The ABC's of Cannabis

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The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis come from cannabidiol (or CBD, the non-intoxicating component of cannabis). It has been found to lower inflammation in the brain, nerves, and other body systems1, reducing pain and improving function.

Mental health issues (specifically anxiety, depression, and PTSD) were the most common reason for medical cannabis prescriptions in Canada in 20182.

Cannabis can stimulate appetite3. This may be because THC (the intoxicating component of cannabis) enhances the sense of taste and smell4.


Although the five-pointed leaf is the widely-recognized symbol of cannabis culture, it is actually the flower of the plant, commonly referred to as the “bud,” that is consumed. Read more about the anatomy of a cannabis plant.

Dried cannabis flower rolled in dark tobacco paper for smoking. Slightly different than joints and spliffs if you’re pedantic about these things.


Chemicals that bind with cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body. There are three types of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids (naturally produced by our bodies), phytocannabinoids (from plants), and synthetic cannabinoids (i.e., human-made compounds). Researchers have discovered more than 100 different cannabinoids in cannabis. Most studies have focused on the two most abundant cannabinoids, THC and CBD. Read more about cannabinoids.

CBD (Cannabidiol)
One of the two main cannabinoids (active compounds) in cannabis, CBD is non-intoxicating—it won’t get you “high”—and has been found to have anti-inflammatory, nerve-healing, and pain-relieving effects5.

CINV (Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting)
An excruciating side-effect of cancer treatment that tends to respond well to cannabis therapy, particularly when smoked6. The FDA has approved of a synthetic cannabinoid called dronabinol (brand names Marinol and Syndrol) as a treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea since 19857.

Extracts of cannabis blended with oil or other carrier fluids. Concentrates can have a thick or thin consistency, are extracted by water, heat, or chemicals (CO2, propane, butane), and may be taken as drops under the tongue, swallowed as capsules, vaporized, or dabbed.

The driest version of cannabis concentrate, named for its crumbly texture. Crumble is also known as “honey wax” and can be dabbed or crumbled into a joint or pipe for smoking.


A method of consuming cannabis. It involves heating a cannabis concentrate (such as shatter, hash oil, or C02 oil) with a device called a dabbing rig to vaporize and inhale the active compounds. This is different than “vaping.”

A neurotransmitter (i.e., brain signalling chemical) that is deficient in conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Cannabis may increase the availability of dopamine and is being investigated as a treatment for these conditions8 9.


Foods prepared with cannabis flower or extracts. Due to the breakdown and loss of active compounds in the extraction and cooking processes, edibles are notoriously difficult to dose accurately. Edibles are not currently legal for sale in Canada.

Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
A neural system in our bodies that regulates many basic processes, such as sleeping and waking, learning and brain development, digestion, immunity, pain perception, and reproduction. This system was named after the cannabis plant because it reacts to naturally occurring chemicals in our bodies (endocannabinoids) that mimic the active components in cannabis.

An illness characterized by unpredictable seizures caused by overactivity in the brain. CBD-based drugs (Epidiolex and Sativex) are used to reduce seizures in difficult cases that don’t respond to traditional medications, particularly in children10.


Fan Leaves
The iconic five-pointed leaves of the cannabis plant. Fan leaves are not usually smoked, but they can be processed for extraction. Read more about the anatomy of a cannabis plant.

Also known as the “bud,” the flower is the part of the plant that is harvested and contains all of the structures that carry high concentrations of active cannabinoids: the pistil (female reproductive organ), calyx (base) and trichomes (resin glands). Read more about the anatomy of a cannabis plant.


A disease of the eyes involving high internal pressure which causes damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma was the original condition treated with medical marijuana, where it was found that cannabis could help reduce the pressure within the eye.

A device for grinding up dried cannabis flower to prepare it for smoking in a pipe or rolling paper. May look like a small cheese grater (about the size and shape of a business card), or a small cylinder with grinding blades under the lid and a screen to separate fine grounds from large chunks (and sometimes a kief catcher).


Hemp (Or Industrial Hemp)
A fibrous variety of Cannabis Sativa, hemp is a fast-growing crop used for many industrial purposes including paper, cloth, clothing, rope, biodegradable plastics, biofuel, and animal feed11. Hemp contains very low concentrations of THC and relatively high concentrations of CBD.

High Times
The self-proclaimed “Magazine of High Society,” High Times has been covering cannabis news, information, and culture since 1974. It is the oldest and largest cannabis media outlet.

Human Clinical Trials
A final step in the research process. Cannabis studies usually begin using animals or isolated tissues to test a concept before it is tested with humans. The human clinical trial stage is essential for validating medical research because sometimes our bodies and brains react differently than animals or cell cultures.


One of two main varieties of cannabis plant. Indica plants tend to be shorter and have fatter leaves. Colloquially referred to as “In-da-couch,” many people report that indica strains produce a heavy “body high” that leaves them feeling relaxed and sleepy.


Dried cannabis flower rolled in thin, light paper for smoking. Slightly different than a blunt or spliff.


Cannabis resin crystals that crumble off the bud during grinding. These granules contain high concentrations of cannabinoids and can be sprinkled back onto the ground bud to increase potency. Some users collect kief to press into hash or cook into edibles.


As of October 17, 2018, there are only two countries where cannabis consumption (medical and recreational), is legal nationwide: Canada and Uruguay.


Menstrual Pain
Because of it’s anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, cannabis is used by some women to help with menstrual cramps and period pain.

A headache disorder that can cause visual disturbances, nausea, and debilitating pain. Many migraine sufferers use cannabis to help manage episodes and some report that it reduces the frequency and severity of their headaches12.

Mindful Consumption
Also known as “Low and Slow,” mindful consumption is a way to avoid unpleasant effects of using too much cannabis by easing into new strains or products with low doses and paying attention to how it affects your body. Visit to learn more about responsible consumption.

Multiple Sclerosis
A progressive disease caused by damage to nerve sheaths that can cause loss of coordination, impaired speech, numbness, and blurred vision. CBD has been used to help relieve pain and muscle tension in MS patients13.


In addition to nausea caused by chemotherapy (see “CINV”), cannabis can also be used to help relieve queasiness and increase appetite for AIDS patients. 

Reducing inflammation and oxidative stress to heal nerve tissue and protect it from further damage. The neuroprotective effects of CBD have been harnessed in therapies for Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and spinal injury14. 


Cannabis oil is a concentrate (i.e., extract) derived from the cannabis plant. It is currently the only concentrate legal to sell in Canada. Cannabis oil comes from different strains in a variety THC-to-CBD ratios. It is often taken under the tongue (“sublingually”), which produces fast results. This is being investigated as a safer consumption method for people who can’t tolerate smoking or vaping, such as asthmatics15.

Referring to the sense of smell. THC seems to heighten the sense of smell16, which increases the appetite. Other compounds, called terpenes, give cannabis strains distinctive aromas and have been linked to additional medical benefits17. 


Pain Management
Because of its reputation for reducing inflammation and easing pain, cannabis is used to manage pain in a wide variety of conditions, both chronic and injury related. Although most pain research and drug development is currently focused on CBD, experts are calling for deeper exploration of the many active compounds in cannabis (including over 100 cannabinoids and over 200 terpenes) to understand why patients respond differently to cannabis therapies and attempt to predict which compounds will produce the best effects for each individual18.

Parkinson’s Disease
Cannabis has been found to help decrease pain and improve motor function in Parkinson’s patients19.

Paradoxical Effects
When a medication or treatment produces the opposite of the expected response. For example, although many people report feeling aimless and confused when using cannabis, some people find that certain strains increase their concentration and productivity. This effect is being studied as a therapy for adult patients with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder20.

A plant-derived compound that reacts with cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system and other areas of the body to produce physical and/or psychoactive effects.


The female cannabis plant, which produces larger buds (harvestable parts) than a male plant. Many growers attempt to cultivate female-only crops because isolating females from males prevents pollination and results in bigger harvest yields.


Recreational Use
With legalization, adults are free to buy cannabis to consume in their own homes and other designated areas, but laws concerning public intoxication and driving under the influence apply. 

Part of the public health strategy behind legalizing cannabis is an attempt to regulate production and sales. Legislation aims to improve the labelling and safety of products, reduce use by minors, and eliminate the black market.

For some, the sense of relaxation and mental wellbeing that can accompany cannabis may improve confidence and ability to cope with difficult health conditions21. For others, it’s a helpful way to manage stress and unwind.

In jurisdictions where cannabis has been legalized, research can now move forward much more easily into the efficacy and safety of cannabis therapies.


One of two main varieties of cannabis plant. Sativa plants tend to be taller and have thinner leaves. Many people report that sativa strains are energizing and uplifting.

A cannabis concentrate that has a hard and glassy appearance. It is named for its brittleness and tendency to shatter when dropped. Like crumble, shatter is usually dabbed, and not yet legal for sale in Canada.

CBD appears to be helpful for treating insomnia, REM behaviour disorders, and PTSD-induced nightmares22. Read more about cannabis and sleep.

Smoke Soap
Special soap for cleaning sticky residue from cannabis grinders and pipes.

A combination of cannabis and tobacco rolled in paper to smoke.

Cannabis Stats Hub is a web tool maintained by Statistics Canada with numbers on cannabis use, demographics of users, pricing across the provinces, and other facts

Sugar Leaves
Small leaves that form part of the flower bud, sugar leaves got their name because they are coated with Trichome crystals. Read more about the anatomy of a cannabis plant. 


Aromatic chemicals that give many plants and foods their distinctive taste and smell. There are over 200 terpenes in cannabis, including limonene, myrcene, a-pinene, linalool, b-caryophyllene, caryophyllene oxide, nerolidol and phytol. Many have been linked to medical benefits23. Read more about terpenes. 

THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol)
The main psychoactive and intoxicating component of cannabis. THC can produce a sense of euphoria—a “high”—and is part of the mechanism that may help relieve nausea, improve appetite, and enhance the sense of taste and smell24. Studies have found that balancing THC with CBD can lessen any unpleasant side-effects and allow patients to increase their cannabis dose to get more effective relief of their symptoms25. 

Before legalization, Canadians who invested or worked in the marijuana industry were banned from travelling to the US. US customs has since changed its statement to read that Canadians connected to the legal marijuana industry will generally be allowed into the US for pleasure purposes, but not for business26. Within Canada, people may now freely travel with up to 30 grams of cannabis in their possession.  

Crystalline resin glands which contain the highest levels of cannabinoids and terpenes of all parts of the cannabis plant. Read more about the anatomy of a cannabis plant.


Unlike smoking, where cannabis flower is burned in a pipe or rolling papers, vaping heats the flower below the combustion point. This releases active compounds in a vapour that users can inhale, but doesn’t expose their lungs to ash particles and other byproducts of burning. Vaporizers can be tabletop units or portable pens, and range in price from $50 to $5000.


Water Pipe
Also known as a bong, a water pipe filters cannabis smoke through a water chamber to cool it. Users report this produces a more comfortable smoke.













[11] Keller, NM (2013), "The Legalization of Industrial Hemp and What it Could Mean for Indiana's Biofuel Industry" (PDF), Indiana International & Comparative Law Review, 23 (3): 555, doi:10.18060/17887 (inactive 2018-10-18)












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