The Cannabis Grading System – How does it work?

When looking at cannabis grading systems, it’s easy to get lost in the mess of understanding what the characteristics of  A-AAAA+ grades are. 

The reason that it’s so confusing is that it has very little to do with the buds, the strain of the plant, or the grade of the last crop of the same seed. Factors related to growing conditions and post processing are the greatest contributors to a bud being put in the low category of desirability.

What are these factors you ask? 

Anything from environmental temperature, to humidity, to light cycles, to ventilation, to contamination of pests, to soil used, to watering frequency, to curing and trimming – are all factors that contribute to the assigning of a grade to cannabis in both the medical and recreational industries.

Let’s look at a brief outline of each grade to learn a little more about them, and what they mean.

 

A Grade Weed

This grade of cannabis bud is the lowest of the low. It’s so low in fact, it would be difficult to find it anywhere on the open market.

The characteristics of an A grade bud are a distinctly misshapen flower, limited count of trichomes, high CBN / low THC contents, faint (or no) aroma, dull or browned coloration, poor trim quality, small bud size, and low cannabinoid and terpene content. 

All is not lost on these misshapen misfits though. They are the buds most used when producing extracts, and concentrates – which is why they occupy so little of the retail space as whole buds. This greatly reduces the waste materials from crops that may not have made the cut, and they can now be repurposed. Shake, distillates, isolates, edibles and other such variations of cannabis products will often be made with A buds as once the extraction process is finished, the end product will be of the desired potency – making imperfections in the flowers irrelevant. 

This is not an absolute rule however. There can be other grades of flower used for these products, this example is simply to suggest what can be done with grade A cannabis buds.

See examples of AAAA+ strains here.

 

AA Grade Weed

The next grade up is the AA cannabis bud grade, which is considered to be lower end, but acceptable enough to be sold as standard cured bud. Much like the A grade, this grade of cannabis isn’t top quality, but it doesn’t suffer from as pronounced a set of penalties. 

For example, AA buds tend to be better cured than A buds, and better trimmed too. This is usually more by accident than by design. The improved curing process preserves more of the terpenes and cannabinoids making for a slightly more alive looking bud with some aroma, flavour, and a few visible trichomes. The general shape is also generally better than A grades, but not always. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the old saying goes.

Like A grade buds, this can also often be used for production of concentrates, edibles and extracts.

See examples of AA strains here.

 

AAA Grade Weed

AAA grade cannabis buds are considered to be the most popular,and most available grade of higher quality cannabis bud on the consumer market.

AAA is considered so good in fact, that is it even an accepted grade of medical cannabis. Because it’s the industry standard, it’s hard to really say anything about this grade that isn’t already widely known. It will have a typical aroma and flavour profile, a vibrant fuzzy look and texture with visible coloured hairs, and will be a packed, solid nug.

Pro tip: You don’t need an expensive operation to produce AAA buds. What you need is good information on how to grow cannabis, good seed, good curing practices, and a small setup that’s up to the job. But being an expert does help your chances quite a bit for being able to achieve a AAA grade bud. 

This grade of bud is less common to use to make concentrates and extracts. Why not showcase this bud’s beauty, right?

See examples of AAA strains here.

 

AAAA+

Now we come to the royalty buds. AAAA+ bud is the truly exceptional grade of cannabis that exceeds all expectations and makes AAA grade look like AA grade. 

To make a bud AAAA+ grade, it needs to check all the boxes – twice. These cannabis buds tend to have an extremely bright color palette of greens, purples, reds, oranges, yellows, blues, violets and everything in between. They also feature the highest visible trichome count of any other grade (maybe even grades AA and AAA combined). 

These buds are also precision cured and trimmed to ensure an even, tar free burn due to a cure of 5% moisture content or less, which causes blunts to burn white ash rather than black tar.

The cannabinoid and terpene content of these flowers is also unmatched in the industry. This ensures potency, strong aromas and flavour profiles and extremely low CBN content (degraded THC).

This grade is more rare on the market than AAA and demands a higher price point, but the cost is no object when considering all the quality control that has gone into the AAAA+ grade flower.

See examples of AAA+strains here.

 

Summing up

As we discussed, a great deal of care and attention to detail goes into grading cannabis, yet most of these efforts are relatively unknown to most consumers. We hope you enjoyed this informative overview of cannabis grades and have gained a new appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into making sure the right buds end up in the right price points – ensuring you know exactly what it is you’re getting.