Follow us:

The Evergreen

Seattle Times coverage of pot policy, culture and lifestyle.

June 27, 2014 at 3:53 PM

The basics of pot today

Scissors used to trip a marijuana plant. (Ellen M. Banner, The Seattle Times)

Scissors used to trim a marijuana plant. (Ellen M. Banner, The Seattle Times)

710, 420, THC, CBD, 502, LCB: The new world of legal pot in Washington state has its fair share of acronyms, numbers, policy wonkishness and funny-sounding scientific names. Here’s a basic (jargon free!) look at the world of pot today. So what should I be calling marijuana these days?

Good question!

The short answer: Whatever sounds best (we’ll be doing this).

The long answer: In I-502, the initiative voters approved to legalize pot, the state calls it marijuana. Some activists and scientists call it cannabis (though that word refers to the whole plant and a variety of species). Lots of people (including most news sites) call it pot. There’s not a consensus, and there’s something of a debate over how to refer to it correctly.

In his book “Pot Inc.,” author Greg Campbell explains the history: “A certain faction considers marijuana itself pejorative and racist, based on a longstanding theory that narcotics agents in the 1930s chose that word over the more scientific cannabis when crafting drug laws; the word is of Mexican-Spanish origin, and thus, the belief is, sounded more exotic and sinister. For others, cannabis is too pretentious to take seriously.”

To add to that, the words pot or weed are often considered too casual because they were commonly used as slang. We’ll be using all of these words somewhat interchangeably. But there are some key distinctions.

Cannabis is the name of a plant, of which, some parts are not intoxicating. For example, hemp is a strain of cannabis that doesn’t contain enough THC (we’ll get to THC later) to get you high. The state refers to marijuana as all parts of the cannabis plant with a THC concentration greater than 0.3 percent.

So what’s THC?

THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana. Basically, it’s the primary chemical in getting you high. Pot contains various levels of THC and other cannabinoids, which are chemical compounds found in cannabis that affect neurotransmitters in your brain.

Any other cannabinoids I should know about?

CBD is a non-psychoactive chemical compound found in cannabis that is believed to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties. In fact, according to the UW’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute (UWADAI): “CBD may actually have anti-anxiety effects and lessen the psychoactive effects of THC.” Many medical-marijuana patients use high-CBD marijuana for its healing properties.

So what are these strains I keep hearing about?

A strain refers to a specific, genetic variety of cannabis, usually bred and cultivated for certain attributes. If you go into a pot shop, you’ll have plenty of options, from the Bubba OG to Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies.

Some strains are designed to get you more high; others are designed to make you less high and provide more medical effects. Some parents are moving their children to Washington and Colorado so they can have access to high-CBD pot strains.

But sometimes, strains aren’t what they’re advertised to be, which is a big problem for medical patients looking for high-CBD strains.

In the recreational system, pot must be tested and labeled to show its concentration of THC and CBD.


There are two main species of cannabis: indica and sativa. Indica varieties usually contain a higher ratio of CBD, whereas sativas have a higher concentration of THC. Indicas are more likely to give you a full-body high and put you to sleep. Sativas, meanwhile, are often said to inspire energy and creativity. Most strains these days are hybrids of the two species — bred by pot growers for certain characteristics. Judging by the number of pot varieties on Leafly, Gregor Mendel would be proud of these marijuana botanists.

So is pot more potent than it was back in the 70s?

Yes. How much more potent is still a question, though. Here’s a good assessment of how potency has changed.

What is hash oil?

Hash oil is a concentrate extracted from marijuana using flammable solvents. BHO (butane hash oil) can be 40 to 70 percent THC. It’s often called shatter, budder or wax and doesn’t look unlike the stuff you find in your ears.

How do you use hash oil?

Typically, people dab hash oil by using a metal nail to push a small amount of wax onto a hot metal dome.  The dome’s heat vaporizes the dab of oil, which is drawn up through a glass pipe.

Making hash oil

Under the state system, only licensed pot processors can make hash oil for sale. Amateur chemists often try at home, but without proper lab equipment, the process is rather dangerous and there have been a handful of BHO-related explosions of late.


Dabbing has developed into a pot-smoking subculture, so obviously it has its own number to complement, or compete, with 420. If you flip the characters in “710” around, you’ll see the word, “oil.”

Get it?

Edibles Marijuana’s cannabanoids are fat soluble — meaning you can dissolve THC, CBD and more into butter or other fatty substances.

Comments | More in Ask Us Anything | Topics: bho, cbd, thc


No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.

The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►