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What are sativa, indica, THC and CBD?

10 key terms every budding consumer should understand about marijuana—sorry, cannabis
Francois Marchand

Here are 10 key terms every budding consumer should know about marijuana—sorry, cannabis. The two words refer to the same plant, though “marijuana”—which is Mexican Spanish in origin—became the U.S. government’s preferred term in the 1930s, when it wanted to scapegoat Latinos for the newly forbidden narcotic.


Marijuana in herb (bud) form.

Hash and Oil
Hash is the powdered form of the trichomes (sticky hairs) found on marijuana plants. Highly potent in THC and/or CBD. Processed in oil form, it can be used in cooking (edibles).

Wax and Shatter
Highly potent marijuana concentrates. Wax is dense and opaque, while shatter is translucent and brittle. Both can be melted into smoke and inhaled, a technique called dabbing.

Part of the cannabis plant used to make a variety of commercial products including rope, paper and building materials. Also considered a renewable fuel source.


Tetrahydrocannabinol is the main cannabinoid molecule (there are more than 100) contained in marijuana. THC is the psychoactive element that makes you feel high.

Unlike THC, the cannabidiol molecule (CBD) has no psychoactive effect. Processed into oils, tinctures and caplets, CBD is used for medical purposes, such as the treatment of nausea, arthritis and anxiety.

Plants & strains

A plant type known for its uplifting and energetic properties. Sativa strains are used to treat depression and enhance mood. Can also cause anxiety and paranoia in some users. Strain varieties include Lemon Haze and Maui Wowie.

A plant type known for its relaxing properties. Indica strains deliver a less cerebral body high. Used to treat chronic pain, insomnia and anxiety. Strain varieties include the popular Purple Kush and Master Kush.

A smaller, less common type found in harsher climates, with low THC content.

A cross between two strains of cannabis, blending preferred traits from each one. Many strains found in dispensaries are hybrids (Pineapple Express and a variety of Kush combinations).