21 Cannabis Terms that You Need to Know About

In the modern age of cannabis legalization, most cannabis lingo is widespread and well known. Even a basic knowledge of cannabis terminology is enough to get a person through a dispensary shopping experience or a Vice documentary about strain hunting in Colombia. But once you stick your nose into any cannabis literature or hang out with too many cannabis aficionados, it’s basically time to get the dictionary out. 

Most people are familiar with medical or botanical terms simply from what is taught in school and the media that is presented. Given how recently cannabis has made its re-entry into the socio-political world, there still remains a lot of ambiguity surrounding terminology specifically relating to cannabis. So for all those whose cannabis vocabularies aren’t quite up to scratch, read on for a list of 15 cannabis terms you need to know.

1. Hemp

Hemp is a variety of plant that is part of the cannabis genus. It is bred mainly for industrial purposes such as paper, fiber, fuel and plastic. It is also grown to manufacture CBD products as hemp is naturally high in CBD but contains very minute concentrations of THC.

Industrial hemp is completely different from marijuana. It does not contain enough THC to be even slightly intoxicating and is used instead for a range of applications – around 25,000, in fact. These include textiles, construction, health supplements, and food, among others. It can be grown easily and in abundance, and, as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC, it is legal in all the 50 states. [read more about hemp]

2. Marijuana

Unlike industrial hemp, marijuana is the type of cannabis that has psychoactive effects on the user due to its high levels of THC. It is grown in a carefully controlled environment for either medical or recreational use, although its cultivation and distribution or sale is tightly regulated.

3. Strain

This can be used to identify a certain variety of cannabis. Traditionally, the strain name reflected the geographical origin of the cannabis, then the parent strains, but in recent years, it often gives an insight into the color, taste, smell, or effects – for example, “Silver Haze”, “Pineapple Express”, and “Laughing Buddha”. Although there are thousands of different strains, they all fall into three categories: sativa, indica, and ruderalis (or a hybrid of these).

4. Sativa, Indica and Rudelaris

Cannabis Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis are all variations of the cannabis genus. Contrary to popular belief, sativa, indica and ruderalis are not differentiated by the effects that they have on the user. These differences in taxonomy are largely due to the fact that until commercial cultivation, different species of cannabis existed all over the world. Now, thanks to hybridization, the differences are not so noticeable anymore.

Cannabis indica originates in the mountains that share a border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. These plants displayed robust growing patterns, grew bushy and covered in trichomes. Cannabis sativa on the other hand is said to have originated in equatorial climates. It grows much taller than cannabis indica varieties. 

Ruderalis is considered to be a “wild” strain of cannabis, generally growing in more remote parts of the world. It is said to have originated in Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia, and is usually distinguished from other kinds of cannabis because of its unique phenotypes. With that being said, taxonomists often argue whether cannabis ruderalis is simply a subspecies of cannabis sativa. 

Hemp and marijuana both fall under the umbrellas of cannabis sativa.

5. Indica/Sativa/Hybrid

Indica, sativa and hybrids are different categories of strains which a person may find in a dispensary. This is different to the taxonomical definition of indica, sativa and ruderalis however. When a strain is “indica”, “sativa” or “hybrid”, it is specifically in relation to growing patterns and the effect on the user. Indica strains are said to be quite relaxing and sedative while sativa strains are said to be energetic and cerebral. Hybrid strains are bred from a combination of the two. 

6. Auto-flowering

Autoflowering cannabis plants are those that do not require a change in photoperiod in order to switch to flowering. The switch from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage happens with age, rather than in response to the environment. It is thought that the autoflowering gene was taken from a cannabis ruderalis species.

In other words, a female cannabis plant that automatically flowers with age, as opposed to according to light, is auto-flowering. Understandably, these strains are popular with breeders, as many will be ready to harvest in less than 10 weeks.

7. Cola

This is what the “bud site” is referred to as – that is, where the female flowers form. The main cola always forms at the top of the plant, but can also consist of multiple small buds.

8. Cannabinoid

Cannabinoids make up some of the chemical constituents of the marijuana and hemp plants. In general, cannabinoids are accepted as the main therapeutic compounds of cannabis. These chemicals are responsible for the euphoric, pain relieving, and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis. THC and CBD are two examples of the many cannabinoids that can be found in the cannabis genus.

There are more than 100 cannabinoids that have been identified. Each has different effects on the human body when consumed, as well as different potential health benefits – although clinical research is currently fairly limited. However, what we do know is that cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for maintaining homeostasis (balance) in the body.

9. Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

The endocannabinoid system is a network of cannabinoid receptors and endogenous cannabinoids that exist naturally within the human body. It is this biological system that is affected after ingesting cannabis. The endocannabinoid system regulates many other systems of the human body such as the immune system and the neuroendocrine system.

The ECS is primarily responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body – it does this by regulating various cognitive functions, such as sleep, memory, mood, appetite, and pain sensitivity, among others. As such, it has been termed as “the bridge between the body and the mind”. Our body naturally produces endocannabinoids, which are essentially chemical messengers used in the function of the ECS, but the cannabinoids found in cannabis also interact with the ECS, which is where the potential health benefits of cannabis come into play. [read more]

10. Cannabidiol (CBD)

This is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has gained worldwide attention in recent years due to its potential health benefits and subsequent medical applications. Although more research is needed in this area, studies suggest it may be beneficial in the treatment of various ailments, such as chronic pain, depression and anxiety, and inflammatory, neurological, and skin conditions. [more about CBD]

11. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

This is the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, and is responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis use. It is also potentially useful in treating a range of conditions, including glaucoma, anorexia, insomnia, and muscle spasticity – although more research is required in these areas. [read more about THC]

12. Terpenes

Terpenes are a huge group of organic compounds responsible for the strong odor of many plants. Terpenes are what give cannabis its unique and characteristic smell. All essential oil in the world is made almost completely out of terpenes. Each terpene is said to have its own medicinal quality, and the effect of terpenes is synergistic with cannabinoids. Myrcene, linalool, limonene and pinene are some examples of common terpenes found in cannabis.

Terpenes often have strong odors that are responsible for the smell of plants and flowers, as well as playing a part in their natural defenses by deterring herbivores. Many also possess antifungal properties, which help to fight disease. Research suggests they may have potential health benefits when consumed, although these differ according to the terpene. [read more about terpenes]

13. Terpenoids

These are naturally occurring organic compounds found in the cannabis plant. When consumed, it is thought that they have multiple potential health benefits, including antifungal, antiviral, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antihyperglycemic, and antiparasitic properties, among others. They are slightly different from terpenes, although the two are often confused (terpenoids are denatured by oxidation; i.e., when the flowers are dried or cured).

14. Trichome

Trichomes are the glossy, resinous, crystal like structures that lay on the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant. They are particularly obvious when a bud is fresh rather than dried. Trichomes are made up almost entirely of cannabinoids and contain the highest concentration of cannabinoids compared to any other part of the plant. When buds are hand-rubbed to create hashish, it is the trichomes that are captured to make the sticky substance that we call hashish.

15. Psychoactive

Psychoactive drugs are a class of drugs that cause alterations to perception, mood, consciousness, cognition and behavior. Cannabis is generally classed as a psychoactive, as its main cannabinoid, THC, elicits many of the alterations mentioned above. However, non-psychoactive forms of cannabis exist such as hemp and non-psychoactive cannabis products can be manufactured from hemp.

16. Tincture

A tincture is typically the preparation of a herb steeped in alcohol. Some cannabis tinctures are made this way. However, cannabis tincture is more commonly manufactured by a process of extraction that does not use alcohol as a solvent. Cannabis tinctures are usually prepared in oils and are then taken internally.

17. Topical

A cannabis topical treatment is a cannabinoid-infused cream or lotion designed to provide localize relief to a specific part of the body. It is applied externally, and therefore does not result in psychoactive or intoxicating effects. The effects are felt locally on the place that it is used. Cannabis topicals usually have anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects.

18. Extraction

Extraction refers to a process by which cannabinoids are removed from the cannabis plant material. Some methods of extraction include butane extraction, CO2 extraction and alcohol extraction. Essentially, the purpose of this is to separate the remedial compounds from the plant material.

19. Concentrates

Concentrates are the final products of extraction! As the name suggests, concentrates are extremely concentrated versions of cannabis. THey are available in many forms such as hashish, CBD oil, shatter, wax and THC/CBD distillate and isolate. They are either consumed for their potency or they are used to manufacture other cannabis products such as topicals.

20. Full-spectrum

Full-spectrum cannabis products refer to any cannabis product that contains the full profile of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other compounds present in a single specimen of cannabis. This is in contrast to single-cannabinoid medicines which typically contain only one cannabinoid, rather than many cannabinoids and other compounds. 

21. Feminized

Feminized cannabis seeds are those that have been bred to the point where there is almost a 100% chance of a female plant emerging. Feminized seeds were created by forcing a female plant into hermaphroditism by using environmental stressors. This causes the female plant to create pollen, which is then used to pollinate itself. The result is a feminized seeds, which is sold to home-growers who don’t want to have to separate male from female plants!

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