Master the craft of picking the perfect cannabis strain

picking the perfect cannabis strain

Budtenders see the same cycle time and time again. Someone walks into the dispensary for the first, second, or third time, looks at the menus and walls of weed, and immediately forgets why they walked in. It has even happened to me, someone who’s been a budtender at four brick-and-mortar shops forgets how to read almost every time I look at a dispensary menu in person.

Luckily, the trusty budtender is there to guide people through as they pick the right cannabis products or strains of flower. To make sure they know exactly what you’re looking for, I put together some steps on how to pick a strain.

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#1 Identify your aim

The most important first step to picking a cannabis product or flower strain is to figure out what you want from it. Someone looking to go on a hike after smoking will probably want something different than the person lighting up before bed. Not always, but most times.

Figure out what the purpose behind consuming is and ponder on how you want to feel before talking to a budtender or putting in an online order. This will start the path to picking a strain in the correct direction.

#2 The nose knows

One trusty saying that came in handy back in the day was “the nose knows,” but that was back when we weighed out each package from a large container in front of the customer. Things weren’t pre-packaged to keep with regulations, budtenders could open the top and let people take a big whiff of the terps inside.

Now, budtenders must squeeze the mylar bag a little to let some air out, or sometimes you can smell the bud through the packaging. But in most cases, the smell is concealed until the jar comes home. Even so, some strains smell like the best memory while others might be immediately off-putting. The nose knows, so if a strain doesn’t hit the senses right, move on and find one that does.

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#3 Keep a journal

Tracking strains is an effective way to be confident you’ll pick the right one. There are cannabis consumption journal apps like Jointly that guide people through choosing from an extensive dispensary menu. For patients, this can be helpful in understanding proper dosing and how that changes between weed varieties.

The analog crowd will enjoy Goldleaf journals, a large-pocket-sized booklet with prompt pages to record everything from cannabinoid percentages, strain names, how it is consumed, the perceived potency, and flavor profile.

Recording consumption by strain, potency, and method is an ideal way to find out what strain is right for you. Keep track of how each variety makes you feel, the good and the bad. As you weed out the favorites and the failures, certain genetics might make a regular appearance on one of those lists. Understanding what beloved varieties have in common can help you pick new strains at the shop.

#4 Learn your genetics

Learning what genetics make up our favorite strains may be helpful when branching out with new varieties. Let me explain. I really enjoy Northern Lights, Bubba Kush, and Granddaddy Purple, but they’re not often for sale at dispensaries these days.

Instead, I seek out flower where these plants are the parents. Similarly, if a strain is new to me, then I’ll check the genetics and see if there’s anything I’ve liked before.

Sure, some strains aren’t actually what they claim to be, but that’s not always the case. And anyhow, learning more about what specific varieties look, smell, and feel will key you in when people lie abut having certain genetics. Keep track of genetics and learn what you like, it’s a great way to pick a strain in any market.

Those curious how to pick a strain should rely on their budtender, but there are some skills to pick up along the way. Take a big smell and trust your senses, then keep track of the experience and the strain details. While keeping track, learn which parent genetics appear regularly in your weed journal to hone in on the strains your endocannabinoid system loves.

These are the steps to picking a strain no matter what state you’re in or what brands are on the menu, now go have fun.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.