BlogUnderstanding names for cannabis: From medical terms to colloquial slang

Understanding names for cannabis: From medical terms to colloquial slang

9 min read

Sam North

Weed, ganga, pot, kush, bud, sticky-icky, Mary Jane - whatever term you use, cannabis has been intertwined with the human experience for millennia, and has a rich history in traditional medicine globally. But as the world modernises, cultures clash, and science advances, it has become somewhat of a polarising topic.


A cultural and medical overview of cannabis in the UK

Cannabis sativa L., a plant of many identities, has buried deep into the fabric of both global and regional cultures as nations grapple with its legal status for medical applications and recreational pursuits.

Weed, ganga, pot, kush, bud, sticky-icky, Mary Jane - whatever term you use, has been intertwined with the human experience for millennia, and has a rich history in traditional medicine globally. But as the world modernises, cultures clash, and science advances, it has become somewhat of a polarising topic.

Although legal medical cannabis just ticked past the five-year mark here in the United Kingdom, recent research shows that it's still widely misunderstood in the eyes of the public. Many remain sceptical or simply unaware of its potential benefits and applications.

But as the tide begins to turn, conversations on cannabis have expanded beyond recreational use to incorporate the nuanced sphere of medical offerings. The diverse language mirrors the changing social and legal contexts. Properly understanding cannabis from a medical perspective, especially in the UK, involves not only discussing the scientific terms and regulatory frameworks but also delving into the colloquial vernacular that colours the patient experience.

The multifaceted world of cannabis in the UK

Before diving into the everyday terminology and global slang associated with cannabis, let's lay some groundwork by quickly recapping the plant's status in the United Kingdom.

Over recent years, the medical application of cannabis has gained traction, leading to regulatory changes that offer a natural, complementary treatment option for a massive range of conditions. With the legalisation of medical cannabis, the UK joined other European countries such as Germany, Italy, and Denmark in offering a pathway for individuals to legally access safe and effective treatment.

Exploring cannabis in the UK: an overview

In 2018, the UK officially recognised the therapeutic potential of cannabis-derived products, which resulted in the rescheduling of some cannabis-based treatments, allowing their prescription within a regulated framework. This change brought with it not only a shift in legal medical cannabis access but also a collective rethink by the wider public of the country's stance on cannabis.

The legal intricacies surrounding cannabis are still puzzling to many. With terms like "Schedule 2" (referring to cannabis' current classification under the UK's Misuse of Drugs Act), "CBPMs," (cannabis-based products for medicinal use) and "unlicensed cannabis medicines" taking centre stage, it's essential for both medical professionals and patients to get a deeper understanding of the terminologies surrounding this plant.

The cultural shift has been a little slower than many expected, but a shift is certainly upon us, and momentum only continues to grow, buoyed by the ever-growing body of promising research and patient success stories that come to light. 

Apart from the medications and legalese, terms that relate to cannabis medicine, such as "the endocannabinoid system", "the entourage effect" and "cannabinoid receptors" are now commonplace but still poorly understood most. Feel free to check out the links for a further primer on these concepts.

A world of words: exploring cannabis slang globally

The scope of cannabis language is mammoth, stretching far beyond scientific terminology. Colloquialism, slang, and street vernacular have long existed side by side in a relationship with academic terms. The situation might vary slightly from country to country due to cultural differences, but some phrases are universal. For instance, "getting high," "feeling stoned," and "being baked" all refer to the psychoactive effects of THC.

In the USA, terms like "420," "green," "loud" and "weed" are all widely used to refer to cannabis. Since the mid-1960s, these words have become fully ingrained in popular culture, leading to them frequently popping up in music, film, and television.

Similarly, in the UK, the slang "spliff," "blaze”, “cheese” “skunk” and "herb”  are a part of everyday conversation and are all synonymous with consuming recreational cannabis. While some terms may seem more obscure, understanding the lingo can help bridge communication gaps and foster a deeper understanding of the plant's use.

"Medical Weed" & "Medical Marijuana"

In the UK, you will often hear the terms
"medical weed" and "medical marijuana" being thrown around. While these aren't officially "correct" terms, it is not surprising that they're in the public consciousness, as they all relate to the medical application of cannabis. Medical marijuana is more commonly used in the US, where the term has been ingrained in the legal and medical system for decades. "Medical weed" or "medicinal weed" derives from the street name for cannabis "weed". In the UK, we stick to "medical cannabis" and "Cannabis-Based Products for Medicinal use - CBPMs" when referring to medical cannabis treatment options. 

Navigating the legal landscape: UK cannabis regulations

The legalisation and regulation of cannabis differs depending on if it is for medical or recreational use. The November 2018 legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes represented a landmark in medicinal drug regulation, and understanding the current legal framework is pivotal for patients and practitioners alike.

The New Legal Framework for Cannabis in the UK

In the UK, recreational cannabis is classified as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act, meaning any form of cannabis that is not prescribed by a doctor is illegal. However, the legal status of medical cannabis changed as it was rescheduled to Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, allowing certain cannabis-based products for medicinal use to be legally prescribed by specialists. This change also meant that some CBD products with a THC content of less than 0.2% were now legally available for over-the-counter sale without the need to be prescribed by a doctor.

The reclassification of medical cannabis regulations is a major change from the previous legal perspective. This shift acknowledges cannabis as a legitimate medical resource rather than just a law enforcement issue. It also introduces specific legal terms like "prescribed cannabis products" and "cannabis-derived medicinal products," which need careful consideration and understanding.

Deciphering CBPMs: the cornerstone of medical cannabis treatment options here in the UK

Cannabis-Based Products for Medicinal use (CBPMs) are at the forefront of the field of medical cannabis in the UK. CBPMs are a category of prescribed medicines that are formulated from the chemical compounds found in cannabis and are now a legal fixture in the country's medical landscape, albeit within a stringent regulatory framework.

What exactly are CBPMs?

CBPMs are usually found in oil or flower format and contain varying concentrations of the two primary cannabinoids found in cannabis: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). They contain precise compositions of cannabinoids (and sometimes terpenes and flavonoids) and are formulated to treat specific medical conditions under the guidance of a specialist.

These products have been prescribed to patients across a spectrum of conditions, from chronic pain management to epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

From flower to oil: the forms of medical cannabis

The diversity of medical cannabis is not limited to its chemical composition but also encompasses a variety of forms through which it is administered. In the UK, medical cannabis products are varied, with each serving a unique purpose and catering to distinct patient needs.

Comparing dried cannabis flower with CBD and THC oil

Dried cannabis flower, which can contain both CBD and THC compounds, has long been popular as a recreational drug here in the UK. It is also a very popular medicinal form of cannabis globally, but here, it is illegal for it to be smoked for medical purposes. Instead, it must be vaporised or ingested. Up until a few short years ago, dried cannabis flowers (usually referred to as "bud" or "weed") were the only commonly known form of medical cannabis.

But with the legalisation of medicinal cannabis-derived products and growing scientific understanding, alternative forms such as CBD and full spectrum oils have emerged. These products can offer a more targeted approach towards treating specific symptoms while reducing potential risks associated with smoking, and make dosing and consumption more precise.

Fostering an Informed Cannabis Conversation

The conversation around cannabis in the UK is complex, encompassing medical, legal, and cultural dimensions that are continually evolving. As the nation delves deeper into the realm of medical cannabis, it is crucial for doctors, patients, and their loved ones and caregivers to engage in informed conversations. To do so, they need to understand the terminology, legal regulations, and available treatment options.

In the context of the UK, fostering an informed cannabis conversation is a gateway to demystifying the plant’s medical potential and creating a relationship that is anchored in knowledge and empathy.

Releaf understands the importance of medical cannabis in treating various medical conditions. With our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, you can access the treatment you require without worrying about the stigma.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

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