Legal Cannabis: a Few Key Terms Everyone Should Know


Cannabis is not only legal across swaths of North American and Europe – notably in Canada and certain US states – but the cultural attitude around the plant has relaxed significantly in recent years. No longer the “reefer madness” of the latter half of the 20th Century, cannabis is being embraced for what it is: a recreational drug with medicinal benefits.

Not everyone is on board yet, but you can feel the sea change. More news stories are reporting on cannabis as it relates to daily life rather than criminal activity, and as a result average people have grown more curious of the once-taboo plant. It’s hard, however, to get pertinent information about cannabis, to have your questions answered satisfactorily, without some kind of spin.

To help the cannabis-curious understand a few of the basic topics surrounding cannabis – what’s in it, how one can use it and what effects it can have – here are some common terms to learn.


Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds in cannabis. When people discuss the compounds in cannabis, they often (almost exclusively, in fact) refer to the big two: THC and CBD.

THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive compound in cannabis, responsible for the well-known “high” and euphoria one feels with cannabis. CBD, or cannabidiol, is the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, renowned for its mitigating effect on anxiety, as well as its many medical benefits.


Those who want to enjoy cannabis but prefer not to bring smoke into their lungs often turn to “edibles”. Usually a baked good of some sort, like a brownie or cookie, edibles are infused with cannabis and produce what some people report is a different type of high. You can go for an energetic sativa lollipop, for instance, or try these relaxing indica infused cookies (more on sativa and indica below).


You will often hear a type of cannabis referred to as either “indica” or “sativa” although this is a false dichotomy, and a complex and overlapping one at that. In general, it’s believed that indica strains are more relaxing, whereas sativa strains are more energizing. These classifications aren’t entirely based in science (after all, the illegalization of cannabis in the 20th Century halted a lot of scientific inquiry) but rather a way of conveniently distinguishing certain characteristics and effects. Complicating matters are what are called “hybrids”, mixes of the two types in a single strain.


Ever wondered where cannabis gets its distinct smell and flavour? Ever wondered why it alternately smells piney, lemony, peppery or skunky? That’s the handiwork of terpenes, hydrocarbon molecules that form the essential oils of plants – not just cannabis, but citrus trees, evergreens and many other plants. There are a few common terpenes found in cannabis, like “limonene”, responsible for a citrusy aroma and flavour, and pinene, which has a piney, herbaceous taste.  

Knowing these terms is like passing Cannabis 101. They form the basis for understanding this complex, and still often misunderstood, plant.