Types of Cannabis and Health Risks
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
With states legalizing across the country, many people are starting to learn that there are multiple varieties of the cannabis plant, sometimes called “marijuana”, and they can be prepared in a variety of ways. The potency of cannabis can vary greatly from one plant to another and from one preparation to another. The route of administration can strongly affect the intensity of marijuana’s effects.
One person’s experience of taking marijuana can be completely different from that of someone else.
Often simply called weed or pot, this is the unprocessed form of cannabis. Weed consists of the dried leaves and buds of the female Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica plants.
It has a very pungent and recognizable odor, both in its unburnt state and while being smoked. This odor is quite unlike kitchen herbs, although weed is sometimes “cut” (mixed) with benign kitchen herbs such as oregano and parsley when sold in the underground market.
Weed is commonly smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes, known as joints. The lumpy texture of weed can be felt through the tobacco rolling paper. This is one of the characteristics that can differentiate a joint from a hand-rolled tobacco cigarette.
Hashish and weed can be mixed with rolling tobacco, which is a soft, moist, sticky tobacco preparation designed for hand-rolling. It may also be mixed with the dry tobacco from deconstructed cigarettes. This mixture is referred to as a “spliff”.
Weed, hashish, and hashish oil can be smoked in pipes, water pipes, and bongs, or mixed with tobacco and smoked in a chillum. Some young adults have also used e-cigarettes to inhale marijuana through “vaping.”
Hashish, or hash for short, is a preparation of marijuana made from the resin of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The resin is dried into blocks of hashish, producing an oily, solid substance.
Cannabis resin can be referred to by the names for the specific type of hash, rather than the generic names of hashish or pot. These different names for hashish include black, goldseal black, redseal black, and Morrocan (Rocky for short).
Hashish is often warmed, crumbled, and rolled together with tobacco. It may also be smoked in a pipe, bong, or chillum.
There are several different types of hashish. The colors range from dark brown or almost black, through various shades of brown, to a dirty yellowish color.
The appearance of different types of hashish can vary as well. Some may look dark and shiny (a bit like licorice) and some may be lighter and dull or matte (a bit like a soup stock cube). The texture of hashish also varies from quite dry and hard, like a piece of fudge, to moist and pliable, like modeling clay.
As with weed, hashish has a very distinctive, pungent odor. It is one of the easiest ways of identifying it as a form of marijuana. The appearance of hashish is so varied that novice users are often duped into buying licorice or other cheap, benign substances that look similar.
Hashish oil, or hash oil, is the strongest form of marijuana and is the least common form of the drug. It is sold in tiny bottles or sealed plastic bags.
Only a small amount is needed to produce the effects of marijuana. Typically, hash oil is smoked in a pipe or painted onto cigarettes or joints.
Learn how to identify the several types of marijuana, a variety of cannabis preparations, risks, and benefits.
The Different Forms of Marijuana
Andrea Rice is an award-winning journalist and a freelance writer, editor, and fact checker specializing in health and wellness.
Marijuana is a product of the hemp plant (cannabis sativa) and appears as a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers.
Stronger forms of marijuana include sinsemilla (sin-seh-me-yah, a Spanish word for “without seeds”), hashish (“hash” for short), and resins like hash oil, wax (similar to lip balm), and shatter (an amber colored solid), which contain high doses of the active ingredients.
You may hear marijuana called by street names such as pot, herb, weed, grass, boom, Mary Jane, gangster, or chronic. There are more than 1,200 slang terms for marijuana.
Other Forms of Marijuana
With the advent of legalized marijuana for medical and recreational purposes in some states has come the development of other types of products that contain marijuana. Some people vaporize it with a vape pen, while others may still smoke marijuana out of pipes and bubblers or roll joints, spliffs, and cigars (called blunts).
There are edible marijuana products with marijuana or marijuana oils cooked into or infused into them. Marijuana oil is used to produce all kinds of edible products from cookies and cakes to gummy bears and chocolate bars. Marijuana oils can be added to all kinds of beverages, from sodas and energy drinks to teas and elixirs.
Sprays, and Tinctures
There are also flavored marijuana sprays that can be sprayed directly under your tongue for a quick high, or sprayed on marijuana joints and blunts.
Marijuana tinctures—marijuana in a solution of alcohol—can also be used under your tongue to produce a fast-action, intense high.
We have come a long way from the day when the vast majority of raw marijuana was rolled into joints or stuffed into pipes.
All Forms Are Mind-Altering
All forms of marijuana are mind-altering. In other words, they change how your brain works by attaching to molecules on the brain and activating them, typically creating the effects of euphoria, relaxation, and a sharper perception of things like colors, smells, and sounds. For some people, the effects are unpleasant and may result in paranoia, fear, panic, or anxiety.
All forms of marijuana also contain delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active chemical, as well as more than 500 other chemicals. Marijuana’s effects on the user depend on the strength or potency of the THC it contains.
The potency of marijuana has increased since the early 1990s when the THC content was less than 4%. In 2018, potency was around 15%, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Marijuana Use Disorder
Like any substance, using marijuana can lead to a marijuana use disorder, which may involve dependence or addiction. In fact, recent research shows that 30% of people who use marijuana may have some sort of marijuana use disorder.
You feel withdrawal symptoms when not using, including irritability, feeling restless, craving marijuana, decreased appetite, trouble sleeping.
You are unable to stop using marijuana, even if it interferes with your social, family, work or school, or financial life.
If you think you may have a marijuana use disorder, it’s important to seek help from a healthcare provider.
Marijuana in its basic form is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the cannabis plant.