Marijuana smells like skunk
The parlance of pot is chock-full of terms that are used to describe the various aromas created by cannabis. Marijuana can be piney, earthy, gassy, spicey, or exude a veritable fruit basket of odors including: banana, melon, orange, lemon, tangerine, and more.
And while most of these fragrances are considered pleasing by most, one scent in particular, skunk, has a decidedly unpleasant connotation. But what exactly is skunk weed? And why does it smell that way?
Terpenes Are the Key
The variety of smells found in cannabis are largely produced by terpenes, a class of aromatic chemicals found in many plants and even some insects. More than 20,000 different terpenes have been identified, making them the largest category of plant compounds discovered. At least 200 different terps have been found in cannabis, although only a handful are the most dominant.
Pinene can give pot a pine-like fragrance, while caryophyllene is peppery. Limonene has a citrusy scent and terpinolene is fruity. Myrcene, the most prevalent cannabis terpene, is earthy or musky, a trait that is partly responsible for the skunky funk of some strains.
Some less common terpenes, however, give off the odor of a different class of chemicals known as thiols. These compounds have a sulfurous smell that can be reminiscent of rotten eggs, fuel, or even farts. Thiols are also responsible for the unique and very recognizable stench of skunk spray, a defense mechanism that can help keep the animal safe from predators. Strains of cannabis with terpenes that have an aroma similar to these thiols are often referred to as skunky or skunk weed.
Strains of Skunk Weed
There are many strains of cannabis that express the skunky smell of these terpenes. Skunk weed varietals got their start in the 1970s with the introduction of Skunk #1 by Sacred Seeds, a group of breeders in Northern California led by David Watson, also known as Sam the Skunkman. Skunk #1 is a cross of short, bushy Pakistani and Afghani varietals cultivated for hash, and tropical strains from Asia and South and Central America.
Watson was one of the first breeders who recognized that, while THC was the component of cannabis mainly responsible for the high it imparts, terpenes were also important and could intensify and modify the plant’s psychoactive effects through the entourage effect. As a result, when evaluating breeding stock for his next cross, Sam the Skunkman often let the aroma of these potential parents be his guide.
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Besides their inherent skunkiness, the flowers of Skunk #1 also impart musky and earthy aromas with subtle floral and fruity notes, while the flavor of the strain is generally woodsy, sweet, and fruity. The clear-headed high of this original skunk weed can be somewhat euphoric, heighten creativity, and relieve stress. Medical marijuana patients have reported success using the strain to treat pain, asthma, glaucoma, stress, nausea, vomiting, and as an appetite stimulant.
The success of Skunk #1 made it an ideal strain to breed with other plants in order to create different varieties of skunk weed. After serving a stint in prison and being released in 1982, Watson moved to the Netherlands, taking several kilos of seeds with him. He then resumed his breeding career, and started the seed company Cultivator’s Choice in Amsterdam.
Soon, other Dutch breeders were also offering their own strains of skunk weed, with varieties such as Super Skunk, Jack Herer, Northern Lights, and Early Girl making their debut on the cannabis scene. Today, these varieties have become popular genetics for breeders who have produced literally hundreds of strains with skunk in their name or terpene profile, including Skunk Dawg, Lemon Skunk, Skunky Diesel, Skunk Haze, and (my personal favorite) Thelonious Skunk.
Other Meanings of Skunk Weed
The word “skunk” can refer to more than just genetic terms for cannabis, too. For people who don’t use cannabis (and even some who do partake), all varieties of cannabis smell skunky. To a certain extent this is true, although more experienced cannaphiles will appreciate the other aromas and notes present in a particular strain’s bouquet.
In the United Kingdom, the term “skunk weed” has taken on a more generic meaning. There, skunk doesn’t refer to the aroma of particular strains of marijuana. Rather, it is a moniker that designates highly potent pot. Just about any kind of super-stony sensimilla flower that is cultivated for smoking will qualify as skunk weed across the pond.
Despite the nuances of meaning that the term skunk weed can have from one person to the next, one thing is a given: When you smell that sweet stank, you’re sure to be in for a good time.
Cannabis flower has more unique scents than the rainbow has colors. But why does weed sometimes smell like a skunk?
Why does cannabis sometimes smell like a skunk?
This is when having a discerning nose counts.
There is no question that a lot of different cannabis strains can smell a lot like a skunk. Many people have a tricky time deciphering the difference in between the animal and the drug. Others will instantly correlate the smells. Of course, location matters. If you are at a rave, the odour is undoubtedly cannabis but if you are on a back country road, it’s probably a skunk. But what if you are in a city? This is when having a discerning nose counts.
The majority of people could care less if it was a skunk or weed. But for some people, it brings about a lot of curiosity in finding out what is the culprit for causing that smell. This the question: why does cannabis sometimes smell like the most pungent animal odour out there? To find out, let’s start by taking deeper look at why certain cannabis strains are more evocative than others.
What does pot smell like and why?
What does pot smell like? For experienced cannabis users, it doesn’t have a single odour, but many different fragrances depending on the particular strain. Many strains evoke certain smells – earthy, citrusy, flowery or piney. Others might have strong hints of skunk odour.
Cannabis is loaded full of terpenes – organic compounds found in many different plants. Some insects also contain terpenes, such as termites. Cannabis contains hundreds of terpenes, and some plants simply have more than others. The kind of terpenes a plant has effects the typ of odours it gives off. This is why one strain can smell completely different from the next. Two strains of cannabis that have the same terpene profile will most likely smell fairly similar.
A lot of terpenes contain a skunk-like aroma, and even though it is not a desirable smell for some, it can be for people that want to get high. Why? Cannabis users know that the more potent a strain of weed smells, the more potent the psychoactive effects will be. Skunk-smelling weed basically means a strain is strong stuff.
One of these strains is known as Skunk #1, which is indica-dominant and has been very popular since the 1970s. It has a very skunky smell but also contains hints of fruit, woodiness and jasmine. Many people that consume medical cannabis use this strain to relieve symptoms of nausea, glaucoma, auto-immune disorders, asthma, anorexia and overall pain in the body. It also has been known to be beneficial for psychiatric conditions. Skunk #1 gives recreational users a high that is both energizing and relaxing at the same time. It also produces feelings of euphoria.
Skunky smelling strains and strains that don’t smell skunky
Cannabis typically contains hints skunky fragrance, but without a doubt some strains produce much more potent smells than others. Some cannabis users actually look for this smell and find it ideal when they are testing out different strains. Others will avoid skunky smelling strains because they care more about discretion, and it is fairly difficult to be discrete when you bring home a product that fills the house with a pungent odour.
Golden Ticket is one such skunky strain, but it also contains hints of lemon. Death Star is another, but it has earthy notes. If your goal is to find a strain that is easily concealed these two should be avoided. Instead, try Lemon Haze, which has a citrusy scent and a high that gradually increases over time. Alpha Blue is another ideal strain that tastes a little bit like blueberries. Orange Bud smells like cloves, Kali Mist doesn’t smell too much like skunk yet has a strong herbal smell, and Northern Lights is a fairly sedate strain and tastes pretty good.
What else smells like cannabis?
If you take a look at the Merriam Webster dictionary, the term “skunkweed” is used to refer to a wide range of different herbs are pungent and worth taking a whiff of. Skunk cabbage, which is a plant that grows in moist areas throughout the eastern United States, smells like a skunk when the leaves have received some damage. Gilia Squarrosa is a Californian annual that is also commonly referred to as “stinkweed.” Rocky Mountain Sticky-Leafed Herb and Joe-Pye Weed also contain skunk-like odours that many people will think is instantly cannabis when they smell it.
There are people out there who believe that those who consume cannabis a lot will give off a body odor that smells like skunk weed. Healthline explain this due to the smell of strains that smell like skunks clinging to a smoker’s clothes and hair. The smell can be avoided by choosing strains that have a more dominant fruity smell.
Most people who have been around cannabis will probably know that a lot of it can sometimes smell like a skunk. But many don’t know why this is.