Pete Shearer knows good weed, and he wants to make sure consumers do too.
“Cannabis is my entire life, I’ve dedicated my career to it,” Shearer told Daily Hive over the phone.
With over a decade of experience in the industry, Shearer started out designing and managing Medical Marihuana Access Regulations (MMAR) production facilities, and in 2013 transitioned to consulting within the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) system.
He has held advisory roles in cultivation strategies and genetic selection for 7 ACRES and is now the director of product development and planning at the Supreme Cannabis Company.
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Cannabis quality control
“Quality assessment in the informal cannabis market was typically characterized with anecdotal and often ambiguous descriptions,” said Shearer. “Although it has some validity, as cannabis moves into more of a regulated formal space, so does the need for standardization when assessing quality.”
Shearer created a cannabis grading system that was originally designed for business-to-business transactions, but any consumer can use these techniques to identify quality when purchasing product.
The Shearer Grading System
“The entire system is based on sensory evaluation to detect the presence and intensity of defects,” said Shearer.
Defects lower the grade and quality of the product.
Shearer focuses on defects in order to create some degree of standardization, because “sensory evaluation is quite subjective.”
There are three main sensory measures when grading cannabis.
“Smell, look, and taste are the primary factors,” said Shearer. “Smell is the most important factor.”
“Premium quality cannabis should posses a highly pleasing, pungent, aromatic profile, free of unwanted off-notes,” which are usually indicative of “suboptimal production or processing and finishing.”
“In the case of smell, one of the most prominent defects is what I call ‘green leaf volatiles.’ Those are aromas of hay and cut grass, undesirable green notes, and are released from the degradation of chlorophyll, and imparted into the end product through improper processing and finishing or simply suboptimal environmental conditions.”
What to look for
“Cannabis should have a healthy colouration, good bud structure abundant with trichomes (tiny hairs and crystals), and be trimmed well.”
Healthy buds should be green in colour with a range of accents, like orange or purple, and be tightly formed. Proper trimming means excess foliage has been removed, so each bud has a dense, uniform look to it.
When examining for defects, look for “open bud structure, poor trim, unhealthy colouration, evidence of insects, seeding, mould or mildews.”
If your weed is mostly brown, tan, or yellow, it likely did not come from a healthy plant.
“When cannabis is smoked or vaporized it should possess an attractive flavour free of off-notes and burn cleanly without harshness or an astringent mouthfeel.”
Shearer also says, ash should be white instead of dark in colour, and there should be a noticeable taste that compliments the aroma of the weed.
The retail experience
Having a tactile relationship with cannabis before buying it is a necessary part of selecting a good product, similar to how you buy fruit from a market.
Proposed guidelines from Health Canada would require cannabis to come in pre-packaged, sealed, childproof bags, which would force consumers to evaluate their purchase only after they have brought it home.
One solution is for retailers to keep samples of each strain that consumers would be able to look at and smell before making a decision, but they would still have to buy the actual cannabis sight unseen.