Cannabis glossary

Image of cannabis plants in a greenhouse

Whether you’re new to the cannabis industry or a seasoned veteran, here are some terms everyone in the sector should know:

Airflow fans: Hanging circulation fans to facilitate air exchange in an indoor cultivation facility. Not the same as exhaust fans.

Airflow management: A system of managing airflow in an indoor cultivation facility to prevent mold and mildew by reducing humidity and condensation.

Benching systems: Raised platforms that support cannabis plants. Different benching systems are used, including stationary benches, rolling benches, palletized rolling benches and vertical tray racks.

Boom irrigation system: A system used to uniformly and automatically provide overhead watering, reducing labor and water waste. Typically used on young cannabis plants and plugs, while maturing plants are often watered with drip irrigation to prevent disease.

Blurple lights: Light emitting diode (LED) lights that are a combination of red and blue emitting a purple/pink light. Blurple lights are very energy efficient and support early vegetative and flowering stages but don’t offer a full light spectrum.

Broad spectrum: A category of extract used for CBD products, like full-spectrum CBD but with the THC removed. Broad-spectrum and full-spectrum products take a “whole plant” approach to extraction, using extraction techniques that preserve many components of the cannabis plant, including additional cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. See “Full spectrum.”

Broad-band spectrum: LED lights that emit a wide range of wavelengths that promote plant growth, including some that include far-red light. Broad-band spectrum LEDs are not as efficient at energy conversion as narrow-band spectrum LEDs.

Budder: A creamy, yellowish, THC-rich, dabbable cannabis concentrate that looks like butter (hence the name). Budder is produced using a carbon dioxide or butane extraction process. It is highly concentrated in THC (over 80%) with high levels of terpenes that give the concentrate product a favorable reputation.

Butane: A flammable gas used in hydrocarbon extraction to make butane hash oil (BHO). Butane is a petroleum derivative and is used in cannabis extraction because of its high purity and low boiling point.

BHO: Butane hash oil or butane honey oil, a concentrated cannabis extraction of up to 90% THC concentration that, when used, is typically referred to as “dabbing.” BHO is made using butane in a hydrocarbon extraction process and offers a wide range of consistency, potency and representation of the chemical compounds in the original cannabis variety that was processed. Because butane is highly flammable, BHO can be dangerous to make when not done so with proper safety standards.

Bubble hash: Named for the way it bubbles when smoked. The extract is made by adding bags of cannabis flower to ice water, agitating and freezing. This process breaks off the resin glands from the flower, which are then passed through screens several times until an unpressed, almost crumbly material is left. This is then subjected to heat and pressure. Bubble hash is made from frozen (not dried) flower material, making it a “live” product like live resin, but without the use of solvents.

Cannabidiol (CBD): One of more than 100 cannabinoids produced by cannabis plants, CBD is nonintoxicating and is often derived from hemp.

Cannabinoid: Chemical compounds produced by cannabis plants. THC and CBD are two of the most popular cannabinoids.

Cannabinoid distillation: Also known as fractional distillation, occurs after the extraction process. Intended to isolate desired cannabinoids from other chemical components in the cannabis oil. Cannabinoid distillation employs heat and vapor distillation and can be implemented at a small or large scale.

Cannabis: Short for Cannabis sativa L., the Latin plant name. Refers to both hemp and marijuana.

Canopy area (or canopy space): The surface area used to produce mature plants, calculated by square feet, often used to permit licensed marijuana growing facilities.

Canopy management: A term for the techniques and considerations used to maximize the efficiency of cannabis grow space.

Chromatography: Another post-extraction process used to isolate individual cannabinoids or take distillate to a 99% purity level. The extract is dissolved in a fluid and then passed through a secondary media. Because different components of the cannabis plant travel at different speeds, this creates separations between chemical components such as terpenes, cannabinoids and other plant materials. Chromatography is often used to remove THC yet retain a broad-spectrum CBD product.

Closed-loop extraction system: An extraction system that seals in the air, preventing gases of flammable solvents from escaping and greatly reducing the risk of explosion. Prior to closed-loop extraction systems, extractors used open-loop systems, which allowed gases to escape and left a solvent residue on the final product.

CO2 enrichment: Providing additional carbon dioxide in an enclosed greenhouse system to support cannabis plant growth.

CO2 extraction: Also known as supercritical CO2 extraction, CO2 cannabis extraction uses pressurized carbon dioxide. Unlike butane and ethanol processes, CO2 extraction works by subjecting the gas to extremely low temperatures, turning it into a liquid. Then it is heated and pressurized, creating supercritical CO2 fluid, which in turn is passed through a chamber containing raw cannabis, dissolving the oils out of the plant matter while capturing active compounds.

CO2 generator: A piece of equipment that produces carbon dioxide, typically using natural gas or propane. It can be set to turn on and off automatically.

Cold-pressed extraction: The same process used for cold-pressing essential oils, cold-pressed extraction is made by crushing the plant material to extract usable oil. The process is done at low temperatures. Cold-pressing typically results in smaller amounts of oil produced than other extraction methods, but it is considered a natural, solventless process for creating full-spectrum cannabis extract.

Concentrates: Extracts that contain extra-high amounts of cannabinoids, terpenes and other cannabis compounds. Concentrates can regularly reach THC levels of over 60%, with some—such as distillate—much higher. Concentrates are several times more potent than cannabis flower. Concentrates can be produced both through solvent-based and solventless extraction methods, with the result including products such as shatter, wax, budder, rosin, crystalline and distillate.

CRI (Color Rendering Index): A measurement of how well a light source reveals colors to the human eye compared to sunlight. Does a green look green? A red look red? A fixture with a low CRI may mask disease or pest issues and could pose problems for indoor growers with no natural light source.

Crude oil: The first oil, typically dark brown or black in color, that is produced during the cannabis extraction process, which needs additional steps to be ready for sale. It is more often discussed in ethanol and CO2 extraction processes as the high amount of refinement in butane or propane extraction product doesn’t require additional refinement.

Crumble: An extracted form of cannabis concentrate made via a butane or CO2 process. It is typically dry, with the consistency of crumbs, but can have a honeycomb-like structure. Because it is made from dried or frozen-fresh flowers, it is considered a type of live resin with a high proportion of terpenes and other original compounds.

Crystalline: Also called diamonds or isolates, crystalline is a cannabis isolate with over 99% cannabinoids, with a high degree of purity that forms a crystalline-type solid. It is made using a supersaturation process that purifies active materials in the extract, concentrating it and hence increasing its stability.

Cultivar: A plant variety that has been produced in cultivation through selective breeding.

Dabbable concentrate: Also known as dabs, a type of cannabis derivative that comes in a concentrate form. Dabbable concentrates may be crystallized or not and come in many different forms including shatter, budder, wax and crumble.

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Decarboxylation: Heating plant extract or cannabis oil to 105 degrees Fahrenheit to convert inactive cannabinoids such as CBD-A and THC-A into their active compounds. Decarboxylation can occur before the plant is extracted or after. BHO concentrates require decarboxylation because raw BHO doesn’t contain any activated compounds.

Dehumidification: A system of evacuating excess condensation inside a commercial greenhouse. May be accomplished through venting, heating and venting, using dehumidifier units or a heat pump to capture humidified air and exchange it with warm, dry air or a desiccant dehumidification system.

Delta-8 THC: An isomer of delta-9 THC, delta-8 is an intoxicating molecule that can be easily converted from CBD. See also “Tetrahydrocannabinol.”

Derivatives: Another way to describe extracts from the cannabis plant. Derivatives can come in many forms and are typically further defined as primary derivatives (terpenes and crude oil), secondary derivatives (refined oil or dabbable concentrates), tertiary derivatives (distillate), and secondary or recombined derivates (isolate).

Desiccant dehumidification: Uses chemicals to absorb liquid and reduce humidity with the ability to reuse the heat from the regeneration process for additional heating.

Diffused roof coverings: A greenhouse roof covering that improves the light penetrating the crop and generates better and more even growth. It does so by diffusing the light, reducing excess heat and crop stress while eliminating shades caused by structural elements in the greenhouse.

Distillate: A pure and extremely potent form of cannabis that does not contain any terpenes, making it tasteless. Distillate is made from a vacuum distillation process and has varied applications in edibles, topicals and beverages.

Distillation: A post-extraction process that isolates specific compounds from the cannabis plant. The process is done by boiling extracted oil at various temperatures to vaporize compounds at their boiling points, and then separating the compounds into their liquid forms on condensing coils.

DLC Listed, Rated or Approved: DLC stands for Design Lights Consortium, a non-profit organization formed to create and enforce energy-efficiency standards for horticultural lighting. A DLC-approved fixture meets minimum energy efficiency standards, exhibits lifetime durability and has been constructed to tolerate plant-growing environments.

DLI (Daily Light Integral): The cumulative value of photosynthetic light delivered per square meter per day (rather than per second). DLI and PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density) are both ways to measure how much light plants receive. DLI is the daily cumulative of PPFD.

Drip irrigation: An irrigation system that slowly drips water to cannabis plants. A low-pressure and low-volume system can also deliver fertilizer through a process known as fertigation. See “Fertigation.”

Emulsion: Cannabis extracts that have gone through an emulsification process to reduce the cannabinoid oils into tiny droplets that will disperse in water. Emulsions can be of nano, micro or macro size, depending on the particle size. Manufactures use emulsions to incorporate cannabis extracts into products such as drinks, creams and edibles.

Ethanol extraction: Also known as cryogenic ethanol or cold ethanol extraction, which involves soaking the cannabis plant in ethanol held at a very low temperature to separate the trichomes from the plant. Ethanol, or grain alcohol, is also used to produce many other products including perfumes, food coloring, flavorings and essential oils.

Environmental controls system: An automated system that controls all the growing processes in a greenhouse to maximize efficiency and standardize quality. Typically uses wireless sensors.

Exhaust fans: Fans that draw in cooler air through vents, louvers or doors.

Extraction: The process of converting cannabis biomass into a derivative using solvent or non-solvent technologies.

Extracts: Another name for cannabinoid derivatives.

Evapotranspiration: Water movement and loss (or transpiration) via evaporation of water at the leaf surface.

Far-red light: A wavelength that falls out of the definition of PAR but influences the plant’s shape, how large the leaves might become and how much extension the plant might develop, greatly affecting how large a plant might become.

Fertigation: Delivery of nutrients through a watering system.

Fiber: Long, brownish strands within a cannabis stalk. Fibers are present in all cannabis varieties but are longest and toughest in varieties bred for use in textiles. Fiber is sometimes called “bast.”

Filtration: An essential step to create stable cannabinoid products. It involves using vacuums, pumps or paper filters to remove lipids that come to the surface of a cannabis extract such as waxes, fats and oils during the winterization process.

Fixture efficacy: The energy efficiency of a fixture, or how much output is generated per unit of energy and how efficient a fixture is at converting energy into photosynthetic light. Fixture efficacy is especially important for indoor lighting.

Flower: The flowering buds of cannabis plants are rich in cannabinoids. Flower is commonly dried and cured before being packaged and sold wholesale or to consumers.

Full spectrum: Referring to extracted cannabinoids that haven’t been isolated.

Full-spectrum extract: A whole-plant extraction process undergoing minimal refinement similar to broad spectrum; however, THC is not removed from full-spectrum extract.

Greenhouse glaze: The material used to cover a greenhouse that includes properties to diffuse direct sunlight, which promotes better growth. Materials may be single- or double-layer polyethylene film, corrugated polycarbonate, double-strength glass or multi-wall polycarbonate.

Hash: A cannabinoid concentrate derived from trichomes, the resin-rich, ripe glands on the surface of cannabis flower heads. Hash can come in various types, such as dry sift hash and ice water hash.

Headhouse: A section of a greenhouse facility that serves as a work center without sacrificing growing space. May act as storage, office, seeding and potting, harvest and shipping space.

Hemp: Cannabis sativa L. plants with no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight, the standard used by many governments, including the United States, to differentiate hemp from marijuana. In some countries, the term includes plants that make THC-rich marijuana.

Hemp hearts: The tender inner parts of hemp seeds, commonly eaten whole because they are rich in healthy proteins and amino acids.

HID: High-intensity discharge (HID) lights produce light by creating an arc of electricity between two electrodes housed inside a tube filled with a noble gas. They produce much more light per watt than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. HPS and metal halide lights are types of HID lights traditionally used in horticultural lighting.

HPS: High-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps are high-intensity light bulbs filled with sodium that produce large amounts of light and heat energy. HPS lamps had been the industry standard for horticultural (and cannabis) lighting until the advent of LEDs (see below). They generally produce a red or yellowish light.

Hurd: The woody inner core of a cannabis plant.

HVAC: Heating, ventilating and air conditioning. Should be engineered per greenhouse to accommodate the size, amounts of plants and temperature requirements depending on location and growing goals.

Hydrocarbon extraction: A solvent-based extraction technology that typically uses butane or propane as its solvent. Hydrocarbon extraction uses a non-polarized method (unlike ethanol extraction), which captures desired cannabinoids and terpenes while not capturing undesirable compounds like chlorophyll and plant metabolites, which require further refinement. Hydrocarbon extraction creates a highly refined cannabis oil, which can then be further processed into many products. However, because it uses solvents that are highly flammable, hydrocarbon extraction is considered the most dangerous extraction method.

Ice water hash: See “Bubble hash.”

Insect screening: A system of screening to prevent insects from getting into a cannabis greenhouse facility. Screens might include vent screens or screening for equipment like HVAC systems or the greenhouse itself.

Insulated wall panel: Insulated wall panels are used to enclose grow rooms and provide a solid moisture resistant barrier and help prevent contamination from mold, pests and airborne pathogens.

Isolate: A purified individual cannabinoid in a crystalline solid or powder that is created through the chromatography process. Isolate contains only pure isolated cannabinoids.

Joule: A unit of energy (J). The amount of electricity required to light one watt for one second.

Kief: The dried resin glands coating the outside of a cannabis plant. Kief is a decompressed precursor of hash.

Lignin: A polymer found in the cell walls of many plants, including cannabis plants. Related to cellulose, lignin is what makes a plant rigid and woody.

LED: Light-emitting diode (LED) lights are much more energy efficient at producing high intensity than HPS lamps and can produce light in many more spectrums. However, LED fixtures are variable in their optimization for spectrum and light intensity based on manufacturer and are typically much more expensive to buy initially.

Light deprivation greenhouse: A greenhouse set up to artificially control the amount of light cannabis plants receive. Typically done by manual or automatic shade covers.

Light quality: Describes the colors of the light or the spectrum of the light, for example, how much blue, green, red or other light spectrums are emitted from a light source. Not all are visible to the human eye.

Light quantity: Refers to the intensity or the brightness of the light and the number of photons produced. Light quantity may be measured as the instantaneous amount of light (PAR) produced or the cumulative amount delivered in a day (DLI).

Lighting uniformity: How evenly light is distributed to a growing area, including uniformity of light spectrum and intensity. Because lighting regulates plant growth, flowering and water consumption, the uniformity of the lighting impacts the uniformity of the crop.

Live resin: A cannabis concentrate made from fresh plant material that has not been dried or cured and then extracted with a solvent. Live resin can be made from cannabis biomass that has been flash frozen, retaining desirable compounds and flavors. Live resin is considered a high-quality, connoisseur-level product.

Marijuana: Cannabis sativa L. plants with more than 0.3% THC, the intoxicating compound in cannabis.

Metal halide light: An HID light with metal halide as the gas inside the bulb. Metal halide lamps give off a whiter/bluer light than HPS lamps and were traditionally used by growers in the vegetative stage of growth.

Micromoles (µmol): Unit used to measure how bright the light is. One mole equals 1,000,000 micromoles. Growers use micromoles to measure the PPFD, a measure of the number of actual photons emitted over a square meter per second—expressed as µmol of photons m-² s-¹ of PAR. A daily mole measurement (or DLI) is an expression of moles of light per square meter per day.

Moles: The measurement of photons emitted by a light source.

Nano emulsion: Using ultrasonic waves to shatter cannabinoid molecules into tiny nanoparticles that can then be used in an emulsification. Nano emulsion also involves an emulsifier, which allows the cannabinoid molecules to dissolve and be mixed into water without separating.

Narrowband Spectrum: LED lights limited to the red and blue spectrums, sometimes referred to as “blurple” lights because of the purple-pink color they emit. Narrow-band spectrum lights are more energy efficient than broad-band spectrum or white lights (see above) and are often used in greenhouse situations where sunlight is also utilized.

Odor misting: High-pressure fogging techniques typically on automated controls that eliminate cannabis odors. May be required, depending on the location of a cannabis greenhouse operation.

Open-loop extraction system: See closed-loop extraction system.

Palletized rolling benches (aka Dutch trays): Benches with tabletops that roll in both directions in a greenhouse, perpendicular and parallel to the headhouse. Palletized rolling benches allow the benches to double as the plant material handling system.

PAR (Photosynthetically active radiation): The waveband of light from 400 to 700 nanometers driving plant photosynthesis and therefore the wavebands that horticulturalists are interested in measuring. PAR also equals light intensity and the terms are often used interchangeably.

PHO: Propane hash oil. Sometimes called PHO wax. PHO uses the same hydrocarbon extraction process as BHO but with propane as the solvent instead of butane. PHO cannabinoid concentrates have a budder-like consistency and are high-potency extracts. PHO extraction can preserve even more terpenes than BHO so it may taste better than BHO, but it is not as versatile for creating products.

Photons: Tiny particles of energy (light) in the PAR range. Photons are converted into useful energy by plants through the photosynthetic process. Different photons have different wavelengths—a blue photon has a short wavelength, and a red photon has a longer wavelength. Photons are measured in micromoles.

Photoperiodic lighting: Delivering low-intensity lighting to create long lighting days when actual days are short.

Polyethylene: Common plastic used to cover many cannabis greenhouse structures.

PPF (Photosynthetic photon flux): The total amount of PAR light emitted by a fixture each second. The values of PPF vary widely from one fixture to another. Some fixtures emit a tremendous amount of light, so growers need fewer fixtures to obtain their desired light intensity. Others emit very little light, and growers thus need more fixtures to meet their desired light intensity.

PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density): The PPFD is the light intensity (or photons) delivered to a given surface per second. Light intensity decreases as the distance from the light source and surface increases. PPFD is measured using a quantum sensor and is used to calculate DLI (see above).

Quantum Sensor: Also known as a “PAR meter.” Measures the intensity of light, or the numbers of photons emitted by a source of lighting, using micromoles per square meter per second as the unit of measurement.

Refined extract: Also known as refined oil, cannabinoid-rich oil that has undergone additional winterization and clarification processes. Refined oil is processed from crude oil. Extraction processes like BHO are highly refined in the extraction itself, so they produce a highly refined oil without further processing.

Relative humidity (RH): The amount of moisture in the air. It must be controlled to prevent the development of mold and disease in cannabis plants.

Remediation: Removing THC from cannabis distillate, usually through a chromatography process.

Resin: The dark brown, sticky substance found on a cannabis plant’s trichomes producing all the plant’s medical and psychoactive effects. Resin is considered the most valuable part of the cannabis plant and products containing resin are called concentrates.

Rick Simpson Oil: Developed by Canadian Rick Simpson as a highly potent cannabis extract purported to cure cancer, hence named for him. RSO is a full-spectrum oil typically taken orally or topically applied. It is an unrefined cannabis oil made by crushing cannabis into ethanol, letting it steep, and then boiling off the alcohol. It can be made at either a small or large scale.

Rolling benches: Benches designed with rolling tabletops that move from one side to another, eliminating non-efficient aisleways.

Rolling screen: Improves energy management and blackout for sidewalls, preventing unwanted sunlight and heat from entering.

Roof vents: Vents on the roof of a greenhouse structure that open to reduce heat and humidity. Often set up on automatic controls and used in conjunction with side vents to encourage natural ventilation.

Rosin: Solventless cannabis concentrate made using high pressure and temperatures, resulting in a THC-rich resin that is typically dabbed. Rosin is a simple technique that can be done on a small scale, though new equipment innovation is allowing for larger-scale rosin manufacturing. Rosin is considered one of the safest methods for extraction.

Seed: Seeds of the cannabis plant can be used to grow more cannabis, or eaten or pressed into oil, similar to flax or canola seeds.

Shade systems: A system of shading out light to provide blackout times to meet cannabis light-deprivation needs and induce flowering. Typically, a mounted curtain can be rolled out or in as needed.

Shatter: A refined cannabis extract with high concentrations of acid-forming cannabinoids, typically crystalline in appearance and usually used for dabbing or vaporizing.

Shuttle rolling bench system: A type of palletized rolling bench system equipped with an automatic greenhouse cultivation system, including ebb-and-flow irrigation devices and an operational control system.

Side vents: Vents in the sidewall of a greenhouse that open to reduce heat and humidity. Often set up on automatic controls and used in conjunction with roof vents to encourage natural ventilation.

Sole-Source Lighting: Lighting for crops grown entirely indoors with the only light available coming from electric lighting.

Solvent: A substance with properties that allow the dissolution of cannabis plant material into a solute that is further refined into extract. Commonly used solvents in the cannabis industry include butane, CO2, ethanol and propane.

Solventless concentrates: Cannabis extracts made without using a solvent. Instead, air, heat, water or ice are often used. Common forms are kief, ice water hash and rosin. These concentrates often are marketed as offering a “whole-plant experience,” meaning they retain the minor cannabinoids, terpenes and other elements when consuming marijuana flower.

Solvent recovery: The recovery and recycling of solvents used in the cannabis extraction system. Solvent recovery can make extraction processes more efficient and allow for larger facilities because less solvent is needed if solvents can be recovered and reused.

Solute: The substance that is desirable to be removed from the plant material. In the cannabis industry, the desirable solutes are the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, etc.

Stalk: The tough stem of a cannabis plant, including a woody inner core (hurd) surrounded by brownish fibers (bast).

Strain: A unique genetic variety of the cannabis plant, often used to name flower. For example, Sour Diesel or Northern Lights. Strain names are not standardized, and the genetics can vary from grower to grower even though the same strain name is used.

Supplemental lighting: Providing plant-appropriate lighting either in addition to natural sunlight or in enclosed areas of the greenhouse to meet the cannabis plant’s specific light needs for that period of the plant’s growth.

Terpene juice: A typically liquid or sap extract used for dabbing or vaporizing. It contains large volumes of terpenes and low concentrations of cannabinoids.

Terpenes: Naturally occurring chemical compounds that are responsible for the aromas, flavors and colors associated with various types of vegetation. Cannabis terpenes give strains different tastes and smells. They often are marketed as having other benefits such as relaxation or creativity.

Terpsolates: A product made post-extraction through the recombination of hemp-CBD isolates to terpenes in order to enhance flavor and terpene-related effects.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): The cannabinoid that becomes an intoxicant when heated. “THC” is acceptable on first reference.

Tincture: A cannabis-infused oil typically consumed sublingually or mixed into food and drinks.

Trellis system: A system of supporting and organizing cannabis plant growth to promote airflow and space that encourages fuller flower formation, without protecting against bud rot and mold. May consist of wooden, plastic or metal frames and typically a square netting draped over the plant that it grows through.

Vapor pressure deficit (VPD): Calculating the exact combination of temperature and relative humidity to achieve peak plant performance.

Vertical racking system: A tiered racking system that takes advantage of vertical space and stacks plants on multiple racks. Used with supplemental LED lighting. Can be installed on carriage systems to automate moving the racks.

Wax extract: Also known as crude extract derived in the CO2 extraction process. It is the first product in the extraction process and contains all the solutes extracted from the plant material.

Water-based extraction: A cold-water method that causes resin glands to break off flower heads by agitating them in a freezing, cold-water bath. Not technically an extraction process, as it separates (versus extracts) cannabinoids from the plant material. See “Bubble hash.”

Winterization: A process of dissolving crude extract in ethanol at warm temperatures, and then cooling the liquid to allow for removal of fats, waxes and lipids left over from the extraction process. Winterization is typically needed following CO2 extraction and turns crude oil into a refined oil that can be sold or further processed.

Zone segmentation: Areas within a greenhouse separated for different growing requirements like propagation versus vegetative stages. Typically achieved with inside gable walls or sidewalls and properly designed HVAC systems with good environmental controls.