What does marijuana smell like? Everything you need to know.

all about the smell of marijuana

Published on: 14/11/2022

Marijuana aromas: how to distinguish the good ones from the ‘bad’ ones

If you are a newcomer to the world of cannabis, you might be wondering what buds smell like.

And indeed, knowing the various aromas is crucial to understanding whether the product you have purchased is of good or bad quality.

This is why this article will look at the possible cannabis aromas you might perceive when smelling buds.

Do you already have the impression that this article is for you?

Let’s get started!

what cannabis smells like

How to sniff cannabis buds (without damaging them)

The best way to smell the various aromas of a cannabis flower is to take an already dried bud in your hands, squeeze it lightly and smell it.

That’s right, nothing more.

However, one must be cautious when deciding to do this because squeezing causes the release of terpenes and gases, a practice that seriously damages trichomes.

At this point, however, you might be wondering why we have recommended smelling a bud that is already dried and not in full bloom.

The reason is simple: touching the flowering plant would risk transmitting bacteria to it, which could lead to mould and fungus.

In short, an absolute disaster.

Read also: How to open a cannabis social club in Italy: is it possible?

The primary aromas of marijuana (that you might not have known)

The adjectives used to describe cannabis often include: musky, spicy, woody, peppery, citrusy and tropical.

These aromas tend to be related to the terpene profiles of the weed varieties.

Some of the most common terpenes found in cannabis can make the herb smell like the following aromas:

  • Myrcene: earthy, musky and herbaceous aromas comparable to mango or thyme;
  • Caryophyllene: woody, peppery, clove-like aromas;
  • Α-humulene: earthy tones with spicy notes similar to those of beer;
  • Α-pinene: pine needles, rosemary, and basil;
  • Limonene: lemon notes, like citrus peel;
  • Linalool: floral fragrance also present in lavender and rosewood.

Other aromas that stand out in good weed are thiols, derivatives of sulphur produced naturally by the cannabis plant.

These pungent compounds are excellent antioxidants in garlic, natural gas and onions.

At this point, one has to ask: what does the scent of a strain reveal?

You should know that different strains boast their terpene profiles, and smell can offer subtle clues to the effects of each.

Which is?

While cannabinoids substantially impact the mind and body, terpenes are also responsible for some effects of cannabis. For example, sugary-smelling marijuana is likely to contain higher concentrations of limonene, clinically shown to increase mood and serotonin levels and reduce anxiety.

But there’s more.

A 2018 study published in Plos One asked participants to characterize eleven different strains of cannabis through sniffed samples. None of the participants had been trained in the sensory description, but almost all were cannabis users. The researchers found that participants were able to discriminate between the eleven strains consistently and that they formed groupings based on their similarity of smell:

  1. group A included weeds that had an earthy, woody and herbaceous odour;
  2. group B referred to cannabis with citrus, lemon and sweet notes.

Participants were more likely to associate the citrus/lemon/sweet group with higher potency and quality. This perception, however, bore no relation to THC content, as the latter is odourless.

cannabis odour

Unfavourable odours of cannabis: here are what they are

When it comes to cannabis, you must remember that there are smells and odours.

This means that if you perceive any of the ones we are about to list, it means that the marijuana you have bought has lost its quality:

  • sweat or urine: although some strains may have an aroma slightly reminiscent of ammonia, if you perceive a forceful smell, it means that the product has been attacked by mould or fungus;
  • burnt hair: beware of this smell. It is a likely symptom of the use of chemicals used to cultivate the plant;
  • the smell of freshly cut grass equals low-quality grass: this smell is, in fact, due to the gases released during the decomposition of chlorophyll.

Often these odours are due to poor storage, which is why it is essential to always buy from certified and authorized dealers.

Read also: Cannabis FM2: what you need to know about this medical marijuana strain


This article has tried to give an overview of the possible odours you might perceive when smelling cannabis.

As you will have read, one must be very cautious during this process and, above all, only sniff buds that are already dried, to avoid damaging the growing plant.

If, however, you should detect negative odours like the ones we listed above, it is very likely that the product has been poorly stored or is of low quality.