BY SARA COUGHLIN
Shopping for choice cannabis flower can be a thrilling experience, largely thanks to the obvious excitement and anticipation factor of knowing you’ll get to savor it in a freshly rolled joint or packed into your favorite piece, ASAP. But, given the wide range of options you’re likely to encounter, it can easily become overwhelming—especially if you aren’t quite sure what to look for. Here, Unity Marguerite Whittaker, curator and bloomer at Vancouver’s Village Bloomery, and Cameron Rexroat, cannabis stylist and creative director of lifestyle brand Just Another Jay, offer EMBER their expert tips on how to select the best flower available.
Follow your senses.
Both Whittaker and Rexroat name fragrance as the top characteristic to check when shopping for quality bud. The exact smell you’re looking for will vary depending on the terpenes in each individual strain and your personal preferences, but there are some scents you’re better off avoiding altogether, Whittaker explains: “The aroma can vary from strong lemon scent and earthy, woodsy notes to pungent with mix of pine and diesel; if the scent profile is dull, smells musty or like hay, these are indications that this isn’t the freshest or healthiest flower available.”
Aside from your nose, your eyes, hands, and ears can help you shop like as pro, too. Visually, Rexroat seeks out “the biggest and baddest buds I can find.” In addition to a full body, Whittaker recommends choosing flower with a “tight trim with few twigs” that sparkles a bit. She adds that, if you can examine the flower using a microscope, its trichomes should be white, opaque, and shaped like tall mushrooms.
In terms of texture, high-quality bud feels “sticky, but not wet,” Rexroat says, adding that flower should never be dry: “No one likes when you pull apart your flower to grind up and it turns into dust.“ It should be spongy, enough so that it bounces back when pressed, Whittaker says. And, if you aren’t sure whether some flower is the right amount of moist, simply perform what Whittaker calls the “snap test,” in which you break the stem and listen for a crisp snapping sound. “If the bud doesn’t snap, then the product is too moist, which isn’t ideal,” she says, which brings us to what you ought to avoid.
Watch out for these red flags.
Bud that feels too wet is a breeding ground for mildew and mold, Whittaker says. So, do a visual and sniff test if you’re concerned. On the other end of the texture spectrum, Rexroat says that dispensaries that sell flower “deli style,” where product is portioned out from a large inventory, rather than prepackaged in smaller amounts, are bound to sell weed that, due to its presentation, has dried out too much.
Both Rexroat and Whittaker note that flower with a high quantity of seeds and twigs is almost definitely going to be sub-par product. “If you have more stems and fallout than bud structure, it means the growing process wasn't properly managed or the inventory storage is not correct in the facility you are purchasing from,” Rexroat explains.
Ask plenty of questions.
Don’t be shy when you arrive at your local MedMen. Come armed with questions, and be ready to chat up your budtender, Rexroat says. He recommends asking for any educational material they have available on-site, whether tax is included in the price, and whether they offer any sorts of deals or discounts. Whittaker says to ask about the cannabinoid and terpene content of the flower you’re eyeing, plus what flower was most recently harvested. And, although budtenders can’t provide recommendations from a medical standpoint, it can be helpful to ask staff members about their favorite strains.
Be prepared to learn.
Whether it’s your first or 50th time shopping for flower, keep an open mind—and don’t be surprised if you come away having learned a little more about cannabis in general, and even your personal priorities when it comes to consumption. Whittaker says to stay curious, take a gradual approach, and welcome opportunities to experiment. Most importantly, find a way to track your experiences at the dispensary, so that you know how to prepare for your next shopping trip. “Keep a journal and take your journey at a comfortable pace,” Rexroat says. “No one expects anyone to be a ‘canna-sseur’ right away.”