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What does weed smell like?

Updated on November 14, 2023
Written by
Paul Allen
Paul is a staff writer for HouseFresh, with a focus on product recommendations and advice for smokers and apartment dwellers. He started writing in November 2020, when he joined the content production team at NeoMam Studios (our parent company).

To many, weed can smell floral, piney or earthy, while certain strains are known for their unique scent, with notes of sourness or even ammonia

These odors occur thanks to the various monoterpenes and terpenoids within the plant alongside the 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol volatile sulfur compound (VSC3), bringing the notorious skunky aroma to the party.

For those looking to eradicate the smell of weed, using an air purifier equipped with Activated Carbon filters will provide fast-acting and efficient results, removing smoke and lingering odors before they take hold within your home.

Now that cannabis is widely available, you’ll likely notice the aroma more often. But putting your finger on what that smell is, however, isn’t always easy. Weed comes in many different forms, which may affect how it smells. 

Depending on who you ask, a whiff of weed can produce many different smells. From pleasant aromas, such as sweet nectar, pine, citrus, woody or floral notes, to those that are more of an acquired taste, such as bad breath or cat urine. 

Before being picked, rolled and smoked, weed starts its life as a plant. The plant’s seven-pronged, jagged green leaves are found in iconography around the globe, but its other signature feature is its smell. 

As the plant goes through its growth cycle, it will release odor created by a combination of VOCs such as monoterpenes and terpenoids. These compounds are naturally occurring and often used to produce essential oils alongside sulfur compounds, giving weed that unmistakable skunky aroma.    

Younger plants produce fewer aromas, with the weed’s potent pong culminating four to five weeks before the plant is due to be harvested, as the flowers (smokable buds) begin to mature. The smell of a weed plant can also be affected by environmental factors, such as weather or humidity, with plants releasing much more odor on hotter, dryer days. 

How weed smells vary between strains

Researchers have discovered over 150 different terpenes during studies into weed’s smell. These naturally occurring odor compounds can vary between strains, which explains why weed can smell so differently from plant to plant.

In nature, terpenes are used to attract or repel pollinators and insects, allowing the plant to thrive. To the average weed smoker, however, they can signify strain, potency and aromatherapeutic quantities

👃 Myrcene – containing an earthy, musky smell
🍋 Linonene – known for it’s lemony or citrus notes
💐 Linalool – providing floral or perfume aromas
🌲 Pinene – shares the woody scent of pine trees
🌿 Caryophyllene – bringing herbaceous and spicy smells of pepper, cloves or rosemary

The odor compounds above can also help to differentiate between the two main types of cannabis: indica and sativa. These two strains can give the user different effects, usually boiling down to indica being more calming and soothing, while sativa is said to be energizing and creative. 

Popular weed strains such as Sour Diesel, Lemon Haze and Durban Poison are all part of the sativa genus.  All three of these strains contain high quantities of Limonene and Caryophyllene, predominantly characterized as smelling sweet or fruity. 

Indica strains, on the other hand, whether Northern Lights or G13, are myrcene dominant, taking on a more muted smell with earthy, musky and often skunky notes coming to the fore. 

Those familiar with strains such as Cat Piss, Super Skunk or Sour Cheese will only be too familiar with the unusual smell these buds produce. These specific strains smell so strongly, thanks to their concoctions of terpenes — usually dominant in myrcene or caryophyllene, which contribute to their unique aromas that take after their namesakes.   

Frequently asked questions about weed smell 

🤔 What does weed smell like when stored?

After visiting a local dispensary, you’ll be given your goodies to take home in a sealed plastic bag. These small, press-sealed bags have long been standard practice, even before States began legalizing weed for medical or recreational use. 

This is because storing your pot in a sealed container helps to dampen the scent significantly, assisting consumers to be discreet. Once at home, people usually transfer their weed to an airtight container, such as a mason jar, which will keep smells locked away. While also prolonging the quality of the buds and its potency. 

This practice is also used by undercover users who need to mask the scent of weed, carrying out extra steps such as storing their weed inside sealable coffee jars, which can sometimes overpower weed’s smell. 

🤔 Does the smell of weed change when smoked? 

Smoking a joint, blunt or bong involves setting weed alight. When the buds combust, this changes the molecular structure of the flower, releasing new chemicals and oils in the process. 

While this is unlikely to introduce any new radical odors, it may intensify the smell of weed, further releasing its musky, skunky or herbaceous scent. 

When smoked, weed’s odor can be combined with other scents like fire or smoke. This results from rolling papers and plant matter burning, which is found to smell acrid or ashy amongst users. 

Remember that smoke is heavier than air, so the odor compounds inside smoke will linger for longer and can penetrate your surroundings, especially soft furnishings, clothes and carpets, which will expose you to weed’s smell for prolonged periods.

🤔 What else smells like weed?

Have you ever cracked open a beer or walked by a garden and thought someone was enjoying a joint nearby? Well, you may just have weed on the brain or possess an excellent 420 radar, but the chances are you were near an item that shares the same olfactory profile as weed. 

Plants are among the most common smell-alikes that get confused for weed. As weed is a plant, it is not uncommon for many species to share the same terpenes. Hikers may be familiar with the familiar sulfur scent of skunk cabbage

Homeowners growing Moss Phlox or Caucasian Crosswort have been known to attract police raids, thanks to the familiar weed smell.  

Other people have noted that their body odor or sweat can smell like weed. Researchers have discovered that this phenomenon stems from the apocrine sweat glands and is more likely to occur if the person is nervous, stressed or sexually active.

Another classic example of weed misdiagnosis is after opening a can or bottle of beer. The terpene humulene is often categorized as smelling hoppy or citrusy and is found in beer and weed.   

These days, you can even find various products, from candles to CBD oil-infused perfumes that smell like weed. 

To the uninitiated, being around these items may lead you to believe someone is carrying or smoking weed nearby. Although this can’t be ruled out, there’s a high chance it’s something else that shares the same terpenes and, thus, smells the same as weed. 

🤔 What are the best air purifiers for weed smell?

Investing in an air purifier is a simple solution for those looking to remove the smell of weed from their home. Air purifiers draw in vast air and capture polluting particles as they pass through the filters inside. 

To capture odor particles in particular, the purifier must utilize Activated Carbon filters. This process works by locking particles to the porous carbon substrate inside in a process known as adsorption. 

Here at HouseFresh, we know that carbon-equipped air purifiers work wonders at absorbing weed smells and other nasty pollutants that can result from smoking indoors, leaving your air smelling fresh and healthier to breathe.

But don’t just take our word for it. Residents in weed-growing hotspots along California’s central coast have recently started legal action against cultivators to force them to use Activated Carbon filtration to limit the odor that fills their neighborhoods. 

Look at our article covering the seven best air purifiers for tackling weed smell, or check out our top three picks below:

Levoit EverestAirLevoit Core 400SIQAir HealthPro Plus
TEST ROOM⚡13 minutes33 minutes25 minutes
CADR 👩‍🔬360 CFM (612 m3/h)260 CFM / 442 m³/h300 CFM / 510 m³/h
FILTER 💨H13 HEPA and Activated Carbon PelletsH13 HEPA and Activated Carbon PelletsHyperHEPA and V50-CELL gas and odor filter
MAX SIZE 📏Up to 558 sq. ft.Up to 403 sq. ft.Up to 1,125 sq. ft.
WEIGHT ⚖️20.7 lbs (9.38 kg)14.1 lbs (6.4 kg)35 lbs (16 kg)
OUR REVIEW 🔍EverestAir reviewCore 400S reviewIQAir HealthPro Plus review
PRICE 💵$599.98$189.99$899.00

Last update on 2024-04-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Final thoughts 

It’s no secret that weed stinks! While taking a whiff of some fresh buds can ignite the senses, it’s less preferential to be surrounded by the skunky odor all of the time. 

Storing your weed in an airtight container can help limit the odor, but investing in an air purifier loaded with plenty of activated carbon is a failsafe approach for those who regularly possess and smoke weed at home. 

With the right air purifier utilized in your home, you can enjoy a fresh-smelling environment and breathe healthier air without the worry of weed’s smell taking hold. 


Last update on 2024-04-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About the author

Paul Allen

Paul is a staff writer for HouseFresh, with a focus on product recommendations and advice for smokers and apartment dwellers. He started writing in November 2020, when he joined the content production team at NeoMam Studios (our parent company).