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marijuana grading system

What Is the Marijuana Grading System?

When it comes to purchasing marijuana, there is a spectrum of quality that knowledgeable cannabis users pay attention to. As you can imagine, marijuana is sold at all different levels of quality for different reasons: The highest quality cannabis is best for smoking, while lesser stuff (think shake) can be used for making edibles, where appearance and flavour matter none.

Experience, of course, is one way to know top-quality herb when you see it. For newer users, though, it can be a bit of a guessing game if you’re not sure what to look for. Fortunately, when you buy cannabis in Canada, there is a grading system in place to take the guesswork out of the process and help you find the best marijuana for your money.

Enter the Cannabis Grading System

Whether or not you know what you’re looking at, if you’re going to buy ounces of weed online to smoke, you want it to be good. This is one of the best things about dispensaries: Quality is regulated and monitored to ensure consumers are buying the best products for their money. Gone are the days of buying bags of dry, chaffy mystery bud on the street!

These days, buying cannabis in Canada is simplified by the A – AAAA Grading System. Listings of flower online often have a set of As next to their name or in their description. This lettering system is a simple way for the consumer to see at a glance where the bud lands on the scale of quality.

What Does the Scale Measure?

The grade a strain of cannabis receives is based on several aspects of the final product: colour, shape, density, smell, and flavour. While some aspects of the grading system are inherent qualities of the plant (such as colour, smell, and flavour), there are variants in quality that depend on how the plant is grown, harvested, and cured.

If proper care is taken during the growing and harvesting stages, it shows in the final product. Trichome (crystal) covering is an indicator of quality, not only of THC content but also the health of the plant. The amount of attention paid while trimming marijuana is evident in the final shape of the buds.

Higher-grade marijuana is not just about looks or aroma. The grading system also considers aspects such as how the herb burns and the aesthetic of the ashes. Properly cured cannabis will have minimal moisture and leave white-grey ash after burning. Not only is this important for the flavour, but also for the health of the consumer; cleaner-burning bud is less harsh on the lungs

The Cannabis Grading System Explained


It’s a very simple system: Marijuana is given a grade from A to AAAA+ based on the above-stated levels of quality. It is easy for consumers to understand at a glance in-store, while those purchasing weed online can include grades in their search.

The cannabis grading system was born in the 1980s and has evolved over the years to help people buy cannabis in Canada. Initially, it just included ratings from A to AAA. As growing techniques have developed over the decades and more desirable strains have been born, the grade of AAAA was added.

Sometimes plus or minus signs will be added as subcategorization for those looking to be specific. Alternatively, grades can be given as numbers. However, you’re more likely to see the A-Grading system when you buy cannabis in Canada

A Guide to the Grading System


Grades are given according to the following standards:


  • AAAA+ Grade (95-100): This rating is reserved for the best of the best. Usually this grade is only given to unique strains that are as close to perfect as can be. It is considered a rare rating, and bud of this rank is often more expensive. Odour is pungent, flavour is strong, smoke is smooth and clean, and the effects are powerful.


  • AAAA Grade (90-95): Often referred to as “quads,” this rating is for top-shelf primo bud. The final product should have beautiful, dense buds with a thick crystal covering. The aroma and flavour are intense due to high terpenoid content, which makes for more potent effects. Smoking this outstanding herb should be smooth on the airways.


  • AAA Grade (85-90): Weed of this grade is most common when you buy cannabis in Canada. Triple A bud, or “trips” grade, is still a sight to behold, with a decent trichome cover and nice, tight buds. Though it is now one tier below “quads,” it is still considered high quality. Strains like White Lightning or Island Tomford are beautiful in appearance and flavour while remaining affordable.


  • AA Grade (70-80): As we come down to double A/“dubs” rating, quality is noticeably lower. Weed of this grade trends toward brown and dry in appearance. While still considered smokeable, the flavour and aroma are not very strong. However, it will get you high on a budget, and you can find good deals on AA bud.


  • A Grade (50-70): You won’t usually find this for sale in dispensaries. This refers to the loose, stemmy stuff that has little to no odour. It looks dark in colour, with no crystals to be seen. It isn’t recommended for smoking, but it can be useful for making edibles or extracts.

Buying Cannabis in Canada Just Got Easier


Now that you’re in the know, buying top-quality bud (or lower-tier if that’s what you need) can be a simple process. Whether you’re just buying a pre-roll or you’re buying ounces of weed online, understanding the cannabis grading system makes it a cinch.

If you’ve previously purchased a product and are curious where it stands on the cannabis grading scale, there are websites where you can input the qualities of the bud and a rating is given based on your observations.

Just remember, if you’re new to the game, that higher-grade cannabis is typically stronger. Starting with AAA grade bud is a good balance of quality, strength, and price to suit the average user’s smoking needs.




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