Whether you use cannabis medically or recreationally, there are certain terms you should know. It's smart to walk into a dispensary armed with knowledge, so there’s no miscommunication between you and the budtender. The more educated you are, the better your chances of having a fairly priced, fulfilling experience.
So we've come up with a dispensary dictionary. While some of this might seem a little remedial to experienced consumers, it should come in handy for new marijuana users and transplants alike. Knowing what's in your cannabis is important, just as it's important to know what's in your food; it also arms you with info to pass along to other people who might have questions. To begin your ascension to informed cannabis consumer, study these definitions:
Pot, weed, bud, grass – whatever you want to call it, all of them refer to the actual flower of the cannabis plant. Flowers are the most valued and consumed part of the plant, as they contain the highest amounts of cannabinoids.
A naming convention used to identify certain varieties of the cannabis plant, often combining the lineage of the parent in the name. All strains have different smells, tastes, structures and effects.
A cannabis species that is known for producing an uplifting, energetic high. The plant is generally tall and lanky. (There have been studies that suggest sativa and indica plant designations only apply to plant height and bud structure, but not effects and flavor; however, dispensaries still use the indica and sativa labels, so it's all we've got to run with right now.)
A cannabis species known for its relaxing, mellow high. The plant is usually short and bushy.
A cannabis plant that has both sativa and indica plant genes. Some hybrids can lean more sativa or more indica, with others falling in between. Many dispensaries will list a hybrid's indica-to-sativa ratio, or how much influence one has on the strain over the other. For example, an even hybrid would be listed as 50-50, while a hybrid with more indica influence would be listed as a 60-40 indica hybrid, and so on.
A pre-rolled joint, or cannabis cigarette.
Genes from parent strains that give cannabis varities their unique smells, flavors and effects.
A lineage of cannabis that descended from the Kush Mountains on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Kush strains are extremely popular, known for sedative, indica-leaning effects and characteristics, as well as deep green and purple colors.
A cannabis grower that creates or "breeds" new strains.
Cannabinoids are groups of chemical compounds present in the cannabis plant that affect the body and mind through their interaction with special receptors in the brain. Other than THC, there are over 110 different cannabinoids — though we've only studied a handful.
The most common and popular cannabinoid, THC refers to the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. THC has the ability to alter behavior, mood perception and consciousness. THC is also mainly responsible for the euphoric feeling of being “high," though there is still research being conducted on how other cannabinoids and variables can affect that high.
THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)
THCA is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in raw and live cannabis that requires heat or combustion to convert to an active psychoactive compound, or THC. As the plant dries, THCA slowly converts to THC.
Perhaps the fastest rising in popularity, CBD is not psychoactive but can treat an array of medical issues. Studies have shown it to have anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-nausea and pain-killing properties, and it can also treat high blood pressure, skin disorders, certain types of epileptic seizures and more. CBD can be derived from hemp, but there are also dozens of high-CBD strains, concentrates and edibles sold at dispensaries with small amounts of THC in them.
CBDA (Cannabidiol acid)
Like THCA, CBDA is also found in raw cannabis plants and requires drying, heat or combustion to be activated. However, CBDA can still be medically beneficial for nausea and similar ailments CBD is used for, especially when juicing the plant.
CBN is roughly 10 percent as psychoactive as THC, and little is known about the compound compared to THC or even CBD. CBN production isn't very strong during the growing process, but it can be produced from THC degradation when THC is exposed to light or heat. Known as a sleep aid, CBN causes drowsiness and can also reduce muscle spasms.
Even less is known about CBG than CBN. CBG can also be found in hemp and has shown significant ability to counteract and prevent tumor formation. Interesting fact: THC and CBD start out as CBG — it’s the chemical parent of THC and CBD — so CBG also has healing, anti-inflammatory properties.
Curing is the proper way to dry and age cannabis after it's harvested. Curing allows the residual plant matter to dissipate while creating a slow oxidation for a better-tasting smoke. If possible, you want to make sure your flower is cured at least two weeks, but most dispensaries have too high a demand to wait that long.
After a plant tissue has been rooted, it’s called a clone. Clones don’t have a tap root like a plant grown from a seed does. A clone is a starter plant of true and tested genetics that will taste and yield within the standard range of whatever strain one selects.
Edibles are different types of food and drink infused with cannabinoids, usually THC or CBD.
Terpenes are a large and diverse class of organic compounds produced by a variety of plants, so they aren’t just specific to cannabis. These fragrant oils give cannabis its aromatic diversity, helping shape the smell and taste of each strain. These oils are secreted from the flower's sticky resin glands, the same ones that produce THC, CBD and other cannabinoids.
"Concentrates" is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of different cannabis extracts with potent levels of THC and CBD. Commonly referred to as hash, concentrates include shatter, wax, live resin, distillate and other smokeables, as well as tinctures and other ingestable forms. Learn more about concentrates in our hash guide.
A vaporizer steadily heats up herbs or concentrates to a temperature that is high enough to extract THC, CBD and other cannabinoids – but the temperatures are too low for some (but not all) potentially harmful toxins that are released during combustion. Vapes are easy to use, don't leave as much smell, and are a must-have for the everyday smoker.
A dab refers to a dose of concentrate that is heated on a hot surface and then inhaled through a specific type of glassware, like a honey straw or dab rig. It’s a bit controversial, as dabbing concentrate's extremely high THC levels (usually anywhere from 70 to 95 percent) produces an intense high that is much too strong for the novice and occasional user.
Cannabis tinctures are liquid-based cannabis extracts that are applied under the tongue for quicker absorption, usually made from alcohol or vegetable oil. Tinctures can be used in juices, soups, coffee and all kinds of cooking recipes.
Cannabis-infused topicals include lotions, balms, salves and oils. These can help with a range of issues from muscle pain to inflammation to general soreness. They are non-psychoactive and are absorbed through the skin.
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