The ABCs of Cannabis
An ultra-basic guide to the terms you may hear around the dispensary.
You know what I’m tired of? People feeling stupid about cannabis.
Seriously. With more states (and countries!) legalizing this glorious stuff, you’d think there’d be more resources talking about the basic principles. What the heck different types of weed are there? What qualifies as an edible and what doesn’t?
As a copywriter who writes copy and content about cannabis, this struck me as a grave need. So I made an ultra-basic dictionary so y’all can discern what the heck we’re all talking about.
Keep in mind: This dictionary is far from complete. There’s plenty of slang I don’t know and lots of developments yet to come. I will update as ideas/information/suggestions come to me.
*Want to see the now-famous chart that establishes the stages of getting high? Skip down to Universal High Chart.
ABV: The burned dregs of cannabis after being vaporized. They can be repurposed into cannabutter through a lengthy process, but are largely considered a waste product.
Alaskan Thunderf*ck: A mysterious strain of cannabis that allegedly washed up on the shores of Alaska from who-knows-where (Russia is the rumor) and was grown in the Last Frontier ever since. Personal note: I’ve actually met a guy who sampled the original batch. Said it was bitter and not tasty AF, which is what you’re more likely to get today.
Blunt: Hand-rolled cannabis cigarette, often cut with tobacco. These are especially in popular in countries where tobacco is expensive and/or cannabis is illegal (I may or may not have had one in the Republic of Ireland).
Bong: A filtration device, typically made of glass, used to consume cannabis in vapor form. They use water heated by a heat source (typically a lighter or vape) to create steam, which incorporates with cannabis to created infused smoke, which is then inhaled (read: sucked in) by the user. Again, refer to individual product descriptions for prime use. Ask your local glass shop proprietor for their recommendations!
Bowl: The section of a pipe or other implement used to smoke and/or vaporize cannabis where the cannabis is placed.
Broad City: Comedic television show created by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. Famous for portraying young women consuming cannabis without a male presence.
Bud: A whole, intact bud of cannabis trimmed of leaves and stems (though some strains are best consumed with leaves on and are thus left intact). This is the most common form of cannabis sold in dispensaries.
Cannabinoid: A type of chemical compound that acts upon neurotransmitters in the brain, to various effects.
Cannabidiol: One of the most common cannabinoids in cannabis, a.k.a. CBD.
Cannabis: The catch-all name for the Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. It’s the proper name for the damn plant.
Cannabutter: Butter brewed with cannabis, to produce an intoxicating effect alone or baked into edibles.
CBD: One of the two main “active ingredients” in cannabis, along with THC. This is the component considered most responsible for soothing, pain relief, and general relaxation. “I have a lot of sciatica pain and trouble sleeping. What’s a high CBD strain you would recommend?”
Charas: A form of hashish made from a live cannabis plant, compared to a dead one with hash. More common in India.
Cheech and Chong: The comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, famous cannabis consumers and advocates. They have created many movies that both celebrate and satirize American drug culture.
Concentrate: A cannabis product made by extracting the cannabinoids from cannabis itself, leaving you with an ultra-potent cannabis product with a distinct taste and a more potent experience. They typically come in four forms: Wax, shatter, honeycomb, and resin (though other forms may emerge over time). These may be consumed in a bong, a vape, or even orally. Check your product recommendations!
Dabs: Slang for concentrates.
Dispensary: A legally sanctioned store for selling cannabis and cannabis-affiliated products. Not to be confused with a glass shop.
Dope: Slang for cannabis. May have a connotation of lower quality.
Easter grass: Slang for trimmed cannabis that is fresh enough to be sticky and difficult to grind.
Edibles: A food, commonly a dessert, infused with cannabis to produce a medical or recreational effect.
Ent: A good-natured name for a cannabis user, referencing the peaceful tree-like beings from The Lord of the Rings.
Essential oil vaporizer: The “code name” for a weed vaporizer on many online outlets.
4/20: April 20th, also known as the internationally recognized day of cannabis culture celebration. The origins of this day are murky, but the most reasonable explanation comes from the idea that 4:20 pm was the designated time that a specific group of Northern California teenagers would go out to smoke weed. Near a statue of Louis Pasteur, no less. #strangerthanfiction
Golden dragon: Slang for a tincture.
Glass shop: A store that sells pipes, bongs, and many other cannabis-affiliated paraphernalia. The legality of this is hazy, but they technically do not sell pot. And you can theoretically rip bongs of tobacco.
Glaucoma: A disease (or group of diseases) of the eyes that can result in severe pain. This is a common ailment for medical marijuana patients, and is often used as a joke excuse for using cannabis regularly. Example: “I bought three ounces at the sale… you know, for my glaucoma.”
Grinder: Commonly a spice grinder, this is a tool using for grinding the cannabis bud into a coarse plant meal that can then be smoked or vaped.
Hashish: A cannabis product made from extracting pure trichomes from the cannabis plant. This is potent AF, and should be handled with caution.
Hash oil: Oil made from hashish or directly from cannabis. Consult with the creator of the individual product to ensure you know exactly what you’re getting.
Hemp: Part of the cannabis plant, often used to refer to the part that is used for rope, clothing, and industrial purposes.
Hemp pants: Garments woven from hemp fibers. See tights.
High Times: Counterculture magazine detailing the cannabis culture in America and beyond since 1974. Nowadays, they’re infamous for barely paying their writers anything.
Hit: One deep breath of cannabis smoke from a blunt, joint, vape, or any other cannabis-based device that requires you to purse your lips (as opposed to wrapping your mouth around the device).
Home grow: A batch of cannabis that has been grown in a person’s private home (with or without a permit). Extremely common in Alaska.
Hybrid: A strain that is typically a crossbreed of an indica and a sativa. Most hybrids lean heavily toward one side or the other, and some very interesting effects or flavors may result from the mixing. The universal color to classify a hybrid is green.
Indica: Strains classified as an indica are typically typified as strains that have a sleepy, calming, or pain-easing effect. The universal color to classify an indica is purple.
Kief: This is essentially cannabis “pollen.” It’s essentially all the good flaky goodness that comes off when you grind buds and is captured in the bottom of your grinder. Light green at first and fading to a golden yellow, this goodness brings out the flavor of and bud (ground or otherwise) it’s sprinkled upon.
Kush: General slang for cannabis, but there are also several strains with the work Kush in their name. These strains typically originate from the Hindu Kush mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan (forgive me Leafly, but you wrote it so well). The Kush “side” of any hybridization usually brings a pleasant earthiness and/or spice to the flavor.
Landrace: A strain of cannabis that has historically only grown in one place, and therefore might have highly unique attributes. Common to strains originating in Thailand.
Lifted: The sensation of being lifted, commonly felt at the beginning of a cannabis high.
Locoweed: Term for cannabis in anti-cannabis legislation from California in 1913. Arguably racist, as the law was initially designed to target immigrants (particularly Indians and Mexicans) who consumed cannabis. It failed miserably.
Marijuana: Slang for cannabis, originating from the Mexican word “marihuana.” It’s thought that Mexican immigrants popularized the use of cannabis.
Medical marijuana: Cannabis that is legalized by the state for medical patients that may benefit from the medicinal effects of cannabis.
Moon rock: Oh god. This is a bud of cannabis, covered in hash oil, then rolled in kief. Sweet goodness above.
Nug: Short for nugget, accepted as an individual bud cluster of cannabis. “The nugs in this ounce are huge!”
Ounce: A full ounce of cannabis, often the maximum amount one can purchase at a legal dispensary in one day. Check your local laws!
Panama Red: A sativa strain actually from Panama, popular during the 1960’s and referenced in the movie version of Apocalypse Now. Personal note: I’ve tried it—damn tasty. Like Romaine lettuce.
Pass the Dutchie: A 1982 song by Musical Youth, erroneously associated with cannabis use in pop culture. The true meaning of “dutchie” is food pot.
Pineapple Express: A particularly tasty sativa strain with a pleasant, fruity flavor. Made famous by a Seth Rogen film of the same name.
Pipe: A handheld implement for smoking cannabis, usually by placing a flame directly underneath the bowl. These are typically created from glass or clay.
Pot: Slang for cannabis.
Pot brownie: A brownie, often baked with cannabutter, that produces an intoxicating effect when consumed. This is the most famous form of edible, and is credited to being invented by Alice B. Toklas (life partner of Gertrude Stein).
Puff puff pass: The cultural standard for sharing cannabis in a group setting. An individual is allowed two puffs on the joint, then passes it to the person on their left. See: Snoop Dogg’s Rules of the sesh.
Rastafarianism: A religion that uses cannabis in spiritual practices, mostly viewing it as a healing herb.
Reefer Madness: A 1936 film intended to dramatize the effects of habitual cannabis use. Funnily enough, most of the physical effects of cannabis use portrayed in the movie can actually be attributed to cocaine.
Resin: Leafly put it best: “Live resin is a type of cannabis concentrate that is manufactured using a technique that takes freshly harvested cannabis and freezes it to subcritical temperatures prior to and throughout the extraction process.” In short, this is the real shit. Use with caution, care, and preparation!
Rip: To suck cannabis smoke from a bong or other smoking apparatus. A rip is typically distinguishable from a hit in that it often requires the entire mouth around the apparatus, as opposed to pursed lips.
Roach: The end of a mostly smoked joint. These are gross and mostly covered in spit. Don’t touch them.
RSO oil: A CBD-based oil named for Rick Simpson, the man who created it himself after being denied cannabis for pain relief. He also used it to treat his cancer despite being shouted down by the medical establishment in Canada. This oil is highly potent and is commonly used for medical treatments, which you can read about in more detail in this article.
Sativa: Typically, a strain classified as a sativa has effects that are uplifting, happy, perky, or energizing. The universal color for classifying a sativa is red.
Shake: Mealy, pre-ground cannabis that is often the least expensive purchasing option on a dispensary’s menu.
Smoking circle: A circle of people consuming cannabis, usually obeying Puff Puff Pass. The idea became mainstream thanks to That ’70s Show.
Snoop Dogg: American rapper and famous cannabis user.
Snoop Dogg’s Rules of the Sesh: The formal list of guidelines set down by Snoop Dogg in 2015 for enjoying weed in a group setting. Many of these were commonly accepted, but they were formalized in this posting.
Stem: Stems within the cannabis plant, that can still be found within a bud if not properly trimmed. Do not try to smoke these—it’s akin to smoking a wooden stick.
Sticky: A positive quality of high quality cannabis, in that it is fresh and difficult to grind due to the kief-heavy buds.
Strain: A sub-species of weed that produces distinct enough effect to be given a name and charted. Whenever you hear the name of a “type” of weed, i.e. Blue Dream or Granddaddy Purple, they are referring to the strain’s name.
THC: Tetrahydrocannabinol, a major cannabinoid in cannabis. One of the two main “active ingredients” in cannabis, the other being CBD. This is the component considered to be the main psychotropic ingredient in cannabis, i.e. dictates how high you’ll get. Strains with high THC are generally considered to be more uplifting and perky. “I use cannabis for depression and post-workout relief. What’s a high THC strain you would recommend?”
“I want something to treat my symptoms but not get me high. What’s a low THC product you would recommend?”
The Emperor Has No Clothes: A now-classic book that advocates cannabis use on a wide scale.
Tights: Multicolored garments worn instead of pants. Often associated with women who consume cannabis, especially when they have a brightly colored design. Wearing these frequently is considered a casual signal that one is a cannabis consumer.
Tincture: A cannabis product made by concentrating cannabis, typically in alcohol.
Toke: The act of smoking weed. Also can refer to an individual hit of weed. Referenced in One Toke Over The Line.
Top shelf: Within a dispensary, this is the highest quality cannabis for sale. This could be for a variety of reasons: It may be a particularly pure strain, it may be bred for a particular aspect, may produce copious amounts of kief, or several other reasons. An ounce of this good stuff will likely run you over a hundred dollars, and can easily be counted as a holiday gift.
Trichomes: Tiny hairs on the leaves of the cannabis plant that collate and become kief when the leaves and bud of the cannabis plant are ground.
Trees: Slang for cannabis. Also the good-natured name of a popular cannabis forum.
Tye dye: See tights.
Universal High Chart: A chart of mysterious origin, describing the stages of getting high. No one knows who created it. But it’s there, and it’s so dang helpful.
Vape: A device designed to vaporize cannabis (ground or in whole bud form) for the desired intoxicating effect. These can be handheld, or stand independently (i.e. a “desktop vape”). They are often considered cleaner and less smelly than burning joints or bowls, and are often favored by users with lung sensitivities.
Vaporent: A fan of vapes, to the point of being curious about the technology and technical details. See ent.
Water pipe: See bong.
Willie Nelson: American folk singer and avid cannabis legalization advocate.