If there is one thing I know anything about, it's pot. I live for pot; it's the reason I get up in the morning, and it's the reason I don't blow my brains out every night. Over the course of the last few years, I have come in contact with literally thousands of different strains and varieties. There are different colors, different sizes, different smells and even different shapes of marijuana, and I love them all. This being said, I wasn't always a connoisseur of cannabis; there was a time when I couldn't tell you the difference between weed and oregano. Thinking back to those days, I would have saved a lot of money and time had I known what to look for in quality marijuana. Thus, I've decided to pass on my years of experience and research to less hardcore smokers in the form of this write-up, so they too might benefit from all the weed I've smoked.
I'd like to start off by saying not everyone is going to have the opportunity to smoke really fine herb. This is because it simply isn't available in certain locations. In rural areas like West Virginia and Nebraska you'll find mostly shitty weed. Generally, you need to go to a big city to get good buds, but even if you are in a big city there's still no guarantee you'll be able to get the real fuego. The fact of the matter is marijuana is still illegal in the United States (except for California and a handful of other medical marijuana states), so it's all about the people you know. As a basic rule, the best buds come out of California, Florida and Texas, so the closer you are to these three states the better off you will be in terms of pot quality.
Before I get into the details, I'd like to define "quality marijuana" as marijuana that has a high THC content and smokes well. There are several contributing factors that affect the quality of any given sample of marijuana. Good buds come from healthy plants. Healthy plants are grown properly. Thus the quality of said sample of marijuana is largely determined by the skill level of whoever is growing it. Sure, some strains are better than others and some seeds of a certain strain are better than other seeds of the same strain, but the bulk of the responsibility for the fireness of a certain sample of bud rests with the grower. Marijuana is quite a resilient plant, and can survive some pretty harsh conditions, but to grow really fire buds marijuana plants need lots of light, water, carbon dioxide and a host of other trace minerals including Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus and many others. Because this write-up isn't about growing pot, I won't get into how to grow great pot, but it's a bit more complicated than throwing some seeds in the ground and watering them.
There are two different kinds of marijuana plants: Indica and Sativa. Most strains today are some kind of hybrid of the two. Indica buds give you more of a body high while Sativa buds give you a cognitive, head high. Indica will numb your pain while allowing you to function pretty much normally, while good Sativa will take you to another planet mentally. Sativa favored hybrids are generally the most common type of quality bud available today, but as I mentioned above, any seed can produce quality bud if grown properly. Regs and Mid-grade buds are usually Indica strains grown by amateurs or grown outdoors.
Basically, the quality of any bud can be determined by how it looks, how it smells, and how it feels.
Good buds clearly look like good buds. Marijuana buds shouldn't look dried up and "dirty", they should instead look bright and almost shiny. Buds that are covered in tiny crystals (called Trichomes) are pretty much guaranteed to be pretty decent buds, because trichomes only grow on the healthiest plants. Just because your bud isn't covered in crystals doesn't mean it's not good though; growers that use High Pressure Sodium lights rarely ever get trichomes, yet High Pressure Sodium lights can produce some truly amazing cannabis. Another thing to look for when investigating the quality of a sample of pot is the color. Light greens are good, darker forest greens are generally not good. There are exceptions, but this is the commonly accepted rule of thumb. Also, make sure your bud isn't covered in leaves, because leaves don't get you high. A lot of growers don't trim their plants right and leave them covered in leaves so as to add weight and make more money. If you get a bag with really leafy buds, beware. The presence of hairs can also indicate the quality of your bud. Brown or orange hairs on the outside of your buds are generally good hairs and indicate very high quality marijuana. However, if you break open a bud and see a lot of small white hairs that look underdeveloped, you're dealing with immature buds. This is another grower trick. Some growers will harvest their plants before the buds have fully matured so the buds are fluffier and heavier (because of all the hairs which are essentially undeveloped bud). High quality marijuana comes in really dense buds, while the fluffier stuff is usually less potent (although it might look a little prettier). So to sum up, when looking at good bud you should expect to see light colored, densely packed buds perhaps covered in crystals, with orange or brown hairs on the outside with practically no leaf left untrimmed.
The smell, or dankness of a sample of pot is generally a dead giveaway of how good it is. Good bud will REEK! Marijuana can smell like a host of things - anything from skunks and bird shit to blueberries and candy. Lower quality weed will sometimes smell like a freshly mowed lawn, or a leafy bush. This is because bad weed is usually not dried out properly and is still covered in chlorophyll, which gives it that "grassy" smell. Good weed will stink up everything you put it near. If you ever get a hold of some really fire shit, you'll know the second you enter a confined space. If you're smelling a tiny bag in your pocket on your drive home, get excited because you're bud is probably pretty decent. The stronger the smell, the better the bud.
If your bud looks good and smells good, it's probably good. If you're still not sure, take a little nug and squeeze it between your index finger and thumb. Like I said above, dense buds are good buds, so it should be solid like a rock. If the nug compresses when you squeeze it, break it up. Check the inside for underdeveloped hairs or trichomes. As long as there are no undeveloped hairs, fluffy bud can still be good at times, so just because your nug isn't as hard as it could be doesn't mean you should pass on it. Take a closer look, smell it and make an informed decision. Avoid handling bud as much as you can, because if there are trichomes you don't want to rub them off. Quality bud is really sticky. If your bud is a pain in the ass to break up by hand for a blunt, it's probably good. Dry, hard buds are never good, so don't waste your money.
So that's it: if your bud looks good, smells good and feels nice and sticky you've probably got yourself a pretty good crop. There's a couple of other things to keep in mind when determining the quality of bud. First, check for seeds and big stems. Stems can be heavy, and if there's a lot of big stems in your bag you're probably getting shorted out of a bit of bud. Seeds are awful to smoke and give you headaches. The presence of lots of seeds is a surefire sign of bad weed grown by an idiot farmer. However, even the good shit is bound to have one or two seeds if you buy in large amounts. Secondly, never believe your drug dealer. I've seen people do some really crazy things to plants to make them produce purple buds or white buds, and most of that stuff is bullshit. If you're dealer tells you you're getting any kind of haze, check for trichomes. Any kind of haze (silver, purple, etc) will be COVERED in huge trichomes, and if it isn't don't bother buying it because you're getting scammed. Some people put food coloring in the water they feed the plants to make them turn purple, so don't be fooled by a shitty purple bud. A good rule to follow when dealing with drug dealers is "NEVER believe a drug dealer". It's simple, but efficient. Always make your own decisions regarding the quality of any bud. Avoid the bullshit.