How’s your cannabis vocabulary?

Hemp vocabulary

Out of the following, only one statement is true. Can you spot it? 

#1. Marijuana and hemp are the same. 

#2. All cannabis plants make you ‘high’. 

#3. Hemp is a type of cannabis with low THC. 

You probably knew that only #3 is correct. 

But you’re in the minority. 

Don’t be surprised.

In India’s nascent hemp market, even industry insiders and bureaucrats mix up these terms. 

Just the other day, I had a chat with a bureaucrat in Uttarakhand who was jumbling up these terms left, right, and center.

So, let’s set the record straight. 

This article will break down these terms in the simplest way possible. Let’s dive in.

It goes way beyond basic cannabis versus hemp, or marijuana versus hemp debates. That’s not my purpose. 

I wanted to write a guide that lets even a layman understand hemp versus marijuana and everything beyond. 

After you’ve read this, you’ll be able to answer confounding questions like:

  • What is Hemp?
  • Hemp vs. Cannabis: What’s the Difference?
  • What is Cannabis?
  • What is Marijuana?
  • Cannabis Sativa: What Does It Mean?
  • What are Cannabis strains?
  • What is bhaang?
  • What is charas?
  • What is hashish?
  • What is Medical vs. Recreational Use?
  • What is CBD (Cannabidiol)?

A Friendly Guide to Cannabis Vocabulary

  • Cannabis: A family of three psychoactive plants – Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. 

This is what cannabis looks like. 


  • Cannabis Sativa: A species of Cannabis known for its energizing effects due to a higher concentration of THC, the compound that induces the high sensation.


  • Hemp: A type of Cannabis sativa, grown for industrial applications. Hemp is rich in CBD (another chemical compound in the plant) and low in THC, reducing its psychoactive effects. Applications include fiber for textiles and construction, oils, lotions, and even food.


  • Marijuana: This term specifically refers to parts of the Cannabis sativa plant with high THC levels. More specifically, this is the psychoactive dried resinous flower buds and leaves of the cannabis plant.


  • Strains: Different varieties of cannabis plants, each with its unique mix of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds, contributing to their varied effects.

So now you know how to answer hemp versus cannabis, or hemp versus marijuane. 

In fact, only one of the above two questions makes sense. 

Hemp versus cannabis is no question. It’s like asking: car versus automobile. 

Cannabis is the set. Hemp and marijuana are the subsets. 

(Remember, this is for informational purposes only.)

  • Medical vs. Recreational Use: These terms refer to the different reasons for using cannabis, but the distinction can sometimes be unclear.
  • Bhaang: A popular drink in India, especially during Holi, made from cannabis leaves, milk, sugar, and spices. It has a milder psychoactive effect compared to other cannabis products.
  • Charas: Similar to hashish, it’s a cannabis extract made from the plant’s resin and typically smoked.
  • Hashish (or Hash): A concentrated form of cannabis made from the plant’s resin, often confused with other cannabis products.
  • Vaping and Dabbing: These are methods of consuming cannabis, either as a heated liquid/oil (vaping) or as heated concentrates (dabbing). The effects can differ from smoking.
  • Cannabinoid: Chemical compounds in cannabis that interact with cannabinoid receptors in the body to produce various effects. THC and CBD are the most well-known, but there are many others.
  • CBD (Cannabidiol): One of many cannabinoids in cannabis, CBD doesn’t cause a high and is often used for potential therapeutic effects like pain relief and anxiety reduction.
  • THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol): The main psychoactive compound in cannabis that gives the high sensation. It can be consumed by smoking cannabis or through oils, edibles, tinctures, capsules, and more.
  • Terpenes: Aromatic compounds in many plants, including cannabis, contributing to the plant’s flavor and aroma. They may also have therapeutic effects but are often confused with cannabinoids.

Lastly, a few more terms.

  • Edibles: Food products infused with cannabis, but the potency and effects can vary greatly.
  • Concentrates: Products like oils, tinctures, and waxes made by extracting active compounds from cannabis. They can be much more potent than other forms, which can be confusing for users.

An example to illustrate key concepts

Let me set the scene. 

It’s a Sunday afternoon. 

I’m in my kitchen, the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting through the air. 

Sunlight streams in through the window, casting long shadows on the wooden countertops. 

I open a cabinet, revealing rows of neatly arranged containers and spices.

Now, imagine this kitchen cabinet as the world of cannabis.

Cannabis – the entire kitchen cabinet. It’s the big picture, the umbrella term that encompasses everything else.

Inside this cabinet, we have three main shelves: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis. Each shelf represents a different species of the Cannabis plant, each with its own unique characteristics.

On the Cannabis Sativa shelf, we find two large containers: Hemp and Marijuana. Hemp is filled with products that have more CBD and less THC, while Marijuana is filled with products that have more THC. Think of them as two types of coffee beans – one decaf (Hemp), and one regular (Marijuana).

Next to these, we have smaller containers: Bhaang, Charas, Hashish. These are specific products derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant, like different types of coffee brews – espresso, latte, cappuccino, each with its own unique preparation and taste.

Inside these containers, we find ingredients: THC and CBD. THC is like a strong spice that gives a potent flavor (or in this case, a psychoactive effect), while CBD is a milder ingredient used for its potential therapeutic benefits.

You might also see labels like Weed or Pot stuck on the Marijuana container. They’re just different names for the same thing, like calling coffee a cup of joe or a morning brew.

So, there you have it. A tour of the cannabis world, right from inside the experimental kitchen of my dreams.

Remember, understanding these terms is hard.

Even industry experts get it wrong.

You can do better. 

Can you understand now, hemp versus marijuana?

What happens when you consume cannabis?

Ever heard of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) of the body?


One you understand this, you’ll never be confused about hemp versus marijuana. 

Let’s imagine our body as a vast city.

In this city, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) acts like a communication network, linking different parts and ensuring everything runs smoothly.

The ECS is a complex cell-signaling system in our bodies. Think of it as the city’s telephone lines, connecting various departments and coordinating their actions.

Now, onto the key players in this system: endocannabinoids. These are like the city’s operators, sending messages across the network. Our body produces these naturally, and they’re similar to cannabinoids found in cannabis, like THC and CBD.

Next, we have receptors. These are the telephone sets, receiving the calls (messages) from endocannabinoids. There are two main types: CB1 receptors, found mostly in the brain, and CB2 receptors, more common in the immune system.

A quick summary:

  • ECS = telephone lines
  • Endocannabinoids = telephone operators
  • Receptors (CB1 and CB2) = telephone sets

When you consume cannabis, cannabinoids like THC and CBD enter the city.

THC, being a bit of a mischief-maker, binds directly with CB1 receptors, especially in the brain. This connection is like a prank call causing a bit of chaos, resulting in the ‘high’ feeling.

On the other hand, CBD is like a responsible citizen. It doesn’t bind directly with either type of receptors but influences them and other parts of the ECS. This helps maintain balance in the city, contributing to potential therapeutic benefits.

Cannabis which has more THC and less CBD, is marijuana.

The one that has more CBD and less THC, is hemp.

This is a bit too simplistic, but good enough for beginners.

By understanding this system, we can better appreciate how compounds like THC and CBD interact with our bodies and their potential effects.