear and milky trichomes will produce a more energetic head high, whilst on the other hand, buds with mostly amber trichomes will produce a more sleepy body high. With time, you will find what works for you. A camera with a zoom/macro function or a magnifying glass makes it a lot easier to tell how ripe your bud is.
This means that the bud has no pips (seeds). The presence of pips in the bud means that the plant has had to take energy and nutrients away from the high factor in the bud and instead invested the energy and nutrients into growing the pips. Pips have no smoking value. Pipless weed is typically superior to the equivalent weed with pips.
The closest thing that I can compare curing to is the aging of wine. A well cured bud is not dry, it has a firm texture when squeezed (don’t squeeze too hard or repeatedly) and does not smell green. It should have that familiar weedy aroma and various other strain dependent fragrances such as citrus, petrol, funky cheese, fruity, etc. It gets this from being dried for a few days and then sealed in an air tight glass jar. The longer it sits unopened in the jar, the nicer it will become as natural tones, fragrances and effects of the bud maximise. Some people keep their jars sealed for years. Very hard small cured buds are known as nugs.
Leaves and twigs hold no high factor, unless they are those trichome coated ones on the bud. Judge for yourself if the little bits of leaf or twig on the bud are worth smoking.
It should take a little effort to break up a bud. If it crumbles when touched, it is because it is too dry. One of the first things to deteriorate on an overexposed bud is the THC. The high factor of crumbly bud is significantly reduced. Dry weed will burn hot and quick making for a hasty and harsh smoke.
If the bud is very moist to the touch and smells very green, it has not been sufficiently dried. A bud will lose approximately 75% of its weight from when it is harvested till it is ready to smoke, due to the excess moisture and chlorophyll contained within the bud dissipating. Wet bud will cost you more for less final smoke, smokes badly and gives more headache than high. It is also vulnerable to botrytis (aka Bud Mould). Bud Mould is a grey/black fungus that turns the bud to powder and starts off by destroying all the active ingredients. If bud mould shows up, your batch of smoke is as good as gone. Wet weed will burn slow and smoky with some smokers becoming nauseous from the overpowering green taste of the smoke.
Some growers use fertilisers and pesticides right up to harvest. This may increase the amount of weed harvested, but makes it taste kak, burn kak and potentially unhealthy. Roll a joint, smoke it and check the ash when you are done. The lighter the ash the fewer chemicals and chlorophyll that are still in or on the buds. Many growers flush their plants before harvest to leave only the best of the plant in the bud. Some strains such as Diesel have a desired petrolish fragrance, this is however desirable as it is part of the strain’s characteristics and not an indication of chemical residue. Curing usually takes care of any undesirable residual bud contents by giving the contents an opportunity to break down and dissipate.
A bud’s ultimate test of quality is in the smoking. It should meet your expectations in terms of effect and ability to be smoked via your desired method. The only question that should remain is….
How much should I be paying?
This is ultimately what it’s about. How much should I be paying? Am I being ripped off or am I one lucky bugger?
Price is typically determined by supply and demand. Sadly, unless you are exposed to multiple dealers, you will only really know what your sole dealer charges and won’t have anything to compare your local bud quality or prices against.
So the following is a Rand per 1 gram breakdown of what you can expect to pay for your bud:
Bottom of the bag stuff. Grown somewhere random and probably handled badly on its way to you. Usually lots of loose small buds packaged in bank bags, matchboxes or newspaper. Lots of pips and twigs. Low price equals low quality.
This will get you pretty much the same stuff as above, but with less pips and twigs.
Expect few to no pips. Nothing packaged in a matchbox, bankies only. Should be anywhere from an average to a good high.
This is the last stop before the top shelf stuff and usually where a lot of the bang for buck buds are. Buds should be well formed with few to no pips. Expect decent fragrances and a good to exceptional high. Usually packaged in those little bankies with the red lip.
This is high grade territory and no pips should be expected other than a very occasional one. Trichomes should be abundant and the fragrance should be hard to contain. Expect a strong high. Usually packaged in those little bankies with the red lip. I have very occasionally encountered dealers who use small glass jars instead of bankies for their high end clients.
You may come across dealers who will charge up to R300 per gram. At this price you should expect a rare strain that is of the absolute highest quality. If your dealer charges in excess of R150 per gram and the bud is less than mind warpingly spectacular, it may be time to start shopping round for a new dealer.
Next instalment – Weed 101: Storing buds