Top CBD Strains: How to Select the Finest Greens at Your Favorite Dispensary

Nowadays when I visit my local shop, I like to ask if they have any top CBD strains on the shelves. Strains like Harlequin and Sour Tsunami and Medicine Man are sometimes available. During happy hour, I’ll gladly buy any of these for $10 a gram.

Top CBD Strains

And if you want to try making your thumb turn green, you can even buy CBD seeds and save up to 62x your money. What that means is for every $10 you spend on seeds, you could get up to 62 grams of CBD-rich herbs, or possibly even more.

Whether you grow your own or pay for the store’s harvest, and even if your buds aren’t high in CBD, there are some universal traits of high-quality cannabis flowers to keep your eyes -- and nose -- open for.

Now, I like CBD strains because of their potent pain relief. I feel a noticeable difference when I consume medical MJ that’s bred for CBD content.

And interestingly, this study proclaims CBD also helps counteract some of the negative effects of THC. But that’s another story for another time. For now, we’re going to cover what to look for when you’re in the store.

More specifically, I’m going to share my patent-pending (no, not really) rating system for identifying the best buds.

If you’ve ever been shopping for retail dank, I think you’ll agree that the quality varies widely. That’s why dispensaries have different shelves. Some shelves are dubbed “private reserve” and “top shelf” but don’t’ let the name fool you!

I’ve seen my share of bogus “reserve” bud and if the shop was actually reserving it for someone other than uninformed customers, they weren’t on friendly terms. Also, why do some stores have a shelf that’s higher than the “top” shelf? If you climbed a mountain all the way to the peak, where could you go from there?

But enough about bad buds, let’s get into what makes them spectacular.

One day, while admiring a frosty sunlit nugget of Tangerine Dream, I realized there was absolutely nothing more I could ask of this strain.

The orangish-greenish beautiful nuggets had it all. From the smell to the taste to the feeling, everything was there. I knew I had to create a way to give awesome herbs a proper label.

Granted, you typically can’t sample everything in all of your shop’s enticing jars. And that means you won’t be able to determine two of the system’s attributes until after you’ve inhaled.

But if the other three components are there, you have a good shot of scoring a perfect five out of five on what I call the 5-Star R.A.S.T.A.™ rating system.

What do those letters stand for? Glad you asked because I’m about to tell you all about them.

But before we get started, watch this video to discover some basic attributes of a good store:

And now, let’s dig a little deeper:

Resination (Yes, I Made that Word Up!)

Similar to sap from a maple tree, you want your buds to have some stickiness to them. As the (sometimes) hilarious Dave Chapelle --  impersonating the outrageous Rick James -- once announced, “It’s the stickiest of the icky!” And sticky is exactly what you want.

You see, when a nug is sticky it’s going to burn very slowly. If your nugs are too wet, they are tough to light and are an overall pain in the ass. Sometimes too wet equals unsmokeable. And if they’re too dry, they burn so fast that you’ll go through your stash much quicker than if they’re just right.

Pro Tip: If your herbs are too dry, it’s possible to revitalize them. Simply take a very small piece of fruit or vegetable and put it in your stash jar along with the dry herb. Careful not to use too much or leave it in too long or else it’ll get moldy in there.

It totally works! The herb absorbs the moisture from whatever you put in your jar. I like to use a little citrus peel or a piece of carrot. A contrasting color is helpful when you need to find it and fish it out later. If you do it just right, your herb will be fresh and moist, and the fruit will be mostly dry.

When a nug has just the right amount resin, it will continue burning, at a comfortable pace, all on its own. And when you pluck some off to pack into a bowl, you want the plant matter to stick to your fingers a bit.

Since most budtenders won’t allow you to reach into the jar and fondle the merchandise, your best bet to get some sticky icky is to just ask for it. “What’s fresh and has some stickiness to it?” Your budtender should be familiar enough with the current inventory to make a worthwhile recommendation.


Some cannabis flowers smell like a pine forest. Others smell like a citrus grove. Some smell like a sage bush. And others have a distinct smell that’s all their own.

Those delicious smell are coming from the plant’s terpenes. These potent and plentiful biological compounds are responsible for the plant’s taste and smell. And, even more importantly, terpenes multiply CBD health benefits by creating a synergistic entourage effect.

Let’s take the uplifting Sativa, Jack Herer, for instance. No matter if it’s Sour Jack or Lemon Jack or Jack the Ripper or Jack of Spades or Super Jack or any other of the umpteen derivatives, there’s no denying the smell. Even with heavy notes of citrus or pine, the smell of Jack always remains.

Jack Herer smells like, well, Jack Herer. That’s the only way to describe it. It’s so unique that there’s nothing else to compare it to other than itself.

When the budtender opens a jar you're interested in and passes it on the left-hand side so you can take a whiff, you should smell the aroma before your nose even reaches the jar. The smell should creep out if its container and announce itself to you.

Buds that are fresh smell fresh and you should find them appetizing. If the smell is faint or even a little grassy, move along, those aren't the buds you’re looking for.


Sativa and Indica are in separate areas of the store on purpose. They treat your body and mind differently.

A great Sativa, like our old friend Jack Herer, tends to stay upstairs. Meaning, the buzz tends to stay in your brain and won’t affect the rest of your body.

Sativa will make you want to create things or clean things, chat with friends, and just generally get things done. Yes, doubters, the right marijuana can actually spark productivity!

Indica, on the other hand, can produce opposite results. A heavy-hitting Indica might just melt you right into the couch. The sensation can pump through your entire body and if you concentrate you may just be able to feel your blood flowing.

You may space out on Indica and want to do nothing but watch Netflix and dip Twinkies into melted chocolate. Don’t expect to get much accomplished on Indica, and you may be asleep sooner than you wanted to be. Which happens to make Indica great for insomnia.

And then there’s the middle-ground, the hybrid buds. Hybrid buds will definitely get you high, and some lean more towards the Indica or Sativa side. They may not make you sleepy or talkative but will most likely elevate your spirits.

No matter if you’re shopping for Sativa, hybrid, or Indy ala Dr. Jones,  the buds should live up to their classification.


Like a beautiful plate of food, the flavor should match the aroma. You may have bitten into an orange that looked and smelled delicious but tasted dry and mostly flavorless. The same principle can also apply to cannabis.

Any strain that has fruit in the title – lemon, lime, grapefruit, tangerine, pineapple, banana, you name it – should taste like the fruit it shares a title with.

Now, you don’t need tropical fruits like mango to enjoy a nice flavor. Pine can be great, as can sage on occasion. What you don’t want is the taste of lawn clippings in your mouth. You’re inhaling too much chlorophyll and something went awry with the grow.

Point is, a bud that tastes great provides a sweeter session. And clean-tasting buds seem to be more natural and grown with greater care.

A nice taste enhances the overall experience of lighting up. And once you find a flavor you enjoy, you'll know what to ask for the next time you go shopping.


Peer into the jar and try to get as much light inside as you can. Sunlight is best but most shops are indoors so do your best to work with what you have.

And some shops even have a microscope you can use to inspect the goods. You should see what looks like tiny bubbles all over the place.

High-quality herbal nuggets should appear as if someone dipped them in sugar like a baker’s confection. That’s important because if there are no visibly frosty crystals, something probably went wrong during the growing process.

And sometimes nugs are devoid of crystals because they have seen action as producers of Kief. Kief is a precious material -- a collection of the crystals that come off by shaking the dry herbs on a screen. And without those sparkly crystals, your herb will not live up to its potential potency.

You see, nugs that aren’t rich in crystalline trichomes immediately fall into mid-grade territory. You’d best be getting a deal if you buy crystal-free buds!

If you’re trying to get blazed, you definitely want sparkly crystals all over your buds. 

Let's Roll this Article up...

Now that you’re familiar with what to look for, I hope your next trip to the dispensary sends you home with some proper dank.

When you’re inside, use your eyes to look for crystals, your nose to judge the smell, and your mouth to ask the budtender what’s sticky.

Then when you get home, put your new stash into a clean smoking device and grab a taste. Now pay attention to how the flowers make you feel.

That way, when you go back to the dispensary you can ask for more of the same, or have a new go-to when it’s time to mix things up.






So, next time you shop for greens just remember Cali Blue Dream's 5-Star R.A.S.T.A.™ rating system to make an informed purchasing decision.

What do you consider your top CBD strains? What do you look for when shopping for herb? Is aroma more important to you than flavor, or vice versa?

Tell us all about it in the comments!

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