As experts in the cannabis industry, we’re occasionally asked, why does weed smell skunky?

We’re not sure why this inquiry is addressed to us, since our specialty is in marketing and public relations. But we’ve been asked enough that we thought we should have an intelligent answer at the ready.

So we donned our thinking caps and took a scientific deep dive. Here’s what we discovered.

So Why Does Weed Smell Skunky?

Before the days of a major weed presence, you might occasionally smell a skunk. It was typically in the early morning hours and hopefully not a result of the poor creature meeting its doom.

Nowadays, you might be noticing a skunky smell a bit more often than those early days. Especially if you dwell in a town where they didn’t opt out of allowing dispensaries. And unless you live deep in the woods near a family of skunks, chances are it’s marijuana.

So what the hell? What’s causing that smell?

Is It From the Terpenes?

For a long time, people talked about terpenes to explain away the smell. It made sense. These aromatic compounds found in the essential oil of a cannabis plant do drive how it smells. The problem is, there is no cannabis terpene that alone has that signature eu de skunk.

Among the most well-known terpenes, limonene offers a citrus scent, myrcene is reminiscent of dirt and earth, while pinene smells like (you guessed it) pine. There is no skunkene though. So what gives?

Enter Volatile Sulfur Compounds (VSCs)

Researchers have long known that the source of the smell given off by skunks comes from Volatile Sulfur Compounds, or VSCs. These minuscule compounds pack a potent punch to the human nose. They’re also responsible for the smell of garlic and hops.

Could they be responsible for that same smell in cannabis? According to a recent study, they definitely play a role. Using ultra-sensitive methods of analytical chemistry, the study’s researchers identified several Volatile Sulfur Compounds in cannabis. Interestingly, one of the VSCs had a nearly identical chemical structure as a major VSC found in skunks.

The concentration of these VSCs varied significantly across strains. And when subjects were asked to rank the pungency across thirteen different strains, they reported a more pungent odor in the strains with higher VSC content.

Terpenes DO Figure Into the Mix Though…

As much as researchers were hoping to hang up their proverbial hats, they further discovers that it isn’t the VSCs alone that are creating the pungent odor.

It turns out that there’s a correlation between the chemical compounds from terpenes and VSC content in specific strains. For example, strains that possess high levels of the terpene terpinolene tend to have lower VSC content. These strains won’t smell as skunky.

On the flipside, strains with higher levels of the terpenes β-caryophyllene and limonene typically have higher VSC content. They’re the strains you can smell from seemingly a mile away. These make up the majority of commercial cannabis strains.

Apparently, folks really dig that skunky smell.

Now Don’t You Feel More Enlightened?

Next time someone asks you, why does weed smell skunky, you’ll be able to flaunt your intelligence and wisdom.

And if you’re a cannabis business owner, you can further demonstrate your smarts by investing in expert cannabis marketing and public relations that deliver results.

Lucky for you, that’s exactly what we do. So contact us today. And get noticed.