14 tips to hide the smell of cannabis
Should you choose to light up a joint, nearby cannabis users will likely be more accepting of the smell, but for non-users, that odour can be unpleasant. Here are some helpful tips to hide the smell of weed plants, buds, and smoke, to save yourself from potential trouble.
Every cannabis smoker is familiar with that distinct smell. It’s how you’d imagine the aroma in Cheech and Chong’s van. And even if you aren’t a stoner, you’re likely acquainted with weed’s pungent odour.
The thing is, even in places with a softer stance on cannabis, many people aren’t fond of inhaling second-hand smoke. If you’re careless about it, you could raise eyebrows at best, or anger people at worst.
As a herb lover, how do you handle this? Is there a way to be incognito about that marijuana smell? This article deals with exactly that. But before we dive into our main topic, we’ll first address some questions concerning the smell of weed.
What Makes Cannabis Smell?
This is an important question to ask. And the short answer lies in one word: terpenes. These are aromatic compounds present in fragrant plants like rosemary and lavender. In the case of cannabis, terpenes are responsible for a strain’s flavour and aroma profile, and to a different degree, its effects. So when you light up those buds, it’s the combustion of terpenes that creates that distinct dank aroma.
Another important question to ask is when cannabis plants begin to develop a scent. Largely, the smell of marijuana originates from the buds, as these contain the highest concentration of terpenes. Usually, the smell starts to become noticeable within the first 3 to 6 weeks, and reaches peak pungency late into the flowering period, right before harvest. After a good dry and cure, these scents only intensify more.
Does Cannabis Smell in the Vegetative Phase?
Short answer: it depends. The length of the vegetative stage varies, but usually lasts around 4 to 8 weeks for photoperiod weed plants. During this time, a slight cannabis aroma may start to build, but it’ll likely smell much earthier and less like traditional weed at the start. Once flowering starts, though, this aroma will quickly build.
How Far Does the Smell of Cannabis Travel?
This is a tricky question to answer because it involves several factors. One of them is wind direction, as those downwind are much more likely to smell those terpenes than those upwind.
Also, the pungency of each variety plays a role in the overall spread of the odour. Some cannabis strains naturally exhibit more discreet smells, whereas others, like the classic Skunk, are bred to be loud.
But this is just in terms of the plants themselves. When it comes to cannabis smoke, this has the unfortunate ability to travel, and given its distinctive nature, tends to be picked up by anyone within at least a couple hundred metres—depending on conditions (wind, etc.) and how keen the nose of the individual is.
Though the smell won’t travel through walls, it has a habit of slipping into every open window and crack, making smoking in a house or apartment a tricky affair for those looking to remain discreet. So if your neighbours next door have good noses, or simply don’t support marijuana, you may want to be cautious.
Can Cats and Dogs Smell Cannabis Buds and Edibles?
You’ve likely seen the presence of German shepherds or Labradors as detection dogs in airports. They’re trained to identify and help nab contraband. Marijuana, despite its legal status in many regions of the world, remains one of the substances these dogs are trained to detect.
This then begs the question: how well can dogs smell cannabis? We know for a fact that canines are better at picking up scents compared to humans. Researchers have specifically identified their skills to be 100,000 times more effective,¹ given the 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses. To put it in perspective, humans only have 6 million.
Now, if a dog is trained to sniff out and detect marijuana from, say, baggage, there’s a good chance that it could. According to industry experts, most detection dogs can be trained to recognise THC even when it’s mixed in flour. That means edibles won’t necessarily be easier to sneak past them.
Some experts, however, aren’t that sure if dogs can detect THC in cooked or baked goods, since the cannabinoid has gone through chemical changes that could make it more difficult for them to recognise.
Now, what about cats? Do they pick up on the marijuana smell? Anecdotal evidence is divided, so far. Some claim that their feline pets enjoy the smell of weed, both in bud form and when combusted. But for others, their cats aren’t as receptive.
It’s worth noting that animals like dogs and cats also have an endocannabinoid system.² However, the effects of intoxicating cannabinoids like THC are considered “undesirable” for animals, especially for dogs. Moreover, you should avoid smoking weed in close proximity to your pets, as it can be damaging to them.
What Other Plants Smell Like Cannabis?
Many plants are as pungent as cannabis, which could lead to some trouble. Case in point: an elderly couple from Bristol, England who had their home broken into by gang members because of the supposed weed smell emanating from their home.
As it turned out, the skunky, cannabis-like smell was coming from a flowering plant called Caucasian crosswort (Phuopsis stylosa). The couple had them planted in their garden, and the smell was believed to have attracted the culprits.
Another plant that gives off a similar aroma as cannabis is Phlox subulata. And just like the aforementioned incident, another elderly couple from Bristol went through the same trouble because of their plants.
This time, police officers raided the home, thinking they were dealing with a cannabis factory. A warrant to search the domicile was even put in place, only for the operation to blow up in their faces. The authorities did send their apologies to the couple and everything was eventually sorted out.
Similarly, culinary herb and insect repellent mugwort also smells like cannabis. So does the spider flower, which also resembles the magic herb in appearance.
Hiding the Smell of Cannabis: 14 Tips
Now, let’s get to the topic you came here for. Here we have not 1, not 5, not even 10, but 14 helpful tips to hide the smell of cannabis.
1. Take Your Cannabis Outside
This might seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. Smoking cannabis outdoors is probably the best way to avoid others smelling that dank, instantly noticeable weed smell—well, besides not smoking any… So, if you’ve got a balcony, a terrace, or a yard, your best bet is to enjoy your weed out there.
Or, if you live in an area where cannabis is decriminalised or legal, why not take a short walk? This will ensure that no smoke or odour builds up in your home, and also gives you an excuse to get some fresh air and exercise. While you’re out there, you might even have the chance to catch some Pokémon.
Whether you’re smoking tobacco or cannabis, that smell of stale, contained smoke indoors is never pleasant. The same goes for cooking edibles. Make sure to open a window or turn on a vent to get that air moving. Even live marijuana plants won’t be as aromatic if left to stagnate in a closed space for a long time.
Whatever the case may be, don’t forget to ventilate. If you’re a big-time indoor grower, you may need to invest in some heavy-duty equipment. But even the simple act of opening doors and windows to create natural airflow will help a great deal. Setting up a fan is also helpful, whether it’s a simple oscillating fan or a more complex system.
3. Cover Your Weed
Another effective way to minimise the smell of weed is to conceal your buds in a smell-proof container, such as airtight glass jars or dedicated stash boxes. This helps to contain the odours and avoids contaminating more air than necessary. In general, you should store your cannabis correctly to preserve its flavour and aroma and protect it from mould caused by humidity. But of course, this also prevents the smell from coming out.
In terms of marijuana plants, if you’re growing indoors, aim to house them in a confined space like a storage room or broom closet (allowing for adequate ventilation, of course) and cover them with plastic whenever you have people over whose attention you’d preferably not attract.
The same goes for your roaches. A regular open ashtray can really stink up an environment, so try tossing the remainders of your doobies. This will stop those stale fumes from contaminating your area.
4. Use a Smoke Filter
With the legalization of cannabis and changing attitudes regarding its use comes a whole lot of new technology designed to maximise the experience, including tools to make smoking more discreet.
Smoke filters—also called sploofs—come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and colours, but they all work by the same general principle; you take a hit from a bong or joint, and exhale the smoke into the device. Inside the device is a carbon filter that either filters the smoke or covers it with some flavoured essence. If you can’t get your hands on a commercial smoke filter, you can easily build a sploof at home with some basic household items.
5. Air Freshener
A lot of cannabis users swear by air fresheners such as Febreze and Ozium as a simple, surefire way to cover up the fact that they've spent the whole afternoon blazing on the couch watching the Discovery Channel and re-runs of Beavis and Butthead.
And we agree, air fresheners work really well—but they're not 100% effective. Simply spray them after your session as per the instructions on the packaging, and you should be good to go.
6. Incense, Scented Candles, or Essential Oils
If you can’t get your hands on a quality air freshener, try to stay away from the regular room deodorisers available at the supermarket. These generally won’t cover the weed smell, but instead just mix with it to create some funky mix of weed and whatever scents the deodorisers claim to imitate.
Instead, try some natural alternatives. Dropping some potent essential oils like eucalyptus, lavender, or citrus into an aroma lamp is a great way to freshen up the room, and might just be enough to hide the lingering smell of your last smoke session.
Natural incense like sandalwood, white sage, and palo santo also work quite well. Scented candles might work (depending on how bad the situation is), but not as well as essential oils.
Whichever you opt for, make sure to air out your area for at least an hour or two beforehand. This will help to get any stale, stagnant air out of the area. Then, shut the windows and doors, light your incense, candle, or aroma lamp, and hope for the best.
Caffeine lovers should get a kick out of this. Yes, your beloved cup of Joe can be effective at masking cannabis smells. It easily overpowers the terpenes; you won’t even notice a hint of cannabis anymore.
It’s all about the grounds. If you’re trying to eradicate weed smells from your car, for example, leave a bag of grounds in there for about a day. By the time you come back, Mary Jane's perfume will be long gone.
8. Clean Yourself Up
Sometimes, it's not the room or home that smells like weed, but you! If you’re trying to hide the fact that you’ve been smoking cannabis, make sure you clean yourself up properly afterward.
How to Eliminate The Weed Smell From Your Hair and Body
Just like a cigarette smoker reeks of tobacco, an herb lover wears the terpenes on their hair and skin. What can you do to get rid of that unwanted odour?
For one, taking a shower helps. A good bit of body wash should do the trick, but if you’ve been doing some hotboxing, you may want to use a more powerful shampoo. If you don’t have the time for a shower, some pungent perfume will do. Make it strong enough to mask the smell, but not too strong to irritate the people around you.
Also, don't forget to brush your teeth. Your breath carries the smell of weed as well.
How to Get the Cannabis Smell Out of Clothing
Like your skin, your clothes are also a strong magnet for cannabis smells. If you have a jacket or coat on you, take it off, if it’s not too cold, and move it away from the smoking area.
As for your base layer of clothing, be sure to have some fabric freshener with you. It’s not as pungent as a branded cologne, and it gets the job done well. And if you can, smoke in a well-ventilated area. Ideally, you’ll want to do it outdoors where it’s airier and less cramped up.
9. Use a Pipe or One-Hitter
Pipes are a great alternative to bongs and joints because they produce noticeably less smoke. So if you’re trying to conceal the fact that you enjoy weed, make sure to invest in a solid pipe and keep it on you for emergencies.
One-hitters are another popular alternative. These are slim pipes with a tiny bowl that, you guessed it, has just enough space for one hit or so of cannabis. One-hitters come in a variety of shapes and styles, but some of the most common are actually shaped like normal cigarettes for extra stealth points.
10. Pack Smaller Bowls
If you smoke bongs or pipes, a great way to minimise the smell is to pack lighter bowls. A lot of the time, the smoke that comes directly from the bowl is a lot stronger than the smoke that’s drawn through the mouthpiece.
This is especially true for bongs, as the smoke that reaches the mouthpiece has been partially filtered and cooled by the water, which helps to minimise the smell.
By packing lighter bowls (try to pack just enough for a hit), you’re able to minimise the amount of errant smoke released, which should help you to be at least a little subtler.
Now, the standard, traditional-looking pipes work fine. But if you want something more aesthetically unique, there are numerous other examples to consider.
If you’re really worried about keeping your cannabis use discreet and minimising the smell, we suggest you invest in a vaporizer. Not only will you avoid the combustion associated with smoking, but you’ll also get the most out of your weed—and produce much less odour while doing so.
Vaporizers don’t actually burn cannabis. Instead, they heat it to just the right temperature to extract the maximum amount of cannabinoids without actually combusting anything. This means you can vape almost anywhere without producing an overpowering smell. Those with a keen sense of smell may pick up familiar notes, but the odour of the vapor will be a fraction of the pungency of smoke.
12. Smoke Near an Open Fire
The smoke from a fire pit is strong enough to overpower other smells, including that of cannabis. That would be an ideal smoking spot if you’re doing it in your backyard or while camping.
But as always when dealing with an open flame, exercise utmost caution. Keep a safe distance between the fire and yourself.
13. Grow a Low-Odour Marijuana Strain
If you have a green thumb, try cultivating low-odour marijuana strains. They will still emanate a distinct smell, but it’s not as pungent or skunky as other strains.
What are some good examples? To start, you have the high-yielding Northern Lights, not to mention the potent Polar Express and the uplifting Jack Herer.
14. Use an Activated Carbon Filter
For you growers out there, here are three important words to remember: activated carbon filter. Also known as “carbon scrubbers”, these filters absorb any cannabis smells in the air of your grow room. At the same time, they clean out impurities to make for a healthier breathing experience.
Using a carbon filter is not difficult, but it requires some know-how. Yet, the benefits easily outweigh the small degree of effort required.
What if Your Cannabis Has No Smell?
Now, let’s make one thing clear: the smell of marijuana isn’t bad. In fact, your buds should have a strong, distinct aroma. You just have to be careful if you’re dealing with strict marijuana laws or nosy neighbours. If your buds have no detectable scent, however, it could be that they are past their prime, or that something went awry during the growing and/or drying and curing processes.
Luckily, there are ways to make sure your cannabis buds are fragrant. It all lies in strain selection, proper temperature and humidity, organic nutrients, and good growing practices.
How to Hide the Smell of Weed
Unless you’re living in Cannabistown, there is a time and a place to bust out the magic herb. Sometimes, you have to be more discreet about your toking and growing hobbies.
Hopefully, these tips allow you to practice discretion while still getting the most out of your smoking experience. Because even with the need to be a little stealthy, the entire experience can, and should, still be enjoyable.
1. Jenkins, E. K., DeChant, M. T., & Perry, E. B. (2018). When the nose doesn’t know: Canine olfactory function associated with health, management, and potential links to microbiota. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5884888/
2. Silver, R. J. (2019). The endocannabinoid system of animals. Animals, 9(9), 686. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770351/