Once a simple question,”What does marijuana smell like?” is now down to mad science. Crazed botanists are competing constantly, creating new strain sensations with carefully crafted cannabis chemovars (think “strains on steroids”).

These botanists bring artistry to growing weed, being able to manipulate the cannabis plant into thousands of variations. Now scientists studying smells are adding to that landscape. New profiles come alive, thrive and help you jive whether growing it or smoking it. An educated nose leads the way to truly satisfying your needs. We at 420DC will share an insider’s knowledge about the olfactory influence of weed at both ends of the life cycle of cannabis, seed to shelf to smile on your face.

How does marijuana smell? 420DC.com

Pot smoke is pungent

When getting high, burning herb is one of the most distinct odors to mankind. But that ain’t old smoldering rope weed from yesteryear. Most strains today are stacked with science. Still, smoke stinks beyond most smells.

Marijuana is so pungent when burnt that its aroma latches onto just about anything; clothes, hair, carpet, couches, even skin. That reek can literally last for days, too, depending on how it’s smoked.

When it comes to containing smell, some ways to burn bud are better than others.

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Different weed smells

The most pungent weed smell comes from smoke. Combustion produces it and the fire’s high heat causes toxic byproducts too, obviously part of smoke’s stink factor. But smoke can be contained and cannabis can be consumed many ways. So read on…

Pot smoke stinks

In the many ways to smoke weed, several allow a continuous burn. Joints, pipes, spliffs, blunts, cones all produce steady smoke until the weed’s gone ash. And so much smoke is a bust.

Smaller pipes like one hitters and screw-capped ‘bullets’ are a little less stinky because not much weed is burnt that doesn’t go into your lungs. Of course exhaled smoke still has a big reek factor (as does your breath) that lasts longer than you think.

The bong, which uses water to filter out impurities from smoke, reduces smell somewhat over pipes and joints, but is still pretty stinky, especially if the water chamber needs cleaning.

How to hide pot smoke

First, you have to be realistic and know that smoking a joint, bong or pipe in a closed room is virtually impossible to mask. So, that’s lesson number one when trying to mask marijuana- it’s easier outside.

If you must be inside, best practice is to use a small pipe for single hits. Place a damp towel at all door cracks, open a window or use an exhaust fan. Candles, incense and/or air fresheners are recommended.

Another method some smokers swear by is the shower method. Get an enclosed bathroom steamy with a warm shower and turn on an exhaust fan. The moisture in the air binds to the smoke particles, which, too heavy to drift, are exhausted through the fan.

How to make a sploof

One method to mask the smell of weed is through a filter of some kind, affectionately known as a sploof. You can search the internet for all sorts of DIY ways to do this as well as products you can buy. Or I can save you some time with the world’s simplest sploof.

Get a paper towel tube and stuff it with four or five new dryer sheets. Blow all smoke through one end and enjoy the downy fresh scent. Replace sheets when stinky. You’re welcome.

How do vaporizers smell?

A much less smelly high with flower is the dry herb vaporizer. There are multiple styles of vapes from the desktop Volcano to a hand-held PAX but they all have some common traits and essentially do the same thing.

Vaporizers have a chamber that’s loaded with ground bud. There’s a power supply of some kind and heating element that warms herb until it releases its magical, essential goodness including the smells. A mouthpiece of some type helps you breathe in all that heady goodness.

Where fire literally destroys biomaterial before it’s consumed and creates a stinky sesh, dry herb vapes deliver a full spectrum of THC, CBD, terpenes, flavonoids and other cannabinoids, intact. That’s because the volatile oils are all released when weed is warmed without being burnt.

The high for a dry herb vaporizer is comparable to the high from combustion methods. It hits fairly quickly and lasts up to an hour or more. But the smell and taste factors are like night and day.

Where smoke stinks and clouds the flavor of herb, good vapes produce very little smell at all but rather a full profile and unadulterated aromas and flavors. And this is true for all vaporizers.

Concentrate vapes

A vaporizer is also a tool used with THC oil (hash oil). This concentrated cannabis is suspended in a liquid oil base, put in a cartridge with a heating element, connected to a vape battery and inhaled much like with a dry herb vaporizer.

Oil pens are convenient because they are small, travel anywhere, hide easily and have virtually no smell at all, even less than dry herb vapes. Concentrated weed hits fast, lasts about as long as dry herb vapes, and comes in tasty flavors.

How do dab rigs smell?

Another type of vaporization is used with dabs, or solid marijuana concentrates. A dab rig is a water pipe made for wax, shatter and every other type of solid oil out there. Instead of a bowl used for dry herb, an oil rig uses a heated ‘nail’ to flash vaporize dabs, melting them on contact.

The smell factor with dab rigs versus bongs is much more pleasant but still fairly noticeable. Dabs are usually full of strain flavors which are not fully filtered by the rig’s water (or your lungs).

Dabs dissipate far faster than combusted smoke too, depending on the ‘flavor’ and intensity of the terps. And flavor is the name of the game with cannabis today. But how are the various smells of different strains achieved?

how does marijuana smell

Skunky pot smoke

Terpenes (terps) is the name of the marijuana smells game. These aromatic compounds are why your weed smells skunky or fruity. There’s also growing evidence terps affect the effects of cannabis more than previously known, even though they don’t contain THC or CBD.

Terps exist in the cannabis flower’s trichomes- those sticky, resinous create smells associated with weed and one of the most frequently mentioned is ‘skunk.’ This comes from a terpene shared by most cannabis strains, myrcene, in varying levels. So, some bud smells more of skunk than others.

Smells associated with marijuana

There are nearly 50 scent markers people identify in cannabis smells including ‘pungent,’ ‘chocolate,’ ‘skunk’ and ‘grapefruit.’ Nearly every respondent, though, used the terms “earthy,” “herbal” and “woody” when describing the smell of cannabis flower.

Terpene profiles create incredibly diverse ranges of smells. When it comes to choosing weed however, perceptions usually fall into two camps; earthy and citrusy.

Earthy pot is perceived to be less desirable even though it might have a higher THC rating. Citrus-smelling strains are valued more strictly by the smell and the perceived (or actual) high.

Terpenes tip off

There is growing evidence that terpenes affect your high in addition to THC. A synergistic relationship between terps and all cannabinoids seems to exists, contributing to, if not creating, the ‘entourage effect,’ where everything inside cannabis works together, enhancing each other.

More than 100 cannabinoids have been identified and all cannabis has a ‘full spectrum’ of biomaterial including terpenes. And millennia of identifying properties of various plants by smell, taste and touch suggests that different terps have different effects.

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Different kinds of terpenes

There’s more than a dozen terpenes associated with cannabis. Here we’ll take a look at some of the most common, their scent, reported uses and some of the strains associated with them.

Note that the strains mentioned are typically associated with that terpene but different grows produce different results. The same strain name will have varying terpene profiles depending on several factors.


This prevalent terpene gives cannabis a musky, herbal fragrance. Myrcene is associated with relaxing, sedative qualities and is often desired in medicinal cannabis.

Popular strains with myrcene aplenty include Grandaddy Purp, Amnesia and Trainwreck.

Also abundant in other plants, myrcene is found in hops, mangoes and lemongrass.


This terp gives cannabis a pine scent that’s sharp and sweet. Us old timers called it a Christmas Tree Sens. Pinene is associated clinically with anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial qualities.i

Jack Herer, Master Kush and Inzane in the Membrane are strains typically pinene heavy.

Pine needles, Rosemary, basil and dill are plants with high levels of pinene.


This terpene gives cannabis a spicy, woody scent often described as ‘peppery.’ Caryophyllene is associated with anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory effects.

Strains associated with high caryophyllene include Master Kush, Sour Diesel and Gelato.

Other plants high in caryophyllene include black pepper, cloves and cinnamon.


Cannabis plants with fruity smells are high in this terp. Clinically, terpinolene is noted for anti-bacterial, antifungal, anti-insomnia and antiseptic qualities.

Strains high in terpinolene include Dutch treat, Ghost Train Haze and Orange Cookies.

Other plants with high terpinolene include nutmeg, tea tree, cumin and lilacs.


Like the name suggests, the terpene limonene shares smells associated with citrus. Clinically, limonene is associated with anti-anxiety, anti-cancer, digestion and gallstones.

Strains high in limonene include Super Lemon Haze, Berry White and Do-Si-Dos.

Limonene is also found in rosemary, fruit rinds, juniper and peppermint plants.

Growing marijuana smells

Suffice it to say growing cannabis starts producing thrichomes and terpene smells at the plant’s second trimester. If you are growing indoors, it’s best to see what others do online. There are numerous ways to control smell from exhaust fans to filters and more.

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  1. johnpalment0129

    I’ve only smelled marijuana a few times. I will never forget her smell. It is very sharp and specific, you cannot confuse it with anything https://sites.google.com/site/palmettorehabs. It happens that I walk down the street and smell marijuana. This means that someone is smoking a joint nearby. It makes me uneasy. I do not like it when they use it on the street. If you want to smoke a joint, go home and do it at home, not on the street. I know cannabis is legalized, but I can’t get used to people smoking it on the street. What do you think?