Why does cannabis smell so strong? Plus, 5 tips to cover smoke odor!

July 26, 2022 2 min read

Photo of man smelling weed in jar.

Whether you’re walking into work or headed to a family gathering, the lingering smell of cannabis can often be unwelcome — I’ve definitely been there!

You might be asking, “why does cannabis smell so strong?” 

The answer: cannabis has a strong, iconic smell due to terpenes and sulfur compounds, aromatic chemical elements that can be found in plants and animals alike.

After taking a deep dive into the chemistry of cannabis (with extensivepersonal experimentation), I can share why cannabis smells so strong. Plus I’ll give you 5 tips to help you cover up that iconic odor so you can keep your sessions polite, private, and pleasant!

What makes cannabis smell?

Terpenes are behind many distinctive fragrances, including citrus fruits and aromatic herbs like rosemary and sage. 

In nature, it’s believed that terpenes help plants attract pollinators and repel predators.

When it comes to cannabis, it’s believed that terpenes may also contribute to the psychoactive effects of cannabinoids. 

Given that there are around 400 known terpenes in cannabis, they may be the reason that unique strains often produce unique highs.

Myrcene is arguably the most distinctive terpene found in cannabis, giving it the iconic, earthy fragrance. And while more studies are needed, it’s believed that myrcene can assist in the absorption of cannabinoids to produce a stronger high.

Why do some strains of cannabis smell like skunk?

It’s commonly thought that indica strains have a more skunky, pungent smell while sativa strains have a sweeter, more herbal aroma.

While terpenes play a role, a recent study has also linked the skunky, acrid notes to volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs for short). 

In a smell test, a specific VSC known simply as VSC3 was most commonly identified as the notorious, skunky aroma associated with cannabis. 

It’s not yet known whether these VSCs assist in the psychoactive effects of cannabis like how terpenes are believed to.

5 tips to reduce cannabis odor

You might be looking for a way to get high on the low, or might just be looking for a more pleasurable cannabis experience.

If so, you can follow these tips to keep your personal cannabis use private, polite, and pleasant:

  • Store cannabis in airtight containers — mason jars are my personal favorite.
  • Smoke near a window and consider using an exhaust fan to pull the smoke outside.
  • Use an odor eliminator spray, like our line specifically made to eliminate cannabis odor.
  • Avoid skunky strains — sativa is believed to have an earthier, sweeter aroma than indica.
  • Try out a homemade sploof, which you can learn how to make here.

And remember — responsible cannabis use is never something to be ashamed of! You know what’s right for your body and well-being, so you do you. 


Cannabis has a unique odor due to its terpenes and sulfur compounds, which are naturally occurring elements that help the plant attract pollinators and repel predators. You can eliminate the odor of cannabis to keep your sessions private and comfortable, for both yourself and those around you.

Got a burning question about cannabis? Let me know and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

To your health & (odor-free) happiness,

Monica (AKA Cousin May)

Photo of Cousin May's founder, Monica

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