Can you gauge the quality of marijuana by the color of its ash?

Published Apr 12, 2019 12:06 p.m. ET
Myth or fact?

There has been a lot of debate over the validity of the claims that marijuana enthusiasts all over the world have made. Cannabis has been a relatively misunderstood plant until recently leaving a great deal of misinformation which may interfere with a consumer’s experience, or opinions. One of the oldest tales says that you can tell the quality and impurity of a marijuana plant by looking at the ashes as it burns. We decided to look a little bit into where the idea came from, and what sort of results you should expect when performing the same type of experiment at home.

Where did this idea come from?

Though it is almost impossible to track the very first time that ash was used as an indicator of quality, it is thought to have stemmed from an entirely different industry. Cigar quality is often judged by its color, and the fact that it’s written on the website of the Cigar Association of America is a good indicator of where the idea began. It is believed that Cuban cigars, when they were prohibited from the legal US market, were being sold on the black market, and that a white ash color was the primary indicator of a real Cuban vs.a fake.

What is the premise of this information?

Many cannabis experts have sworn that the best way to tell if a harvest has been flushed properly is by viewing the color of the ash it produced. Dark ash is believed to mean the presence of harmful pesticides which indicates a lack of flushing from the grower. Lighter ash is viewed as pure, clean, and high quality.

The debate

The problem with this idea is that many cannabis growers will find themselves on different sides of the argument based on whatever they were taught. However, studies have shown absolutely no validity to the idea of flushing a marijuana plant being effective. Though extra water can help to process the built-up fertilizers a little faster, a flushing period is not necessary. A complete stop of additional fertilizers 2-3 weeks before harvest is four times more effective.

The truth

Since this debate has gone on since long before legalization, there is plenty of evidence to show that the idea that ash has anything to do with the quality or cleanliness of a product. As a matter of fact,it seems the only true consistent contributor to how marijuana ash might appear is the moisture content that remains after the curing process. More moisture will always end up several shades darker than a dryer one, but the terpenes, cannabinoids, and other plant information is impossible to tell using this method.

Other ways to judge cannabis quality

If this was your go to method for deciding on the quality of your product than don’t feel too discouraged. There are other ways that you can tell if there are impurities or a lack of terpenes and cannabinoids within a cannabis bud.

1. By eye- One of the primary ways most cannabis consumers are able to form an opinion on a product is by performing a sort of visual inspection. A fully mature plant that will have reached its peak of cannabinoid content will be covered in a light dusting of crystals. Though this won’t tell you how potent a bud is, it can give you an idea of how rushed the growing process of a particular licensed grower might be. If there are any sticky substances beyond the normalresin, then there may be a treatment that has been applied to the bud for flavor, weight, or potency.

2. Microscope- A 100 x or more microscope is the best possible investment you can make if you have the ability to. The cannabinoids and terpenes within a marijuana plant are not easily seen or counted with a naked eye, but you can get a fairly good idea of a plants production and potency based on a few specific things. The first is a clear, opaque, or amber substance that appears to be a liquid covering the bud. The more of this you see, the more potent a weed strain is liable to be. If the fluid appears darker or more difficult to see through than the effects of ingesting the plant will likely be more potent.

3. Taste/Smell- This is the best way to tell if there are any impurities in a marijuana plant. Unfortunately, that means having to take a product home and actually test it out before you can be sure, but there are a few things you should know to watch out for. If you taste a metallic, chemical, or salty flavor those are strong indicators of a plant that has been over fertilized and likely still contains high levels of toxic elements. If the smell resembles plastic or rubber that is another indicator of potentially harmful components. Don't listen to anyone that says they can smell the THC content either.

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