I grew up and still live on the US East Coast, which unfortunately is lagging far behind the West Coast when it comes to cannabis legalization. But rather than packing up and heading west permanently for the green rush, I compromise by regularly visiting cities with recreational policies enacted.
During my most recent trip to Denver, one of our bud guides referred to weed as “flower,” which is a term I was used to, seeing as I work in the cannabis media. However, a middle-aged New Englander in our tour group looked decidedly confused.
That’s when our bud guide explained, “Flower is what we call weed in Colorado.”
That interaction got me thinking: What is cannabis really anyway? Is it a weed, a plant, a #flower — or all three?
First off, let’s discuss where the word “weed” came from. Weed is a slang term for cannabis. It’s probably the most common phrase for cannabis today, behind marijuana, of course. Consider it an updated version of pot, made mainstream by the younger generation of tokers.
However, the word wasn’t always as mainstream.
“Weed” has been used as early as the pre-Reefer Madness days of 1929, when American Speech, the academic journal dedicated to the English language, included “weed” in its “Among the New Words” section as a term meaning “marijuana cigarette.” Additionally, “weed” was used for the first time without the word “the” in front in the 1949 Raymond Chandler novel The Little Sister, with the novelist writing, “They were looking for … a suitcase full of weed.”
So, what about the plant thing? Well, cannabis is a plant. All buds derive from a plant and therefore, all cannabis is from a plant. So, when you consume cannabis, you will always be consuming a type of plant.
Now that we have weed and plants covered, let’s move on to the definition of a flower. A flower is the seed-bearing part of the plant that blooms, and when it comes to cannabis, a flower refers to the weed you purchase in a dispensary that you would bring home to consume. Flower is another word for bud, or the green goodness you smoke. That bud is harvested from a female cannabis plant.
While all cannabis is a plant, not all cannabis is bud. Different parts of a cannabis plant are used for different purposes. For instance, fan leaves can be great for making drinkables (including juices) and different types of #edibles, while stems can be used for hemp textiles and to make cannabutter.
Although you might have been led to believe that cannabis leaves can be smoked, that’s not strictly true. The bud — i.e., what you typically smoke — is found in between leaves on a female cannabis plant.
There are two main stages a cannabis plant goes through. The first stage, pre-vegetation, doesn’t reveal the plant’s gender. This stage is all about growing and developing, similar to a human child’s development. About six weeks after cannabis is initially planted, the flowering stage begins, in which the plant’s gender is determined and becomes apparent.
Male cannabis plants don’t have buds on them at all. Only feminized mother plants produce bud; they’re the real moneymakers for cannabis growers.
Sometimes, there are cannabis plants that are intersex, or 50 percent female and 50 percent male. However, with plants of both genders, half the seeds (which will be masculine) are unusable. Fortunately, you can purchase feminized seeds, so you can avoid the problem of male plants that you end up having to destroy.
The bottom line? While cannabis is indeed a plant, the “weed” you smoke comes from the part of that plant called flower or bud. Not so confusing after all, right?