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Is there a cannabis grading system?

Is there a cannabis grading system?

By Mike Jones

The cannabis industry has made large strides in the United States in the years since legalization began, opening up entirely new markets and, with them, new needs for industry-wide standardization and assessment. Following in the footsteps of other commodity markets, cannabis now has a grading system of its own.

Big Tree has established a grading method utilizing the ICHS’ qualitative grading standard and common language to help growers, suppliers and the cannabis supply chain at large access clear, concise and transparent data about cannabis and hemp material.


Big Tree offers grading, appraisal and certification services. When it comes to grading, also known as quality verification, Big Tree’s process includes three steps.

  1. An appointment is made

  2. A certified and trained grader visits the farm and assesses the product

  3. A Certificate of Grade (COG) is provided showing all the qualitative material data

The Certificate of Grade lists:

  1. The final grading score based on the 100-point scale

  2. The material’s environment, process and product

  3. Historical plant data, such as harvest date

  4. Certificate of Analysis (CoA) lab information

  5. Appraisal value set by market trends and data

Each step of the process in creating a COG is specialized with unique criteria that allows Big Tree to make a comprehensive, fair, and thorough assessment of both individual categories and overall quality.


In addition to evaluating the aspects in the CoA, Big Tree uses the ICHS’ 100-point grading scale to assess the aroma, color, structure and trichome quality of cannabis material.

Average scores run between 60-80, with the baseline being around 50. A score of 50 is considered neutral, but lower than 50 is when the product becomes defective.

90-100: High scores, top shelf flower.

60-80: Average scores run between 60-80.

50: A score of 50 is considered neutral, but lower than 50 is when the product becomes defective.


Using the above 100-point scale from the ICHS, Big Tree evaluates the following four attributes to assess for quality and provide the appropriate score.

Aroma: The pungency, depth, and uniqueness of the smell of a given flower is assessed. Material with a high score will be exceptionally pungent at a distance even before the olfactory test has officially been initiated, while plants that rank on the lower end can have a dull or neutral smell to an outright moldy profile.

Color: Analysis of flower shade, depth, tone, and brightness provides invaluable information regarding the flower’s growing and processing conditions. A higher-scoring flower will have a vibrant color spectrum consistent with historical batches from the same cultivar, while lower-scoring material have visual damage and defects, such as mold or pests, that harshly alter and dull their coloring.

Structure: Flower density and dryness is studied to help ascertain a structure score. High-scoring material is dense with consistent shape and size with pliable, but not wet, stems. Low scoring flowers are unshaped, crumbled, malformed due to mold or infestations, or primarily consist of “shake.”

Trichomes: The shimmering glands on the surface of the plant should be sticky, extremely shiny, and fragrant. High-scoring material will have dense, visible and intact trichomes that are sticky when touched, while lower quality material will have no visible trichomes - even with the added use of a light source.

Grading ensures that cannabis and hemp products are of the highest quality and maintain transparency, consistency, and integrity throughout the cannabis supply chain, from the farmer to the consumer.

Big Tree Staff
Big Tree Staff

The world’s 1st third-party cannabis and hemp quality verification, grading, appraisal and certification service.