Major Cannabis Terms You Need to Know

The world of cannabis is significantly more complex than many people realize. From the jargon to the slang terms, it can get very confusing if you’re a novice!

At WayofLeaf, we find that people dip into the more complicated topics without learning the basics. They soon become overwhelmed, and some get disillusioned and give up. This is a shame because there are so many fantastic things you can learn about.

In this article, we focus on the most basic cannabis terms. Once you understand them, you’ll already be well ahead of most people interested in the plant. Please note that there’s a LOT of information here. Feel free to take it one section at a time.

1 – Cannabis – Marijuana – Hemp

The above is often used interchangeably with the assumption that all three are the same. In other cases, people believe that these plants are completely different. In reality, there is a link between them, but the terms mean different things.

Cannabis is a plant genus that produces the following flowering plants: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. Marijuana and hemp are both types of cannabis. As author Earnest Small points out, there is no taxonomical difference between the two plants.

Marijuana and hemp are both types of cannabis.

Marijuana is typically used to describe female cannabis plants and their dried flowers. These plants contain an abundance of THC, a cannabinoid that provides an intoxicating high. In legal terms, cannabis plants with more than 0.3% THC are considered marijuana.

In contrast, hemp is cannabis that contains a maximum of 0.3% THC by dry weight. It is a fibrous plant you can produce from the male cannabis plant. Estimates vary, but hemp could have up to 25,000 uses, with the most popular being to produce CBD oil. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp in the United States.

2 – Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in cannabis. Researchers have discovered more than 113 of them to date. Cannabinoids act on the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Their interaction with these receptors can result in various effects such as pain relief, stress reduction, and more.

THC is the most abundant intoxicating cannabinoid in marijuana. It is responsible for the high you feel when using the drug.

CBD is often the most abundant non-intoxicating cannabinoid in marijuana. It is also available in high concentrations in hemp. CBD interacts with the receptors differently from THC, which is why it doesn’t cause a high.

Researchers are looking into the benefits of other cannabinoids, such as CBN and CBC.

3 – Indica, Sativa & Ruderalis

As briefly mentioned in #1, these are the three types of flowering plants produced by the cannabis plant genus. The Cannabis indica plant primarily comes from Asia and the Middle East. These are short, bushy plants known for providing feelings of relaxation and sedation.

The Cannabis sativa plant also mainly originates from the Middle East and Asia. However, you can also find sativa strains in Africa, the Caribbean, and South America. This type of plant grows fairly tall and has a much longer flowering time. The sativa strain tends to focus more on the mind, and users often experience a burst of energy.

The Cannabis ruderalis plant came from Russia and was the last of the trio to be discovered and analyzed. Ruderalis strains tend to contain less THC than the other two and are extremely short, squat, and durable plants.

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4 – Cannabis Strains & Crossbreeding

A strain is a distinct type of plant species. There are thousands of cannabis strains available today. People have been crossbreeding strains for decades, which is why there are so many new ones. So-called landrace strains are local varieties that have adapted to their surroundings. They are usually named after their region. Examples of famous landraces include Thai and Afghani.

The process of crossbreeding involves breeding two or more strains together. These days, breeders have so much skill and knowledge that they can create strains with a specific flavor profile. Northern Lights is one of the most famous cannabis strains of all time. It was created by combining a pair of landrace strains: Thai and Afghani.

Another term for a strain that is a cross of two or more cannabis types is a hybrid. The vast majority of marijuana strains on the market are hybrids.

5 – Concentrates

Cannabis concentrates are products that contain an extremely high level of cannabinoids. In general, companies tend to lean towards THC when making concentrates. There are some products on the market that contain up to 90% THC. They are NOT for novices, and even experienced users only need to use a tiny amount.


There are several types of concentrates, which differ based on how they are manufactured and their consistency. Popular concentrates include:

  • BHO: Butane Hash Oil is a thick and sticky oil.
  • Budder: As the name suggests, this concentrate has a soft, butter-like consistency.
  • Crumble: This is a brittle version of budder.
  • Shatter: This is one of the purest concentrates and usually looks like a piece of colored glass.

6 – Types of Cannabis Products

There is a wide range of products to choose from apart from concentrates. These include:

Edibles: Ask most people about marijuana edibles, and they automatically think about cannabis brownies. While they remain popular, there is a huge array of options. These include chocolate, gummies, and even lattes!

Flower: Cannabis flowers are the sticky, hairy bits of the plant covered in trichomes. Growers harvest and dry them for sale. The most common method of use is to smoke them in a bowl, joint, or blunt.

Oil: Also known as tinctures, these are products designed for sublingual consumption. While CBD oil from hemp is popular, so too is THC oil from marijuana. Using it typically involves placing drops beneath your tongue before swallowing. However, you can also add it to food or beverages.

Topicals: These products include creams or salves infused with cannabinoids and are applied to the skin. Much like concentrates, topicals have different names based on the consistency of the final product.

Vaporizers: This is a device you can use to consume cannabis instead of a joint. You need to use vape juice, a specially formulated substance that contains cannabinoids. Rather than smoking cannabis, you inhale clouds of vapor. Proponents claim it is a safer method than smoking because it doesn’t release carcinogenic substances.

7 – Popular Cannabis Smoking Methods

Despite the new consumption methods, smoking remains a popular way to use cannabis. Here are a few different devices used in the process:

Bong: This is a large pipe that utilizes water to diffuse cannabis smoke. As a result, the smoke you inhale is cooler and causes less irritation to the throat and lungs.

Bowl: You will find this on a bong or another smoking device that contains marijuana. This is where you place the buds before igniting them.

Blunt: This is a larger version of the famous joint. Typically, a blunt is rolled in a cigarillo paper or even in a tobacco leaf cigar. It takes skill to hollow out a cigar and refill it with cannabis flower. A blunt can hold significantly more marijuana than a joint and burns for longer.

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Bubbler: This is a type of bong that’s usually small enough to hold in one hand.

Dab Rig: A device typically used to consume concentrates. The process involves heating the material on a ‘nail’ and inhaling the vapor that is produced.

Joint: A legendary way to smoke cannabis. A joint consists of flower rolled inside a thin rolling paper. They also have a filter that enables you to smoke it to the end without burning your fingers.

Spliff: A spliff is almost the same as a joint. The significant difference is that you use cannabis flower and tobacco.

8 – Cannabis Plant Terminology

We have a huge number of articles on cultivating marijuana on the site. We suggest you read them to gain a greater understanding of the cannabis plant’s anatomy. However, here are a few basic terms:

Clone: This is a clipping from a mature cannabis plant. You can root and grow it to create a ‘clone,’ or a genetically identical version of the mother plant.

Feminized: These plants come from specially selected seeds that guarantee to produce a female plant. This is crucial because female plants are the only ones that produce flowers, which contain high concentrations of cannabinoids. If male and female plants grow together, the ensuing cross-pollination will cause females to produce seeds.

Flowering Time: Also known as the ‘blooming’ period, this is the length of time taken for the cannabis plant to produce its mature flowers. Typically, sativa strains have longer flowering times than indicas. Ruderalis strains autoflower. This means they enter the blooming phase after a short period, no matter what.

Pistil: These appear as little ‘hairs’ that typically turn orange, red, or brown when the plant is close to harvest time. The pistil acts to collect the male pollen whenever plants are being fertilized.

Terpenes: These compounds are secreted in the same glands that produce cannabinoids. Terpenes are aromatic oils that provide cannabis with its scent and taste. The terpene content of a strain dictates its flavor and could also play a role in its effects. There is evidence that some terpenes promote stress relief and relaxation, for example.

Trichomes: These look like crystals on the plant’s glands and contain a significant number of cannabinoids.

Vegetative Stage: This is when your plant’s growth begins in earnest. Depending on the strain, it can last from three weeks to over three months.

9 – Medical Marijuana

If you are a new medical marijuana (MMJ) patient or else you’re interested in becoming one, it is helpful to know the following.

Access Point: This is the name given to the authorized place that you can purchase cannabis.

Budtender: This is the title of the attendant who works at a licensed dispensary. They are trained professionals who should be able to answer any questions you have about MMJ.

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Dispensary: A dispensary is a store licensed to sell marijuana. This is where you purchase your cannabis.

MMJ Card: This is the card you receive once you have completed your medical marijuana application. Your state’s relevant department either sends you a physical card in the mail or online. With this card, you can purchase MMJ in a licensed dispensary.

10 – Miscellaneous

We understand that all the information above is possibly overwhelming if you’re unfamiliar with cannabis. However, if you’re confident that you understand most, if not all of the terms, here are a few miscellaneous ones.

Weed: Yet another popular slang term for cannabis.

Bud: Also called a ‘nug,’ this is a term that describes the smokable part of the marijuana plant. These are the parts that are harvested, dried, and cured. They also have a high cannabinoid and terpene content.

CO2 Extraction: We feel this is an important term to learn because it relates to the quality of the cannabis product you use. An ‘extraction’ method describes how a company removes the cannabis plant’s compounds. Carbon dioxide extraction is regarded as one of the best methods because it leaves behind no residual solvents. The result is a clean and pure product.

Co-Operative: Better known as a ‘co-op,’ this term refers to a group of people, often MMJ patients, who join forces to grow large amounts of cannabis. Co-op members can share their marijuana with fellow members. It is a way to get around any restrictions on the number of cannabis plants you can grow.

Hydroponics: This is a method of growing marijuana that doesn’t require soil. Instead, you grow the plants in water and are in charge of ensuring your crop receives enough nutrients.

Kief: The trichomes that fall from the flower that get collected are called kief, which is high in THC. Most marijuana grinders come with ‘kief catchers’ that collect the trichomes that fall during the grinding process.

Live Resin: is a type of cannabis concentrate. Immediately after harvesting, the raw cannabis plant material is flash-frozen, which preserves the cannabinoid and terpenes. The live resin is typically extracted using a solvent, such as butane.

Cannabis Terms You Need to Know

As you can see, there’s a lot to learn about weed. All weed terms can seem daunting at first, but the more you read and learn, the easier it is to understand the terminology. Whether it’s sativa and indica or cannabinoid and terpene, we’ve got you covered with this comprehensive guide to major cannabis terms.

A Guide to Dispensary Terminology

So far we’ve provided a fairly broad overview of some major cannabis terms. You might be wondering whether there is any specific dispensary terminology that you need to know before visiting one.

The short answer is yes. We mentioned one dispensary-related term earlier and that is budtender. The budtender is your go-to person if it’s your first time in a dispensary. A knowledgeable budtender will be able to answer your questions about the various cannabis products they sell.

In a large dispensary, you may find the sheer variety of available cannabis strains daunting. The budtender can talk you through the different sativa and indica strains on offer. They’ll be able to inform you about how much THC or CBD they contain, what their typical effects are and whether they are best used for recreational or medicinal purposes.

Dispensaries can be overwhelming for first-time attendees. Speak to a budtender if you have any questions.

The budtender may even have a selection of pre-rolls for sale. A pre-roll is a joint that the budtender has rolled so it is ready-made for the customer. As you can imagine, a pre-roll is a fantastic option for a cannabis newbie, who may not even know how to roll a joint. They are also a great way for experienced marijuana users to try out a new cannabis strain.

An alternative to speaking with the budtender is to browse the cannabis product catalog in the dispensary kiosk. You will be able to read and learn about the products on offer so that you can make an informed decision before making a purchase.

One of the big advantages of a dispensary kiosk for the customer is the efficiency of the self-service technology. Returning customers who know what they want can avoid the queues, place their order, and pay at the counter.

Slang Terms for Weed

Learning all weed terms that people use is no mean feat. There are so many different slang terms for weed in use that keeping up with them is quite a challenge.

As marijuana is a federally illegal substance to this day, users have come up with code words and slang terms to speak openly about the herb. We’ll list some of the most popular marijuana slang terms for weed below and provide a brief description.

Pot: One of the hundreds of most popular and widely-used slang terms for cannabis.
You might think that it refers to the pots that cannabis plants are grown in, but that isn’t the case. Pot is an abbreviation of the Spanish word potiguaya or potaguaya, short for Potación de guaya, a wine or brandy that marijuana buds were steeped in. The literal translation is “drink of grief.”

420: Reportedly, the origins of 420 dates back to 1971 when a group of school kids from Marin County High School coined the phrase. The story goes that they used to meet after school at 4.20 pm. They would then search for a secret cannabis crop allegedly belonging to US Coast Guard Gary Philip Newman.

Mary Jane: a comical slang term that’s a play on the word marijuana.

Grass: is a bit of an outdated slang term for cannabis popular in the 1960s and 1970s.

Reefer: The slang term ‘reefer’ became popular after the 1930s anti-marijuana movie called ‘Reefer Madness.’

Green: like the slang term for money, it simply refers to the color of weed.

Chronic: a slang term for weed that is particularly potent.

Hash: is actually a cannabis concentrate derived from kief.

Ganja: reportedly derives from a Hindi word for the hemp plant.

Doobie: a widely-used slang term for a cannabis joint.

Final Thoughts on Cannabis Terms You Need to Know

Hopefully, you find this guide informative. If you feel that there’s too much information, you can always dip in and out of this article to learn what you need. It will take a lot of work, but becoming educated in marijuana is a rewarding process. You may also find that it makes the user experience more enjoyable too.

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