Why Does Pot Smell Like Skunk?

It’s hard to ignore the similarities in the aroma of cannabis and skunk – they can be hard for some people to distinguish (though many people do so easily). Depending on where you are, it’s not too difficult to infer what you’re smelling. At a rave, you’re smelling weed. On a desolate country road, you’re smelling skunk. In the middle of a neighborhood or city – where skunks and pot intermix – it’s a bit more of crapshoot.

Most people don’t care what they’re smelling – skunk, cannabis, a skunk smoking cannabis – it makes no difference. But it does elicit curiosity – out of all the animals on earth, why does marijuana smell like the most odorous one?

Let’s start by looking at skunks.

Cannabis – Why it Smells

picture of a skunkCannabis, especially to the trained nose, doesn’t come with one odor – different strains elicit different aromas. But many of them – while they may have hints of other things like citrus or pine – do have a foundation that smells skunky.

Marijuana is filled with terpenes, organic compounds that are found in a variety of plants (fun fact: some insects (such as termites) also emit terpenes). There are numerous terpenes in the cannabis plant, hundreds of them. But certain terpenes are much more prevalent in the plant than others.

Different terpenes give off different odors, which is why cannabis strains can smell differently. But two different strains with a similar terpene profile will smell alike.

Many terpenes can smell like thiols, thus creating a skunky aroma. While it’s not exactly a desirable trait – no one is spritzing themselves with the Eau De Anal Glands before a hot date – a strain that smells rather skunky may be attractive, especially if you want to get high: the stronger the skunk smell, the more potent the strain. In pot lingo, “skunk” typically means “very potent ganja.”

Skunk #1 is one of these such strains. It is an indica-leaning hybrid that has been popular since the late 1970s. The smell it gives off – not surprisingly – is very skunky, but it may also possess hints of jasmine, fruit, and a woody essence. It’s a potent strain that medicinally is used for nausea, glaucoma, asthma, auto immune disorders, pain, and anorexia. It may be helpful for psychiatric conditions too.

Recreationally, Skunk #1 is used to produce a relaxed, meditative, and energetic high. Many people feel euphoric while smoking it. 

Skunky and Non-Skunky Smelling Strains

Marijuana will always smell a bit like skunk, but some strains are certainly more pungent than others. Some people care about this because they don’t like the smell of skunk (or the taste) and others care about it because of discretion – with skunk odor so synonymous with weed, it’s not difficult for your neighbors to figure out what you’re doing behind closed doors.

Curing cannabis on racksSome of the particular skunky strains include Golden Ticket (smells like lemon-fresh skunk) and Death Star (offers a pungent, earthy aroma – the strain is probably a Star Wars fan).

If you want more discretion, consider something subtler. You may also want to consider less pungent strains if you’re a grower and prefer to keep that under wraps.

Some of the better smelling smokes include Lemon Haze (it a citrus scent and a slow creeping high), Alpha Blue (a descendent of Blue Dream – offers hints of blueberry), Orange Bud (smells more of clove and spice than citrus fruit), Kali Mist (a strain people tend to love or hate – can elicit paranoia in those who are prone), and Northern Lights (highly sedative and one of the better tasting strains).

Other Things That Smell Like Weed

Yes, marijuana smells like skunk and people who smell “skunk” will usually assume someone nearby is lighting a joint. But cannabis doesn’t have the monopoly on odors. Even the word “skunkweed” applies to things other than cannabis.

According to Merriam Webster, it may apply to a variety of offensive smelling herbs including skunk cabbage (a low growing plant that grows in the wetter areas of the eastern United States – the leaves smell of skunk when they sustain damage); Gilia Squarrosa (a Californian annual that is also called “stinkweed”); Rocky Mountain Sticky-Leaved Herb (probably not the reason Denver smells like skunk); and Joe-Pye Weed (a perennial that grows in the eastern and northern regions of North America – it is large, growing up to seven feet tall and four feet wide).

Some people also claim that body odor smells like cannabis in the people who smoke it. If so, they need Secret – strong enough for a man, but PH-balanced for a weeder.

Why Does Pot Smell Like Skunk? was last modified: by
Jenn Keeler

About the author: Jenn Keeler is a freelance writer and illustrator specializing in humorous lifestyle articles. She is one of the few people on earth actually using an English degree. Her heart belongs to the Denver Broncos and her husband. In that order.