Cannabis 101: Class in Sesh

4 minute read

From Reefer Madness to a mainstream cannabis culture, weed’s history in the United States has been shakier than my doge investments.

Unlike those quickly disappearing profits, however, recent history has been on an upward trend. With more states legalizing cannabis every year, cannabis sales are growing across every demographic of legal age.

As legal risk lifts, many people are trying cannabis for the first time. If that’s you, welcome. It’s a big tent, and everyone's invited, but please close the door flap behind you because we’re trying to hotbox it.

Once upon a time, knowing if you had an indica or sativa dominant strain was a luxury. These days, you can know the exact percentages of THC in a strain while perusing the vast selection of options both online and at dispensaries.

Variety is a blessing to long-time users, but all the ways to smoke, eat, or vaporize cannabis can be overwhelming for the uninitiated. 

I’ve put together this helpful guide to help answer questions we have all had at one point during our cannabis journey.

Cannabis VS Marijuana

Cannabis and hemp 

Although cannabis and marijuana are terms that are often used interchangeably, it is a square and rectangle situation. All marijuana is cannabis, but not the opposite. 

Cannabis bred and grown for us to get high is marijuana, but pot’s cousin hemp is cannabis as well. Hemp cannot be smoked to get the same effects as marijuana. It is commonly used to make a variety of functional products, like textiles, or rolling papers for smoking marijuana.

The difference all comes down to THC levels. In the United States, the line between hemp and marijuana is .3% THC.

But it also has a racist history- the word “marijuana” was, in fact, invented during prohibition as a xenophobia-centric fear campaign. Since it sounds like Spanish, many white Americans were led to believe that “Marijuana” was being imported by Mexicans. This, in turn, helped prohibition laws pass in order to mitigate damage to the paper and fuel industries.

This being a lesser known happenstance, the word “marijuana” hasn’t exactly been fully cancelled on Twitter... yet.

Today, the “Marihuana” smear campaign’s efficacy is nearly null, as we are seeing hemp flourish in the public eye. The necessity of low-THC, high-CBD plants for the growing CBD market has created a new market for hemp, which historically has been used for industrial applications.

Whether you call it cannabis, marijuana, or prefer one of the many more colloquial names isn’t as important as enjoying it. Flower, or dried herb, is still the standard. Break it up with the help of a grinder if you want to save time and finger strength. 

We prefer “weed”, our parents “pot”, and our rather inappropriate grandparents called it “jazz cabbage”. Not a huge fan of the last one, personally.

Pack it or roll it, light up, and inhale. It’s so easy that humans were smoking cannabis before the Roman Empire was fully established.

Smoking statue


So what’s the difference between CBD and THC?

CBD and THC are the two most well-known of the many cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are a chemical aspect that makes plants in the cannabis genus unique. THC is what gets you high. This compound produces the psychoactive effects that make a high enjoyable; the higher the percentage, the stronger the effects.

Conversely, CBD rich plants with a low enough THC count lose the high while keeping a lot of the pain and stress management benefits. This is why CBD is legal to sell in some states where THC cannabis is otherwise still illegal.
cbd and thc chemical makeupCBD won’t show up in a urine sample, so if you’re trying to pass a drug test, it’s an okay way to relax. Keep in mind if you do consume THC that it is stored in body fat- you can get this out with detox pills containing Niacin and lots of water. Just don’t drink the bong water. This was a myth created to tease college freshmen.

Indicas, Sativas, and Hybrids

No one expects you to be an expert on every strain walking into a dispensary. But you can prepare by researching what type of strain you’d like to try. There are indica strains and sativa strains, and there are also hybrids that lean toward indica or sativa. If you’re brand new, you may not find any difference between the two until you consistently start picking up and trying new strains.

What are you looking for in your high? Whether you’re a medicinal cannabis patient seeking health benefits or you simply want to enjoy getting faded, choosing your preferred strain is the best first step.

There’s a favorite saying among cannabis lovers--indicas will put you “in da couch”. If you want to experience what’s known as the lazy smoker “body high”, you’ll want to ask your budtender for an indica.

Popular indica strains like OG Kush, Northern Lights, and Grandaddy Purple can help alleviate issues with chronic pain or just help you relax in front of the tv for a nice lazy Sunday. 

Sativas are more of a “head high” and some would say they provide a cerebral experience. If you’re looking for something to help with anxiety or to get high on without bringing your energy down, you’ll want to try a sativa first.

Of course, it’s nice to have a little of everything around. Finding a sativa strain you really vibe with can help you power through the chores list or get the creative juices flowing. A good indica is key to winding down at the end of the day. 

Hybrids are strains that have been genetically modified to contain indica and sativa features, producing the effects of both. Typically, a strain is either indica-dominant or sativa-dominant and can affect each person differently. Wedding Cake is one of the most popular indica-dominant strains available, but the best way to find your favorite is old-fashioned experimentation.

The Science--Terpenes

It’s easy to assume that the difference between sativas and indicas lies in their cannabinoid content. In truth, indicas have a higher percentage of myrcene, which is a terpene. Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants which give them recognizable scents, and are not unique to cannabis. If you’ve ever toured a brewery and wondered why hops smell distinctly dank, it’s that same myrcene!

As a general rule, the high myrcene indicas have a skunky smell while sativas trend more earthy. Individual strains can have a wide variety of terpene profiles that result in strains with hints of citrus, apple, or even diesel. 

Whatever the specific smell, it can be strong. A good stash jar is crucial if you want to keep the odor contained. As an added bonus, an airtight container keeps your weed fresh between each sesh. After you smoke, try spraying some Ozium and the air will clear up quite nicely.

Many times, terpenes are manufactured and  introduced artificially, which is how there are candy and fruit vape flavors on the market.

You have probably tasted Bright Bay terpenes without knowing it if you have ever tried a CBD or THC vape cartridge!

What are Terpenes and How Do They Enhance Cannabis? - Vaping360
Next Class

Now that you know the basics, keep an eye out for the next lesson, where I’ll take a deeper dive into some of the many different ways the stoned stay stoned.


  1. Online Headshop: High Life Goods
  2. Cannabis attorneys: Norml
  3. Recipes and other cool stuff: The Cannabist
  4. Local dispensaries: Weedmaps