Why are My Cannabis Buds Harsh to Smoke?

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Added 09 March 2023

Don’t you love it when you finish a hard day at work and reach out for that amazing joint? 

It’s going to be your night of blazing it and chilling out.

You’re imagining the beautiful taste of that joint hitting your taste buds. 

But, what if it’s so harsh that you regret lighting the joint?

Night ruined… Perhaps the next day is ruined too, thanks to a sore throat. 

Have you ever wondered why your cannabis buds are so harsh? 

Well, there are many reasons for it. Perhaps the buds were not stored properly. Or, you didn’t dry and cure them well. Lastly, they could be too old. 

A variety of factors come into play, but don’t worry. We will help you figure this out. 

Learn about the common reasons why cannabis buds turn harsh to smoke and what you can do to avoid it, both as a consumer and as a grower. 

Why Do Cannabis Buds Taste Harsh?

As mentioned already, there are various reasons why your buds could be so harsh that they make you cough immediately. 

Here are a few reasons:

1. The Buds Didn’t Dry Properly

Drying cannabis buds

One of the primary reasons why cannabis buds are harsh to smoke is that they haven’t dried properly. When this happens, the buds can contain patches that are too dry or have moisture — often due to poor conditions — which makes the smoking experience harsh.

Additionally, if they haven’t dried adequately, they may sometimes develop mold or bacteria, which you can smell but can’t really see, making the buds harsh to smoke. 

Here are some of the reasons the buds may not have adequately dried:

  • Heat is one of the primary factors here; if the buds were dried in conditions over 75°F or  24°C, there is a higher chance of harshness and mold.
  • Similarly, improper humidity plays a significant role; humidity outside the 50% to 55% RH range can lead to mold or improper drying.
  • If the fans were blowing directly on the buds, the buds dry faster and unevenly, where the chlorophyll may not have time to break down properly, leading to a harsh taste.
  • On the contrary, lack of air circulation during drying can also cause bacteria or mold growth on the buds.

How to Dry Cannabis Buds?

If you’re growing cannabis and your buds haven’t dried properly, you can follow a few simple tricks to ensure the next batch dries appropriately. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep the drying space cool and maintain the temperature under 18°C or 65°F and relative humidity under 55%.
  • Ensure gentle airflow in the room, and avoid keeping any fans directly facing the buds.
  • Avoid overpacking the buds during the drying process — allow them ample space.

Note that these tips are primarily for air-drying, where you hang the buds upside down for multiple days to dry properly. The temperature and humidity ranges mentioned above do not apply to controlled drying environments like a bud dryer. 

How to Check if Cannabis Buds are Dried Properly?

When drying cannabis buds, you should ensure they are drying well instead of waiting too long and experiencing harsh smoke. Generally, when the buds are appropriately dry, the smallest stems under the buds should snap instead of bending — this is a sign that there isn’t enough moisture within.

The buds should also pop off the stem and not come off in strings. The latter is a sign of high moisture content within, and you need to dry them more. 

2. The Buds aren’t Cured and Stored Properly

Curing cannabis buds

In a similar line as the above section, sometimes, cannabis buds can also taste harsh when they are not cured and stored properly. Generally, cannabis buds need to be dried in specific jars for at least two weeks to be smoother to smoke. 

Curing cannabis buds also has other benefits. It reduces the harshness while strengthening the flavor and aroma profiles of cannabis, which usually get muted during the drying process. Properly cured buds are also potent and don’t come with undesirable effects. 

If your cannabis buds are harsh to smoke but you know they were dried properly, curing is the next reason you should focus on. 

How to Cure Cannabis Buds Properly?

Even before you start curing, ensure your cannabis buds are dried properly. Once they are adequately dried, it is recommended that you place the buds in mason jars for 1 to 2 weeks. Don’t forget to burp the jars once a day for the first couple of weeks. Burping removes excess moisture and keeps the air fresh within the jar. 

You should also use hygrometers to keep track of the humidity levels in the jars. These devices are cheaper than you would expect and totally worth the money for a serious cannabis cultivator. 

You can also use humidity packs — they are cheap and effective at maintaining the humidity levels in the jars. Choose humidity packs ranging between 55% to 62% for the best results. Here, a higher humidity range leads to softer buds that burn slowly but don’t last long in storage, so choose accordingly.

3. The Plant was Not Flushed Properly Before the Harvest

Flushing cannabis plant

Another common reason why your cannabis buds may taste harsh is if the plant wasn’t flushed properly before harvest. 

However, we are a bit on the fence when it comes to flushing. Some reports suggest that flushing isn’t necessary, while some growers argue that flushing is a crucial step that comes before harvest when the plant must be fed pure water so that it uses up all the residual nutrients stored within itself. 

The argument is that if the plant is not flushed correctly, it may still contain residual salts that have a harsh taste and make the bud burn unevenly. This problem is common in commercial operations, where the growers want to push out products faster — they start cutting corners. 

An excellent way to spot this is if your cannabis joint burns poorly — one side burns faster, even if you've rolled the joint perfectly. Plus, the ash would be white in color if it contains residual salts. 

The best way to figure this out is to flush the plants and check the taste for yourself. For example, if you’re growing two plants, flush one and harvest the other without flushing it. This simple test will tell you whether you need to flush the next time or not. 

But don’t worry, such buds are not dangerous at all. They are just a little harsh, but they won’t cause any side effects even if you smoke them. 

4. Using Too Many Pesticides, Regulators, or Foliar Sprays

Using Too Many Pesticides, Regulators, or Foliar Sprays

Sometimes, the buds can taste harsh when you use too many pesticides, growth regulators, or foliar sprays on the plant. When done incorrectly, these compounds can land on the buds and hamper their flavor profile. And since they are usually harsh compounds, they don’t taste very nice. 

So, if you’re growing cannabis, avoid using anything that can hamper the buds’ flavor profile. In other words, avoid spraying the buds as much as possible. And if you must sometimes use — let’s say, to tackle a pest infestation — use mild, organic compounds since they are not as harsh as chemical ones. 

Remember, even if you use neem oil, which is perhaps the most ideal organic pesticide, it can still turn your buds harsh. Whichever compound you use, keep them away from the buds and apply them in a controlled manner to ensure they don’t land on the buds. 

Coming to plant growth regulators or PRGs — these compounds help your plant grow better, but they can deposit in plant tissues quickly, which can also affect how the buds taste. So, avoid using PRGs. There is a reason most growers have stopped relying on PRGs, and most of them have even been taken off the shelves in stores. 

When purchasing buds from a vendor, make sure they don’t use too many pesticides or sprays on the plants. Usually, information like this would be mentioned on the packaging, but learn how to distinguish factual information from marketing jargon. 

Another protip is that plants that are treated with PRGs tend to grow buds with an orange tint. So, unless it is a strain characteristic, avoid buds with an orange tint — they may be treated with PRGs. 

5. You are Not Smoking the Buds Correctly

You are Not Smoking the Buds Correctly

Maybe the grower has done everything perfectly, but the buds are still harsh to smoke — one cause of this could be an improper smoking method. This can burn your throat with every toke and is not the best way to experience cannabis. 

Here are some tips to make sure you are smoking cannabis perfectly:

  • Always purchase cannabis buds from reputable brands that pay attention to the little details and don’t cut corners. If you’re a grower, you need to ensure the buds are dried and cured properly. 
  • If you are using bongs or pipes, smoke with one that has a water chamber — the water tends to soften the toke significantly.
  • Ensure the smoke does not build up in the bong — this smoke can turn acrid, which is harsh to smoke.
  • For some users, smoking is never smooth, even if their joint is rolled by Snoop Dogg himself. In this case, you can switch to vaping since it is much easier on your throat.
  • Don’t roll your joints too thick, as it will push more smoke into your lungs, which can be harsh sometimes.

On a side note, check if you’re grinding the buds properly. When you grind the buds well, you’re actually increasing the surface area which allows better combustion. So, if you grind the buds properly, you’ll see that the buds burn evenly. However, if you grind the buds too fine, they turn into a powdery substance that can eventually irritate your lungs and throat as you inhale. This is because the buds are so fine that they can get lodged in the small airways of your lungs, forcing you to cough and irritate your throat. 

On the other hand, if you don’t grind the buds finely enough, they can result in larger chunks that are difficult to burn evenly. Again, this can cause harsh smoke, as some parts of the bud may not burn properly and produce uneven smoke. Therefore, it is important to find the right balance when grinding cannabis buds to achieve a smooth and even smoke.

Finally, try taking smaller tokes — bigger tokes can be harsh, especially if the bud is potent or has a pronounced flavor profile. You could also be inhaling too deeply, resulting in harsher smoke. When you inhale the smoke too deeply, it can irritate your lungs and throat, leading to coughing and discomfort. This is because you’re exposing your lungs’ sensitive tissues to excessive heat and smoke by inhaling deeply, which again results in harsh smoke. 

Remember, go slow and you’ll enjoy the experience. There’s no race to win. Take small, controlled puffs when smoking. After all, you’re smoking to enjoy and chill, so why would you want to inhale much more than your capacity and ruin the experience? Additionally, taking breaks between puffs can also help to reduce irritation and make the smoking experience more enjoyable.

Follow these tips, and you will likely experience a smoother toke with your cannabis buds. Again, this largely depends on finding a smoking method that suits you. Everybody is unique, so what works for your friend may not work for you.

6. You are Smoking the Leaves, Too

You are Smoking the Leaves, Too

In the same vein, your buds may taste harsh when smoking if you haven’t cleaned them properly. They may still contain a lot of leaves. 

Yes, sugar leaves do have a lot of benefits for consumers. They are loaded with trichomes, and add a sparkly touch to the buds, making them look a lot prettier while also improving the flavor and aroma. 

If you’re buying cannabis, note that some sellers leave the sugar leaves in to increase the weight of their buds. That said, sometimes, it can be challenging to spot sugar leaves if they are loaded with trichomes. 

So, if you feel your cannabis joints are harsher than usual, check for sugar leaves, and consider removing them for the next joint. If you’re a grower, however, check if you’re removing most sugar leaves to prevent the buds from tasting too harsh. 

Some growers like leaving quite a few sugar leaves. It depends on the strain and the user and your personal tolerance. But, if you find that the smoke is usually harsh, try trimming away most of the leaves. 

However, this doesn’t mean that the sugar leaves are wasted. Hell, no! They contain so many trichomes that can be used to make cannabis concentrates like cannabutter or hash. You can collect the leaves to make creative stuff like concentrates and use only the buds for smoking. 

7. Bud Rot or Mold Growth on the Buds

Bud Rot or Mold Growth on the Buds

In most instances, smoking harsh buds is harmless. But there is one instance where harshness can signal a potentially dangerous bud — mold or bud rot. 

Mold can infect cannabis buds not only when the plant grows but even after harvest if they are not stored properly. After all, buds are 75% water, and if they are exposed to high humidity or moisture after harvest, they can easily catch mold. This is also common in buds that need to be adequately dried. 

Cannabis buds with mold are usually harsh to smoke and may even exhibit a sweet aroma and white spots all over them. If your mold smells funky or has white fuzzy spots on it, toss it away. You should never smoke a bud with mold — it can cause severe health problems.

For most people, smoking a moldy bud will cause nausea, coughing, or vomiting, but in some cases, it can cause inflammation of the lungs, sinus problems, or other severe lung conditions. 

Even if you come across an article that says how to remove mold from buds, do not try it. There is no safe and guaranteed way to remove mold from buds, so you are better off disposing of moldy buds. 

However, you can avoid moldy buds in easy ways. Make sure the buds are dried and cured well, use suitable containers for them (sealable glass jars work best), and store them in a dark, dry place. 

8. Pest Infestation

Pest Infestation

Cannabis growers hate pests as they know how much they could cost them. The same goes for even commercial growers, whether they are growing cannabis indoors or outdoors. 

Even if you take the best steps to prevent them, some of them can find their way into your garden and get cozy with your plants. If that happens, you have to eradicate them. But after that, they may leave behind eggs, poop, or webbing in the buds, which can make your buds harsh to smoke. 

If you face this problem, we recommend you wash your buds after harvest to clean them of pest poop and eggs. While this is not necessary and can sometimes risk mold infestation, depending on your local climate, it does help clear out the buds. 

Follow these steps to wash your cannabis buds:

  1. Gather the supplies: three buckets, 12 gallons of water, ¼ cup of lemon juice, and ¼ cup of baking soda.
  2. Fill up each bucket with 4 gallons of water, and in the first bucket, add lemon juice and baking soda. 
  3. Dip your buds in the first bucket and gently stir them for half a minute.
  4. Then, dip it in the second bucket with clean water for half a minute, followed by dipping it in the third bucket. 
  5. Dry your buds as usual for at least 12 days.

Here, three buckets are crucial as you need to rinse the buds twice during the wash. The second bucket will catch all the debris and dirt, and the third will thoroughly clean the buds. 

9. Genetics 


All the things mentioned above are more or less in the control of the grower or the consumer, but if there’s one thing that one can’t control, it’s genetics. Some strains are naturally harsh to smoke.

For instance, Strawberry Cough is known for its harsh flavor. It’s called that for a reason — it’s harsh to smoke but has a strawberry-like aftertaste. 

Do you want your cannabis to be smooth? Avoid strains that tend to be harsh. Some smoother strains are Bruce Banner, Purple Punch, Girl Scout Cookies, Strawberry, Brooklyn Synrise, and Six Shooter. 

For those who like experimenting with new strains on the market, just ask the grower. You’re more than welcome to ask questions on our forum, and you’ll see that many growers willingly share information about any strain’s flavor profile. 

10. Your Cannabis Buds are Too Old

Your Cannabis Buds are Too Old


Another reason why your cannabis buds may be harsh to smoke is perhaps they are too old. Sure, cannabis does not expire like food products, but it can still go bad over time. And while it won’t necessarily be risky to smoke, it can be harsh, unpleasant, or less potent. 

Generally, cannabis can stray fresh for half a year if it is dried and stored correctly. Sometimes, even longer, up to a year. After that, it starts losing its potency and flavor. If it is not stored correctly, it may not even last for a month!

This is because light, temperature, and humidity start affecting the various phytochemicals and compounds in the buds, including the trichomes and terpenes that give them potency and flavor. They start degrading with time, eventually leading to dry cannabis buds that don’t taste that good and don’t get you high. 

How to spot old cannabis? The first sign is an unpleasant or harsh aroma and taste. You can also spot old cannabis visually — if it is too old, it will turn crunchy and break easily. That’s a sign that your cannabis is too dry. 

Again, if your old cannabis smells a little sweet and has white fuzzy spots on it, don’t try smoking it. Over time, mold can also grow on cannabis, and it is best avoided as it can potentially make you very sick. 

11. Personal Tolerance

Personal Tolerance

So, you’ve probably tried everything and the buds are still too harsh. What do you do? Perhaps it’s because of your personal tolerance. While some users are accustomed to smoking buds with high THC, your body may not be ready yet. In fact, some users find buds harsh to smoke especially after a long tolerance break. 

While this could be a myth as there’s no scientific evidence backing it, you simply have to try it out for yourself. Next time, purchase buds with less THC and see if the harshness has reduced. Even better, grow your own but choose strains with less THC and you’ll be able to identify if the harsh taste has reduced. 

How to Store Cannabis Properly?

To avoid issues, you need to store your cannabis properly. Follow these tips:

  • Choose a suitable container that is airtight and made of glass; plastic can mess with the trichomes, and tin ones are not always airtight. Some users say that storing weed in metal containers can give them a metallic taste, so avoid metal and just stick with glass. 
  • Keep an eye on the humidity levels — they should range between 59% to 63% for the best results. 
  • Consider storing your cannabis in a humidor or purchase some humidity packs. 
  • Store your stash in a cool, dry, dark place away from too much direct light or moisture. 
  • Avoid freezing the buds as it can dry them out; the best temperature for bud storage is somewhere around 77°F or 25°C.

Summary: Why are My Cannabis Buds Harsh to Smoke?

That covers some of the most common reasons why your cannabis buds may be harsh to smoke. To summarize the article, the common causes of harsh buds are:

  1. Improper drying, curing, and storage
  2. Incorrect or skipped flushing of the plant before harvest
  3. Using too many supplements, pesticides, or growth regulators
  4. Smoking method that may not suit you 
  5. Smoking sugar leaves along with the buds 
  6. Mold growth on the buds 
  7. Pest infestation or presence of pest poop, eggs, or debris in the buds 
  8. Strain genetics that naturally makes some strains harsh to smoke
  9. Buds that are simply too old 

As mentioned earlier, these factors are easy to miss but even easier to take care of. If you are growing cannabis, pay attention to flushing, curing, and drying, and minimize your use of fertilizers and growth regulators, especially on flowering plants.

If you are a consumer and purchasing your cannabis buds from a dispensary, do a little research and choose buds from reputable brands. Ideally, your buds should be grown in organic conditions with minimal use of pesticides or growth regulators and processed using the proper techniques. Check customer reviews for the best insights.

Lastly, make sure you are using a smoking method that suits your body and, if required, remove sugar leaves from your buds. That’s it. Follow these steps, and you will not have to smoke a harsh bud again. 



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That's a great article! 💚 I need to cure better. 😅