What Is Schwag Weed?

Sophia Delphi May 14, 2022 - 7 min read
Fact Checked
Illustration for Schwag weed

If you’ve ever gone to a convention, a meeting, or even a radio station remote broadcast, you’ve probably come home with some giveaway junk: a mug, a canvas bag, some coupons, or a T-shirt you’d never wear in public. The lucky recipients usually toss those goodies into a closet and forget about them or throw them into the trash as soon as they get home.

The word commonly used to describe that stuff is swag — but sometimes, it’s called “schwag.” And that’s where the term “schwag weed” comes from.

Schwag is slang for low-quality crap. It’s stuff that most people would rather throw away than actually use.

Most people who’ve spent a decent amount of time around weed smokers have heard them use the term “schwag” to refer to bud they’ve regretted buying. You don’t have to be a cannabis connoisseur to figure out what they mean: the weed was really, really bad.

But is there a way to more rigorously define schwag weed, other than “it really sucked?”

Sort of.

High- and Low-Quality Weed

There are always high-end and low-end product choices, no matter what you’re buying. A Mercedes is a higher-quality car than a Kia. Prime sirloin is better than ground chuck. Coke is better than generic “cola.”

And in the weed world, kind bud is what you’d want to smoke. Schwag is what you have to smoke if you can’t afford or find anything better.

Where Does Schwag Come From?

Schwag is most often pumped into the supply system by growers trying to make fast money. They don’t invest the time and effort necessary to produce high-quality cannabis. That’s because they’re interested in quantity, not quality. If they can produce a huge amount of schwag with minimal investment, they can still make a ton of money.

They may grow their crops in poor soil, neglect the plants while they’re growing, harvest the bud before it’s ready, or process it improperly before sending it to market. Nutrients, light conditions, temperatures, and humidity must be ideal for producing the very best weed; schwag is usually what growers end up with when those requirements are ignored. It may even contain contaminants like pesticide residue.

When you smoke top-shelf flowers, you’ll probably get wasted. When you smoke schwag, that’s a lot less likely. That’s not to say that you can never get high from schwag. Poor-quality weed may still have enough potency to deliver a buzz, and those who have a low tolerance to THC will probably feel the effects more than a seasoned smoker.

The Many Types of Weed

Not all bud is either kind, primo or perp (all meaning excellent), or schwag. The weed most commonly sold on the street is called “mids” or “reggie,” slang for middle-grade or regular weed. Not only is it good enough to deliver an acceptable high — it’s far superior to the ordinary weed that was around 10 or 20 years ago because cannabis hybrids and cultivation methods have improved so much since that time.

You may have heard other terms for subpar pot; shake, ditch weed, brick weed, and dirty weed are among them. Shake isn’t really schwag, and it’s simply the smaller parts of the flower that fall off buds during handling. The rest are similar to schwag but are slightly different products.

Ditch weed usually refers to poorly harvested or cured pot imported from Mexico; brick weed is often from Mexico as well, but has been badly damaged when compressed into a brick by smugglers; dirty weed has probably been contaminated or laced with other drugs.

It’s great to have a voluminous weed vocabulary — but that doesn’t help you know if a dealer (or even a dispensary) sells you schwag. Let’s get more detailed.

How to Tell Schwag Weed

image of a bag of marijuana

In most cases, you don’t have to fire up a bowl to know that you’ve ended up with schwag. It’s pretty obvious just from looking at, touching, and smelling the flower.

What Schwag Looks Like

The first telltale sign that you’re looking at schwag is that there are a bunch of stems and seeds in the baggie. Sure, you can pull them out. But the seeds mean that your weed has come from a pollinated female plant and will be much less potent than it should be. Stems only contain low THC levels and can ruin the pot’s flavor.

The color of the cannabis may also be a flashing warning sign. Vibrant colors often characterize high-quality strains, but schwag will usually be brown, dull yellow, or grey. That’s not enough evidence to convict an ounce of weed, but dull-looking weed is likely to be schwag.

Perhaps the most critical sign that you should pass on buds is if you see very few shiny, sticky trichomes. That’s where most of the flower’s THC and terpenes reside; a lack of trichomes will mean a lack of potency.

What Schwag Feels Like

In a word, dry. The way that schwag is grown, harvested, processed, and packaged leads to the loss of most of the weed’s moisture. If you touch it, it may crumble and fall apart. By comparison, a better-quality pot will be somewhat moist and will bounce right back if you touch it.

What Schwag Smells Like

Poor-quality weed won’t have the pungent aroma of the dank flower. It’s more likely to have little or no noticeable scent and may even smell “off” in some way. That’s not to be confused with smelling moldy; weed that smells moldy should be avoided in all cases.

Do You Have to Toss Schwag Weed?

Not necessarily. Schwag certainly won’t provide the best smoking experience of your life, but there are still reasons you might want to hold onto it.

  • You’re broke: There are times that money is tight, and schwag may be better than nothing at all.
  • You’re throwing a party: Most of us can’t afford to buy primo bud to supply a large group of people. If your guests aren’t close friends who will be offended by it, joints made with schwag are an inexpensive way to keep the party “rolling” for hours. After all, how can they complain when it’s free?
  • You’re making edibles: The cliché is true — the better the weed, the better the final product. However, making some types of edibles requires a lot of expensive flowers. Schwag may be a good choice in that case; edibles get you higher than smoking, so it may not matter all that much if you use less-potent pot to make them.

Some people also use decarbed schwag to make tinctures or hash. Others harvest the seeds for planting because the new plants will often be higher-quality than the crappy stuff the seeds came from.

And if you’ve never had the “pleasure” of smoking a bowl of schwag, give it a try. At the very least, the experience will make you more vigilant the next time someone tries to sell you an ounce at a price that’s too good to be true.

What Is Schwag Weed: FAQ

Q: If you smoke enough schwag, will it eventually get you as high as primo bud would?
A: It might, but the chances are greater that you’ll end up with a sore throat and a headache before you end up completely wasted.

Q: How much cheaper is schwag?
A: It’s impossible to quote specifics because it depends on how decent — or how awful — the product is and how badly the dealer wants to get rid of it. You might pay 25-50% of the price you’d pay for dank weed, or you might pay just a fraction of the cost of the top-shelf flower.

Q: Is there any other reason why people might want schwag?
A: Some find it a very sociable experience to sit with several friends, sift out the seeds and stems, and roll a few. It might remind them of the days when they couldn’t afford anything better — or it might let them channel their parents’ experience back in the days when schwag was often all anyone could find.