Cannabis Lingo 101
By Margo Amala
The world of cannabis has evolved so quickly as legalization is literally sweeping around the world. Some places are steeped in legal cannabis culture, while others remain largely enshrouded in the taboo black market access to marijuana. What this means for you, is that your experience with and access to this new and evolving world of cannabis will be significantly defined based on your location in the world. Urban Farmacy resides in Portland, Oregon. Oregon was the first state ever to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, the second state to legalize medical marijuana in 1998 and the third state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016.
Portland, Oregon has become a mecca of marijuana with dispensaries galore. With this in mind, not all dispensaries are created equal. Even many of the upscale locations do not offer much in the way of education. This is where Urban Farmacy stands out: we are committed to educating people. Since using cannabis means altering your state, we believe that education is key to defining your experience. This is a new and evolving idea as cannabis becomes more regulated and accessible. In Oregon the cannabis consumer has the opportunity to know the cannabinoid potency, ingredients, and in some cases the terpene profile of their cannabis products.
In certain places where marijuana is still underground, you don’t have the advantage of knowing the inputs or potency in the cannabis and cannabis items you are purchasing. If some of these words sound foreign to you, don’t worry, you are not alone! We have compiled an overview of the most basic terms that will help you better understand cannabis, the cannabis industry and the rapidly evolving science. We also provide more in-depth education pages on this website for further information.
Let’s begin with the basics. The terms marijuana and cannabis are interchangeable. The difference is that marijuana is a slang term and cannabis is the scientific name of the cannabis plant. We at Urban Farmacy choose to use cannabis most often because we promote the legitimate and scientific nature of cannabis. The popular way of categorizing cannabis has become first using the terms Sativa, Indica or Hybrid and then within those categories, there are “strains” (eg. Amnesia Haze, Dogwalker, Durban Poison). The website Leafly has become a consumer standard website for popular categorization of cannabis.
Now, not to confuse you, it is important to note that the popular way of categorization is different from the scientific way of categorizing cannabis. As cannabis science evolves, scientific terms are becoming more prevalent in the cannabis industry. For example, the new more scientific term for strain is cultivar. Below you will see each term broken down into the popular definition with an explanation of the myths associated with each term.
Sativa – Cannabis Sativa is a species of cannabis that originated from areas around the equator. The Cannabis Sativa plant typically grows tall in structure, has narrower leaves and has a longer flowering cycle that is better suited for warmer climates with a longer growing season.
The myth of the classification of “Sativa” is that all strains categorized as Sativa are uplifting and energizing. While this can be true of some strains (cultivars) within this category, the effects a strain has on you are defined by the terpenes present in the cannabis. For more information on terpenes check out our tepene page.
Indica – The Cannabis Indica species originated in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. Cannabis indica plants tend to grow shorter in stature, have broader leaves, a shorter flowering cycle that is suitable for colder climates with a shorter growing season.
The myth of the classification of “Indica” is that all strains or cultivars within this category are relaxing. While this can be true of some strains (cultivars) within this category, the effects a strain will have are largely defined by the terpenes present in the cannabis.
Hybrid – A hybrid cannabis plant is one that has intentionally cross bred by humans to have both Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica in its genetics. Most varieties of cannabis today are hybrids.
This category is the most accurate categorization. However, the myth here is that the effects vary because the strains are composed of different combinations of Sativa and Indica. When in actuality the effects vary largely due to the varying different cannabinoid and terpene profiles.
Strain – This is the popular term for the variety of cannabis (eg. Purple Hindu Kush). This term is slowly losing traction and the term cultivar is replacing it. This term can be used interchangeably with the terms cultivar, variety and selection.
Cultivar – In the horticultural and botanical world, “cultivar” is now the preferred term to delineate the smell, flavors, yield, effects and other unique characteristics of a cultivated plant variety. The term cultivar only applies to cultivated varieties that were grown agriculturally and not in the wild. Cannabis plants which are grown in their native location and environment are called landrace varieties.
Chemovar – Chemovars are far more scientific and specific. Scientists observe the terpene profile, cannabinoid presence and potency, and quantity of standard biomolecules like lipids and waxes to determine a chemovar.
Cannabinoids – Cannabinoids are a group of chemical substances that join with special receptors of the body and brain, now known as the Endogenous Cannabinoid System. Cannabinoids can be naturally occuring inside our body, known as endogenous cannabinoids. Other cannabinoids are derived from plants, known as phytocannabinoids: this is the category for cannabis cannabinoids. The most well known cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). To learn more about cannabinoids check out the Cannabis Education: Cannabinoids and Terpenes page.
Terpenes– Terpenes are what give plants, including cannabis it’s unique smell. Additionally, terpenes interact with cannabinoids to give each strain of marijuana its own unique effects. For example, linalool is the dominant terpene in lavender, which is relaxing. This terpene is also found in cannabis and is also has relaxing effects.
Endocannabinoid System – A naturally occurring and intricate system within the bodies of all people and animals. This system is responsible for many roles in your body, including but not limited to signaling and homeostasis (or keeping the body in balance). Each person’s endocannabinoid system is unique, which is why cannabis with the same profile.
Extracts – Extracts use a solvent such as butane, propane or CO2, and or high heat and pressure. Some examples of products that are considered extracts in the state of Oregon are Butane Hash Oil (BHO), Propane Hash Oil (PHO), CO2 Oil, Live Resin, Sauce and Diamonds. See the Cannabis Education: Extracts & Concentrates page for more in depth information.
Concentrates – Concentrates are typically extracted with a mechanical process such as agitation or pressure. However, some concentrates use a solvent such as ice water or alcohol. Some examples of products considered concentrates in the state of Oregon are: Tinctures, Kief, Hash, most Rick Simpson Oil, and tinctures.
Edibles (Solid) – Edibles are food items infused with various forms of cannabis. Edibles are absorbed in your body via the digestive tract and liver which is different from smoking or vaping. Therefore the onset time is longer, the experience will last for 4-6 hours, and the experience is different from smoking or vaping. See the Cannabis Education: Edibles page for more specific details about how edibles work.
Flower – This is the term used to refer to the flowers of the cannabis plant. Otherwise known as buds.
Topicals – This is the term for items that are applied topically to your skin – most often used for pain relief. Topicals are not normally psychoactive.
Tinctures – These are infusions of cannabis in either alcohol or various different carrier oils. People take most tinctures sublingually, which means the effects will be more immediate since it will absorb directly to your bloodstream via your mouth.
Drinks – Also considered an edible, however the pathway of absorption varies since it is liquid will be processed in your body more quickly and be filtered out by your kidneys.
This is literally only the tip of the iceberg of cannabis terminology. It is my hope that this will give the aspiring cannabis connoisseur basic understanding of cannabis lingo and the capacity to differentiate between popular cannabis terms and more scientific terms. May you feel more prepared and educated for your next dispensary experience!