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The Fragrance of Marijuana Before and After Consumption

Marijuana is the dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant. Cannabis has psychoactive and medicinal properties because of its chemical makeup.

Marijuana can be rolled up in a handmade cigarette (a joint), in a cigar, or in a pipe (a bong). It can be used for pain relief, to treat anxiety, or for recreation.

In many states, the sale and use of marijuana without a prescription is still illegal.

You can usually tell if someone has been smoking marijuana by detecting the scent of piney, slightly skunky grass that smoked cannabis leaves behind.

But figuring out for sure if what you’re smelling is weed can be a little difficult if you aren’t attuned to the scent. Various strains of marijuana can smell different from each other, making it even more complicated.

This article will cover what marijuana smells like in different stages of its use and consumption, as well as some differences between strains.

The strongest factor in the way marijuana smells is the age of the cannabis plant when it’s harvested. Cannabis that’s harvested earlier in its life cycles has a milder, less skunky scent.

It’s also less powerful when you smoke it. Cannabis that grows older before it’s picked and dried will have a stronger odor.

Organic compounds called terpenes are found in all plants, including cannabis. Myrcene (mango), pinene (pine), and limonene (lemon) are terpenes found in some strains of cannabis.

Terpenes change the scent of marijuana. For example, cannabis strains with pinene will smell more like pine.

Marijuana plants smell similar during the growing process and when they’re harvested and dried. They give off a slightly weedy, piney “skunk” scent that gets stronger as the plant grows older.

When cannabis flowers and blooms, the scent becomes powerful.

Indica vs. sativa

For decades, botanists and marijuana connoisseurs claimed that indica and sativa are different species with distinctly different effects on the body. Indica strain smells more acrid, while sativa smells more spicy or sweet.

But it would appear, at least to some experts, that there’s no way to smell the difference between indica and sativa definitively. Part of the reason is that there’s a lot of crossbreeding between these two particular strains.

However, one small study did find that participants who had purchased weed within the prior several months were able to smell the difference between several different strains of marijuana.

Marijuana consumers describe the scent of the plant as earthy, herbal, and woody. Sometimes the plant scent carries notes of lemon, apple, diesel, or plum.

Dried marijuana smells a lot stronger than some other dried plants.

When you’re smoking marijuana, the natural scent of the cannabis scent is amplified by the smoke it creates. Fire, smoke itself, ash, and the smell of rolling paper add additional layers to the scent.

When a person is smoking cannabis, notes of lemongrass, pine, fire, and wood may stand out. The distinct “skunk” smell of marijuana is often reported.

Learn about what gives marijuana its distinctly "skunky," strong odor, and how marijuana smells in plant form, when it's smoked, and more.

Terpenes and Terpenoids: The real cause of smelly, stinky cannabis

The smell and scent of cannabis buds is produced by plant chemicals known as “terpenes” and “terpenoids.”

Examples of different terpenes – this diagram shows their chemical structure

Terpenes are produced by many types of trees, plants and flowers as part of their essential oils. Vitamin A is an example of a complex terpene that we’re all familiar with. The aroma and flavor of hops (which is considered highly desirable in some beers) also comes from the presence of terpenes.

Terpenoids are closely related to terpenes (some authors refer to both types of organic compound as just “terpenes”) and are naturally found in all classes of living things. Terpenoids are created with terpenes are denatured by forces like oxidation. So for example, the process of drying and curing your buds will convert many of the terpenes into terpenoids.

Terpenoids are a big part of what makes up the the scent of most flowers, as well as the flavors of many household spices like cinnamon, rosemary, cloves and ginger.

The unique combination of terpenes and terpenoids produced in cannabis buds cause most of their odor and flavor as well.

Terpenes and terpenoids may or may not actually affect cannabis potency. We know that these organic compounds are responsible for the taste and smell that is unique to individual strains. However, there are many growers who believe that terpenes and terpenoids can actually modify the effect of THC on your body, possibly making a smaller amount of THC feel more potent. More studies are needed, but if this is true than the terpene and terpenoid content may actually even affect the perceived potency of your buds, too.

Regardless of exactly how it works, I believe that the combination of cannabinoids, terpenes and terpenoids found in cannabis buds cause an “entourage effect,” which means that the impact of whole cannabis buds may be greater than the sum of its parts (which may explain why so many people seem to get better results from using complete cannabis oil as opposed to a synthetic version of pure THC like the drug “Marinol”). Many growers believe that the presence of terpenoids may buffer the effects of THC to actually prevent unwanted side effects (like paranoia or anxiety) from occurring.

In any case, each cannabis plant will tend to produce different levels of different terpenes and terpenoids, and this is what gives buds a specific taste and smell.

Terpenes & Terepenoids play a big role in how cannabis buds smell

Picking the right strain will play a big role in your final terpene content in your buds, but there are also many steps you can take as a grower to produce buds that smell the way you want.

Note: Many cannabis “concentrates” like BHO (butane hash oil) actually do not contain high levels of terpenes and terpenoids. In fact, any extraction method that involves heating the plant matter will burn off many terpenes and terpenoids (which evaporate into the air at a lower temperature than THC). This is why many concentrates don’t have a strong or distinctive “cannabis” smell or flavor, even though they were derived directly from cannabis buds. It may also partially explain why different types of concentrates have different effects even if they are derived from the same buds.

Extraction methods which do not involve heating the plant will likely contain higher levels of terpenes and terpenoids, and therefore may display different therapeutic effects.

The link below will teach you how to alter the terpene and terpenoid content of your cannabis plants during the growing process, improving the final taste and smell of your buds.

Learn how growers can increase the terpene and terpenoid content of their growing cannabis buds!

How do "terpenes" and "terpenoids" affect the taste and smell of your cannabis buds? ]]>