The Green Light: Understanding Terpenes And Marijuana Scents

The Green Light: Understanding Terpenes And Marijuana Scents

When people talk about the smell of medical marijuana, they are reacting to the terpenes.

So the way many people gauge the power of their medical marijuana is a visual test and a smell test. The visual test is straight forward. How green is it. But when it comes to the scent of medical marijuana, a much more complex game is played. Some strains smell like pine trees, some smell like cat pee. Some strains smell fresh like the forest, some smell like they were grown next to fresh fruit, carrying some of those traits in scent and flavor. Regardless of any of that, what you need to know is you are reacting to the terpenes in marijuana. What is that? Glad you asked.

Smell Yeah!

So you go to your local medical marijuana provider and grab yourself a fresh batch. You picked it based on strain, but scent factored in big time. It smelled so fresh and so green, you almost felt like you were sitting underneath a pine tree on a perfect day. Well, that pine tree odor pulling you in is caused by the terpenes in marijuana, which are known to hold in the scents we often pick up on when we smell the plant. Keep in mind, they are found in most plants, and not just marijuana. But in marijuana, they call often tell you so much with just a whiff.



Skunk was the IT strain way back in the early days of the medical marijuana and marijuana scenes. Named as such because it literally smelled like it was sprayed out of a skunk’s ass. While that may seem unappealing, those who think that were never lucky enough to partake in it. The best strains that exist today would not have existed had skunk not been one of the first strains that people really KNEW was great, just based on the scent the terpenes gave off.

Skunk was also more of an Indica high, kind of just making you want to chill out.


What is good about a very green and pine smelling bud is that it is often indicative of am Indica strain. Indica strains are couch strains. The kind you want to smoke when you need to chill out and get some sleep or stop worrying about something.

Smoke the pine and leave your troubles behind. But again, we only know this because of extensive studies of terpenes.

Cat Piss

I know, I know, it’s weird, but there are people far more cool than I who agree that marijuana that smells like cat piss packs a punch (Antony Bourdain sung its praises on an episode of No Reservations). Though cat pee is not a smell many like, it is a good sign if you are looking for a more energetic, sativa effect, and definitely about to get it.

Heck, there is even a strain CALLED Cat-Piss now, this has become such a thing.


The medical marijuana that has more of an earthy smell is not always a great sign. Not pine, not skunk, but smells more of earth itself. While this is not straight trash herb, there is nothing remarkable about this scent because there is oft nothing remarkable about the strain, either.

Smells like soil, and gets you about as medicated as smoking soil would, too. Often delegated to commercial or lower quality batches, dodge the stuff that smells like wet earth. It is usually called dirt and is dirt cheap for a reason.

Extract Scents

When it comes to dabs and such, generally, the more the extract smells like the essence of the plant it was taken from, the better. When you deal with terpenes in marijuana, they smell like different things. But extract will smell (and taste) like pure marijuana pollen. That may sound strange, but it is a very distinctive scent (almost think coffee grinds mixed in with fresh earth in springtime).

Though this may be foreign to you now, the more you acclimate yourself with oils and extracts, the more sense it will make.

Final Thoughts

So the best thing to do is figure out what strains you like most, and work with the scents most connected to those strains. Terpenes are magical things that communicate much to us using only scent, and we can learn a lot about what we are investing in just by opening our noses first.

From pine to pee, knowing your scents means knowing your medicine.

Remy Carrreiro/Pazoo

This information is intended for people in states where marijuana use has been legalized. If you are using marijuana products for medical treatment, be sure to consult a professional for individual counseling.