If you’ve never visited a marijuana dispensary before, your first trip inside can be a little overwhelming.
If you want to be clued-in before you start trying to find the product that is right for your medical or recreational needs or desires, here are some clear definitions of some of the most common and important terms you will often hear inside your local cannabis dispensary.
General terms for cannabis
Marijuana is simply the Spanish name for the cannabis plant.
Why is marijuana called pot? The answer is actually surprisingly simple. The Spanish term for marijuana leaves is potiguaya.
Weed is a commonly used slang term for cannabis that dates back to the jazz era. Similar slang from the same time period includes “Reefer”, “Gauge” and “Jive”.
Slang for marijuana based on nothing more than language, other similar slang terms include “Aunt Mary”, “Mary Warner”, “Mary Weaver” and “Mary and Johnny”. If someone asks you about different types of Mary Jane, they are simply asking you about different types of cannabis.
Terms relating to the make-up of the marijuana plant
Inside the cannabis plant there are known to be – as of mid 2021 – around 120 unique chemical compounds known as cannabinoids.
When taken into your body, these cannabinoids are responsible for the various well-known recreational and medical benefits of cannabis. In order to achieve these effects, the cannabinoids in cannabis bind to various receptors in your body’s endocannabinoid system.
Two of the best-known cannabinoids are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). These two cannabinoids have effects that are increasingly well understood.
A great deal of research into the effects of cannabinoids is underway, especially as legalization continues and labs across the US and worldwide find it easier to get material to experiment with. Hopefully, more will soon be known about the benefits of the hundred and more other cannabinoids also found within the cannabis plant.
One of the two best-known and understood cannabinoids in cannabis, use of cannabidiol is becoming increasingly widespread. It has been shown to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, reduce stress levels and anxiety and function as a sleep aid. There is also CBD medication that has been FDA-approved for tackling two types of treatment-resistant epilepsy in children.
Crucially, CBD does all of this without being addictive or producing any psychoactive effect. That is to say, cannabidiol cannot get you “high”.
Cannabidiol products often have their active ingredient extracted from hemp. These days, the spread of CBD-enhanced or infused products is getting fairly universal. You can find all kinds of CBD edibles, drinkables and many other types of products – all containing quantities of CBD.
THC is the other famous cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It is famous because it is the part of the plant that is chiefly responsible for its psychoactive effects. That is to say, it is the THC in marijuana that gets you “high”.
People around the world have begun to use THC as a medical treatment for chronic pain, stress, anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, eating disorders and many other conditions. In the plant itself, THC is thought to be a defense against certain types of pests.
The fact that there are two different types of THC – delta-9 and delta-8 – in cannabis is often overlooked. It is also important to note that most THC in the raw cannabis plant is in its non-activated THCA form. THCA needs to go through a process of decarboxylation in order to be activated. Only then does it become the psychoactive THC.
Terpenes are a type of organic compound found in many different species of plants and even some insect species.
If you have ever enjoyed a walk through a pine forest and enjoyed the distinctive aroma of the fallen needles, it’s interesting to note that a terpene is responsible for it. The same is true of the distinctive smell of citrus fruit.
Many of these terpenes are present in cannabis. The combination gives each cannabis strain what connoisseurs would call its distinctive terpene “profile”.
The bud is the flower part of the cannabis plant. To the eye, they are often puffy and coated in a fine scattering of what appears to be dust, but is in reality a kind of resin often loaded with THC.
These are the parts of the plant that are the key target for harvesting as they contain the highest levels of cannabinoids in the plant. So much so that in some parts of the world, “bud” is also used more broadly as a slang term for cannabis.
Terms relating to different species and types of cannabis
Cannabis indica is the scientific name of one of what are generally agreed to be three subspecies of cannabis. The other important subspecies from the point of view dispensary terminology is cannabis sativa.
Cannabis indica was originally native to Central Asia and the Middle East and is a group containing numerous well-known strains. Most of these strains are often said to produce a more sedative-like physical effects than sativa strains, though there are many exceptions to this rule.
Physically, most indica plants tend to be more compact in both height and flower structure than sativa plants and often contain comparatively more THC in relation to CBD.
Cannabis sativa is the scientific name of one of the two key species of the cannabis plant from the point of view of dispensary terminology. Originally native to East Asia, sativa plants are often much taller than their indica counterparts.
Most of the many strains of cannabis sativa are said to produce more mental or cerebral effects than physical ones, though there are exceptions to this.
A hybrid is a strain created from a mix of cannabis sativa and cannabis indica plants. Hybridization of strains can happen by accident in some cases. But it is mostly a deliberate horticultural practice to create a new strain that possesses beneficial qualities of both of its ancestors.
The vast majority of cannabis you buy in your local dispensary will be some form of hybrid.
Hemp is a variety of cannabis sativa. It has been used for industrial purposes – chiefly making clothing fibers, rope, paper, food and animal feed – for around 50 000 years.
In modern times, in addition to its industrial purposes, it is also used to create a large number of the CBD products you will find on the shelves of your local dispensary. This is because hemp is known to contain very low levels of THC.
In the US, CBD products made from the hemp plant are legal at the federal level so long as they contain less than 0.3% THC.
A cannabis strain is a variety of a species of cannabis – either sativa, indica or a hybrid – that has been developed with a focus on certain characteristics of the plant.
This is sometimes done for marketing purposes, but more commonly the idea is to create certain types of effect when consumed. Another common purpose is to develop a variety that grows more quickly or is hardier than its forebears.
Because variety or strain names are chosen by their creators, they can be:
- Literally colorful, referencing the appearance of the plant or flavor profile of the experience – examples being “Blue Dream” and “Sour Diesel”
- Refer to the plant’s ancestor strains – such as “Super Silver Haze” or “Purple Haze”
- Simply be creatively named after something the creator finds inspirational, interesting or fun – such as the “Jack Herer” strain, named after a famous cannabis activist
Terms relating to cannabis products and extracts
Cannabis concentrates is an umbrella term covering, as you might expect, concentrated forms of cannabis. Most are created by dissolving cannabis plant material in a solvent. There are various methods used to do this – BHO being a highly regarded example – and a wide range of different types of cannabis concentrates exist.
Concentrates tend to have higher levels of THC than bud taken straight from the plant. They vary in appearance from solid resin to thick, viscous oils to sludgy wax.
The large number of different classifications and slang terms relating to cannabis concentrates usually refer to the consistency of the final concentrate or the method used to create it. Examples include “badder”, “budder”, “shatter”, “bubble hash”, “rosin”, “crumble” and “dry sift”.
Cannabis extracts is another umbrella term referring to the results of cannabinoid extraction processes performed on the cannabis plant.
Extracts tend to be created with the aim of being “purer” than other cannabis concentrates. Cannabinoids, essential oils and sometimes terpenes are targeted for extraction while other parts of the plant material are designed to be left out.
For example, THC distillate is a type of cannabis extract that is often described as being flavorless and odorless. This makes it the ideal component for many edibles and vape cartridges.
BHO stand for Butane Hash Oil. It is one of the best methods of extracting cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, the other best-known ones being alcohol and CO2.
Butane Hash Oils are known to generally be more potent and more representative of the cannabis plant’s original flavor and terpene profile than those created by other extraction methods. They come in a wide variety of consistencies.
In order to consume them, BHO extracts need to pass through the decarboxylation process. Otherwise, there will be no activated ingredients. Consuming non-activated BHO is also quite dangerous.
Resin/ formerly live resin
Formerly known as “live resin”, resin is a type of cannabis concentrate created by flash-freezing the cannabis plant material the moment after it is harvested.
Other methods of creating concentrates usually rely on heating or drying the plant material, which can damage the terpenes and other vulnerable parts of the plant. The flash-freezing method protects these important parts of the plant, meaning the final product is rich in flavor and should have the same terpene profile as the original plant.
For this reason, products like K.I.N.D. Resin occupy the highest quality point on any spectrum of cannabis products. A K.I.N.D. Resin cartridge refers to a small container or cartridge filled with resin and designed for use in a vaporizer.
Edibles and drinkables are food and drink products that have been infused with a cannabis extract. The most famous type of edible is undoubtedly the brownie or cookie. But today, you can find a huge range of energy drinks, candy, butters and oils, cocktails and more – all containing some quantity of THC, or more commonly, CBD.
Many of these are designed for immediate consumption, but others are designed to be used in cooking or baking other dishes.
Terms relating to cannabis consumption
Vaporizer/ vape pen
A vaporizer is a small, self-contained device designed to allow the easy inhalation of a vapor of a particular chemical or plant material. In this case, cannabis and cannabis extracts and concentrates.
Modern vaporizers are usually easy to use and often come in slimline shapes, hence the name “vape pens”. Older and specialist models often require manual loading, while more modern vape pens use vape cartridges that come pre-loaded and ready to use.
Some pens are design
ed to be conveniently disposable. Others are designed for re-use.
Vape cartridges/ carts
Otherwise known as vaporizer cartridges, weed carts, and many other similar variations, vape carts are the usually plug-and-play components made for vaporizers that contain cannabis extracts.
THC carts, for instance – these might also be referred to as THC vape carts – will contain THC oil, the cannabinoid having been extracted from the cannabis plant.
THC vape cartridges are the most common type of vape cart, though there are many varieties. K.I.N.D. Resin carts, for instance, contain THC-heavy resin designed for vape pens.
A “dab rig” is a collection of equipment used to heat cannabis concentrates such as BHO in order to activate the cannabinoids they contain, via the process of decarboxylation.
Dab rigs and dabbing as a whole is generally not for the beginner, though many avid dabbers comment on the purity and potency of the experience.
Cannabis tinctures contain cannabis extracts suspended in alcohol. They are usually taken sublingually, using a pipette to deposit a drop or two of the tincture beneath the tongue. They can also be added to food and drink to create edibles and drinkables.
Being suspended in alcohol tends to mean tinctures have a very long shelf-life.
Topicals are CBD or THC-infused creams, balms, bath salts and the like that are intended to be applied to the skin, i.e. topically.
Decarboxylation is a type of chemical reaction literally referring to the removal of a carbon atom from a carbon chain.
For the purposes of cannabis terminology, it usually comes into play when referring to products such as BHO. These need to be heated in order to undergo decarboxylation in order to activate cannabinoids such as THC (which is stored in the raw cannabis plant as the non-psychoactive THCA).
Without decarboxylation happening at some point (the traditional way this is achieved is through the heat involved in smoking the plant), many of the ingredients are not active and will not have any beneficial effect.
Much like a celebrity on the red carpet creates a much bigger impact when surrounded by their entourage, the entourage effect refers to the way in which all of the different component parts of the cannabis plant – cannabinoids, terpenes, essential oils, phytonutrients and others – have been proven to have a more potent effect when consumed at the same time.
This is why products such as K.I.N.D. Concentrates’ famous resin are so highly regarded – they retain all of the original components of the plant and thus create a more potent experience when inhaled.