As the popularity of cannabis continues to rise, so does the need for a comprehensive understanding of cannabis terminology. For those new to the world of cannabis, the plethora of terms and jargon can be overwhelming. This guide aims to demystify the most essential cannabis terms, helping beginners feel more confident when discussing and purchasing cannabis products.

What is Cannabis?

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Cannabis is a plant that has been used for various purposes for thousands of years. It contains numerous compounds, the most well-known being THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol).

THC is the psychoactive component that produces the “high” associated with cannabis, while CBD is known for its potential therapeutic effects without the intoxicating impact. Historically, cannabis has been used for medicinal, recreational, and industrial purposes.

Cannabis Terminology: Types of Cannabis Plants

Cannabis plants are broadly categorized into Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid. Indica strains are typically associated with relaxing and soothing effects, making them ideal for evening use.

On the other hand, Sativa strains are known for their uplifting and energizing effects and are often preferred during the day. Hybrid strains blend Indica and Sativa, aiming to provide a balanced experience by combining the best qualities.

Understanding Cannabinoids

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Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds found in cannabis that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. The most famous cannabinoid is THC, which is primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis.

CBD is another well-known cannabinoid that has gained popularity for its potential health benefits, such as reducing anxiety and inflammation. Other cannabinoids, like CBG (Cannabigerol) and CBN (Cannabinol), are also being studied for their unique properties and potential therapeutic benefits.

Cannabis Terminology: Consumption Methods

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There are various methods to consume cannabis, each offering a different experience. Smoking is one of the most traditional methods involving joints, blunts, pipes, and bongs. Vaping, which uses vaporizers, is considered a healthier alternative to smoking as it heats the cannabis without combustion.

Edibles, such as gummies and baked goods, provide a discreet way to consume cannabis, but their effects take longer to onset and last longer. Topicals, like creams and balms, are applied to the skin for localized relief without psychoactive effects. Tinctures and oils are liquid forms of cannabis that are typically consumed sublingually or added to food and drinks.

Common Cannabis Terminology

Understanding standard cannabis terminology is crucial for navigating the cannabis world. Familiarizing yourself with the following key terms will help you feel more confident when discussing, purchasing, or using cannabis products.

Cannabis Terminology: Strain

A “strain” refers to a specific variety of cannabis with unique characteristics and effects. Each strain has a distinct combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds contributing to its distinctive profile. Strains are often classified into three main categories: Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid.

  1. Indica: Known for relaxing and soothing effects, it is often recommended for evening use or for alleviating stress and anxiety.
  2. Sativa: Typically provides uplifting and energizing effects, making it suitable for daytime use and social activities.
  3. Hybrid: A blend of Indica and Sativa strains, offering a balanced experience that can vary depending on the dominant traits of the parent strains.

Popular strains include Blue Dream (a Sativa-dominant Hybrid), OG Kush (an Indica-dominant Hybrid), and Granddaddy Purple (an Indica).

Cannabis Terminology: Terpenes

Terpenes are aromatic compounds in cannabis that contribute to its smell and taste. Beyond their sensory effects, terpenes can also influence different strains’ overall experience and therapeutic benefits. Each terpene has its unique properties and effects.

  1. Myrcene: Found in mangoes and hops, this terpene is known for its musky, earthy aroma and is believed to have relaxing effects.
  2. Limonene: Commonly found in citrus fruits, it has a bright, citrusy scent and is thought to elevate mood and relieve stress.
  3. Pinene: As the name suggests, it has a pine-like aroma and is believed to promote alertness and memory retention.
  4. Linalool: A terpene found in lavender, linalool has a floral scent and is associated with calming and anti-anxiety effects.
  5. Caryophyllene: Known for its spicy, peppery aroma, this terpene may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

Understanding a strain’s terpene profile can help consumers choose products that match their desired effects and preferences.

Cannabis Terminology: Entourage Effect

The “entourage effect” describes how different cannabis compounds, such as cannabinoids and terpenes, work together synergistically to enhance the overall impact of the plant. This concept suggests that the therapeutic benefits of cannabis are more significant when multiple compounds are consumed together rather than isolated.

For example, while THC and CBD are both effective on their own, their combined use can lead to more balanced effects, potentially reducing side effects such as anxiety or paranoia that might occur when THC is used alone. Similarly, terpenes can modulate the effects of cannabinoids, adding another layer of complexity to the cannabis experience.

Cannabis Terminology: Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are the active compounds found in cannabis that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. The most well-known cannabinoids are THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol), but there are many others, each with unique effects.

  1. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol): The primary psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the “high” sensation. It is also known for its potential therapeutic effects, such as pain relief and appetite stimulation.
  2. CBD (Cannabidiol): A non-psychoactive compound praised for its therapeutic benefits, including reducing anxiety, inflammation, and seizures.
  3. CBG (Cannabigerol): Often referred to as the “mother of all cannabinoids” because it is the precursor to other cannabinoids. It could benefit from treating conditions such as glaucoma and inflammatory bowel disease.
  4. CBN (Cannabinol): Formed as THC degrades, CBN is mildly psychoactive and is believed to have sedative effects, making it potentially useful for insomnia.


Trichomes are tiny, glandular hairs on the surface of cannabis flowers that produce and store cannabinoids, terpenes, and other essential compounds. They appear as a frosty, crystal-like coating on the buds and are crucial for the plant’s potency and flavor.


Kief is the term for the fine, powdery substance made up of trichomes that can be collected from cannabis flowers. It is often more potent than the flower itself and can be sprinkled on top of bowls, added to joints, or used to make hash.


Decarboxylation is the process of heating cannabis to activate its compounds. Raw cannabis contains THCA and CBDA, which need to be converted to THC and CBD through heating to produce psychoactive and therapeutic effects. This process occurs naturally when smoking or vaping, but for edibles, cannabis must be decarboxylated beforehand.

Cannabis Products

Cannabis products come in various forms, each offering different benefits and experiences. The most recognizable form is “flower,” which is the dried bud of the cannabis plant and is typically smoked or vaporized. “Concentrates” are highly potent extracts of cannabis, including types like wax, shatter, and rosin, which are used in dabbing or vaping. “Edibles” are food products infused with cannabis, providing a longer-lasting and more intense experience. “Pre-rolls” are ready-made joints, offering convenience for users who prefer smoking.

Understanding Dosing

Dosing is a critical aspect of cannabis consumption, especially for beginners. The correct dose can vary widely depending on factors such as individual tolerance, body weight, and the method of consumption. Starting with a low dose and gradually increasing, finding the optimal amount that provides the desired effects without unwanted side effects is often recommended. Understanding dosing can help ensure a safe and enjoyable cannabis experience.

Legal Terms

The legal landscape of cannabis can be complex, with different rules for medical and recreational use. “Medical cannabis” refers to the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, and patients often require a prescription from a healthcare provider.

“Recreational cannabis” is used for personal enjoyment without the need for medical justification. A “dispensary” is a regulated retail outlet where consumers can purchase cannabis products. Understanding these legal distinctions is essential for navigating the cannabis market.

Cannabis Accessories

Various accessories can enhance the cannabis experience. “Grinders” are used to break down cannabis flower into smaller, more manageable pieces for smoking or vaping. “Rolling papers” and “filters” make joints, with different types offering various benefits.

Proper “storage solutions,” such as airtight containers, help keep cannabis fresh and potent by protecting it from light, air, and moisture.

Frequently Asked Questions

Cannabis beginners often have many questions.

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana? Hemp is a variety of cannabis with low THC levels, typically used for industrial purposes.

How long does it take for edibles to kick in? Edibles usually take 30 minutes to 2 hours to take effect, depending on factors like metabolism and whether they are consumed on an empty stomach. Addressing these common questions can help build a foundation of knowledge for new users.

Understanding cannabis terminology is an essential step for anyone new to the world of cannabis. By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you can make more informed decisions, whether purchasing products or simply engaging in discussions about cannabis. As the cannabis industry evolves, staying informed will help you navigate this exciting and dynamic landscape confidently.