The use of marijuana in South Africa is now legal and the industry is booming, but are consumers getting what they pay for? The Bud investigates for The Vape Store.

In May 2019 Business Insider SA reported that Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from dagga, was “removed from South Africa's list of highly-controlled drugs and is now officially available on prescription.” The minister of health has also exempted ‘preparations’ containing CBD. This includes everything from creams to beer and coffee.

This latest change to local legislation follows the good news of September 2018 when we learned that dagga had been decriminalised for personal use. A victory for users given that this plant has been criminalised since 1928 under the Medical, Dental, and Pharmacy Act.

But don’t celebrate just yet, because there are a few things you need to know. Even though the Constitutional Court has given the green light for the private cultivation, possession and consumption of cannabis, the old laws of the land are still in play. Not just anyone can legally sell you pot, and there are limits to the amount of weed allowed for personal use. This means that most marijuana dealers in South Africa operate outside of the law.

Where does that leave SA’s growing number of weed consumers?

If you are new to the scene the first thing you need to know is to try not to buy off the street. Not only is this illegal but police are actively arresting people who engage in street sales.

There are currently a growing number of suppliers who offer various strains for sale. Today, people who trade in cannabis do so predominantly through message services like WhatsApp, or the web. Local buyers and sellers trade over WhatsApp or SMS, and a drop of is agreed or payment is made and a parcel is couriered conveniently to your door.

These players offer a menu, and payment is made cash, bank to ATM transfer or through a bank transfer. Once payment is made the supplier will discreetly deliver to your door or arrange for a drop-off.

Knowledege is Power

You need to wise up and ensure you get what you pay for. If you’re paying R80 to R150 for good cheese, ensure you get what you paid for.

Is that really Cheese, or Purple Kush, or is it some other hybrid? Are you getting an organic indoor strain cultivated with love and care and proper lighting, or is what you’ve been given a hermaphrodite with lower potency — and which isn’t the strain you ordered? What if those beautiful large green buds you were expecting turn out to be a dry, crushed and crumbly disappointment that leaves a sour taste in your mouth with a short-lived high? Currently, you have no consumer rights or recourse because this trade is officially illegal.

Word of mouth is where it’s at: ask friends, family or check out online forums for recommendations. Stick with the suppliers that consistently provide a quality product, and don’t be lured by lower price — it seldom works out.

Educate yourself — you’ve got to get your Weed-fu black belt. Get to know what you're smoking and what strains are out there. The best go-to guide for this currently is Leafly. Treat your weed like wine: once you know where to look, it becomes easier to spot an inferior product.

But you have to quit your day job to become a weed connoisseur. All you need to do is rely on three of your senses - smell, sight and touch.

Each strain has different features, a unique smell and appearance that is owned by that strain's genetics. If you really want to taste what you're smoking, vaping is an excellent way to truly capture each bud’s specific taste.

When you receive your first few grams of high-quality bud, it's difficult to compare it to anything else. Nothing comes close to cannabis that's been grown, harvested and treated the right way. For those who haven't had the opportunity to try said high-quality marijuana, here are some helpful tips to help you spot a bad batch of weed.

Smell: You’ll know it when you smell it. Fresh, good quality cannabis has a distinctive aroma.

If you detect a musty or mildewy smell, that means it hasn’t been dried or cured properly. That’s why it’s called ‘bottom shelf’, or ‘schwag’. Remember that your weed must be kept in a dry space, as any moisture can ruin your stash.

Sight: Different strains have different colours, but a bud that is dirty or dark brown is probably old and you should ask for your money back. If you receive buds that are lime green it probably means it was picked too young, or is a victim of light burn. Black residue on your buds could mean it’s been packed in newspaper, so rather hold off and don’t smoke that ink! Lots of stems and seeds are also signs of an inferior quality plant.

Each bud from the same strain should look the same, although size may vary. Cannabis with inconsistent head sizes might be a sign of mixed strains. Consistency is key.

Generally an Indica flower is tight and dense while sativa buds are often more light and fluffy  and with a higher concentration of pistils. also, try to avoid buds that appear incomplete, which is when the central stem is visible.

Touch: Good high-quality weed is firm and even sticky. If it is dense then you have great weed. A dry or brittle flower that crumbles easily and doesn’t seem to have much body is typically lower quality. It’s called ‘shake’ and it will leave you feeling empty, in both wallet and high. A dense, sticky  flower is packed with the oils that you want when you vape or smoke.

Finally - a few quick tips:

    1. Use a magnifying glass to check for pests;
    2. When vaping, if it makes you cough, the plant has not been flushed properly and bad nutrients used. 
    3. When vaping, lots of vapour equals lots of trichomes - less vapor is low grade bud.

It is always important to know what you're putting into your body and cannabis is no exception. There are many forums out there that are dedicated to informing marijuana users. All that is left is for you to go out there and start learning.

Finally,  when it comes to consuming cannabis, make the safest choice and use a dry herb cannabis vaporizer. No unnecessary solvents, no smoke.  Protect your lungs so that you can enjoy all the benefits of marijuana for years to come.