The only thing as iconic to marijuana as its classic five blade leaf is its smell. Despite its skunky attributions or floral tones, it is distinctly its own aroma. If you’re newly acquainted, the smell might hit you like a brick wall, but once you become more familiar with this lovely plant, you’ll begin to associate that thick aroma with the same sense of sumptuousness and anticipation as you would the acrid piquancy of an authentic, unpasteurized camembert. Or, you might not. Some love the smell, some don’t, but either way, it’s good to know the ins-and-outs of smell. This article is all about smell, and all the questions you have but never asked about how, why, and when weed smells. We’ll address questions especially relevant to first-time gardeners concerned about what to expect from your plants in terms of smell from germination to harvest. Some of the more common puzzlements of both growers and general aficionados are:
What Does Weed Smell Like
- What Causes Marijuana to Smell?
- What Does Marijuana Smoke Smell Like?
- How do I Hide the Smell of Marijuana Smoke?
- How to Make A Sploof
- What Does Weed Smell Like According to its Growth Stage?
- When does marijuana start to smell?
- How do I Preserve the Scent of my Weed?
- Does the smell indicate how strong my weed is?
- What do Different Terpenes Smell Like, and What are Their Psychoactive Effects?
- Why Does Weed Smell Skunky?
- What do Different Terpenes Smell Like
What Causes Marijuana to Smell?
A lot of people look pensively at the leaves for all of marijuana’s charms, but in reality, the smell is all about the terpenes. Yep, terpenes, not leaves, are what give your marijuana plant its signature scent. Terpenes are present mostly in the buds of the plant, not leaves. Those shimmering bits of fairy dust coating the buds are called trichomes, and they are where terpenes are mostly concentrated. This means that the scent of your weed plant does a lot more than tip your grandma off that you’re growing more than basil—the aromatic profile from these terpenes can tell you quite a bit about what kind of high and medicinal effects you can expect from your strain. We’ll get to all of that later, but for now, let’s get to the most pressing question that people have about weed’s odor. Let’s cover the ways that the smell of marijuana changes according to its growth and harvest cycle.
What Does Weed Smell Like When I Smoke It, and How Can I Hide the Scent of Marijuana smoke?
The answer to the first part is: strong. And luckily, the answer to the second part is that there are many ways. There really isn’t a way around this one —weed is definitely strong and recognizable when you smoke it. When describing the scent of weed, the most common association that people come up with is...you guessed it—skunky. Which is more or less true, but the question becomes more complicated the more you are acquainted with marijuana. The reason why skunky seems to be the flagship smell is probably due to the way that smoking creates a much less complex aroma than that of fresh bud, and the smell ends up highlighting the most present terpene, mycine. Which is the famous skunky, dank terpene. Much more acrid than fresh or cured marijuana. So, how do you make marijuana smell less skunky? How do you control the smell of weed when you smoke?
How to manage the odor: Which Way of Smoking Smells the Least?
The way you smoke weed affects the way it smells
The way you smoke or ingest your weed significantly affects the strength and complexity of its smell, including any residual odor. Before you set out on purchasing or MacGyvering the myriad of methods/projects/DIY gadgets to cloak the smell, consider some of the different ways that your mechanism of smoking will lessen or strengthen the smell of your weed. Will it make your smoke session more or less noticeable?
Smoking Unfiltered Weed Produces the Skunkiest, Strongest Odor
Direct combustion creates the strongest odor. This involves pretty much anything that involves a lighter applied directly to weed: joints, bowls, blunts, spliffs, bongs, one-hitters, even apple-pipes and soda-bottle bongs—whatever, you get the idea. Get comfy with the fact that when you smoke, especially in small quarters, you probably will be noticed—specifically because of the smell. When you smoke a joint, smoke a bowl, light a bong, blunt, or any method that involves direct combustion, you are going to leave a noticeable smell. To give you an idea, the smell of a lit joint smoked to completion is enough to linger throughout a two bedroom apartment, and for sure a single floor of a mid-sized, suburban house. If you are smoking in a building with thin walls, it’s likely that your neighbors are aware that someone’s lighting up in the vicinity. Honestly though, unless you are a naughty high school kid researching the best ways to hide the smell of weed (if you smoke a joint in some place like the school bathroom—even with a one-hitter—it will still be at least slightly noticeable in the hallway, just FYI)—it usually isn’t a big deal, especially since marijuana is finally claiming its respectable place in mainstream society. Smoking is going to smell considerably stronger and probably less complex than what you might smell from a fresh or cured bud.
The smell is also going to linger for a little while, perhaps even days, depending on the size of the room you are in. Think about the smell of burning wood—it’s pretty strong, right? That’s just a typical effect of burning anything.The smell of weed isn’t quite as strong as other burning things, but the effect of fire to flower adds to the pungency of your weed smoke. If you are in a carpeted bedroom, for example, you may smell some residual skunkiness for a couple days. The good news is that marijuana smoke isn’t nearly as noxious as cigarette smoke—as much as complainers and nosy, self-righteous neighbors might claim. Considering that cigarette smoke practically never leaves the room it touches, weed and tobacco aren’t even on the same planet. It’s not just the smell—weed smoke has none of the horrible effects of secondhand smoke that cigarettes pose. And contrary to popular belief, you can’t fail a drug test from second hand weed smoke, even if you’re sitting in a compact Honda with four people lighting up at once with the windows closed (how rude!). Even if you are hotboxing in a tiny room, leaving the windows open for a day will clear out the smell pretty efficiently. To someone familiar with the scent of smoked marijuana, however, there will likely be just a tiny hint of lingering herb.
Also, it’s important to say here that the point of this article is not to assert that marijuana—skunky or not—smells foul, only that the smell of weed smoke is noticeable. There are tons of people who find the smell of weed, smoked or not, to be delightful, earthy, and overall aromatic. Regardless, if you are really trying to avoid being detected, and to hide the smell of marijuana, your best bet is to either find some alternative to smoking, or to use a good filtration system.
Here is how different methods of smoking affect the smell of weed, and methods that minimize the scent of weed:
Smoke Out of Bongs to Lighten the Smell of Weed
Unlike joints, bongs (and bowls in general) don’t stay perpetually lit, only when you light them. This gives you more control about where to direct your weed smoke, and the passage of air throughout the bong gets cooled by the water, and lightens up/disperses the odor when exhaled. Lighting up a bowl gives you the opportunity to exhale your smoke out the window in between hits. In order to make your bong hits smell even less, cover the bowl while you are lighting it and taking a hit, and be sure to clear the whole thing.
The Smell of THC Cartridges
These little guys tend to be the go-to option for discrete and on-the-go weed lovers. Not only are they tiny, these little guys barely leave a smelly footprint of their presence. Cartridges are filled with THC concentrates and attached to a battery, and they usually look like an unassuming pen. Tiny enough to fit in your pocket, the hit from a cartridge dissipates within minutes. You could drag on these in the bathroom stall during your shift break and Karen with the big mouth, and hatred of all things good, could be sitting in the next stall and not even notice. Again, someone familiar with the scent of weed will probably catch a whiff, at least for just a minute, and wonder which jerk in AP History class is getting high without sharing. The point is, a few drags of a THC cartridge will probably be noticeable to someone directly next to you. So basically, despite its light presence, we don’t recommend using cartridges on the subway. We emphatically do, however, say it’s great for the movie theater, dorm room, break between feeding and dressing the kids, stroll with the dog, and before a date. In addition to the way that the smell of marijuana quickly dissipates, it has practically no residual odor. As in, you could drag on that thing like there’s no tomorrow and then waltz right into Thanksgiving dinner, give Aunt Linda a big ‘ole hug, and no one will suspect a thing.
While cartridges do contain terpenes, like any THC product that carries a scent, these are often barely noticeable when you vape them. As in, it will be pretty hard to identify distinct terpenes from a cartridge vape. You’ll get just the faintest hint of that down-to-earthy aroma. The only itty-bitty downside is that people sometimes detect an off-putting harshness of the hit, combined with an overall weaker and shorter high than the one associated with regular smoking. The lack of complexity that vape hits offer make for a boring taste and scent profile. But that’s not really the point of vape cartridges. The beauty of them is that they can deliver THC and CBD almost anywhere you go, while attracting little attention. This one is definitely a winner for one of the best ways to hide the smell of marijuana. With that said, you might be wondering…
What Do Flower Vapes Smell Like, and How Do They Affect the Flavor?
Flower vapes won’t hide the smell of marijuana as well as cartridges do, but they will deliver an exquisitely clean and delicate terpene experience. A beautiful thing about flower vaporizers is that, just like cartridge vapes, they avoid combustion altogether, but they preserve all of the subtlety of whatever bud you are vaping. You will get the maximum flavor and scent profile. And just like a well crafted meal, smell is absolutely vital to your taste experience. We know that your sense of taste and smell are connected by the same olfactory nerves. So vaping offers a wholly different kind of experience than smoking. Other than getting you high—they definitely get you high.
Vapor from a flower vaporizer, like the Volcano desktop vape, or portable devices, doesn’t torch the terpene flavor out of the weed, so you’ll be able to taste (and maybe smell) more than just myrcene, the most abundant terpene in marijuana and the one that causes weed to smell like skunk. Depending on what the strain is, you’ll be able pick up on a more complex palette of terpenes, including scents of citrus, pine, flowers, and berries. Basically, your weed will smell like something much closer to its form as a freshly cured bud. If it’s large enough, the smell of flower vaporizers is strong enough to fill a room, but it's not overpowering either.
So now that we’ve covered the ways that your method of delivery impacts the smell of weed, we can now better answer the following question:
How do I Hide the Scent of Marijuana Smoke?
Smoking in the Shower
Another way to hide the smell of marijuana is to smoke in the bathroom, with both the shower and fan running. The humid environment created from the warm water causes the particles from smoke to attach themselves to the steam particles. This minimizes their ability to disperse themselves throughout the air. The fan will then suck those pesky particles into its filter. If you really want to contain your smoke, consider tucking a towel into the gap between the floor and the bottom of the door.
How to Cloak the Scent of Weed Smoke with a Filter
Now that you have an idea of what kinds of weed smoking methods smell like and how strong they are, you can now go about deciding how you want to disguise the skunk from your smoke. One of the most well-known ways to do this is to use a filter. A quick search on the internet will show you that there are bountiful air filters you can purchase that are designed to minimize the smell of weed smoke.
Or, you can make your own filter. It doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult—in fact, people craft their own filters from common household materials all the time. The name for this time-honored, DIY cloaking device, is a sploof.
How to Make a Sploof
The most basic components of a sploof are a tube to exhale into, some kind of filtering medium to catch the smoke, and something to seal one end of the tube. The easiest tube to work with is a cardboard toilet paper or paper towel roll. Find a dryer sheet or a pantyhose, and seal it over one end of the cardboard roll. The simplest way is with a rubber band: drape the dryer sheet or pantyhose over one opening, snap a rubber band around it. This can also be done with tape or glue. Then pack the inside of the tube with more dryer sheets. The basic mechanism of a sploof is to both absorb and cloak the smell of your weed hits by allowing you to exhale into a tube or passageway that pushes the smoke through a screen. That screen filters the air as it makes its way through, and maybe even gives it a tint of freshly laundered linen.
That’s just the basic anatomy of a sploof, but by no means is there only one way to make a sploof. There’s plenty of room to get creative, and to upgrade the efficiency of your homemade filtering device. Experiment with different filtering mediums; for example, you can up the filtering capacity by packing your tube with activated charcoal, in addition to the dryer sheets. Activated charcoal is known for absorbing not only toxins, but molecules in general—including the ones that cause weed to stink.
The key to an effective sploof is to make sure that all of the smoke moves its way through, with as little smoke escaping as possible. This is why it’s important to make sure that the rubber band or whatever else you use to seal your dryer sheet onto the end fits snugly. Make a sploof out of something that includes a mouthpiece, for ensuring that all of the exhaled smoke makes it through. Substituting the cardboard tube with a soda or water bottle with the end cut off—doesn’t matter what size—will create a nice mouthpiece, and it might create a larger chamber to collect the smoke. In order to hide the smell of weed, your sploof also needs enough space for the smoke to make its way through the tube without overflowing and being pushed back out. So, exhale slowly into the tube, not all at once.
Elongating your sploof can do a lot to mitigate this issue, and people have come up with all sorts of creative modification to the basic blueprint. A simple way to do this is add another tube to the one you already have. Another clever method involves placing a small fan inside the tube to draw the smoke into the filter. Some reimagine the design all together—for example, attaching longer, flexible tubing into something larger, like a sealed box. Check out the abundance of ideas floating around the internet, and let your DIY spirit run free. Also, take a moment to appreciate what a great word “sploof” is, and insert it wherever you have the opportunity, as this article has done. Sploofity sploof sploof!
What Does Weed Smell Like according to its growth stage?
The smell of marijuana changes at different stages and from strain to strain. Now that we’ve covered the smelly concerns of the covert weed smoker, let’s focus on growing, and on the plant itself. This next section is all about the way that weed smells as it moves through its developmental stages—from germination to harvest—and how you can either fortify or minimize the smell of your weed plants. Finally, we’ll break down which terpenes smell like what, and how they give strains their distinct personalities.
When Do Marijuana Plants Start to Smell?
This is a question that lots of beginning gardeners might be wondering, especially if they are growing at home with family members or roommates. In general, weed won’t produce any scent until at least 3 to 6 weeks after germination. Before marijuana enters its vegetative stage, it looks and smells pretty much like any other baby plant. This is because it takes time for newly sprouted marijuana to gather the nutrients and strength it needs to enter its vegetative stage.
During weed’s vegetative stage, you will be able to pick up a little bit of scent from the plant, but at this point the smell of marijuana will be very slight. It won’t be detectable from across the room, and perhaps not at all unless you smell your plant up close. When you do, you will be able to detect the scent of fresh, wet growth and just an aromatic hint of that classic marijuana smell. The amount of growth your marijuana plant achieves during its vegetative stage affects the outcome of your plant’s smell, because this precious time period determines how many buds your plant will ultimately produce. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your plant is getting the right nutrient combination as your growing plant builds its foundation.
The smell of weed will be most noticeable during its flowering stage, and particularly strong during the last half of this period, about 6 weeks after it begins to flower. This is where the plant produces the most terpenes, and carries the strongest odor. At this point in the flowering period, you are going to want to limit the amount of nutrients you give your plant, so as not to hinder the production of terpenes. By the time your plant begins to flower, your weed plant will finally have grown into its own aromatic shoes. While there are a number of things that impact the sensuous profile of your plants during its growth cycle, the way you handle your plants once it’s ready to harvest will determine the final aroma of your weed. The thing you have the most control over in terms of your marijuana plant’s smell is the way that you choose to harvest.
How do I preserve the Scent of My Marijuana Plants?
It’s all about the harvesting. This phase of growing is so important to the overall scent and flavor of your buds because the aroma depends upon the terpenes, and the terpenes are concentrated mostly on the trichomes. Therefore, you want to harvest your weed while keeping as many of those trichomes intact. Remember that trichomes are those delicate bits of fairy dust, right? You want to avoid knocking those things off. So the more you touch the buds on your marijuana plant, the more you waste the aromatic and consequently, the overall psychoactive experience of your weed.
Let’s talk about trimming. Do you like the smell of your weed, and do you want to maximise the potency of your weed? The way that you choose to trim your marijuana will make a difference. In general, the best method to preserve the terpene content (and hence the scent) is to use the wet trimming method, rather than dry trimming. This is because when you wet trim, the trichomes (those little hairs that cover your buds full of terpenes) are less likely to fall off. Dry trimming is a process that hangs the entire plant upside down, and trims the buds once the plant is dry. During wet trimming, each individual stalk is clipped and hung upside down to dry. The moisture of the plant keeps more of the terpenes on the buds.
Curing is another factor that affects the scent of marijuana. Cure in jars at a low temperature (below 70 degrees fahrenheit) and proper humidity, and keep away from light. Careful harvesting will gift you a plant with a complex aroma, thanks to a delicate mix of terpenes harmoniously accenting each other, a smell that’s much more fragrant and interesting than a one-note skunky odor.
The Scent and Effects of Different Terpenes, Which Strains to Find Them In
So far there’s been a whole lot of kerfuffle over terpenes, and by now it’s clear that we need to preserve them in order to keep the aromatic profile. We know that even if you don’t like the smell of weed or want to hide it, you still want to protect the terpenes (and hence, the smell). But okay, specifically what are these terpenes again? Let’s circle back to the beginning of this article, and discuss how these oils do more than determine the smell of your weed—what are they specifically, what do they smell like, and what effects does each one produce? Knowing which terpene smells and feels like what will help you decide what kind of seeds to purchase for your own weed garden.
Terpenes, the dusty stuff in weed that makes it smell, impacts the way that THC makes you feel and affects your body. It’s pretty cool that smell is one of the most iconic things about weed. Aside from the nugs and the high, smell is a classic attribute of marijuana, and there’s nothing else like it. Or there is, and that’s why we’ve come up with so many terms to describe it: skunky, earthy, fruity, sour, citrus, flowery, etc.
Does the smell indicate how strong my weed is?
By now it’s pretty clear that terpenes are what cause marijuana to smell, but what does each terpene smell like? Skunky, peppery, citrus, berry, pine…these are all associations that are attached to the scent of different terpenes. Terpenes interact with THC and reach cannabinoid receptors. The smell of weed and its intensity won’t tell you how strong your buds are, but they can tell you how they interact with other cannabinoids to influence certain effects. This means that they are part of your high experience. Let’s start with the terpene most responsible for that skunky profile. And which terpene is responsible for that skunky odor that we all associate with weed?
What do Different Terpenes Smell Like, and What are Their Psychoactive Effects?
Here is where we can finally get to the bottom of one strongly scented mystery: Why Does Marijuana Smell Skunky? The answer, as well as the first on the list of terpenes is...
Some Strains: OG Kush, Big Daddy Purple, Blue Dream
Associated Effects: treats insomnia, anxiety, inflammation, associated with anti inflammatory and antibacterial properties
This terpene is the most abundant in weed strains, and it’s also responsible for one of marijuana’s most familiar smells. The scent wafting from a jar of freshly cured buds heavy with this terpene is thick and earthy, often called musky and yes...skunky. A reason why its scent is associated with many other things found in nature is that it isn’t only in weed—it also lives in mangoes, and herbs like thyme and basil. Pro tip: if you’d like to maximize the psychoactive effect, eat some mangoes around one to two hours ahead of time; this added myrcene ingredient will boost the effect on cannabinoid receptors. Myrcene is often associated with indica strains, so expect the effects of this terpene to be overall mellowing. Of course, there are wonderful hybrid strains abundant with myrcene, like Blue Dream. Hybrid strains will make you feel a little lighter than a pure indica strain.
Associated Effects: Mood elevation, anti depressant, anti nausea, anti oxidant
By its name alone, you probably already know what this terpene smells like: lemon! The citrusy scent of limonene often indicates an uplifting, refreshing psychoactive and physical experience. Terpenes are generally not exclusive to either indicas or sativas. That is, they won’t determine your psychoactive experience, yet they will accent it by synergistically working with all of the other cannabinoids. When thinking about it that way, it makes sense that limonene will make a sativa like Lemon Jack feel activating, or balance out a hybrid. Limonene’s freshness accents the calming effect of indicas, while keeping your mood from tanking and limiting the potential for the sedative effects to become too overpowering. Limonene’s fresh accent lets you enjoy the relaxing effects of indicas, without sacrificing your mood. Indicas with decent amounts of limonene are good choices for people worried about feeling too overpowered by the sedating effects of myrcene-heavy indicas.
There are plenty of health benefits associated with limonene. In particular, its antioxidant properties are thought to be beneficial in fighting various forms of cancer, inflammation, fungal, and viral conditions.
Some Strains: Amnesia Haze, Lavender Kush, Banana Split, LA Confidential, Do-Si-Dos
Associated effects: anti anxiolytic, sedative
Lovely linalool is responsible for making certain buds smell of lavender, another plant that contains this terpene. In general, linalool gives a distinctly floral accent to a bud’s aromatic profile. When present in significant amounts, these terpenes predictably interact with other cannabinoids to create a calming effect. Think about that amazing yoga instructor that makes savasana soooo good with her lavender oil and Sat Nam beats.
Some Strains: Bubba Kush, OG Kush, Sour Diesel, Master Kush, Purple Punch, Grandaddy Purple, Chemdawg Trainwreck
Associated effects: anti inflammatory
Carophyllene is usually described as spicy, peppery, and floral. Not surprisingly, this terpene is also present in pepper, cloves, and herbs such as basil and oregano. The unique way that carophyllene binds to cannabinoid receptors is thought to be responsible for its anti inflammatory properties. Strains with significant amounts of caryophyllene are particularly relevant to people suffering from autoimmune disorders; the anti-inflammatory effect keeps flare-ups associated with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis in check.
Strains: Blue Dream, Mango Haze, Pineapple OG, Jack Herer, Trainwreck
Associated effects: focus, mental dexterity, activation, relaxation
Can you guess what pinine smells like? Yes, obviously it’s pine! At this point we can see that the names of most terpenes are pretty straightforward, and reminiscent of their presence in other places in nature. The scent of pinine can be described as woody, herbal, astringent, spicy. Of all the terpenes discussed here, pinine is by far the most abundant terpene present in other plants besides marijuana.
If you don’t love the smell of weed, hopefully by now you can at least appreciate it. The relationship between marijuana and its smell can be a topic as complex or condensed as you want it to be. With just a little bit of extra knowledge, learning how to control the smell of the weed you are smoking or growing can be relatively straight forward. Smell is intricately linked with the quality and character of your weed—understanding how each terpene impacts the experience, you can find a strain (and smell) that suits your custom needs.