Article written by
Ruth LemonVP of Operations
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Marijuana usually has an earthy or woody scent. However, depending on the flavonoids in the specific strain, it may also smell flowery or citrusy. Some people say it smells like a skunk. The specific aroma is often determined by the terpenes present in the plant, the harvest time, and the form it’s ingested in.
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What Influences the Smell of Cannabis?
The smell of cannabis is strongly influenced by the plant’s terpenes, which are aromatic hydrocarbons responsible for the plant’s distinctive aroma. Different strains of cannabis have different terpenes, which give them their unique scent.
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Volatile Sulfur Compounds (VSCs)
Other than terpenes, volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) are the most significant contributors to marijuana’s characteristic, skunky smell. Many say VSCs are the biggest contributor to cannabis’s smell, particularly VSC3 (3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol). Cannabis with high concentrations of VSC3 smells more pungent compared to other types of cannabis with less VSC3.
Flavonoids are another class of chemical compounds that contribute to the smell and flavor of cannabis. Cannflavins A, B, and C are unique to cannabis and, like VSCs, are partly responsible for the plant’s taste and scent.
The harvest time also affects the smell of cannabis. The later in the season it is harvested, the more potent the aroma will be. This is because the terpenes and cannabinoids (the active ingredients in marijuana) increase as the plant matures.
Raw cannabis tends to smell earthy or woody, and the smell may change depending on how it is ingested. If you vaporize cannabis, it will have a significantly weaker smell than if smoked in papers or a pipe. Additionally, using scented paper when smoking cannabis will alter the smell.
Marijuana that has been exposed to mold will have a musty smell. This is because the mold produces a compound called mycotoxins, which have a pungent odor. Mycotoxins are toxic and can cause health problems, so don’t ingest marijuana that smells like it has been contaminated with mold.
The Most Common Cannabis Scents
Interestingly, each person’s sense of smell is unique, so what one person finds to be a pleasant aroma may be overpowering or unpleasant to someone else. This is why it’s important to experiment with different strains until you find one with an aroma you like.
The most common scents in cannabis can be attributed to the terpenes limonene, myrcene, and pinene. Each of these terpenes has its own unique smell and flavor.
Limonene is a terpene responsible for the citrusy smell of some cannabis strains, and it is also found in other plants, such as orange and lemon trees. Limonene is thought to have therapeutic benefits and may reduce stress and anxiety and aid sleep.
Pinene is a terpene responsible for making some strains of cannabis smell like pine trees, and it is also found in other plants, such as rosemary. Pinene has therapeutic benefits, one of which is helping relieve allergy symptoms.
Linalool is a terpene that causes the floral smell of some strains of cannabis and can be found in lavender and chamomile. Linalool is thought to have health benefits, such as helping relieve anxiety and chronic pain.
Other common terpenes and their associated scents include:
- Humulene: spicy, earthy, and woody
- Terpineol: pine, floral, or peach
- Alpha-Bisabolol: citrus, sweet, and floral
- Pulegone: mint
Why Does Cannabis Smell ‘Skunky’ After Smoking?
Smoking marijuana can cause a skunk smell because it burns off the plant’s thin, wispy hair. This releases the terpenes and cannabinoids stored in the resin glands, which gives the bud its distinctive skunky smell. The skunkier-smelling strains of cannabis have more THC, so they produce a more pungent odor when smoked.
What Do Other Cannabis Products Smell Like?
CBD oil is extracted from the cannabis plant and doesn’t have the same distinct smell as marijuana, and it has a more earthy scent that is slightly woodsy. Some say it smells a bit like a cucumber, while others describe it as having a floral aroma. This is because full-spectrum CBD products contain different flavonoids.
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Hemp smells dank and sweet. Different strains of hemp will smell different due to their different flavonoid and terpene makeup. Some might smell fruity, while others smell spicy.
In pure form, Delta-8 typically does not have a scent. However, when infused into other products, it can have a sweet or herbal smell.
Synthetic marijuana is a blend of herbs, spices, or shredded plant material sprayed with chemicals that mimic the effects of THC. It has a strong, pungent smell that can be unpleasant, and the odor is often compared to skunk spray, cat urine, or dirty socks.
What Do Concentrates Like Hashish Smell Like?
Hashish is often compressed into a block or ball-shaped form and smells like marijuana smoke. Hashish is usually smoked or eaten.
Wax is often melted down and used to dab on a heated surface, which then creates a vapor that is inhaled. Wax has a herby, natural smell that can be easy to conceal.
The Bottom Line
The smell of weed is determined by specific strains (cultivars), its ingestion form, harvest time, and freshness. It may smell earthy or woody or have a skunky aroma. Some people enjoy the smell of cannabis, while others hate it.
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