June 2nd, 2014

Marijuana, A Drug Known By Many Names

Pot, weed, hash – these are just a few of the colloquialisms that have become synonymous with marijuana. There are many marijuana names. In the clinical community, we have also created our own vocabulary around this substance. While the term “marijuana” is used most often, the terms “hemp” and “cannabis” have also become part of our lexicon.

Amidst all the debate about the decriminalization and/or legalization of marijuana, I find the use of these three marijuana names interchangeably to be confusing. And I don’t think that I’m the only one. My sense is that there is a blizzard of information being generated, but there is no clarity in the language being used to describe the substances that are the subject of such heated discussion in the media, on Capitol Hill and among our colleagues.

When I talk with colleagues about this topic, as I did at a recent Kolmac School program, I want to be sure that they understand what I am saying. So what’s in a name? Here are my brief descriptions for the three terms that I’ve seen used most frequently for marijuana names:


  • Relatively new term, refers to the plant and the drug derived from it
  • Contains 60 cannabinoids, mostly non-psychoactive


  • Oldest term, refers to the  plant and its products
  • Drug, food and oils, fiber for clothes and rope


  • DSM-5: “most appropriate scientific term”
  • Confusion about referring to plant or drug
  • Cannabis sativa plant is the species that has psychoactive ingredients

As we continue our discussions about various aspects of marijuana, including marijuana names, my hope is that we’ll separate the various agendas at play and work towards understanding more about this substance so that we can act responsibly on behalf of our clients. I believe this starts with our having a common understanding of the terms being used to address a variety of issues. Contact us to learn more.

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