Glossary – Medical Marijuana Jargon

There’s lots of jargon when it comes to cannabis, with both slang terms and scientific ones making their way into the everyday vocabulary of the medical marijuana user. If you’ve just received your MMJ card, or are looking to get one, here’s a handy guide to the most common scientific words you will see on our site and elsewhere …

Glossary of Common Terms Found in Cannabis Science and the Study of Cannabinoids


The opposite of a receptor antagonist. An agonist is a chemical that promotes a biological response by binding to a receptor.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

A major phytocannabinoid with lots of potential health benefits, and for most people none of the psychoactive effects. Accounts for up to 40% of the cannabis plant’s extracts, and after THC is the cannabinoid often found in largest amounts. Also seems to “balance out” the effects of THC, reducing its negative side-effects.


A chemical compound that acts on cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids can refer to phytocannabinoids (from the plant, usually but not necessarily always the cannabis plant) and endocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced naturally by the human body).

CB1 Receptor

A cannabinoid receptor that is located primarily in the central and peripheral nervous system.

CB2 Receptor

A cannabinoid receptor that is located throughout the body, including the brain and immune system. Some postulate that there are CB3, CB4 and possibly even CB5 receptors.


The chemical reaction that removes a carboxyl group and releases CO2, i.e. removing a carbon atom from a carbon chain. Usually used in relation to applying heat to cannabis, whether in terms of smoking or cooking.


Branched protoplasmic extensions of a nerve cell that propagates the electrochemical stimulation received from other neural cells to the cell body (soma) of the neuron from which dendrites project. Dendrites essentially carry information from one cell to the next.


Cannabinoids produced naturally by the human body. Anadamide (AED) and 2-Arachidonoglycerol (2-AG) are the most well-studied.

Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

The name given to the groups of cannabinoid receptors found within the brain and throughout the body. The ECS was discovered in 1990, and is now believed to be the key to modulating sleep, appetite, mood, memory and the motivation and reward center. The ECS is intimately linked with homeostasis.

Entourage Effect

Used to describe the effect cannabinoids and terpenoids have when working in concert with each other, giving different cannabis plants their unique effects. Another word that could be used is “synergy” – a term used for when the whole effect is greater than the sum of its parts.


The maintenance of a constant internal environment. The ECS, hormones and the nervous system are responsible for this.


A substance that forms a complex with a biomolecule to serve a biological purpose.


Chemicals that enable neurotransmission (aka synaptic transmission) – the process by which signalling molecules are released by a neuron – and transmits messages across the synapse.


Cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. There are hundreds of different types of phytocannabinoids (144 according to the last count by Dr. Lumir Hanus), of which the main two are THC and CBD. Cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), tettrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and cannabichromene (CBC) are other examples. THC’s and CBD’s acidic counterparts, CBDA and THCA, are also cannabinoids.

Receptor Antagonist

A type of receptor ligand that blocks or dampens a biological response by binding to a receptor.

Synapse (aka “Chemical Synapse”)

Biological junctions through which neurons’ signals can be exchanged to each other. Non-neuronal cells found in muscles and glands can also receive messages via synapses.


The organic chemicals that give plants their unique smell and flavor. Examples of terpenes found in cannabis include myrcene, pinene and linalool.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

The principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. In its non decarboxylated form, THC is known as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa), and is non-psychoactive.


The measurement and balancing of a dose of medicine.


A phase change, e.g. a solid turning into liquid. Ice, for example, is still water, even though it’s solid. To “vaporize” marijuana means to use it without combustion (see decarboxylation). You are essentially turning matter into vapor by heating the cannabis when you are vaporizing, to put it simply.

There are, of course, lots of scientific words to go through, and being a medical dictionary would mean this list would take us to a piece that’s several hundred pages long. However, the main medical and scientific terms we use on this site are listed above, and we shall explain what rarely-used scientific words mean within any article we write.

Feel free to contact us should you find a scientific word related to cannabis research in or out of this website and want explaining (or if you find the explanation confusing). We’d be happy to try and help clear up any issues you might have.