The New Cannabis Glossary: How to Not Lose Your Mind at a Legal Dispensary


If you live in one of the 29 states (and counting) where recreational marijuana is legal, then we’re willing to bet you’ve either visited a dispensary, you’re plotting your first voyage to the promised land, or you’re totally overwhelmed by the long list of confusing and sometimes comical weed terms being thrown your way. Or maybe it’s a combination of all of the above? Truth be told, there is an entire language in the weed world, and this dispensary terminology is something that you’re going to want to be well-versed in if marijuana use is on your to-do list.

Years ago you didn’t really have to be familiar with cannabis industry terms, because the cannabis industry wasn’t something people talked about. It was illegal, frowned upon and often swept under the carpet or into dark alleys behind the 7-11 where you would quickly buy whatever illicit weed you could get your hands on. Times have changed. The weed world has changed. The way we buy, consume, research and talk about cannabis has changed.

In fact, marijuana dispensaries are raking in the dough and are projected to boost the economy significantly by 2020. Recent findings from New Frontier Data, suggest that “by 2020 the legal cannabis market will create more than a quarter of a million jobs” and the legal cannabis business is expected to be worth over $13 billion (yes billion with a B) by 2020.

And now, as the nation and the world embrace a more open-minded attitude towards consumption and the many ways that weed can help enhance your life, it’s crucial that we all become educated on important dispensary terminology that can make or break your marijuana experience.

If you want to walk the walk, you have to know how to talk the (weed) talk. From stoner slang to strains to what to look for on weed labels, here’s a quick cheat sheet on the dispensary terminology you need to know. And yes, we recognize that this is by no means an all-inclusive list. Considering that weed terms are ever changing and constantly evolving, it’s hard to make a complete list. But this is a pretty good starting place if you’re looking to brush up on your cannabis industry terms.


By now you probably know that there are hundreds (maybe even thousands) of slang terms for marijuana. Weed, pot, ganja, maryjane, reefer, bud, grass…the list goes on. All you really need to know is there are tons of ways to refer to cannabis and they all stem from various different cultures and aspects of the marijuana experience (from the shape of the flower to the way it is smoked to the way it makes you feel).


When it comes to marijuana there are two main strains: sativa and indica. Sativa is a species of the cannabis plant that often delivers a more uplifting, energizing and cerebral high. Sativas can make you feel more creative, more optimistic and can give you an energy boost, all of which can help combat depression, fatigue and just make you feel good.


On the flip side, indica plants have a more sedative effect. These strains are often better at helping people relax and unwind to combat stress, muscle tension, insomnia and anxiety. When you want to have a more mellow experience at the end of a long day, indica varieties are often your best bet.


And then, to really confuse you, there are hybrid strains, where more than one cannabis plant are combined to create a custom blend that partners the best of several worlds. Most types of weed you’ll find in a dispensary seem to be hybrids, and on the packaging you will see the contents, the types of flowers used and the percentage of sativa vs. indica. In fact, many dispensaries will even organize their shelves by the sativa/indica ratio and strength.


When you consume cannabis orally (aka as some food product) it is considered an edible. Cannabis can be infused into candies or other food bites that you eat — think sour gummy candies or chocolate covered espresso beans, except the candy is infused with THC so you get high. Expert tip: consume with caution, because edibles often take about 30-45 minutes to take full effect.


There are two main cannabinoids (aka the chemical compounds) in cannabis: THC, which stands for tetrahydrocannabinol is the one that gives you the psychoactive high. It also increases appetite, so it is often used for medicinal purposes with cancer or HIV patients who struggle to keep food down. For the rest of us, it just gives us the munchies. When you purchase any type of weed at a dispensary the label will note the concentration of THC, versus CBD.


Speaking of CBD, the other main cannabinoid is CBD, which stands for cannabidiol. CBD provides many of the physical perks of marijuana, such as pain relief, reduced anxiety, reducing muscle spasms, without the high. CBD is often used for therapeutic purposes in patients with MS, cancer, depression and chronic pain.


When you discuss how strong a certain type of marijuana is, you’re talking about the potency, or the THC content. It’s an important thing to note, to ask about and to understand when you are browsing the selection in a dispensary and you want to ensure you pick something that will deliver the right type of high for you.


When you separate the small crystal trichomes on the surface of the marijuana flower and harvest this plant material it is called kief. Kief is highly concentrated with THC and CBD, because the tiny hairs and resin glands that you harvested are densely packed with the active cannabinoids.


Think bartender, but not distributing alcoholic beverages. Budtenders quite literally tend to your bud needs — they are often the ones selling and catering to customers at dispensaries, and these days they even serve weed at private events such as weddings. Yes, weed weddings are a thing and budtenders are good people to know.


Bongs and joints are so 10 years ago. There’s a new more trendy method of consuming pot in town, and it delivers a faster and more intense experience. Dabbing is basically when you extract cannabinoids (such as THC) from the cannabis, creating an oil or wax, and then you melt that concentrate and inhale the vapor. Sounds complicated, right? Well, the effects are often stronger and take hold faster, which is why some people are turning to this new method of consumption.


Virtually every pot-infused baked good you make will be whipped up using a healthy dose of cannabutter, which is butter that has been boiled on low heat with cannabis flowers, until the cannabinoids and terpenes are extracted from the plant and infused into the butter’s fat. Yes, you can buy it at a dispensary, and yes, you can also make it at home.


A grinder is a device used to break down herbs, in this case marijuana flowers and dried buds, so that you can use the finely ground leaves to smoke.


While hemp comes from the same cannabis plant as other forms of marijuana, it contains a very small amount of THC, so it doesn’t deliver the same psychoactive effects. Hemp, hemp extracts, hemp oils and other hemp products are often used for legal products such as beauty products, culinary ingredients and pain relief oils.


Terpenes are the organic compounds that give marijuana (and all plants) the aroma you know and love.


With a vaporizer you consume marijuana in a different way than smoking or eating. The cannabis is heated to a certain temperature and turned into vapor, which is then inhaled. Because you aren’t smoking anything, many people consider vaporizers to be a healthier choice and a less intense high.

Topical Oil

Not all marijuana must be consumed or smoked in order to reap the rewards. Topical cannabis oil, such as CBD oil is becoming increasingly popular in treating pain and other physical ailments in a natural way. And because CBD oil is often made from industrial hemp, it is legal to purchase across the country.

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