Even as new technologies allow manufacturers to create numerous product types that deliver the benefits of cannabis, traditional flower smoking remains the most common and preferred method of consumption around the world.
Marijuana flower, also called “bud,” refers to the smokeable part of the cannabis plant that has gone through the cultivation, harvest, drying, and curing process. Cannabis flower continues to be a popular choice for its versatility, offering numerous methods of consumption, such as being smoked using a pipe or bong, or by rolling it into a joint or blunt. Among the many benefits of smoking weed is its rapid onset. Flower’s high bioavailability means you’ll feel its effects almost instantaneously. Effects can last anywhere from one to three hours, varying from person to person.
The cannabis plant has several structures, many of which we can find on any ordinary flowering plant species. Cannabis grows on long skinny stems with its large, iconic fan leaves extending out from areas called nodes. Cannabis really stands out in its flowers—or buds—where unique and intricate formations occur: fiery orange hairs, sugary crystals, and chunky buds enveloped by tiny leaves.
The history of marijuana use reaches back farther than many would guess. Cultivation of the plant dates back thousands of years. The first written account of cannabis cultivation (ostensibly used as medical marijuana) is found in Chinese records dating from the 28th century B.C.E. And a nearly 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy contained traces of THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, as well as other drugs. Cannabis sativa is perhaps the world’s most recognizable plant. Pictures of the ubiquitous, green cannabis leaf show up in the news media, textbooks and drug-prevention literature. Its shape is made into jewelry, plastered on bumper stickers and clothing, and spray-painted on walls. The leaves are arranged palmately, radiating from a common center, like the fingers of a hand spreading apart. Although most people know what the cannabis plant looks like, they may know very little about its horticulture.
Why is Weed Called Flower?
The dense collection of flowers at the top of the female cannabis plant is known as the cola. Growers have developed methods such as topping and low-stress training to grow multiple main colas within a single plant to increase their yield. The “flower” sold at your local dispensary refers to dried colas of unfertilized female flowers. Flowers develop in both male and female cannabis plants and each sex has distinctive characteristics.
A single cannabis flower is made up of several elements:
- A pistil, composed of two stigmas(pollen-catching, hair-like growths) attached to an ovule. If pollinated, the ovule is the part of the flower that produces a seed.
- The calyx is the translucent layer of cells that partially covers the ovule. In other plants, calyxes are more developed and pronounced. Many use this term incorrectly when referring to the cannabis plant’s bracts.
- The teardrop-shaped leaves that encapsulate the ovules are known as bracts. Bracts contain the highest concentration of resin-producing trichomes.
- Trichomes produce the resin responsible for the cannabinoids and terpenes that give cannabis its psychoactive and medicinal properties.
Male cannabis flowers contain pollen. When pollen from the male plant fertilizes the female reproductive organs, the female flower will produce a seed. Seeds are desirable when breeding new strains, but not desirable for smokable flower. For this reason, growers remove male plants as soon as the begin to reveal their sex traits in the pre-flowering stage. Male preflowers display “staminate primordia” which look like clusters of grapes or bananas. It’s important to remove male plants before they mature and release pollen.
Marijuana flower or bud is technically a dried and cured cluster, or cola, of several unfertilized female flowers. While it’s easy to get hung up on botanical terminology, it’s safe to say that flower is an appropriate term for the green stuff in your bong.
According to Merriam-Webster, a flower is defined in four main ways:
- “the specialized part of an angiospermous plant that occurs singly or in clusters, possesses whorls of often colorful petals or sepals, and bears the reproductive structures (such as stamens or pistils) involved in the development of seeds and fruit.”
- “a cluster of small flowers growing closely together that resembles and is often viewed as a single flower.”
- “a plant grown or valued for its flowers.”
- “a cut stem of a plant with its flower.”
The cannabis plant is a dioecious flowering annual whose resinous clusters are harvested and trimmed at peak floral stage and thus neatly fits the definition of a flower.
How It is Used?
Marijuana can be smoked as a cigarette (joint), but may also be smoked in a dry pipe or a water pipe known as a “bong.” It can also be mixed with food and eaten or brewed as tea. These are called “edibles” and are covered in detail later in this booklet. Sometimes users open up cigars and remove the tobacco, replacing it with pot—called a “blunt.” Joints and blunts are sometimes laced with other, more powerful drugs, such as crack cocaine or PCP (phencyclidine, a powerful hallucinogen).
When a person inhales the smoke from a joint or a pipe, he usually feels its effect within minutes. The immediate sensations—increased heart rate, lessened coordination and balance, and a “dreamy,” unreal state of mind—peak within the first 30 minutes. These short term effects usually wear off in two to three hours, but they could last longer, depending on how much the user takes, the potency of THC and the presence of other drugs added into the mix.
As the typical user inhales more smoke and holds it longer than he would with a cigarette, a joint creates a severe impact on the lungs. Aside from the discomfort that goes with sore throats and chest colds, it has been found that smoking one joint gives as much exposure to cancer-producing chemicals as smoking four to five cigarettes.
The mental consequences of marijuana use are equally severe. Marijuana smokers have poorer memories and mental aptitude than do non-users.
Recent studies on young adults that smoke marijuana, found abnormalities in the brain related to emotion, motivation and decision-making.
How to Smoke a Blunt
While less common, a blunt is the same basic idea as a joint. A blunt is an emptied-out cigar wrapper that’s been filled with flower and resealed. For similar reasons as a joint, the benefit of rolling a blunt is that all you need is the blunt wrap (or tobacco leaves) and your cannabis flower (a grinder is optional). Most convenience stores sell cigars, allowing blunt making to be possible virtually anywhere. The only potential downside to a blunt is that you’re also consuming the tobacco in the cigar wrap.
- Pipes. Possibly the easiest, most straightforward way to smoke weed is through the use of a pipe. Small, compact, and easy to use, pipes are handheld devices that are used to smoke flower. They require no power or water; simply break apart your flower, fill the bowl and light up. Ideal for traveling or discreet use, pipes are practical and reliable tools for cannabis smokers.
- Bongs. Another common method of smoking flower is the use of a water pipe, or “bong.” Bongs are a filtration device structurally comprised of a chamber, which is partially filled with water, and a downstem that connects the water chamber and holds a bowl (which holds the cannabis). Bongs are ideal for calming the heat and harshness of inhaling smoke. The liquid in the water chamber helps filter particles from the smoke. The water level in the chamber should be set just above the open end of the downstem to properly filter the smoke. As the smoke makes its way through the bong, the length of the pipe also aids in the cooling action. Bongs come in all shapes and sizes; some are more advanced (and thus, more expensive) than others. Some glass bongs are modified so that users can add ice into the chamber and cool the smoke before it’s inhaled. Glass percolator bongs provide an additional filtration system in the chamber, making it possible to filter the smoke multiple times, leaving the user with cleaner and cooler hit. Keep in mind that glass bongs and pipe tend to get caked with resin after longtime use, necessitating an occasional deep clean to restore the paraphernalia to its pristine state and get the most pleasant possible flower consumption experience.
Although it’s tempting to simply eat a cannabis-infused brownie, we don’t recommend doing so. The effects associated with ingested cannabis have a delayed onset time, last much longer than the other consumption methods (anywhere from 4 to 8+ hours), and can be significantly more intense.
The recommended consumption method for novice users is either smoking or vaporizing cannabis; the reason being that dosage control is relatively easy compared to other consumption methods. Smoking cannabis is the traditional method and involves inhaling the smoke released by the heated buds.
You can pack a one hitter pipe or roll it into a joint. A bong is another alternative and will result in the smoothest hit as the smoke is filtered through water prior to being inhaled, but the intensity of a bong hit is not recommended for novice users. If you find the effects of smoking cannabis to be too intense, we suggest vaporization as a more mild alternative.
For those looking to avoid the potential respiratory irritation caused by smoking, we recommend vaporizing for the first time. A vaporizer is a device that heats cannabis buds and/or concentrates to a specific (lower) temperature, which causes the cannabinoids (beneficial compounds like THC and CBD) stored in the plant’s trichomes to evaporate into a gas without combusting any plant material. In our experience, vaporization provides a more forgiving, manageable, and mild high than smoking cannabis.
If you’re feeling good about the vaporizer route, the photo above may be confusing. Just remember, the golden liquid in your vaporizer cartridge is simply a concentrated, extracted version of the original cannabis buds, and should be labeled indica, sativa, or hybrid at the very least.
Some cartridges may have multiple strains inside them, while others will be strain specific. Weed is like wine – every strain has a history and some dispensaries have garden blends; the same way vineyards blend grapes to make a more unique flavor profile. The key terms to understand are indica and sativa. These terms are used to describe the two major species of the cannabis plant that induce markedly different effects.
Choosing between indica and sativa varieties of cannabis is dependent on your desired effects. Those seeking an upbeat, focused, and creative experience, should select a sativa dominant strain. Alternatively, those looking for relaxing, appetite inducing, and sedative effects should choose an indica dominant strain. Those in search of a great anytime smoke with a more balanced high should try a hybrid strain (one that combines elements of both the indica and sativa species through the breeding process). For more detailed information, reference our strain selection guide.
Definition of Marijuana
“Marijuana” is a non-scientific term that refers to the dried plant matter, also known as nugs or buds, of psychoactive strains of the cannabis family. It’s important to remember that colloquial slang terms don’t always line up with horticultural definitions.
Botanists classify a bud as a “newly emerging plant part, appearing as no more than a nub or protuberance, whether it will become a branch, flower or leaf.” This is one of the main contradictions in cannabis terminology. Using the botanical definition, “bud” would refer to immature outgrowths from any part of the cannabis plant, while marijuana “buds” are allowed to flower for 6-12 weeks before they are ready to harvest.
Marijuana is one of the most abused drugs in the world. There is an ever-growing gap between the latest science about marijuana and the myths surrounding it. Some people think that since it is legal in some places, it must be safe. But your body doesn’t know a legal drug from an illegal drug. It only knows the effect the drug creates once you have taken it. The purpose of this publication is to clear up some of the misunderstandings about pot. Marijuana comes from the Indian hemp plant, and the part that contains the “drug” is found primarily in the flowers (commonly called the “buds”) and much less in the seeds, leaves, and stems of the plant.
Marijuana, when sold, is a mixture of dried out leaves, stems, flowers and seeds of the hemp plant. It is usually green, brown or gray in color.
Hashish is tan, brown or black resin that is dried and pressed into bars, sticks or balls. When smoked, both marijuana and hashish give off a distinctive, sweet odor.
There are over 400 chemicals in marijuana and hashish.1 The chemical that causes intoxication or the “high” in users is called THC (short for tetrahydrocannabinol). THC creates the mind-altering effects that classifies marijuana as a “drug.”
Plants, like animals, have traits that protect them in the wild. Plants can have colors or patterns that camouflage them from predators, or they can contain poisons or toxins that, when eaten, make animals sick or alter their mental capacity, putting them at risk in the wild. THC is the protective mechanism of the marijuana plant.
Intoxication literally means “to poison by taking a toxic substance into your body.” Any substance that intoxicates causes changes in the body and the mind. It can create addiction or dependence, causing a person to want to take that drug even if it harms him or her.
You may have heard someone say that because marijuana is a plant, it’s “natural” and so it’s harmless. But it’s not. Hemlock, a poisonous plant, is also “natural,” but it can kill. The other thing to know is that burning dried leaves and buds and inhaling the smoke into your lungs is definitely not “natural” and like smoking cigarettes, can be harmful to your body.
As for the medical uses of marijuana, it contains another chemical called CBD (short for cannabidiol). This is the substance most often associated with creating medical benefits. Unlike THC, CBD does not cause a high. Its medical benefits are still being studied, as are methods to breed marijuana plants with high CBD and low THC for medical use. Marijuana is a drug like alcohol, cocaine, or ecstasy. And like these other drugs, it has side effects that can be harmful.
For first-time smokers, one or two inhalations is all it takes to feel THC’s powerful effects. We recommend first-timers wait 15-20 minutes after smoking before deciding to take additional inhalations, as the effects can become more pronounced over this period. As you get more accustomed to your preferred dosage you can take additional hits for a stronger effect.
However, you should never feel pressured to finish a bowl or joint, you can always come back to it. If your only option is to ingest cannabis, we recommend starting with a dose of 5mg of THC. Everyone’s metabolism is different and therefore has a different reaction to edibles. The important part is to WAIT after you ingest as onset can take up to TWO HOURS. As you become more familiar with your edible tolerance, it will be easier to adjust dosage.