Mason Jar can’t hide the Stink : Marijuana and Skunk Smell Explained
What’s in your Mason Jar
Have you ever been walking down the street or driving in your car and suddenly began to notice the smell of a pungent aroma that can only mean one thing? Someone’s smoking some dank bud. Or, there’s a dead skunk nearby. Some of us have first-hand experience with skunk spray and have the empty tomato cans to prove it. And most of us are familiar with ‘another’ smell all too well and have the empty mason jar to prove it. But how and why do people confuse the two?
Does weed actually smell like skunk defense stench? Apparently, the smells are so similar that one lady is wondering if skunks are taking over Chicago. But why do we make this connection? Only the nose knows.You find many different theories on the subject; Some scientific and some not. Here’s what I found.
The most exciting new frontier on the marijuana horizon for cultivators and connoisseurs alike is that of the terpenes. Terpenes are essential plant oils that make up the varieties in flavors that we find in different strains of marijuana. Growers develop and manipulate them to produce delicious combinations that often distinguish one strain from another.
Limonene, for example, found in high concentration in strains such as OG Kush, Super Lemon Haze and Lemon Skunk, is a cyclic terpene that smells strongly of citrus and oranges. Often weed breeders introduce male and female plants that have similar terpene profiles in order to bring out a certain smell or flavor in a new strain.
Terpenes also define a given strains aromatic characteristics. Smell in marijuana ranges from citrus to woody; from floral and sweet to spice and pine; all depending on the terpenes found in its profile.
A particular assortment of terpenes in a strain’s profile colors the odor it gives and even helps determine what kind of effects the batch of bud might have. Strains that have a floral scent contain the terpene Linalool and are likely sedating and calming. Expect a strain that has a sweet, pine smell to make you feel alert because of the terpene Pinene.
Myrcene is the most prevalent terpene in all marijuana and makes up a big part of its smell. It’s also found in mangoes, lemon grass, basil and other plants and produces a spicy, earth-like odor and is more pungent in high quantities. In a given strain, Myrcene sometimes makes up 60% of the terpene profile. So, when we think of the smell that all bud has in common we’re thinking of Myrcene.
In the forest, the bear can kill you, the deer can kill you (really?), but the skunk will make you smell like you’re already dead. In case you hadn’t heard, skunks have a mean deterrent spray to ward off predators and its low-key one of the worst smells that ever reeked. You’d be liable to rub a mix of rotten milk curdles, moldy toe jam and old guy beer farts on your upper lip just to avoid it. They usually have about 6 squirts worth and they use it sparingly because it takes about 10 days to produce-not that they’d have to use much of it anyway. In fact, most animals know just by looking at a skunk’s distinct white stripes that it is one tiny terror not to be trifled with.
Skunk spray is made up of thiols; organic compounds with sulfur as a principal component. Sulfur infamously smells like damp gym socks in mason jar of runny 34 day old eggs that have been sitting under a heat lamp in middle school boy locker room after 6th-period gym.The thiols in skunk spray are so intense, they have a smell radius of half a mile.
(E )-2-butene-1-thiol and 3-methyl-1-butanethiol are the offending thiols present in skunk cologne that will knock you on your rear. Not only do these compounds reek but human noses are highly susceptible to them and detect them at just 10 parts per billion. Once a skunk has sprayed, the smell lasts at least ten days if left untreated. As time passes the smell diminishes to a less offensive level.
When breeders cross different strains or marijuana, they usually consider terpene profiles to develop pleasant smells and flavors that consumers enjoy. When a skunk sprays his thiols in your face he wants to make sure your senses are so horrified that you never return or forget your suffering at the mercy of his butt glands. Given all this, it seems strange that there is any association at all between the two. So why is there one?
Well, one of the last things I stumbled upon was about what happens to terpenes when the become oxidized. *takes huge breath* When terpene-monooximes (terpenes that have single oxygen molecules that are double bonded to nitrogen) are heated in the presence of amines, (organic compounds derived from ammonia by replacement of one or more hydrogen atoms by organic groups), pyrazines are produced.*takes second huge-gasping-breath*
Why is this important?
Well, when we burn marijuana, its terpenes are heated and oxidized and become pyrazines. The resulting smell after the smoke sesh are those very pyrazines. Pyrazines smell very similar to skunk spray that is a few days old and not as offensive.
And there you have it! Burnt weed smells like old skunk juice.
And with that, I suppose the last question to answer is, who first made this discovery? Did a weed farmers dog get sprayed one day out in the field; and the farmer had to wash his dog like twenty times to get the smell out; and a few days later noticed his dog didn’t smell so bad; and then smoked a joint and thought “It smells just like my dog!”?
I hope so.