Even for seasoned cannabis aficionados, keeping up with the lingo of the industry can be difficult. When new terminology is introduced every time a new cannabis discovery is made, you may feel like you’ll never know it all without obtaining a degree in cannabis science.
Fortunately, you won’t need to begin researching admission rates at your nearest university—having a conversation about cannabis with someone who knows their stuff doesn’t need to be intimidating. You don’t need a bachelor’s degree in cannabis. Browse the cannabis glossary of terms below. You’ll find the perfect dose of information on all the current industry vocabulary.
Cannabis Terms and Definitions
A widely known phrase that supposedly dates to 1971, when students from California said they would meet at 4:20 (after school) to smoke cannabis. Whether this is a true story or one of the countless theories for the origin of the term 420, it is now the universal number for cannabis. Over the years, the association between the number and the plant grew, and April 20th became an unofficial national holiday of sorts when people gathered to consume cannabis.
Following the trend of the infamous number 420, 710 became the internationally recognized number to vape and dab cannabis oil; upside down, oil resembles 710. Consequently, July 10th became the unofficial day to vape cannabis.
Like hydroponics, aeroponics systems suspend the roots of the plant in an environment of air and mist, through which they absorb nutrients, oxygen, and water.
This is a slang term for the bulbous flowers of the cannabis plant that are dried and cured in preparation for consumption by combustion (smoking).
This is a cannabis dispensary staff member who serves as a liaison between you, the consumer, and a limitless selection of cannabis products. A budtender is an informed and knowledgeable guide whose primary role is to determine what you want to get from your cannabis experience and suggest the perfect strain, form, and product that will benefit you.
Cannabaceae is the term for a flowering plant family, also known as the hemp family. Currently, this family includes 170 known species that are grouped into 11 genera. Cannabis, Humulus (also known as hops), and Celtis (hackberry plants) are three of the best-known genera.
Chemical and therapeutic compounds produced by the cannabis plant that produce the various physical, mental, and sensory effects of cannabis are known as cannabinoids. The two most concentrated and best-known cannabinoids are THC (the primary psychoactive compound that produces the high effect) and CBD (the primary non-psychoactive compound used in medicine). However, researchers have identified over 100 cannabinoids in small concentrations, which are being studied and brought to light for the unique benefits they offer (e.g., CBN, CBG, CBE, CBL, CBT, and more).
Cannabis sativa L. is a flowering plant and a member of the family Cannabaceae, indigenous to Asia. Three possible species include Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis, though researchers sometimes consider only two species (C. sativa and C. indica), while other researchers refer to all three species as C. sativa.
The drug cannabis, also known as marijuana, is derived from the Cannabis sativa L. plant and can produce psychoactive effects when smoked, vaporized, or consumed as an extract or within food. Native to Central or South Asia, cannabis, or marijuana, is a popular recreational drug, but a drug that has also been used for centuries in traditional medicines for its entheogenic purposes. Of the more than 483 known compounds in the cannabis plant, the primary psychoactive one is the cannabinoid THC.
Cannabis Sativa L
The scientific name for the cannabis plant itself, as classified in 1753 by Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus (the source of the “L.”) Sativa means “sown” and is a common term that indicates the cultivated form of a plant.
The vegetative phase of cannabis occurs when the roots, stalks, and large fan leaves of the plant begin to grow. These components will become the structure of the plant. Fan leaves are used to convert sunlight into the necessary sugars the plant will need to produce seeds or flowers. The 18-hour light cycle includes a minimum of 16 hours of light necessary for the plant to thrive.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid compound isolated from cannabis. Second only to THC, it is one of the most studied, used, and well-known cannabinoids in cannabis. It produces a more clear-headed effect when consumed and does not produce a mind-altering state like THC when used. This makes CBD more useful as a medicinal and therapeutic cannabinoid, though it is often combined with THC and other lesser-known cannabinoids. These compounds working in synergy can produce an intense or enhanced effect (see the “entourage effect” in this cannabis glossary of terms). CBD is mostly used to treat insomnia and anxiety-related ailments, though CBD research is still in its infancy.
Cannabigerol (CBG) is a cannabinoid found in cannabis that is just now gaining notice for its potential and being studied for its medical benefits. It’s less popular than THC and CBD but is believed to treat glaucoma, inflammation, and even the spread of cancer. As more CBG research is conducted, its use will likely become more mainstream.
Cannabinol (CBN) is a cannabinoid found in cannabis that is a byproduct of the decomposition of the cannabis plant; it is formed as THC degrades. CBN research, and thus its popularity, is growing. It is currently being used as a sleep aid and an appetite stimulant, though it is believed to have an array of other potential benefits.
Cloning is the asexual propagation of a specific plant strain or the replication of a unique single-parent plant without the traditional method of sexual reproduction. Clones of cannabis are typically started by cutting a stable mother plant. It is hoped that the clone, with proper growth conditions, will grow into a genetically similar plant to the parent plant. The primary purpose of a clone is to preserve and reproduce the genetic identity of the parent cannabis plant.
Cola refers to a cannabis plant’s primary flowering cluster.
This is the product of selective breeding to produce desired characteristics. It is used interchangeably with “strain.”
A retail location that markets, sells, and distributes cannabis for recreational or medical purposes.
This term refers to non-psychoactive THC.
The term eighth is short for 1/8 of an ounce. It is equal to 3.5 grams, which is a common or standard weight to sell cannabis.
This effect describes the way a strain’s combination of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes work together in synergy to create, enhance, and lengthen effects. When combined, these effects can be more pronounced and effective than when one compound is isolated.
There are many different forms of cannabis. Some of the most consumed forms of cannabis are:
Full Spectrum Extracts (FSE)
The full spectrum is the full chemical profile of a cannabis plant, and full spectrum extracts contain all the major compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, fats, proteins, and more. FSEs are also referred to as “whole plant extracts.”
A gene is a DNA component that produces a certain characteristic or trait in cannabis.
Genotypes are the set of genetic material responsible for the phenotype (appearance and traits of an organism).
Germination occurs when a seed embryo is exposed to water until it sprouts the initial taproot or plumule. This only occurs in plants that grow from seed. Germination typically takes between 12 hours and three weeks, depending on the seed’s vitality, the seed’s age, and the technique of germination selected by the cultivator.
Short for hashish, this is a slang term for a resin concentrate that is separated from the sticky glands on the cannabis plant. It is separated using screens and then collected by hand. It is a very potent form of cannabis extract.
This describes the distribution of a particular cannabinoid within a product and indicates how evenly the cannabinoid is distributed throughout the product. For example, a brownie would be considered homogenous if less than 40% of the THC was found in 20% of the entire brownie. Homogeneity can be considered a fancy word for “consistency.”
When two likable strains of cannabis are purposely or randomly cross-bred with the goal of creating an ideal strain that is a mixture of the two, the result is called a hybrid. These combinations often result in a unique product with its own flavor, aroma, cannabinoid concentration, and terpene profile that often becomes popular among consumers.
Hydroponic cultivation is preferred for indoor growers and is an alternative to growing plants in soil; instead, the roots of the plants are submerged in water. This technique feeds plants with a nutrient-rich liquid solution via hydroton balls, coco coir, perlite, or vermiculite and allows for optimal intake of nutrients by the plants. It also uses much less water compared to soil cultivation.
Indica is a subspecies of cannabis that typically has thick stems, broad leaves, and produces short plants. Indica-based cannabis strains are believed to provide more relaxing effects.
A collection of trichomes, the potent resin glands on the cannabis plant, kief is one of the most basic types of cannabis concentrate. Kief falls off easily when the flower is handled or shaken, or a grinder with a kief screen can be used to collect the kief. Avid cannabis consumers save the kief. When a significant amount is collected, it is potent to smoke or sprinkle over other cannabis products.
This is the pruning of growth from the lower part of the plant to divert energy to higher parts of the plant where colas are produced. This results in a lollipop-shaped plant, hence, the name. It is especially useful when indoor growers have minimal light reaching lower branches. It is often combined with SCROG grows.
Marijuana is the term used to indicate the parts or products of the C. sativa plant that contain the most significant amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Also referred to as medical marijuana (MMJ), medical cannabis is prescribed to approved medications by physicians. The use of cannabis as a medicine has been thwarted for years by governmental restrictions, and thus, rigorous testing is still underway. The limited clinical research available appears to back the safety and effectiveness of using cannabis to treat medical ailments and diseases.
This is a synthetic cannabinoid used to treat nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients.
A mixture of cannabis extract and botanicals, nabiximols are formulated as oral sprays and used to treat symptoms of MS like pain and spasticity.
Nug / Nugget
A slang word that refers to the flower of the cannabis plant. The term came about because people believed the cannabis buds looked like nuggets of gold.
OOil This amber, sticky cannabis extract contains the potent cannabinoid and terpene-rich resin from the plant. Oil is also called hash oil or butane hash oil (BHO), depending on which method of extraction is used.
Most cannabis growers desire all their plants to be uniform, but some growers cultivate a variety of plants so they can select plants that produce the physical and aromatic traits they are looking for. This is a common practice in nurseries and is referred to as pheno hunting.
The physical appearance of the cannabis plant, including size, shape, and coloring.
The branch of biology that studies living organisms’ normal functions and parts.
Rolling papers are very thin papers used to roll joints or create pre-rolls. The paper burns slowly and evenly along with the cannabis when smoked.
These are small buds that grow on the lower branches of the cannabis plant. They are often discounted when sold in retail, in contrast to the buds that grow on the upper branches of the plant, which are larger and better quality. Popcorn is popular among smokers who enjoy rolling their own joints.
Removing Fan Leaves
Growers sometimes remove fan leaves from cannabis plants to divert the plant’s energy to produce bigger colas. By limiting the foliage, the plant must feed and optimize direct light below the canopy, and larger colas are produced. Additionally, this technique reduces the likelihood of mildew and pest infestation. This process requires care because they are an important energy source for cannabis plants.
Screen of Green (SCROG)
This growing technique encourages horizontal growth of cannabis plants rather than instinctive vertical growth. This is carried out by forcing growth through a suspended horizontal screen that forces the stems to grow laterally against the screen. As a result, colas form in areas of the stem that they normally wouldn’t. This technique is typically used by growers who are in an area where local ordinances limit the number of plants that can be grown at once. In this way, growers can maximize larger spaces.
Sea of Green (SOG)
The sea of green (SOG) training technique maximizes space to cultivate single colas from several small plants instead of a few large ones. If done properly, the ideal sea of green results in the fastest vegetative phase to produce dense colas.
Formed when pollen fertilizes the female plant, cannabis seeds are ready to plant and grow once they germinate successfully or have broken roots through the seed. Cannabis seeds can be planted directly in the ground; however, it is recommended to germinate them in a wet paper towel first. To ensure the adult plant is a flowering female, it is important for cultivators to start with feminized seeds.
If hydroponics or aeroponics is not a factor, soil is used for growing cannabis. Healthy soil creates an exceptionally stable growing environment for plants. It allows plenty of moisture retention and allows for ample time between watering.
Cannabis strains (or cultivars) can be pure or hybrid varieties of the Cannabis plant genus, which includes the C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis species. Strains are different varieties of cannabis developed to select the effects and desired characteristics of two parent plants. This is also done to differentiate strains for marketing purposes or to make a strain more effectual in targeting a certain benefit or effect. Growers typically name the varieties they create, and they often do so by paying homage to the color, taste, smell, or origin of the strain.
Super cropping involves strategically executed methods to purposely stress the cannabis plant into producing more cannabinoids and terpenes. The plants develop these compounds as protection against external stressors like those applied in super cropping.
This is a group of similarly-structured chemical components in cannabis that produce strain-specific traits such as aroma and taste. There are over 150 terpenes, each with its own scent and methods of interacting with cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and other terpenes to create benefits and effects.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a cannabinoid compound that produces mind-altering and psychoactive effects. It is the best-known cannabinoid and is responsible for most of its euphoric effects, but it may also have therapeutic benefits.
Topping and Fimming (FIM)
This is a procedure where growers clip the tip of the plant’s main stem at a 45-degree angle to cause the growth of two colas instead of one. This prevents a cone-shaped plant and promotes even growth on the entire lateral stalk. This can be done repeatedly to double the colas many times over.
Indoor growers use several training techniques to combat the limited space and light available indoors. This ensures they get the optimal yield out of their plants. These techniques consist of manipulating (training) the plants by shaping and bending the stems in the direction they desire them to grow.
Trichomes are very tiny glandular appendages found on the surface of the cannabis plant, mainly on the flower. These trichomes produce cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that are desirable for consumption. They can be found all over the plant but mainly appear on the flower and leaves. Sometimes they are referred to as the “powerhouse” or the “cellular metabolite factory” of cannabinoid and terpene production.