Cannabis Critiquing 101: What Makes One Strain Better than Another?

By Joel Campbell | May 17, 2017

Variety is the spice of life and when it comes to cannabis, there is certainly no shortage of diversity. From purple plants and green limbs to potent extracts and concentrates, there is more to the ganja game today than ever before. Whether you’re new to the cannabis world or a seasoned marijuana master, trying to decipher what it is that makes a strain “better” than another can leave your head spinning.

The good news is you don’t have to be a cannabis sommelier to figure out what’s good and what’s not. As a professional strain critic, I can tell you that it all boils down to just four categories: terpenoids (smell), flavonoids (taste), appearance, and effects. If a strain strikes out in one of these categories, it’s not the end of the world as long as one or more of the others picks up the slack.

Pride in appearance


Always start the process of “weeding out” great versus good by embracing your superficiality. Just like the dating scene, appearances matter when it comes to finding that special green companion.

Ask your budtender to bust out the goods and look for the following things when first selecting your buds: trichome coverage (does it sparkle and look like it’s been rolled in sugar?), vibrance (emerald green foliage, hints of deep purple, etc.), and make sure there are absolutely no signs of mold, fungus, chemical burn or spider mites. Dispensaries are extremely adept at weeding out these issues before they ever offer them for sale, but it’s up to you to be the second set of eyes.

If it passes the first test, move on to the next.

Can’t you smell that smell?


For me to even consider a strain as the best of the best, it has to stink like a dead skunk on Willie Nelson’s tour bus. Okay, maybe not that extreme, but I think you know what I mean. If you’re blindfolded and offered one strain that smells like a clump of wet grass and another that reeks like blueberries and diesel, which one are you more likely to choose?


Although it’s not always a deal-breaker for me, often the stinkiest buds are the ones that catch my attention and get me excited to light that tree on fire. Without those nostril-arousing terpenes, you’ve already lost major points in my book that can be near-impossible to get back.

Hit me right in the feels!


Flavors often go hand-in-hand with effects whether it’s a flower, edible, or a concentrate. You really don’t know what it’s going to taste like until you put it in your body. I consider taste to be the least decisive factor for me, but it’s certainly a bonus category if on point.

The last, and perhaps most important detail when critiquing cannabis, are its effects. Really, it’s all about how it makes you feel. Any strain can look and smell great, but if you have to smoke a brick-load just to get a slight buzz, that strain belongs back in the ‘70s with your parents’ stories. Top-tier cannabis won’t take much to get you where you want to go, whether it’s a racy head high or body-numbing indica.

Joel Campbell

Joel Campbell is a Denver native wordsmith, a world wanderer and connoisseur of all things trending.

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