Weed Quality Guide: Understanding Top, Mid, and Bottom-Shelf Cannabis

Written by Review Weed Cannabis & Health Enthusiast
Updated: 2023-08-03
Understanding the differences between top shelf, bottom shelf, and mid shelf cannabis flowers.

Table of Contents

Cannabis flowers come in all varieties. You may ask yourself why you would pay 700 THB for a gram of Chunky Skunk, which has 21% THC when you can get the same amount in Gelato – at a cheaper price of 550 THB.

The answer lies in the weed quality. Weed buds can have various smells, appearances, tastes, textures, and experiences—weed dispensaries in Thailand group their weed into top-shelf, mid-shelf, and bottom-shelf based on these traits. As cannabis consumers, you must understand these features to identify high-quality weed for a superior experience.

The five-point approach

When it comes to judging weed quality, keep these five characteristics in mind:

  • Smell
  • Look
  • Feel
  • Taste
  • Experience


The smell is the most obvious way to tell whether your pot is good or bad. Good cannabis flowers grown as per the highest standards with utmost love and care will have a loud, dank odour. The aroma will be pleasant, skunky, pungent, and strong – so much so that you can smell it a mile away. In fact, the stronger the smell, the more refined the high will be.

Good quality weed will have different smell profiles: fruity, citrusy, vanilla, pine, earthy, musky, and diesel – all of which are an indicator of the terpene profile of the bud.

By contrast, if your weed smells of mould, dust, or nothing, then chances are you are dealing with a low-quality product. In some cases, your weed can smell of chemicals – a sign that the growers have spiked the plant.

Looks & appearance

They say looks can be deceiving, but it is not the case with cannabis. High-quality weed flowers will have a lively, bright, energetic appearance.

A good way to tell whether you are holding a primo bud is by looking at its colours; the best flowers will often have some combination of green and purple. You may also see bright blue hues if the strain is exceptionally good. In addition, good strains will have tiny red and orange hairs – all visible to the naked eye.

It would help if you also looked for trichomes – the frosty, crystal-like bulbs which cover the flower. The more milky white trichomes you see on the flower – especially without a magnifying glass, the more intoxicating and strong it is. If the trichomes are clear, the plant was harvested early, while amber or brown trichomes imply it was harvested late and your weed is not fresh.

On the other hand, a bad-grade bud will have no trichomes or hairs. It will be dull & lifeless, verging on the shades of dark green and brown.

In addition, trimming is another element that separates the exotic, AAA stuff from the bad. A well-trimmed bud will be free of stems, leaves, and seeds. Cheap stuff will have all of this and dirt – in which case – you are not getting your money’s worth.


Sticky, spongy, fluffy buds are a good indication of quality. They will gently break apart while leaving a sticky residue on your fingers.

Excessive moisture and wetness are not good signs as the flowers have not been stored properly. This kind of marijuana can develop mould quickly and is prone to going bad.

If the flower is completely dry, brittle, and crumbles in your hand, you are holding a really old stock.


Good weed will smoke beautifully; it will not leave you coughing. The taste is not harsh or bitter – it is highly flavoursome. You will enjoy the plant with every puff and experience a diverse palette of flavours like fruity, spicy, earthy, herby, or piney.

Low-grade buds, meanwhile, taste completely different. You will know you are smoking bad weed when you constantly reach for water to soothe your irritated throat. It will leave a poor aftertaste and slight discomfort in your mouth. This is the kind of weed that you should not smoke.

Experience & high

Consuming good weed is like driving a Ferrari on smooth roads – it will be a sublime experience with an enjoyable high. The experience will last for a while and produce well-rounded, complete effects. This is because of the cannabinoids and terpenes in the buds, which directly result from how the plant has been grown and harvested. These strains are also best suited for medicinal purposes – like addressing pain or sleep problems.

As for poor cannabis flowers, they can induce anxiety and bad trips. The high will be short-lived and less comprehensive than smoking a top-shelf bud. It will get the job done – but it will not address any serious health concerns. You will find this high from smoking brick weed or marijuana in cannabis-illegal countries.

Top-shelf, mid-shelf, and bottom-shelf buds

Now that you know a thing or two about weed quality, you can better understand different tiers of weed. Below is a short summary of top, mid, and bottom-shelf marijuana.


Strong, potent weed, expensive, and high quality.

top-shelf exotic stuff AAA cali grade weed
Top-shelf weed is the best of the best; good smell, beautiful looks, and an amazing high.
  • Other names: Dank buds, primo, kine buds, AAA, Cali, exotic
  • Price: $$$, costly
  • Look: Visually attractive, bright & colourful, hairy, rich in trichomes, neatly trimmed
  • Feel: Light, sticky, fluffy
  • Smell: Pungent, skunky, different aroma notes
  • Taste: Flavoursome, smooth, pleasant
  • High: Long-lasting, all-rounded
  • Suited for: Medicinal reasons like pain relief, those with higher tolerances


A mix of top-shelf & bottom-shelf

mid shelf cannabis strains
Mid-shelf pot is a good compromise between exotic stuff and bad weed.
  • Other names: Mid-grade marijuana
  • Price: $$, good value for money
  • Look: Leafy, dark-green hues, some trichomes and hair
  • Feel: Slightly sticky, dense
  • Smell: Skunky, pungent, not as smelly as top-shelf
  • Taste: Smooth & pleasant
  • High: Balanced, not too overwhelming
  • Suited for: A mellow experience, sleep


Weak, low potency, cheap

Bottom shelf weed flower
Bad weed is often dark with a harsh taste and no pleasant smells.
  • Other names: Brick weed, reggie, schwag, bunk, dirt weed
  • Price: $
  • Look: Dull, brown/dark green shades, rustic colours, full of seeds & stems
  • Feel: Dry, crumbles easily, possibly wet or full of moisture
  • Smell: Skunky, too strong, or no/weak smell, bad smell
  • Taste: Harsh, really earthy, bitter aftertaste
  • High: Short-lasting
  • Suited for: A quick high, nothing else and nothing more

Putting it into practice

As you can see, evaluating weed quality is not too difficult – it just requires some time and practice.

Good weed flowers are a class apart from the rest as they have unique looks, noticeable flavour, and distinct aroma profiles. You can clearly see that a lot of effort has gone into growing and harvesting those primo buds – which is also evident by their slightly higher pricing. This is also the kind of weed you should take for medicinal reasons, as you know you are getting a world-class product and not something that may be tainted with chemicals or seeds.

Ultimately, it comes down to your personal preference. Any and all weed will get you high – it is a matter of what kind of high you are looking for. At Weed Review, you will find a diverse collection of top-shelf and mid-shelf strains from different vendors – all of which you can buy online.