Marijuana, Hemp, Cannabis, Weed… What Does It All Mean?

Cannabis has become more accepted in everyday life. As awareness has grown, people want to learn more about medical marijuana and how it can help with a panoply of health concerns. This educational process can be complicated, especially for those who have always viewed the prohibition on cannabis as a big STOP sign in front of a place we dared not go.

Now, a new world has opened up with an entirely new vocabulary. It can be confusing, especially to those whose only previous experience with cannabis were the films of Cheech and Chong back in the 80s. Of course, you may have known some “street” lingo, such as pot, ganja, Mary Jane, herb or weed, just as even the squarest of us may have danced to reggae while imagining sharing a toke with the musicians. But many folks have not had a chance to experience cannabis in any form. Until now.

We’d like to present a general guide to cannabis facts and vocabulary to help you feel more informed. (And later, we will have a more exacting guide to how to read the labels of the myriad of cannabis products already available at dispensaries.)

A Little Taxonomy If You Please

An excellent place to start is with the plant itself. Cannabis has two main branches – marijuana and hemp. These could be considered siblings.

Marijuana has three species – cannabis indica, cannabis sativa and cannabis ruderalis. Indica and sativa are the main children of marijuana that get all the attention and notoriety. This is because they have the highest concentrations of CBD and THC.

Hemp has been demonized along with marijuana but doesn’t have any active ingredients for intoxication. Hemp has long been known as a wonder plant, loved by Thomas Jefferson (and others) because of its endless usefulness. It can be used to make paper, fabric, rope, beauty products and a vast array of other products.


Hashish is a by-product of when marijuana is processed. When marijuana leaves are dried out, tiny crystals – called kief -- remain. You can smoke kief, but it can also be processed to make hashish. As a result, it is concentrated and very potent.


Cannabidiol is abbreviated as CBD. CBD is a chemical found in marijuana and has become renowned for its versatility in treating pain, inflammation and anxiety. CBD has no psychoactive effects – no feeling of being “high.”


THC is an abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol. This component of marijuana causes psychoactive effects – it does make you “high.”

Flower, or Bud

Flower or bud is the part of the cannabis plant that is smokable, though it can be consumed in many different ways – via smoke, vapor or edibles. This versatility makes it the most popular form of cannabis.

Joints, Blunts, Pipes and Bongs

These are all different instruments for smoking marijuana. Joints are hand-rolled with cigarette papers, and blunts are joints made from a hollowed-out cigar. Pipes are a straightforward way to smoke, made of glass or ceramic. Bongs let you add water to the mix, helping to make the smoke smoother. Bongs can be made of the same materials as pipes, but you can also make homemade bongs of aluminum cans or other household materials.


Edibles are foods that are infused with cannabis extracts. Homemade pot brownies are a familiar plot device of many sitcoms, but nowadays, edibles can be found in candy, bread or even flavored coffee. Dispensaries offer ingredients like marijuana-infused butter or oil, which can be used to bake something nice at home. Since edibles need to be absorbed through your digestive system, it takes longer for the cannabis to take effect.


A vaporizer is a stationary device used to consume marijuana. It heats marijuana flower or marijuana-infused oils to a high enough temperature to produce vapor that can be inhaled. It’s healthier than smoking since no smoke is ingested. Fans of vaporizers find them safe and easy to use since you can measure the quantities precisely.


Vape pens use batteries and small metal coils to heat the marijuana until it evaporates and can be inhaled. Vape pens are highly portable.


A tincture is a liquid made from cannabis extract. Tinctures can be flavored, and you can place them under your tongue with a dropper or mix with water or another drink. When taken directly, the effects can be felt quickly, but more slowly when mixed with a drink.


A topical is a product where the active cannabis properties are extracted and added to a lotion or cream. Topicals are absorbed through the skin and can be used to treat muscle aches or skin conditions.

New Vocabulary for a New Experience

While there’s a lot to learn about medical marijuana, it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. This education process will help you feel informed as you pursue new options for less pain and better health.

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