Guide to key cannabis business terms

Cannabis terminology, Guide to key cannabis business terms

(Editor’s note: This is an informal summary of a scientific paper published in The Cannabis Scientist.)

The cannabis industry has only casual definitions for terms that are very important to the industry.

That leads to inefficiencies, as buyers and sellers might describe similar products with lots of different names or assume they are working from a shared definition.

Established commodity markets use strict terminology to define the physical nature of products and the specific characteristics that define its quality – and directly influence pricing.

For example, the American Petroleum Institute (API) has specifications for energy markets outlining specific gravity, sulfur content and viscosity. Buyers get a product suitable for the intended use, while sellers get a fair price based on those specifications.

The professionalization of cannabis requires some new norms. We need to share language to do business better.

To build that shared cannabis language, we gathered input from industry stakeholders and subject-matter experts at the 2020 MJBizCon Emerald Conference.

We presented proposed definitions, had a lively discussion, then voted on whether the proposed definition should be adopted.

Here are the cannabis business terms that were settled on:

Term Original, Proposed Definition Final Definition
Biomass Cannabis plant material that has been harvested from the field for the purpose of cannabinoid extraction. The resulting product consists of cannabis flowers, leaves and stalks and has been dried to less than or equal to 12% moisture on a dry-weight basis.


Harvested cannabis sativa (including hemp) plant matter.


Flower Material that has been harvested, climate-controlled cured, dried to less than or equal to 12% moisture on a dry-weight basis and trimmed for the specific purpose of retail consumption as a consumer product. Biomass flower is to be free of any molds, mildews, pesticides, herbicides and other contaminants.


The flowering portion of the plant, generally denser in trichomes, cannabinoids and terpenoids than the rest of the plant matter such as stalks and fan leaves.


Crude Cannabinoid-containing biomass that has been refined using CO2 supercritical extraction or other equivalent extraction methods to concentrate cannabinoids to an oil state. The resulting liquid is a thick but viscous amber to gold-colored liquid, typically exceeding 50% cannabinoid concentration.


Material extracted from cannabis (including hemp), often with solvent-based extraction methods, that includes compounds of interest (usually cannabinoids and terpenes), lipids and waxes.


Winterized oil Winterized crude oil is non-winterized crude oil that has been further refined by the process of winterization and decarboxylation to remove various waxes, lipids, chlorophyll and other unwanted plant material. The resulting product is an amber- to gold-colored liquid typically exceeding 50% cannabinoid concentration.


Material, often an oil, refined to remove lipids and waxes from crude.


Distillate Distillate is a highly refined extract typically containing a cannabinoid potency exceeding 75%. The distillation process involves the use of solvents such as butane or alcohol or solventless extraction methods to produce gold to clear viscous liquid. Full-spectrum distillate contains an undisturbed and full cannabinoid profile, showing measurable amounts of CBD, THC and other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBC, CBN, etc.. Material refined from cannabis (including hemp) concentrate, using distillation to separate compounds of interest. Often found to contain high percentages of single compounds.


Isolate A pure white, crystalline powder exceeding 98% for one individual cannabinoid. Through the refining process, all organic plant matter such as waxes, chlorophyll and plant oils have been removed, resulting in a highly concentrated product that’s free of other cannabinoids.


Material comprised of near-pure single compounds of interest.



We’ll keep evolving and extending this cannabis lexicon, aiming to eventually have an internationally recognized biological and chemical classification system.