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Wednesday February 22, 2017

By Michael Walters


It's a scenario that many stoners have experienced. The occurrence we're referring to, of course, is the timeless question of "what do you think of this cannabis?" It's an easy approach to starting up a conversation with your sesh-mates and is almost guaranteed to provoke a discussion of differing viewpoints and opinions. While casual conversation about marijuana flower evaluation can be fun, it lacks a certain objectivity that is becoming more and more necessary in the developing cannabis industry.

There are countless marijuana strains available across the U.S., and more are being created, bred and dispensed on a daily basis. In order to break away from stereotypes and become a legitimate scientific presence, the cannabis industry must begin distancing itself from poorly worded marijuana reviews and phrases like "this smells like the munchies" and start describing marijuana products with an organized and purpose-driven approach.

Getting Started with Your Marijuana Strain Review

First things first, before you begin reviewing a strain, be sure to have a plan of attack. Going into a strain review unorganized will more than likely result in a fun experience, but after a few hits you may lose sight of your goals and end up with less than ideal results. That's why we suggest preparing a notebook beforehand with all of the information you would like to capture, as well as a simple rubric for grading. A general scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is an easy way to stay consistent and organized across multiple strains. There's really no defined method for writing a marijuana strain review, however, we recommend sticking to four basic staples of analysis, outlined in the following sections.


The appearance of the flower, although not the most important factor, is definitely a characteristic to take note of. While you should try not to judge a book by its cover, it's a little difficult with cannabis due to the fact many people associate the quality of flower by its looks. With that being said, as in life, looks are not everything. Yes, great looking cannabis can result in an amazing experience when consumed, but careful not to be fooled, there are many perfect looking nugs that fall short in other categories like flavor, aroma and effect.

When rating the appearance of a strain, always be sure to look for a few staples of quality cultivation and craftsmanship. First, evaluate the structure of the bud. The nug should not be too wet or too dry and depending on species (indica or sativa) should be fairly dense. Buds that are airy in structure are known as "larf" and are not desirable for consumption. Sure, you could smoke larfy bud, but since we're discussing how to evaluate flower quality and write an accurate marijuana strain review, it's best to stick with high standards (no pun intended).

Another important aspect to consider when grading appearance is the quality of the manicure. Well-manicured buds typically have all fan and sugar leaves removed, resulting in a very clean and appealing appearance. Depending on the trichome coverage of the sugar leaves, a trimmer may have left some of them on the bud. While the high-trichome density is definitely good for effect, the sugar leaves may create a slightly harsher hit when consumed.

Example of well-trimmed bud vs. one with some sugar leaves left on

Example of well-trimmed bud vs. one with some sugar leaves left on


When it comes to a marijuana strain review, aroma usually plays a pretty crucial factor. However, it is also a fairly subjective characteristic of marijuana. Everyone has different olfactory preferences, making the most desirable cannabis smell rather hard to define. While we can't tell you what the best smell is, we can recommend the most effective way to evaluate it.

To properly grade the smell of a particular cannabis strain, first take note on an un-ground nug. Hold it close to your nose and inhale slowly and deeply to take in its aromatic properties. Some buds smell stronger than others but generally, a stronger smell is more desirable to most people. A strong smell indicates a high terpene content in the flower. Terpenes not only influence the smell and flavor of cannabis but also the psychoactive effects felt after consumption. This is known as the entourage effect and can compliment your high in a pleasant manner.

The next step in aroma evaluation is grading the post-grind smell. If you have a grinder, use it to break down your flower. You can do this step by hand, but a grinder will produce the most robust experience. After the flower is ground-up, repeat the process of slowly taking in the smell. You'll want to focus on the intensity of the aroma, as well as the differences between its ground and un-ground properties. A flower will usually smell stronger after it has been ground-up, so be thorough when taking note.

Once you have judged both the ground and un-ground properties, combine your notes on the two into an overall statement of aroma. The score will, of course, differ based on preference, but sticking to a thorough approach will result in a well-justified and consistent observation.


After all that analyzing and observing in the appearance and aroma sections, we're sure you're ready to light up and get to the fun part. Well, we have good news for you, it's time to smoke! Like aroma, flavor is highly preferential and the evaluation will depend on the individual. With that being said, focus in on these qualities to keep your credibility in check. Pack one or roll one up and take your first hit. Don't rush the process and try to take in the hit slowly. Taste the smoke as it enters your mouth and moves into your lungs. Take note of the flavor as you're inhaling, as well as the flavor during the exhale. After the first taste, compare the flavor to the aroma of the flower. The flavor of quality bud should not only resemble the smell but also provide deeper insight into the terpene profile of the flower.

Comment on everything you taste, as well as the intensity of any particular flavors. Cannabis strains can have many different flavor traits, so try to capture and describe each one individually to allow anyone reading your review to understand the specific experience you are describing.


Arguably the most important aspect, the final characteristic of a quality marijuana strain review is the effect. While you may be slightly stoned during this section, try to keep your eyes on the prize. Accurately detailing effect is critical to completing your review and providing meaningful commentary on a particular strain. If you aren't feeling any effects just yet, try taking a few more tokes of your flower and waiting a few minutes for the psychoactive properties to kick in. When the effects start to noticeably take hold, take a few more minutes to fully immerse yourself into the experience. Using your enhanced creativity, take into consideration everything you are feeling and how it relates to your interactions both with your own body and the world around you. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Describing the way the cannabis makes your mind and body feel is a great way to get your point across. Relate the effects you are feeling to the type of flower you have consumed. If you are writing a review for an indica, keep in mind how this strain relates to indicas in general, as well as ways it may stray from a traditional indica high. Comparisons help an audience understand where you're coming from, allowing them to more vividly picture and imagine the effects you are describing. Attention to detail in the effects portion of a review is instrumental to the overall quality and helpfulness from a reader's perspective. Don't be afraid to take an in-depth approach; the more detail the better!

What Now?

So you've completed your very first strain review. You may be thinking to yourself, "Where can I publish this for everyone to see?" PotGuide has you covered. As you may already know, PotGuide has one of the most comprehensive strain profile databases on the web, and we want YOUR input!

Review strains and upload your own photos with ease on PotGuide

Review strains and upload your own photos with ease on PotGuide

Our brand new strain review system is live, meaning PotGuide users are now able to write reviews and upload their own images to any one strain in our extensive collection. Now you can be the expert and tell the world about your favorite strains.

So what are you waiting for? You now have the tools to create awesome reviews, get out there and start making your mark on the cannabis community!


Michael Walters Michael Walters

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a degree in Writing and Rhetoric, Michael started his journey in the cannabis industry managing content, communications, and technical writing for one of Colorado's largest dispensary chains. In 2016, Michael pivoted to the ancillary sector to become PotGuide's Content Manager and was responsible for overseeing all of PotGuideā€™s editorial endeavors and content marketing strategies. Now, Michael is PotGuide's Director of Content & Marketing, focusing his efforts toward new educational content and exciting media endeavors.

With a life-long passion for cannabis knowledge and education, Michael devoted himself to becoming a subject matter expert on marijuana at an early age. Now, Michael has worked in the marijuana industry for over four years helping break down negative stigma and promoting safe cannabis practices. An avid consumer himself, Michael has worked tirelessly to improve content marketing strategies for cannabis businesses and is devoted to creating meaningful content that is useful to a wide variety of marijuana consumers. Follow Michael on LinkedIn and Instagram for updates and insights.

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