Why Do Skunks Smell Like Weed?
I am a big fan of the furry type of skunk, personally. As a licensed skunk rehabilitator, I transport these amazing creatures frequently in my car and have been sprayed a few times while rescuing upset animals.
The resemblance between skunk musk and marijuana has, unfortunately, led to some awkward encounters. “Yes, sir, I do have an actual skunk in my vehicle, and nothing illegal.”
So what’s up with the resemblance? Here’s the scoop on skunk: a skunk’s distinct smell comes from three types of organic sulfur compounds, known as thiols. Thiols are intensely musky and overpowering, which is what makes them such potent weapons.
Cannabis doesn’t contain thiols, but it does contain hundreds of compounds known as terpenes. Terpenes include the spicy-smelling compound caryophyllene, the citrusy compound limonene, and the musky compound known as myrcene. Myrcene is the chemical in marijuana that is most distinctly similar in scent to skunk spray.
In the 1970s, Dutch growers in the United States cultivated a hybrid cannabis strain called “Skunk” that was unusually rich in myrcene. The strain became more and more potent in time and became a parent breed to many other types of medicinal and recreational marijuana. That’s why many kinds of cannabis used today smell skunky.
I am a big fan of the furry type of skunk, personally. As a licensed skunk rehabilitator, I transport these amazing creatures frequently in my car and have been sprayed a few times while rescuing upset animals. The resemblance between skunk musk and marijuana has, unfortunately, led to some awkward encounters. “Yes, sir, I do…
The Fragrance of Marijuana Before and After Consumption
Marijuana is the dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant. Cannabis has psychoactive and medicinal properties because of its chemical makeup.
Marijuana can be rolled up in a handmade cigarette (a joint), in a cigar, or in a pipe (a bong). It can be used for pain relief, to treat anxiety, or for recreation.
In many states, the sale and use of marijuana without a prescription is still illegal.
You can usually tell if someone has been smoking marijuana by detecting the scent of piney, slightly skunky grass that smoked cannabis leaves behind.
But figuring out for sure if what you’re smelling is weed can be a little difficult if you aren’t attuned to the scent. Various strains of marijuana can smell different from each other, making it even more complicated.
This article will cover what marijuana smells like in different stages of its use and consumption, as well as some differences between strains.
The strongest factor in the way marijuana smells is the age of the cannabis plant when it’s harvested. Cannabis that’s harvested earlier in its life cycles has a milder, less skunky scent.
It’s also less powerful when you smoke it. Cannabis that grows older before it’s picked and dried will have a stronger odor.
Organic compounds called terpenes are found in all plants, including cannabis. Myrcene (mango), pinene (pine), and limonene (lemon) are terpenes found in some strains of cannabis.
Terpenes change the scent of marijuana. For example, cannabis strains with pinene will smell more like pine.
Marijuana plants smell similar during the growing process and when they’re harvested and dried. They give off a slightly weedy, piney “skunk” scent that gets stronger as the plant grows older.
When cannabis flowers and blooms, the scent becomes powerful.
Indica vs. sativa
For decades, botanists and marijuana connoisseurs claimed that indica and sativa are different species with distinctly different effects on the body. Indica strain smells more acrid, while sativa smells more spicy or sweet.
But it would appear, at least to some experts, that there’s no way to smell the difference between indica and sativa definitively. Part of the reason is that there’s a lot of crossbreeding between these two particular strains.
However, one small study did find that participants who had purchased weed within the prior several months were able to smell the difference between several different strains of marijuana.
Marijuana consumers describe the scent of the plant as earthy, herbal, and woody. Sometimes the plant scent carries notes of lemon, apple, diesel, or plum.
Dried marijuana smells a lot stronger than some other dried plants.
When you’re smoking marijuana, the natural scent of the cannabis scent is amplified by the smoke it creates. Fire, smoke itself, ash, and the smell of rolling paper add additional layers to the scent.
When a person is smoking cannabis, notes of lemongrass, pine, fire, and wood may stand out. The distinct “skunk” smell of marijuana is often reported.
Learn about what gives marijuana its distinctly "skunky," strong odor, and how marijuana smells in plant form, when it's smoked, and more.