Many people confuse the various names for cannabis products. In this article, we are going to hash out the nomenclature of cannabis, meaning the terms used for its products.

Latin Scientific Name – Cannabis sativa

First off, every plant in the world has a scientific name based on latin. In the case of cannabis, that name is Cannabis sativa. You may have heard the term sativa before. We will write a separate article about the differences (or lack thereof) between sativa and indica subspecies of cannabis. For now, just know that the scientific name for the cannabis species is Cannabis sativa. Forms and products of the Cannabis sativa plant can all be considered Cannabis for short.


Cannabis sativa has been used to produce industrial products, like fabric and textiles, for many thousands of years. The word canvas derives from the word cannabis. Cannabis can also be used for food. The seeds of the plant are nutritious and can be pressed for oil that can be used as an ingredient or cooking with.

Traditionally, cannabis that is used for industrial material and nutrition is called hemp. The federal government has allowed hemp to be legal because it does not contain as much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THC-A), the chemicals that cause users to be high. The government has designated a specific amount of THC that legally allows cannabis products to be sold as hemp. The percentage of THC by weight must be 0.3% or less. Any more than this and it is no longer called hemp and is technically illegal federally.

The CBD industry has used the term hemp to market their products because it suggests that there is 0.3% THC or less. For example, products labeled as “CBD hemp oil” are simply oil pressed from Cannabis sativa seeds that, by definition, contains less than 0.3% THC or THC-A.


As mentioned, Cannabis sativa contains THC and THC-A (mostly THC-A) which are chemicals that cause users to be high and provide medical benefits in a number of ways (see conditions section for more information). For this reason, cannabis can be used as a medicine. Cannabis sold for the purpose of therapeutic value and getting high is called marijuana. For more information about recreational vs medical marijuana, click here.

Marijuana products are cultivated for their THC content. The amount of THC is increasing over the decades as stronger plants are being selected for the breeding process. Usually, marijuana is cultivated in a way that prevents their pollination so that seeds are not present in the flower, the part of the plant that contains the THC. This is done by removing the male plants before they are sexually mature so only the females are present. This technique was developed in the 80’s in Mexico and the flower product was called sensimilla (meaning seedless).

Originally, the term marijuana was actually spelled marihuana, with an H instead of a J. Government propoganda changed the spelling to make it seem more foreign and link it to Mexican drug dealers. Some people consider the current spelling with a J to be racist but it has been made so common that most people just appreciate the history behind the newer word marijuana and accept it as the correct spelling.

Street Terms

Few things have as many street terms and lingo as cannabis does. There are hundreds of ebonic and colloquial synonyms for cannabis. Some of the most common are pot, weed, bud, ganhjam, reefer, 420, grass, and chronic.  More recently, high quality marijuana is called loud and low-quality is called reggie. The worst marijuana products that have a lot of seeds and stems are called shwag.