What We Smoke When We Smoke Weed

Nearly two years after Arizona voters legalized recreational marijuana, it’s clear that cannabis is an integral part of the lives of many residents across the state. In the first year alone since the passage of Proposition 207, Arizona recorded $1.9 billion in cannabis sales.

Whether you are a marijuana fan who picks up weed for medical needs or you’re just wanting to have a fun weekend, it’s good to know exactly what part of the plant you are enjoying. Here’s a brief dive into marijuana botany and, more specifically, the flowering buds of the female cannabis plant.

Evidence shows that humans have cultivated and utilized marijuana for thousands of years. We use the plant for many things: as an ingredient in our food and teas, for making strong fibers, and of course for smoking.

While decarboxylated cannabis leaves and trim can be incorporated into drinks and edible options, and the stalks are often used for various utilitarian purposes, the flower — or bud — of the female plant is what we smoke.

Most cannabis plants we see are female, and male plants are often separated from the females to avoid cross-pollination. By separating the males and females, cultivators are able to better control strain composition, including which cannabinoids and terpenes are present in the buds.

The flowering stage comes at the end of the grow cycle, at which time growers harvest and cure the buds to be smoked.

The grow cycle can vary greatly depending on the methods employed by the cultivator. Indoor and outdoor grow techniques take different amounts of time and produce different yields.

Indoor grows provide the benefits of control and speed. When the plant is kept inside, the grower is better able to protect it from insects, control how much light it receives, and ensure it receives the right amount of water. The growth cycle can also be sped up and a yield obtained much more quickly with an indoor grow than with an outdoor one.

On the other hand, outdoor grows often produce significantly larger yields with more robust terpene and cannabinoid profiles. The result is a richer flavor and increased health benefits thanks to the diverse cannabinoids.

Bringing the plant from seed to harvest generally takes between 10 to 32 weeks, or about three to eight months. If you’re planning on growing your own plants, it’s highly recommended to purchase a clone, or a cutting, from a vendor as the seed to clone stage is considered one of the most difficult parts of the process.

What gets smoked is the harvested, trimmed, and cured buds of the female cannabis plant.

click to enlarge

Large hanging fabric racks hold buds as they dry.

Nate Nichols

Trimming and Curing

Trimming, or removing the excess leaves from the flower, can be done either before or after the buds are dried.

Dry trimming involves hanging the plants upside down to dry and then trimming the leaves off the buds after they have dried for two to seven days.

Wet trimming involves trimming the cannabis leaves before drying the plant. For this, growers use a flat drying rack since the buds will have been separated from the plant and be unable to hang.

Experts recommend wet trimming since it reduces the risk of mold reaching the buds.

Once the plants have been trimmed, the flower needs to be cured. This involves placing the dried buds in an airtight container, such as a mason jar, to seal in the remaining moisture. The moisture from the center of the buds will actually rehydrate the rest of the bud, producing attractive and healthy buds.

During the curing process, which lasts two to four weeks, growers also “burp” the cannabis by opening the containers once or twice a day to release any excess moisture and replenish oxygen.

If buds are too dry, add a humidity pack. If buds are too wet, simply leave the lid off your jar for up to a day; just make sure not to overdry the buds.

Once the buds are dried and cured, it’s time to smoke. Break out your favorite bong, papers, vaporizer, or gadgets, and enjoy your homegrown goodness.

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