What Does Marijuana Smell Like? (And How To Get Rid Of The Smell)

Last Updated on Nov 25, 2022 by Mark Conklin, RN, MHA

Marijuana has a distinct odor that’s easily recognized after smelling it just once or twice.

Although medicinal marijuana is legal in many states, federal laws prohibiting all forms of marijuana govern public perception. Consequently, the pungent perfume of this ancient plant continues to carry negative connotations and foster undue societal discernment for the 5.5 million patients who currently rely on medicinal marijuana to manage debilitating conditions.

Understandably, many of these individuals search for practical ways to mask marijuana odor to avoid unnecessary attention or judgment. In this article, we will cover the regular smell of marijuana and outline how to get rid of marijuana smells from your clothes and home.

To those that have smelled it, marijuana has a distinct and recognizable smell. Let’s get into what it smells like and why.

The Smell of Marijuana

To those that have smelled it, marijuana has a distinct and recognizable smell. Let’s get into what it smells like and why.

What Does Marijuana Smell Like?

To the untrained nose, marijuana smells a lot like skunk but can also be described as earthy, woodsy, or sweet. These scents come from the terpenes being burned. Mercene is the terpene responsible for the skunky smell, pinene gives it the woodsy, earthy smell, and limonene gives it a sweet citrus scent.

Can You Get High From Smelling Marijuana?

The answer to this is a resounding no. You cannot get high from just the smell of raw marijuana, no matter how potent it may be. However, if what you’re smelling is burning marijuana and you are exposed to secondhand smoke, you can experience the psychoactive effects, especially in infants and children.

Why Does Marijuana Smell Like Skunk?

As we briefly mentioned above, most marijuana strains contain liberal proportions of myrcene, a potent terpene that gives off that earthy musky scent that many people describe as “skunky”.

Marijuana smells because of the presence of these aromatic compounds, which are released when the plant is burned or vaporized. The stronger the odor, the higher the concentration of these compounds. In general, indoor-grown marijuana will have a stronger smell than marijuana grown outdoors.

What Influences The Smell Of Marijuana?

Marijuana is the dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis sativa plant. The terpenes we discuss above are odoriferous chemicals that serve the biological function of fending off predators and enticing insects for pollination and are behind the intoxicating aroma of marijuana.

Scientists have identified over 100 different terpenes in marijuana. However, different strains contain unique compositions of these terpenes resulting in slight variances between strains. For example, the terpene caryophyllene imparts a spicy, peppery scent reminiscent of cloves, while limonene carries that zesty citrus flavor.

The second-largest factor influencing marijuana odor is the age of the plant when harvested. Cannabis harvested earlier in its growth cycle has a milder scent and is usually less potent in THC content. On the other hand, flowers that are left to mature for longer before harvesting produces a more pungent and potent weed.

What Does Synthetic Marijuana Smell Like?

Firstly, synthetic marijuana is often misleadingly used to describe synthetic cannabinoids.

Synthetic cannabinoids are produced in a laboratory using artificial chemicals that are designed to imitate the effects of phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are biologically active compounds that naturally occur in the Cannabis sativa plant. 

When consumed, they interact with our endocannabinoid system to produce diverse effects within the human body and brain.

Delta-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the major psychoactive phytocannabinoid responsible for inducing the euphoric high we typically associate with marijuana. THC is also a natural analgesic, anti-nausea, and antiemetic with medicinal applications in AIDS patients and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. 

Pharmaceutical companies have formulated synthetic versions of THC (e.g., dronabinol and nabilone), which are approved by the FDA and prescribed by specialized physicians. These chemicals are not cannabinoids, but like THC, they interact with the endocannabinoid system and bind to the same cannabinoid receptors on the brain and other organs throughout the body.

Although these medications’ effects are similar to cannabis-derived THC, the drugs themselves bear no physical resemblance to marijuana. In fact, both dronabinol and nabilone are capsules with no apparent aroma. That’s because, unlike real marijuana—which contains some 483 organic compounds, including phytocannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, polyphenols, and more—these pharmaceuticals are pure concentrations of synthetic cannabinoids.

According to the National Institute On Drug Abuse, “[synthetic cannabinoids] are not safe and may affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana; their actual effects can be unpredictable and, in some cases, more dangerous or even life-threatening.”

Synthetic cannabinoids should only be used under the guidance of a specialized marijuana physician trained in the appropriate monitoring and assessment of patients.


How To Get Rid Of Marijuana Smell

If you prefer to smoke the whole natural flower instead of synthetic cannabinoids, then you’re probably well aware of marijuana’s pungent aroma. And while you may find it uniquely satisfying, the familiar scent can easily arouse unwanted suspicion and even land you in legal trouble depending on your state.

Firstly, here’s how to get rid of the marijuana smell lingering in the air after smoking:


Try vaping as an alternative to smoking. Vaporizer pens gently heat the cannabis to a temperature just below its combustion point, releasing a mild vapor that can be inhaled. Just like when smoking, the vapor delivers cannabinoids directly to the brain within a matter of seconds, but without the smoke or lingering scent.

Smell-proof storage

The natural scent of cannabis is amplified when smoked due to the combustion of plant materials. But stored marijuana leaves still have the familiar earthy, earthy scent of weed. Storing your stash in an airtight container will help deter unsuspecting nostrils

Use well-ventilated location

Whenever possible, smoke outdoors so the smoke can quickly drift away instead of lingering around and penetrating your clothing. If this is not possible, opt for a well-ventilated location where the smoke can rapidly escape — such as, next to a window.

Clearing the air of marijuana smoke is one thing but removing traces from your body is another.

How To Get The Smell Of Marijuana Off You After Smoking

Taking a shower and changing your clothes is the most obvious way to rid your body of unwanted odors. But it’s not always possible or convenient, especially when you’re out and about or at work. Make sure you have the following items handy to abolish any lingering smells and purify your hair, breath, body, and clothes.

Gum, mints, and mouthwash

Stinky breath is a tell-tale sign that you’ve just been puffing the dragon. It’s also an unpleasant smell that’s guaranteed to warrant some unsavory looks from strangers and even your best friends. Do yourself a favor and carry either some gum, mints, or mouthwash in your on-the-go kit.

Perfume, cologne, deodorant

Keeping any kind of body spray in your bag is pretty normal, but it’s essential for a regular cannabis user. Be sure to give your body a decent soaking after smoking and beware that if you smoked in the car with the windows down, then neither cologne nor body spray will mask the stench that has seeped into your clothing and hair.

Hand lotion and sanitizer

If you’ve just smoked flower, then we guarantee you, your fingers are smelly. Applying a perfumed hand lotion or hand sanitizer over your palms and across your fingertips can help neutralize any suspicious odors.

Wet wipes

Wiping over your face and hands with a wet wipe can help remove any lingering marijuana odor. It can also be an excellent alternative for a splash of water to freshen yourself after taking too much. Carrying an emergency packet of wet wipes whenever you’re smoking on-the-go.

Walk outdoors

Many medical marijuana users need regular doses throughout the day to provide sufficient relief for their condition. If you need to smoke between shifts or during your lunch break, allow time to take a walk outdoors and let the fresh air cleanse your hair and clothing.


How To Get Rid Of Marijuana Smell In The House

For many, the most convenient, pleasurable, and safe place to smoke cannabis is at home. After all, you can relax on your couch in complete privacy only a few steps away from your fridge and bed. But lingering smells can present a problem, especially when unexpected visitors drop by. Whether you want to keep your habit private or just want to be considerate of your neighbors, implementing these tips can keep your home smelling fresh and cannabis free.

Keep windows open

First of all, never smoke indoors without opening at least one window. You need to provide the smoke with an exit point. Otherwise, it will permeate your home and settle into your furniture. Likewise, if you’ve just received a call from your grandma who is five minutes away, immediately open every door and window to flush your home with fresh air.


Incense has been used for centuries at religious ceremonies and, more recently as a welcoming scent for yoga, meditation, and aromatherapy. It’s also very effective at masking the smell of weed. Incense contains an aromatic blend of spices, herbs, and resins that create a calming fragrance reminiscent of sandalwood and fresh magnolia. The fragrant smoke released from the burning incense sticks can also conceal any remaining cannabis smoke still lingering in the room.

Scented candles

If you don’t want an Eastern temple vibe in your home, scented candles offer an alternative with a more extensive range of fragrances from fresh and fruity to floral and vanilla. You can also try a pet odor exterminator candle if you need to disguise a particularly pungent strain. These candles are designed to eliminate all kinds of smells, including the smell of cannabis.

Air fresheners

Air fresheners are a great option for when you need to leave home as unlike candles, there’s no risk of accidentally burning the house down. And these days there’s a wide variety of air fresheners. You can choose from simple spray bottles, diffusers, and air freshener bags to more advanced time-operated mist dispensers, electric fan air fresheners, and gravity cleaning systems. So, when you smoke in the morning, you can come home to a fresh, odor-free home.

Have Questions?

THC physicians are here to help people in Florida receive the medical treatment they need. If you have any questions about getting a marijuana card, please browse our how-to page for more information or contact us if there is anything we can answer for you!

Howard Seth Meiselman, DO

Medically reviewed by Howard Seth Meiselman, DO — Written by Mark Conklin 

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Mark Conklin, RN, MHA

Mark Conklin is the founder and CEO of Tierra Healthcare Concepts and is also part of the medical team. He has over 25 years of experience in the healthcare field working at the executive management level and as a medical professional. Education RN, BS Biology, and Master of Health Administration course curriculum.

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