AAA and AAAA Grade Cannabis Strains: The Differences

Outdoor Cannabis Farm

With cannabis legality expanding in the United States, options for purchasing are growing rapidly. You don’t have to rely on your brother’s best friend to score some bud; in many states, you can now stroll down the street to the nearest dispensary or shop online from the convenience of your own home. 

Because you have so many options, there are more and more intricate factors that distinguish one strain from the next. One of the most important of these distinguishing factors is the grade of the cannabis. Here we’ll go over the two highest grades, AAA and AAAA.

AAAA Cannabis Strains Explained 

AAAA quality represents some of the finest cannabis available. At this tier, every aspect of the strain—taste, smell, and appearance—aligns, nearly reaching perfection. Sellers often refer to this category of cannabis as top-shelf, indicating its premium status. Any signs of poor trimming or slight discoloration would disqualify it from this high grade.

Weed of AAAA quality boasts vivid colors and a strong, pungent smell. The buds are adorned with colorful hairs and are densely coated in THC-rich trichomes, making them crystalline. The flavor and aroma of AAAA-grade cannabis are potent and well-matched, ensuring a smooth experience without any harsh aftertaste.

AAA Cannabis Strains Explained

Grade AAA is the first standard grade for high-quality cannabis. It’s a common grade and often serves as the benchmark for higher quality in the cannabis industry. However, there can still be noticeable variations in quality and potency within the AAA category.

Many retailers choose to stock only AAA-grade cannabis and higher, bypassing lower-quality options. Buds in this category are typically colorful, robust, dense, and appear healthy and well-kept. Depending on the specific strain, you might notice vibrant orange, pink, purple, or yellow hairs emerging from the buds, surrounded by a generous coating of trichome crystals.

AAA-grade cannabis is known for delivering a potent high. Sativa strains from this grade tend to affect the head first, enhancing energy and mood. Indica strains, conversely, are known for their body highs, offering relaxation and stress relief and potentially reducing pain. In terms of aroma, AAA cannabis should be distinctly fragrant and appealing, free from any unwanted odors.

While this grade of cannabis boasts many high-quality attributes, it has minor flaws. For instance, the buds may be slightly less dense or show minor discoloration.

AAAA Vs. AAA Strains

AAAA and AAA strains are considered high-quality and display rich, vibrant colors, including green, orange, purple, pink, or blue shades. Each type emits a strong and pleasant aroma and features a dense trichome coating resembling sugar crystals. However, AAA-grade weed might show slight brown discoloration and have less dense buds. The trichomes on AAA weed could appear frosty rather than clear and sparkling, and its colors may be less vivid compared to the AAAA grade.

When purchasing cannabis from a reputable dealer, it’s important to note that the product has undergone several quality checks. It’s also essential for you to be able to identify characteristics of different quality categories to ensure you get what you pay for. Familiarizing yourself with these traits can help you distinguish between AAAA and AAA cannabis strains.

Testing Cannabis Plants with a Farming Tool

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The Effect on Growing Cannabis Indoor or Outdoor

Growing plants indoors will always equate to a higher grade because the environments are controlled. Weather events and pests are much more limited indoors, so the grower can rely more on a consistent crop than an outdoor grower. Because of this consistency, indoor crops are almost always bound to result in higher-rating plants than outdoor. 

To learn more about the difference between indoor and outdoor grow operations, click here.

How to Check the Quality of Cannabis?

Visuals

The first and most straightforward method to assess cannabis quality is by sight. Examine the bud’s structure; denser buds typically indicate better quality. Also, be vigilant for signs of pests, insects, and pathogens, as infected buds often display unusual colors. Browning or bleaching are indications that the plant might have been affected by mold during its growth phase. While the mold may no longer be active, such discoloration suggests its prior presence.

Another crucial visual aspect is the trimming of the buds. High-quality cannabis will have neatly trimmed leaves that showcase the buds properly. If you find the surrounding leaves are broken or overly abundant, it could be hiding flaws in the bud itself. Always inspect closely.

Smell

The scent of cannabis can reveal a lot about its quality. Typical aromas range from earthy to citrusy. However, undesirable scents like leafy notes resembling cut grass or hay indicate a less mature or improperly cured product. The intensity of the aroma is also telling; a faint smell suggests that the cannabis may be stale or bland.

A musty odor is a red flag, suggesting poor storage conditions or that the cannabis is past its peak. This smell can resemble that of a damp basement or clothes left in a suitcase too long, indicating that the cannabis has oxidized over time, altering its cannabinoids and terpenes.

Smoke/Taste 

If the weed has an off-putting odor, it’s unlikely you’ll want to try smoking it. However, if you decide to proceed and light up, the taste can be a critical quality indicator. High-quality cannabis should have a robust and enjoyable flavor that matches its aroma. Additionally, when burned, the ash should be white and clean, further indicating the purity of the product.

Questions to consider:

  • Does the flavor align with the aroma?
  • Is the flavor strong enough to surpass the generic taste of burning plant matter?
  • Does the flavor linger, even half an hour after smoking?

Positive answers to the above questions indicate top-quality, Grade A cannabis. Additionally, ask yourself:

  • Is the smoke harsh and irritating in the back of your throat?
  • Does the flavor dissipate after the first puff?
  • Is there any discernible flavor, or does it taste like burnt plant matter?
  • Does the taste seem oddly salty? Does the bud crackle and spark when it burns?

If you say “yes,” to any of these, you’re likely dealing with cannabis that’s a lower grade.

Cannabis

Photo by Matthew Sichkaruk on Unsplash

So What is the Best Grade of Cannabis?

Something that makes cannabis grades tricky is that individual dispensaries may use their own grading systems. While most companies use certain grades, there is not necessarily a universal, specific code that an organization upholds. 

While AAA remains a high-standard product only slightly inferior to AAAA, anything below AAA will begin to show less potency and quality. AA, A, and other such grades make no real difference as they are all relatively the same. However, these lower-quality grades do have great uses for beginners who are not accustomed to cannabis flower. 

Meanwhile, some places may use a higher grading scale like AAAAA, this is likely an AAA or AAAA in disguise. You can still trust that it’s a fairly good product, but this grading doesn’t mean it’s better than a 4A somewhere else.

This is to say that, generally, anything AAA or better is a safe bet for the best product on the market, and anything below AAA will serve beginners well.

**(Disclaimer reminder: This article is not medical advice. It is based on anecdotal user experience alone. If you are thinking about incorporating cannabis (delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, CBD, etc) into your medicinal routine, please consult a healthcare professional. Do not stop taking any prescribed medications without first consulting your doctor.)

Disclaimer: This article was written in April 2024 and reflects the current laws of the United States at that time. Because cannabis laws in the United States laws are subject to change at any time, please make sure that you are always staying up to date on your federal, state, and local county’s cannabis laws. Additionally, we are NOT encouraging anyone to break the law––we are simply showing people ways to legally and discreetly bring their cannabis products along with them on their travels so that they may have access to those products when they reach their intended destination.

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