The Ganja Glossary: 37 Words You're Going to Want to Know

Before you can communicate in any new culture it's key to learn the language

We're going to be discovering a lot about cannabis together over the coming months, but there are bound to be a few terms every now and again that you are not familiar with.

Here's a handy guide of common cannabis terms just for you! 


1) Agonist/ Antagonist 

An agonist is a chemical that binds to a receptor and activates the receptor to produce a biological response.  If a chemical has the ability to bind to a specific receptor but blocks a response or another chemical from binding,  it is refereed to as an 'antagonist' for that specific receptor type. 

2) BHO/Co2

A lot of people are confused about the term BHO or Butane Hash Oil.  That's likely because it's a catch all umbrella word for a wide variety of cannabis extractions.  It's ultimately a way of saying that the cannabis has been dissolved into a powerful solvent (butane) to create a very sticky and strong concentrate.  'Dabs', 'wax', and 'shatter' are all forms of BHO.  Co2 extraction is similar to BHO in that it produces 'waxes', 'shatter', and 'dab'.  However, instead of using butane as a solvent, technicians do what is called a Super critical Co2 extraction using fancy machinery.  We we'll explore Co2 extraction further in an upcoming article.  


3) Bud

Contrary to popular belief, the word 'bud' is not slang.  It is a botanical reference.  Just like a rose on a bush, cannabis blooms.  The big fluffy, sticky, resinous flowers are the most prized part of the plant because they contain the highest concentration of cannabinoid compounds.  We call these flowers buds. 

4) Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids (Ca-Na-Bi-Noids) are chemical compounds contains in the trichome of cannabis plants.  Studies have shown that, when ingested, these cannabinoids interact with specific receptors in the human body to create a variety of different effects.  Cannabis scientists currently know of 113 cannabinoids all with varying uses.  The most popular cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) because it tends to produce a fuzzy "high" feeling. 

5) Cannabis

Like we learned in A Tale of Two Strains Cannabis is a genus that produces three species of flowering plants: cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis.  Cannabis sativa and cannabis indica are used to produce both recreational and medical cannabis. 

6) Carboxylic Acid

A carboxylic acid is an organic compound that contains a carboxyl group (C(=O)OH). 

7) CBD

CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol (Ca-Na-Bi-Di-All), one of 113 cannabinoids found in cannabis.  It's the second most common cannabinoid by volume to THC.  Recent research suggests that CBD can be useful as it effectively treats pain, inflammation, and anxiety without the psychoactive the "high" or "stoned" feeling typical of THC.  

8) CB1

The CB1 receptor is one of two cannabinoid receptors found in the endogenous endocanabanoid system.  CB1 receptors are located throughout the brain, central nervous system, connective tissues,  and related organs. 

9) CB2

CB2 receptors are located throughout the immune system and related organs, like the tissues of the spleen, tonsils, thymus gland, and the gastrointestinal system, where they modulate intestinal inflammatory response. 

10) Concentrates

Concentrates are a very strong concoction of cannabinoids that are made by dissolving cannabis in its plant form into a solvent of some sort.  The product that remains is generally higher in cannabinoid content than flowers or hashish.  The word 'concentrate' can be used to describe all forms of BHO including budder/wax, or shatter but it can also be used to describe tincture, topicals, or the butter used in edible foods.

11) Co-op

Co-op is short for cooperative.  You may hear this term in reference to a community of patients who join together to share and receive cannabis.  A co-op may also refer to an organic grocer with membership incentives such as discounts.  


12) Cross (genetics)

The word cross generally refers to crossbreeding.  Crossbreeding is when two different plant strains are bred together.  For example; Blue Dream is a cross between Blueberry and Haze strains.

13) Dab/Dabbing

A dab is a slang term used to refer to a dose of BHO or Co2 extract.  When added to a super hot surface the extract creates a very potent smoke that can be taken into the lungs.  'Dabbing' refers to partaking in dabs.

14) decarboxylation

Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases carbon dioxide (CO2). 

15) Dispensary

A dispensary is a location where a patient or consumer can legitimately and safely access cannabis for medical or recreational use.

16) Edibles

Edibles are medicated treats infused with cannabis extracts.  The most common edibles are cookies and brownies, but you can put cannabis butter or oil into everything from coffee drinks to pesto. 

17) Endocannabinoid System / Receptors

The human body has a special relationship with cannabis.  In fact, it has it's very own system in place specifically to deal with the cannabis and similar compounds made naturally within the body.  This is called the endogenous cannabinoid system, endocannabinoid (En-Do-Ca-Na-Bi-Noid) system, or ECS.  Once ingested, cannabinoid molecules like THC activate particular cannabinoid receptors.  These receptors, called CB1 and CB2, work sort of like a lock and key when cannabinoids are introduced.  The body also counts on the endocannabinoid system to maintain homeostasis. 

18) Flowers

Cannabis flowers or 'buds' are the hairy, sticky, frost-covered chunks that are harvested and dried to be used as medication. 

19) Hash/Hash Oil

Hash or hashish is a slang word for the cannabis plant's trichomes or 'keif' that has been cured and pressed in a special way.  It is collected by sifting dried cannabis flowers through a screen or freezing the plant and shaking off the crystal like resin glands.  Once the cannabinoid-laden powder has been collected, it can be pressed into a puck like shape and aged. 


20) Hemp

Hemp is a fiber that can be produced from the male cannabis plant.  Though the term 'hemp' can be used to refer to any species of cannabis plant containing less than 0.3% THC.  Hemp is often used to make rope, paper, cloth, or building materials.  CBD can also be extracted from hemp. 

21) Hybrid

In the case of cannabis, a hybrid is a plant that is genetically crossed by a breeder to create a plant with specific qualities and traits.  Most cannabis on the market today is some form of hybrid.

22) Hydroponic

When you hear that the bud you're smoking is 'hydroponic' it means that the plant itself was grown using a system of gardening that does not involve soil.  Instead, plants are grown in water and receive their nutrients from teas that are added to the water supply.  Plants grown hydroponically are sometimes said to have cleaner, more distinct flavors.

23) Indica

Indica is short for Cannabis indica a species of cannabis plant that originated in the Middle East and Asia.  Cannabis indica is famous for its mellow skunky couch lock high that you may recognize from the famous kush and Afghan lineages.  Compared to their Sativa counterparts, indicas tend to be shorter, bushier and have a more compact structure. 

24) Kief

Hash and kief are very similar.  Kief is a collected amount of trichomes that have been separated from the cannabis flower.  It's generally kept in loose powder form to be sprinkled on top of the flower or made into a compound butter for edibles.  Kief is known to be extremely potent.  Hash is essentially just kief that has been pressed into a brick and cured in a cool dark location. 

25) Marijuana

Marijuana is a slang term for female cannabis plants or their dried flowers. 

26) Pot

Pot is a slang term for cannabis.

27) Phytocannabinoid 

Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. 

28) Sativa

Sativa is short for cannabis sativa, a species of plant originating in South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Thailand. These strains tend to grow taller in an effort to reach out and collect the sun.  Sativas are lighter in color and take a bit longer to mature.  Because sativa has a ratio of cannabinoids that is different from that of indica species sativas tend to produce a more heady hyperactive effect. 


29) Shatter/Ice

Shatter or ice are terms used to refer to BHO or Co2 cannabis extract that is stiff and see-through like a pane of glass.

30) Strain

Cannabis is a genus of plant containing three subspecies.  Within these subspecies there are varieties that we call a strain.  Strains are bread to produce desired traits.  Strain names are then given to the plant to reflect it's appearance, its buzz, or its place of origin.  Durban Poison, Chemdog, and Sour Disel are all examples of sativa dominate strains that are very different from one another in effect. 

31) THC

THC is an abbreviation for Tetrahydrocannabinol (Tet-Tra-Hydro-Ka-Na-Bi-Nol), the most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis.  THC is also the component that is responsible for the plants psychoactive effects.  Research has shown THC to be an effective medical treatment for a wide variety of conditions. 


32) Tincture

Tincture is my absolute favorite way to ingest cannabis.  A tincture is a liquid extract made by soaking the flower or leaves of a plant in alcohol, glycerol, ore vinegar.  The strained liquid is then stored in a small jar with a dropper and administered under the tongue.  Tinctures can also be mixed into a beverage. 

33) Topical

A topical is a type of cannabis product that can be applied topically.  They are generally made by combining cannabis extract with a lotion or a cream.  Medicinal properties absorbed through the skin have been found to be an effective treatment for muscle aches, long term soreness, or ailments of the skin.

34) Trichome

Trichome (greek for 'growth of hair') is sort of a misnomer.  Those stringy things you see growing out of the bud are not hairs at all but a resin producing glands of the cannabis plant.  THC, CBD and other cannabinoids are all produced in the tip of these glands once the plant matures. 

35) Vape/ Vaporizer

A vaporizer is a device used to consume cannabis.  It heats either flowers or cannabis-infused oils to a temperature that produces a cannabinoid-laced vapor to inhale.  Vaporizing is thought to be healthier than smoking since there is no real smoke to ingest.

36) Wax

Wax is another form of concentrate made from Co2 or BHO that sort of looks like ear wax.

37) Weed

Weed is a slang term for cannabis.

Now you can banter about buds with the best of them


I'm Mary J Poppins, herbalist, cannabis connoisseur and founder of the Sativa Science Club. Keep an eye on my blog Cannabis for Curious Creatures for nifty new products reviews, DIY tutorials, and scientific insights.   


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