If you’re newer to the cannabis game then one of the most confusing things might be cannabis valuation. Why is some weed cheaper? What makes weed more expensive? What gives with all these strain names? What do they mean?! These are just a few of the pressing questions you probably have about all the selection of cannabis products available at your favorite dispensary. For most people, price is all that matters. For others, quality & potency are what factor into their purchasing decisions. Differences between premium and cheap weed are a combination of quality, potency, genetics, production or processing that determines the pricing.
Thankfully, there is already an established grading system for rating mids vs high bud: the A to AAAA+ system. You might have noticed these “A” grades on cannabis before, but do you know what they mean? Here’s a summary of the A-grading system for cannabis products:
A Grade: This stuff is not meant for trophy cases or displays. A grade cannabis is more like shake filler than it is meant to be smoked/consumed on its own. Many dispensaries sell A grade cannabis for the purposes of bulk/wholesale filler because this trim is simply lacking flavor, aroma and is often lower in potency. You get what you pay for when you buy A-grade buds – the price is very favorable, but that’s about all that’s positive about the lowest tier of cannabis.
AA Grade: “Dubs”, the AA grade of cannabis might be on the lower end of the weed spectrum but it’s still a popular category for value + basic standards for quality. AA buds are typically equal in value/quality to most homegrown cannabis, so it’s not going to wow you with new flavors, aromas, or high effects. That being said, “dubs” are very popular as an introductory option. AA grade cannabis is very consistent in potency, and while they won’t rock your world with their overall smoke experience, “dubs” weed is reliable, affordable and is miles above the filler-shake of A-grade.
AAA Grade: The official “mid grade” of weed, “Trips” or AAA grade cannabis has a lot to offer both greenhorn smokers and seasoned stoners. AAA was the top quality buds you could get in decades past, but with modern technology and growing techniques this has now become the benchmark for mid-grade quality, consistency, potency, and cost. Next to “dubs”, “trips” is one of the most popular grades of cannabis that people are smoking/consuming. Higher CBD + THC potencies are common, but the finer points of aromatic quality, complex flavors and visual appeal are not quite there. “Trips” is probably the best “bang for your bud”, which is why it’s become the most commonly purchased grade of weed today.
AAAA Grade: When you purchase “Quads” cannabis you’re finally tapping into the upper echelon of what weed can be in this country. AAAA cannabis is the highest tier offered for many dispensaries – only a select few have the privilege of selling AAAA+ or 5A cannabis. “Quads” weed looks incredible with vibrant coloration, it smells pungent and offers numerous aromas, and its flavors are rivaled only by its myriad of mind & body effects. AAAA grade cannabis are high in cannabinoids, terpenes, trichomes, bud size & density, and overall aesthetics. “Quads” is the first of what is considered “premium weed”, so you’re definitely paying higher prices for this high-quality bud. Many beginner-intermediate stoners only purchase this grade of weed for special occasions, but once you’ve gotten used to the differences between premium and cheap weed you might find it hard to settle for anything less than the best.
AAAA+ Grade: “5A” or AAAA+ weed is almost too beautiful, too robust and too mind-melting to put into words. Imagine the finest whiskey, the most legendary wine, or the highest-shelf vodka you can… none of these are even on the same planet as AAAA+ cannabis, let alone the same shelf. When you pay the premium price for this premium weed, you’re getting the utmost in flavors, aromas, terpenes, cannabinoids, and visual qualities that can be achieved in cannabis cultivation. 5A buds are often highly coveted and almost a mystery in their genetics or cultivation process because of how highly valued these flowers are. The most insane potencies, flavor & aromatic complexities, and the best dank experience you’ll ever have can be found in this category of truly top-tier weed.
Now that we’ve explained the grading system for weed, it’s time to introduce some of the characteristics of what makes cannabis low, mid or high quality. The differences between premium and cheap weed aren’t exactly the same in every country/region, but generally speaking these categories are accepted among the global cannabis community.
Premium Pot: What Makes Weed More Expensive?
Whenever you’re wondering why some weed is cheaper than others, and what makes other weed so expensive, you might assume it has to do with the exclusivity of a certain strain. Genetics are definitely one of the most prominent reasons why some cannabis is considered a higher quality bud than others, but that’s not all there is to it.
Characteristics like coloration, texture, aroma, flavor, density, potency, trichomes, terpenes and cannabinoids all factor into the valuation of any particular cannabis strain. This is a lot to take in at first glance, so let’s summarize the main takeaways for each of these defining qualities for premium grade cannabis:
Aesthetics: Premium weed, dank dro, top-shelf buds, or whatever you want to call the best cannabis will always look as good as it tastes/smells/smokes. Premium quality weed is sticky with bud sugars, vibrant and multicolored, dense/thick to the touch, and noticeably hairy. If your buds are drenched in trichomes and they emit pungent, complex aromas then you can expect to get your money’s worth, and then some.
Aromas/Flavors: The reason you’re probably after this kind of top-choice cannabis is likely for the incredible sensory experience this tier of buds can offer. Unparalleled bouquets of flavors, aromas and lingering sensations truly raise these buds above all others, which is often what you’re paying for. Powerful aromas of pine, spice, zest, fuel, berries, skunk, citrus and more associate with these top-tier strains and their potent terpene profiles. In the same vein, a strong combination of these flavors will soothe your tastebuds and maybe even overwhelm your psyche are what we’re after with these premium buds.
Potency: The best buds are almost always the most potent as well. THC, CBD, CBG, CBN or a variety of terpene profiles will raise the value of weed, especially if said potencies are complimented by top-notch appearance or smells/tastes. The higher the cannabinoid contents, the higher the price. It’s simple, but it also makes a lot of sense.
Effects: This is where some mid grade cannabis strains can make up some ground, but generally speaking the high you feel, the duration of the effects and how consistent they are what make weed more expensive. The difference between premium and cheap weed isn’t just the tastes & smells, it’s all about the highs (or lows). Long-lasting effects that come in many varieties – i.e. uplifting, enervating, creativity boosting, chilling, relaxing, etc – can really up the price of your weed, and rightly so. The best buds will often be the most potent, but they’ll also have the most comprehensive profile of feelings, effects and associative highs.
Low Grade: Why Is Some Weed Cheaper?
We’ve talked a lot about the divides between mids vs high quality buds, but what about the lower tier of dope? Many newbie stoners wonder why some weed is cheaper when it tastes fine or gets them high enough to be satisfied. There’s nothing wrong with investing your dollars in low-mid grade dro, it’s completely up to you and your budget. Let’s analyze some of the reasons why some pot is considered to be lower quality so that you can decide if these differences between premium and cheap weed are enough to convince you to invest more bucks for higher quality buds.
Aesthetics: Cheaper cannabis doesn’t necessarily look like burnt, sour shake – sometimes a low or mid grade cannabis strain will still be verdant green, feel dense or even be coated in a decent amount of trichomes. That being said, these strains almost always lack that “fire” or true “wow” factor. Less colors in more muted tones, weaker plant fibers or reduced crispness/increased dampness.
Aromas/Flavors: This is where lower quality weed really loses many fans. Drastically diminished smells, tastes and an overall reduced sensory experiences are one of the main reasons why buds are priced/graded lower. Cheaper stuff doesn’t have the powerful aromas, the potent & lingering flavors that premium weed does. Oftentimes cheaper weed is smelly or overly skunky, and when you smoke it the ash or smoke will be dirty and doesn’t leave you with good aftertastes.
Potency: Like with their reduced flavors/aromas, cheaper weed is likely to be lower in the THC/CBD department. A simple cannabinoid count or bland terpene profile doesn’t make for a consistent or potent high, so the price will reflect these lower cannabinoid/terpene values. In many instances, you really are paying for the THC/CBD contents of a certain strain more so than anything else. In these cases, the lower grade weed will be weaker, more bland and less of a memorable experience.
Effects: We know that the high effects you feel are a major part of what makes weed more expensive, so it’s natural that the weaker cannabis is cheaper. If you don’t feel strong effects like energy, creativity, mood or imagination boosts then you’re probably not going to smoke that stuff again. Stoners are after particular effects, so if these experiences are weak or diminished then the asking price will plummet. Nobody expects much from a cheap shake or filler bud, so this category makes sense to most people. That being said, if somebody has a lower tolerance to THC then they might feel a lot more from these cheaper strains. So, for many beginners the cheaper weed is just fine – they’re getting a good price, and they still get messed up, have fun or feel relaxed enough to enjoy the overall experience.
Low, Mids & High Buds
How cannabis affects you might not match the prices you’re paying because everybody can be influenced differently by different kinds of cannabis. Some people have lower tolerance and others need ultra-potent pot to feel high. For that matter, many stoners are after different kinds of high, so it’s impossible to price weed based on how it impacts each individual person. Still, cannabis cultivators, processors and sellers do an excellent job of producing incredible qualities in their buds.
This ever-evolving industry has a lot of different types of weed for a lot of variable prices, so there’s no shortage of selection for its ever-expanding customer base. The next time you go shopping for weed, keep these factors in mind and always try new strains, new products and different potencies. Our cannabis journeys are about finding happiness, improving your quality of life and supporting good health, so make sure your buying behaviors & budgets shift along the way.
Good luck, happy bud hunting, and keep trying new kinds of cannabis!