Cannabis Terminology to Know, Use, and Impress your Friends!

If you’re a part of the cannabis community, you know that it’s expanding and growing every day (no pun intended, but it’s true!). Along with it are a multitude of monikers, an excess of enlightenment, and a torrent of terms one has to become familiar with to navigate the sea of information that’s been gathered and compiled.

Terms and definitions extend from the plant to concentrates, and from smoking utensils to vaporizers. Cannabis obviously has a long history of name identification — be they names that are hip, controversial, amusing, or even grandiose.

From “pot” to “weed” as examples of the most well-known and historically popular names, we’ve come a long way from the days when it was most exclusively called “marijuana”, a name whose history is steeped in prohibition and was given a nasty connotation because of the criminalizing implications it gave its users.

The back story…

Prior to 1894, the word “marijuana” was not in use to describe the substance known more commonly as cannabis according to H.L. Mencken. Early proponents of the prohibition of cannabis described marijuana as “devil’s weed”, while the Spanish word “marijhuana” was coined to make a nefarious and anti-immigrant connection between what was known as devil’s weed and Mexican immigrants, who allegedly brought and introduced the plant to Americans. Ironically, the plant known as cannabis was a known product used by Americans over one hundred years earlier — but known more popularly as “hemp”.

The here and now…

As we all know now, great strides have been made in educating the public on the benefits of cannabis, and medicinal cannabis in general, as a viable and credible source of treatment for a number of medical conditions that have proven to benefit from the use of cannabis in whatever form is most useful to a patient.

When it comes to making an argument for legalizing cannabis, using terms that have become more familiar to the public carries more weight than not in swaying opinions. Having the right and proper terminology is an important step toward increasing legalization throughout America.

A Cannabis Compendium of Words and “Whatsits”

The examples below are not in any way a complete list of cannabis terms and descriptions (there are literally thousands of words, terms, and descriptions for anything and everything cannabis related). What we’ve got compiled here though will hopefully help you gain a greater appreciation for terms that figure prominently in the cannabis lexicon.

  • Access Point: the access point is a location that is approved and authorized for patients to pick up their medicinal cannabis. Synonymous with a medical cannabis “dispensary” or “compassion club”, this is the location where patients can safely purchase cannabis and other cannabis related products. Access points follow legal guidelines established by the states they’re in to comply with specific laws and ensure the products and facilities are safe and up to quality standards.
  • Aroma: the cannabis plant or flower has general odors that are caused by terpenes or chemical compounds. It can also be a taste. There have been over 200 terpenes discovered, and based on their chemical mix, they can produce an odor that’s skunky, musky, or citrusy.
  • Backcross (BX): Backcrossing is a process that’s used in the breeding of cannabis, where an indica and sativa mixed plant (aka hybrid) is bred with one of the parent plants. The hope is that the resulting progeny will be a closer match to the original parent plant that the hybrid was bred with. Occasionally there’s a rare strain of cannabis that needs to be preserved or a situation in which recessive genes need to be enhanced. In these instances, backcrossing is an effect remedy.
  • Bud: The bud is the part of the cannabis plant that is the most valuable part of the plant to users both medical and recreational, and it most desired. This is part of the cannabis plant that contains the cannabinoids THC, CBD, and CBG that do the work of producing the highs experienced by users and that provide the medical benefits to persons using medical cannabis to help treat a wide variety of health conditions.
  • BHO: Butane Hash Oil is an extraction from the cannabis plant and is a high-potency concentrate of the cannabinoids. Cannabis is immersed in butane solvent (it can be other solvents, but butane is more common). The resulting liquid contains high THC levels. There are different varieties of BHO that include “earwax”, “shatter”, and “honey oil” (more terms that you’ve probably heard. It can be named differently depending on the manner in which it was produced.
  • Cannabis: the main ingredient — the name of the plant that’s been used for medical purposes for millennia, as well as recreational use. There are three species of cannabis herbs that flower: cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and
    cannabis ruderalis. They’re all different versions of the plant, but differ in their use and effectiveness for patient treatment. Cannabis sativa and indica are the most well known and utilized. The sativa cannabis range variety provides more energizing, mood lifting effects that are beneficial for helping patients with depression, nausea, or obesity manage their conditions. Cannabis indica varieties help alleviate body pain and feelings of anxiousness. Ruderalis is not a common plant that’s grown, nor does it find a lot of favor by patients or recreational consumers mainly due to its low levels of THC and growth scarcity.
  • CBD: Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is a highly common cannabinoid that’s present in cannabis. Of the over 111 cannabinoids that are in cannabis, CBD is valued for its ability to help treat pain, anxiety, inflammation, and conditions like epilepsy which can dramatically help reduce or even eliminate seizures. Patients don’t get the kind of “high” they get from THC from using it, but they can use it effectively to treat symptoms that qualify for its use.
  • Concentrates: As mentioned above, when cannabis is dissolved in a solvent to make BHO, it turns into potent form of cannabinoids that’s very high in THC. These concentrates turn into different substances that can go by a number of different names depending the manufacturing method, plus what the density of the final solution is like.
  • Clone: When a clipping is taken from a cannabis plant and rooted for growth, it’s a growing and cloning process that involves the mother plant. This is the plant that the clone originated from.
  • Dab: A dose of the Butane Hash Oil (BHO) that’s vaped or smoked goes by the slang term of dab. Dabbing can be accomplished with bongs, vaporizer attachments, or special types of pipes.
  • Dispensary: A retail store that can be run as either a business or non-profit where cannabis patients can safely and securely obtain information, consult with a cannabis expert, and make purchases of cannabis to treat their symptoms is called a dispensary. The dispensary is a safe space where customers are treated with respect, and can avoid buying cannabis on the black market.
  • Dank: sticky, strongly aromatic cannabis that is also of a high quality is described by the word “dank”.
  • Edibles: medicated baked goods like cookies, brownies, breads, and drinks such as flavored coffee, juices, and similar goods are called edibles. They also include products such as butters and oils that patients can use in making their own edibles. It may take a bit longer for the cannabis to reach and take effect because it is processed through absorption into the digestive system.
  • Feminized: In case you weren’t aware, there are male and female cannabis plants. In the case of feminine plants, cannabis seeds can be selectively bred so that only female plants are produced. The female plant is highly desired because they alone produce the high-resin trichomes where cannabinoids reside, which is where all of the medical effectiveness of cannabis comes from. Unfortunately, male plants do not contain the valued cannabinoids needed for medicinal purposes and are often destroyed once they have been identified as such at the beginning of the flowering stage.
  • Flowering Time: This is the time needed for the cannabis plant to accomplish its growth stages before being harvested for use. Because the sativa strain of cannabis plants can take more time to grow to maturity than the indica strains, indica strains are more popular with patients for their effectiveness in treatments.
  • Flowers: The section of the cannabis plant that grows to maturity at the end of its flowering stage of cultivation. At this point is where the resinous trichomes are at their greatest number and size. The reproductive organs of the female cannabis plant are called flowers, and they contain practically all the trichomes in the cannabis plant. The female plants must be fertilized by male plants to produce seeds.
  • Hybrid: Cannabis plants that are a cross of two or more different strains are called hybrids. They typically take the best of each of the strains to create more effectively combine the best of all the strains, which results in a more medically effective treatment or a high that’s more potent, enduring, and more satisfying.
  • Hemp: There are non-euphoric varieties of cannabis that contain very little THC. According to the legal definitions that are currently in place in the U.S. and Canada, only 0.3% of THC can be contained in cannabis. Hemp is typically grown using the male plants and is of a fibrous consistency which gives it versatility to be used in applications such as food, shelter, medicine, fuel, and even plastics manufacturing.
  • Hash or Hash Oil: short for “Hashish”, it’s gleaned from cannabis plants and has medicinal or recreational uses. In the case of hash, the plant’s trichomes are removed by sieving or filtering it. As it is a powder, after it’s been obtained, it’s generally pressed and used in that form. The similar, concentrated product is produced by chemical process with a solvent which gives it the name of “hash oil” or “honey oil”.
  • Heirloom: A cannabis strain that was harvested from its native region and allowed to circulate and produce in another region is called an heirloom.
  • Hydroponics: This is a cultivation system in which the cannabis plant roots are suspended in a solution of water and nutrients. Using this method, there’s more control of the volumes of nutrients that allows for making minor tweaks that can keep the plant healthy while doubling the amount of flowers produced. There are pros and cons to growing it this way in the area of liquid immersion versus dirt. Some stand by the opinion that the earth-grown variety of cannabis is higher in quality than liquid grown.
  • Indica: commonly referred to as cannabis indica, it’s one of the three varieties that are the most regularly available, in both legal dispensaries and on the black market. The characteristic appeal of these plants are their short, broad leaves and commonly large yields when they’re harvested. As a medical cannabis treatment, they are effective in pain management, and also in providing relaxation, stress relief, and reducing anxiety.
  • Kief: Trichomes that have been separated from the rest of the cannabis flower are sticky crystals that hold a significant majority of the cannabinoids in the plant. They’re a collected quantity and can be very potent. While it can be mistaken for pollen, it’s also a chief ingredient that’s used in the production of hashish.
  • Kush: The Kush mountains in Afghanistan and Pakistan produces this cannabis plant variety. They are indica strains which are good for pain relief, sedation, or stimulating an appetite. An earthy or citrusy aroma is a prime feature of the Kush plants.
  • Landrace: These are strains of cannabis that are typically named after the region they’re native to. They’re often named after their location, such as Afghani, Thai, or Hawaiian. Landrace strains apply to a local type of cannabis that’s become assimilated to the environment that categorizes its geographic location.
  • Marijuana: The female cannabis plant is typically known by this term, and it refers to the plant or the dried flowers produced by the plant. As the flowers hold the high yield of cannabinoids that contain the medicinal and psychoactive characteristic patients and recreational users have come to expect, this distinguishes the female plants from the male plants.
  • OG: Or “Ocean Grown”. This term describes a family of cannabis strains that are found in the Southern California region. Many of the OG strains that are available currently were variants of the original OG Kush strains, that helped to make the West Coast the medicinal and recreational cannabis center of activity.
  • Phenotype: Heard primarily in conversations about growing cannabis, phenotype is a term that encompasses the general characteristics of the cannabis plant that include height, branching, color, and leaf configuration. Even cell makeup is taken into account. These are the identifiers that help in determining the plant’s health.
  • Pistil: on a female cannabis plant’s anatomical structure, this is the term for it. It refers to the hair-like extensions that are present on the flower heads. They vary in color from white and red, to darker orange-brown. The Pistil goes to work to collect the pollen from the male plant when it’s fertilization time for the female plant. If a plant is not fertilized, such as in the case of marijuana, the pistils will indicate the plant’s ripeness by changing.
  • Pot: the slang word or term for marijuana of course!
  • Pre-roll: A pre-rolled marijuana cigarette is known as a joint (which is also a common slang term in the lexicon!). You can actually buy these at many cannabis dispensaries.
  • Ruderalis: As mentioned earlier, the low-THC cannabis variety is known as a choice that breeders selectively use for its CBD-rich genetics. Ruderalis is an “autoflowering” plant variety that flowers with age, unlike the cannabis sativa and indica strains that use cycles of light to flower. An original Russian plant, it’s quite hardy and can withstand climates that are harsh and severe.
  • Sativa: As one of the species of cannabis with a name that’s not as scientific as others, sativa plants were originally from outside the Middle East and Asia. there are also strains that come from the Caribbean, Africa, Thailand, and South America. Sativa strains will grow over 5 feet which is taller than most other strains, and also will be of a lighter color and take more time to flower. The highs experienced with sativa-specific strains when consumed are more cerebral in nature versus those that are physical and sedative.
  • Shatter/Ice: these are terms associated with the BHO extraction process.
  • Strain: A plant’s species is referred to as a strain. These strains can be cultivated to produce specifically desirable traits, and are usually named by their breeders or even consumers that have a creative edge. Reflective of the appearance of the plant, the expected high, or where it originates, sometimes the naming can be mistaken or misidentified on purpose despite efforts by the marijuana industry to be consistent.
  • THC: As seen many times before, THC is the abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol. Its status as a well-known cannabinoid is also because of its abundant availability. As the component in marijuana that is most at the core of the psychoactive effects of the drug, it is also the one most responsible for the wide range of conditions it helps to treat. In its natural form, it is not lethal.
  • Tincture: This is a liquid extract of cannabis that can be made with alcohol or glycerol. It can often be administered with a dropper. With the great versatility of tinctures, they can be flavored, mixed into a drink, or taken a number of ways, primarily under the tongue where they’re absorbed almost immediately. How they are taken can determine how fast they act as with other methods, they must be absorbed by the digestive system.
  • Topical: The topical version of cannabis products is where the flower’s active properties have been extracted and added to a product like a lotion or cream. As the medicinal properties are absorbed, they can go to work to reduce and treat long term soreness, muscle aches, and conditions such as dry skin.
  • Trichome: Trichomes are little glands in the cannabis plant that produce resin, which is indicated by sticky little hairs or protrusions from the flower bud. The glands are where all the cannabinoids are produced—THC, CBD, and others.
  • Vaporizer: Familiarity with the term “vaping” is what this term could be associated with. The vaporizer is a device that makes it possible to consume medicinal or recreational marijuana without the the telltale smoke smell. It uses heat to activate the flowers or oils that have been infused with cannabis to a temperature that results in cannabinoid-laced vapor. The attraction of using a vaporizer is that it’s a healthier option to smoking (there’s no smoke to ingest), and it produces almost instantaneous effects. Vaping is gaining popularity with attractive new and more compact models entering the market.
  • Wax: this term refers to a different form of the concentrate that’s made by dissolving cannabis into a solvent.
  • Weed: We’ve all heard this one…it’s slang for marijuana, but probably the most-often used and abused term in the medical cannabis industry. There are even low-quality monikers such as “dirtweed” and “brickweed” to describe cannabis or marijuana.


It’s no surprise that the terms used for cannabis can range from the ridiculous to the sublime, and these are just the tip of the iceberg. But even with a little education under your belt on some of the key terms you’d most likely hear consulting on medicinal cannabis products at your dispensary, talking over medical conditions and treatment options with your medicinal cannabis doctor, or just in everyday life reading and interacting with others, you’re now armed with some valuable cannabis terms to know, use, and impress your friends with!

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