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A-Z of Cannabis

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Cannabis: A-Z

As the cannabis industry continues to grow and evolve, it’s becoming increasingly important for both consumers and industry professionals to have a solid understanding of the terminology used within this space.

To help bridge this knowledge gap, the Cannabis Industry Council’s Standards Working Group has developed an extensive A-Z of Cannabis. With over 100 terms and definitions, this resource is a valuable tool for anyone looking to learn more about the cannabis plant, its effects, and its various applications.

By making this A-Z available to the public, we hope to contribute to a more informed and educated discussion about cannabis, its benefits, and its potential risks. To ensure accuracy and thoroughness, the Standards Working Group has consulted a wide range of sources, and a list of references can be found at the end of the page. 


Numerical limits, ranges, or other suitable measures for acceptance of the results of analytical procedures.
The therapeutically active component in a medicine’s final formulation that is responsible for its physiological action.
Any substance or mixture of substances intended to be used in the manufacture of a medicine and that, when used in the production of a medicine, becomes an active ingredient of that medicine. These substances are intended to furnish pharmacological activity or other direct effect in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease or to affect the structure and function of the body.

Describes the way in which a drug is taken or used, includes for example inhalation (vaporisation), ingestion or taking orally, and the injecting of a drug substance.

Any harmful and unintended effect resulting from a medicinal product’s use, including those caused by a medicinal product’s use in accordance with the terms of its marketing authorisation.


A quantity of a product that is (i) uniform in composition, method of manufacture and probability of chemical or microbial contamination; and (ii) made in one cycle of manufacture and, if required, sterilised or freeze dried in one cycle.
A group of letters, numbers, or symbols, or any combination thereof, from which the history of the manufacturing, packaging, labelling, or holding of a product or derived product can be determined.

Documents that record batch production and prove batches were made according to the established work instructions and checked by quality assurance personnel. Batch records ensure uniformity in the end product and are used in product recalls as part of the quality management system.

The level and type (e.g. objectionable or not) of micro-organisms/pathogens that can be present in raw materials, API starting materials, intermediates or APIs. Bioburden should not be considered contamination unless the levels have been exceeded or defined objectionable organisms have been detected.

Relating to the cheek: “the buccal side of the molars”.

Relating to the mouth: “the buccal cavity”.

Any product which has completed all processing stages up to, but not Including, final packaging.


Cannabinol 1-5 are controlled cannabinoids under Misuse of Drugs Regulations.

Naturally occurring or synthetic chemicals that act on the cannabinoid receptors of mammals and some insects.

The cannabis plant, in particular, the cannabis inflorescence consisting of the whole or fragmented, fully developed female flowers of Cannabis sativa L. (Cannabaceae). Also known under other colloquial names, for example: marijuana, weed, ganja.

Any substance or mixture of substances intended to be used in the manufacture of a medicine and that, when used in the production of a medicine, becomes an active ingredient of that medicine. These substances are intended to furnish pharmacological activity or other direct effect in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease or to affect the structure and function of the body.

(a) cannabis; or

(b) cannabis resin; or

(c) extracts of cannabis; or

(d) tinctures of cannabis; or

(e) another drug that includes, or is from, any part of the cannabis plant

The whole dried flower (inflorescence) of the cannabis plant (Latin: Cannabis sativae flos siccus).

The dried and cured part of the female cannabis plant containing cannabinoids and terpenes.
(a) Any plant of the genus Cannabis (b) Any part of a plant of the genus Cannabis including but not limited to, the seeds, stems or leaves of the plant.
The separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant.

Corrective Action Preventive Action – a procedure in the QMS to manage significant batch deviations.

Cannabichromene, a minor cannabinoid, not considered a drug of dependence.
Cannabidiol, a major cannabinoid, not considered a drug of dependence.
Cannabigerol is one of more than 120 identified cannabinoid compounds found in the plant genus Cannabis.[1][2] Cannabigerol is the decarboxylated form of cannabigerolic acid, the parent molecule from which other cannabinoids are synthesised.

Cannabinol, a crustalline, mildly psychoactive phytocannabinoid found in very small quantities in cannabis.

Cannabinoid Based Products for Medicinal Use (CBPM) is the term used to describe unlicensed cannabinoid medicines prescribed for use in humans, under MHRA specials legislation and the 2018 amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

A document of quality assurance that confirms that a product meets its specifications, and results of quality control test on the individual batch of a product.
Refers to the cleaning and sanitation of premises and the hygiene of personnel.
Private clinic, supervised by a specialist, that diagnoses patients who may benefit from treatment with a CBPM under a private prescription.
Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
Carbon Dioxide.
Cannabinoid-based products that can be purchased over-the-counter in some jurisdictions.
The undesired introduction of impurities of a chemical or microbiological nature, or of foreign matter, into or onto a raw material, intermediate, or API during production, sampling, packaging or repackaging, storage or transport.
A manufacturer performing some aspect of manufacturing on behalf of the original manufacturer.
A process parameter whose variability has an impact on a critical quality attribute and therefore should be monitored or controlled to ensure the process produces the desired quality (ICH Q8).
A physical, chemical, biological or microbiological property or characteristic that should be within an approved limit, range or distribution to ensure the desired product quality (ICH Q8).
(a) Sow a seed of a cannabis plant; (b) Plant, grow, tend or nurture a cannabis plant; (c) Graft, divide or transplant a cannabis plant; but does not include the separation of cannabis or cannabis resin from a cannabis plant.


The process of removing criminal penalties and imprisonment for an activity. Decriminalization or decriminalisation is the reclassification in law relating to certain acts or aspects of such to the effect that they are no longer considered a crime, including the removal of criminal penalties in relation to them. This reform is sometimes applied retroactively but otherwise comes into force from either the enactment of the law or from a specified date.
Departure from an approved instruction or established standard.
A physical or chemical agent or process that destroys pathogenic or potentially pathogenic microorganisms on inanimate surfaces or objects.
A licenced pharmacy, dispensing of prescription medicines. Sometimes within a hospital, pharmacy warehouse, or medical practice. In this case the place that fulfils and dispenses CBPM prescriptions as ‘specials’.
Distillate is a runny, translucent oil devoid of the waxes or undesirable compounds from the source plant. Distillate is known for its potency and versatility. It can be used to dab, vaporise, and mix in as an ingredient in edibles, topicals, and other products. Distillate concentrates are achieved through an extensive distillation process that separates compounds from cannabis plant matter.
The pharmaceutical form in which a product is presented for therapeutic administration, e.g. tablet, cream.
Medication administration via mouth, placing a drug between the outer mouth and the gums to dissolve and absorb into the blood stream.


Products containing cannabinoids made for human consumption as foods.
The proven performance of a product established under defined conditions.
The extracted oil of the cannabis plant in capsule form, usually referring to cannabinoid-rich extracts.
Any of several chemical compounds (anandamide and 2AG) that are naturally produced within the body of mammals and bind to the same receptors as some phytocannabinoids derived from cannabis. These molecules are thought to regulate homeostasis.
Ethanol (also called ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, drinking alcohol, or simply alcohol) is an organic compound. It is a simple alcohol with the chemical formula C2H6O. Its formula can be also written as CH3−CH2−OH or C2H5OH (an ethyl group linked to a hydroxyl group). Ethanol is a volatile, flammable, colourless liquid with a characteristic wine-like odour and pungent taste.[11][12] It is a psychoactive recreational drug, the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks.
An inactive substance that serves as the vehicle or medium for a drug or other active substance. Excipients are things like colouring agents, preservatives, and fillers.


A medicinal product which has undergone all stages of production, including packaging in its final container.
The Formulary is a list of medicines stocked by Pharmacy which have been approved by the Drugs and Therapeutics Committee for prescribing within the Hospital. The purpose of the Formulary is to support evidence based, cost effective prescribing.
Food Standards Agency – A non-ministerial department of the Government of the United Kingdom responsible for protecting public health in relation to food in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A non-ministerial department of the devolved Government of Scotland responsible for protecting public health in relation to food in Scotland.


Good Agricultural and Collection Practices – A set of standards for the collection, cultivation, harvest and primary processing of plant materials for use in herbal medicines developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). GACP was developed to create a single framework to ensure appropriate and consistent quality in the cultivation of medicinal plants. GACP was developed by the WHO in 2003, with the aim of improving the quality of medicinal plants being used in herbal medicines in the commercial market.
Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometry is an analytical method that combines the features of gas-chromatography and mass spectrometry to identify different substances within a test sample.
Good Documentation Practices – Registering information in the batch record and filling in other relevant QMS documentation must be undertaken according to certain principles. The principles of Good Documentation Practices (GDP) ensure documented information and data is accurate, complete, consistent and reliable throughout their entire period of usefulness – that is throughout the data life cycle. Every QMS user must follow the GDP principles to assure recorded data is attributable, legible, contemporaneously recorded, original and accurate. The integrity of batch related data plays an important role in batch review, batch release and investigations of product process-related deviations.
Senior doctors that have completed full medical training in a specialised area of medicine and are listed on the GMC’s (General Medical Council) specialist register (UK).
Good Medicinal Cannabis Cultivation Practice – Principles for cannabis cultivation proposed by Bedrocan to ensure quality, safety and consistency that blends the best of GACP and GMP guidelines.
Good manufacturing practice – The acronym GMP is used internationally to describe a set of principles and procedures for the manufacturer of medicines; it helps ensure that the products manufactured are of a certain quality. EudraLex Annex 7 (Volume 4) Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) in the EU and UK. In Australia GMP with regard to Medicinal Cannabis products must comply with TGA GMP as defined in Therapeutic Goods Orders (TGO)93 and 100.


Includes stacking, stowing, storing, transporting, loading, unloading and any operation incidental to, or arising out of, any of those operations.
Often referred to as Industrial Hemp, is a botanical class of Cannabis sativa cultivars grown specifically for industrial or medicinal use. It can be used to make a wide range of products. Along with bamboo, hemp is among the fastest growing plants on Earth. It was also one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 50,000 years ago. It can be refined into a variety of commercial items, including paper, rope, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed. Hemp cultivation and processing licences for industrial purposes and food is overseen by the Home Office in the UK, and does not allow for the production of CBD Novel Foods or CBPMs. Levels of controlled cannabinoids are tightly monitored and the flowering tops may not be harvested. Hemp Seed when sold as a food must comply with FSA and local authority food handling regulations. Hemp crops must not contain more than 0.2% total controlled cannabinoids and once harvested, no more than 1mg THC per container.
Hempcrete or hemplime is biocomposite material, a mixture of hemp hurds (shives) and lime, sand, or pozzolans, which is used as a material for construction and insulation. It is marketed under names like Hempcrete, Canobiote, Canosmose, Isochanvre and IsoHemp. Hempcrete is easier to work with than traditional lime mixes and acts as an insulator and moisture regulator. It lacks the brittleness of concrete and consequently does not need expansion joints. The result is a lightweight insulating material ideal for most climates as it combines insulation and thermal mass.
Herbal preparations are obtained by subjecting herbal substances to treatments such as extraction, distillation, expression, fractionation, purification, concentration or fermentation. These include comminuted or powdered herbal substances, tinctures, extracts, essential oils, expressed juices and processed exudates.
The term herbal substance is synonymous with the term herbal drug used in European Pharmacopoeia. All mainly whole, fragmented or cut plants, plant parts, algae, fungi, lichen in an unprocessed, usually dried form but sometimes fresh. Certain exudates that have not been subjected to a specific treatment are also considered to be herbal substances. Herbal substances are precisely defined by the plant part used and the botanical name according to the binomial system (genus, species, variety and author).
Ministerial department of the Government responsible for immigration, security, law and order and administering the UK’s responsibilities under the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
An abbreviation for High Performance Liquid Chromatography. “Chromatography” is a technique for separation, “chromatogram” is the result of chromatography, and “chromatograph” is the instrument used to conduct chromatography.


Checks performed during production in order to monitor and if necessary to adjust the process to ensure that the product conforms to its specification. The control of the environment or equipment may also be regarded as a part of in-process control.

Administered by way of the nasal structures.


A medicine that has marketing authorisation from MHRA enabling it to be prescribed in the UK.

Premises at which activities authorised under a Licence take place.

Learning Management System used for training purposes – often digital.


All processes, other than production, by which drugs may be obtained and includes refining as well as the transformation of drugs into other drugs.

Abbreviation of Medicinal or Medical Cannabis.

Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) and Regulations was created under the UK’s obligations as a signatory to the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the other conventions that make up the UN Drug Control regime: the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, to prevent the misuse of controlled drugs and achieves this by imposing a complete ban on the possession, supply, manufacture, import and export of controlled drugs except as allowed by regulations or by licence from the Secretary of State.

Medical cannabis (and cannabis oils) “Medical cannabis” is a broad term for any sort of cannabis-based medicine used to relieve symptoms. Many cannabis-based products are available to buy online, but their quality and content is not known. They may be illegal in the UK, as opposed to CBPMs (a subset) that require a script from a specialist physician and whose possession under prescription is legal.

Cannabis that is intended for therapeutic use. Is prescribed by a trained medical professional, for a known medical condition or a set of conditions where it has proven to be an effective treatment.
A product, including but not limited to a substance, composition, preparation or mixture, that: (a) Includes, or is from, any part of the cannabis plant; and (b) Is for use for the purposes of curing, or alleviating the symptoms of, a disease, ailment or injury.
Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Microdosing, or micro-dosing, is a technique for studying the behaviour of drugs in humans through the administration of doses so low (“sub-therapeutic”) they are unlikely to produce side effects. May refer to controlled cannabinoids or other psychotropic substances.


Novel foods are any food that was not used for human consumption to a significant degree within the United Kingdom (UK) or the European Union (EU) before 15 May 1997. This means that the foods don’t have a ‘history of consumption’. Examples of novel foods include: new foods, for example, phytosterols and phytostanols used in cholesterol reducing spreads traditional foods eaten elsewhere in the world, for example, chia seeds, baobab foods produced from new processes, for example, bread treated with ultraviolet light to increase the level of vitamin D present Novel foods need to be authorised before they can be placed on the market in Great Britain (GB). The placing of novel foods on the market in GB must be in accordance with the retained EU regulation 2015/2283. There are two authorisation routes – traditional food notification and full application.
Novel food CBD products, must be authorised before they are put on the market to ensure they have been through an independent safety assessment. Applications for authorisation of CBD food products are required as these products are considered a novel food having no history of consumption before May 1997. The FSA required industry to submit applications for CBD products which were on sale on 13 February 2020. The list of CBD products linked to novel food applications contains CBD food products which meet the following criteria: they were on the market at the time of our announcement on CBD (13 February 2020) the FSA received an authorisation application for the products before 31 March 2021 the FSA validated the application or agreed that it is sufficiently progressing towards validation All CBD products must comply with other legislative requirements and should not be incorrectly labelled, unsafe or regarded as controlled substances (see Misuse of Drugs – controlled cannabinoid thresholds)
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (England).
Does not affect mental processes, e.g. perception, consciousness, cognition or mood and emotions, as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO).


(a) A cannabis research permit; and/or (b) A medicinal cannabis permit; and/or (c) A manufacture permit; and/or issued under the the Misuse of Drugs Act (UK) by the Home Office to undertake said activity.
Standardised, quality-controlled production of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis. Medical grade product with standardised content of the active constituents, presented as a pharmaceutical medication.
Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant. Phytocannabinoids are most concentrated in the glandular trichomes (hairy outgrowths) of the flowering heads of the female cannabis plant.
Phytosanitary certification is used to attest that consignments meet phytosanitary (regarding plants) import requirements and is undertaken by an NPPO (National Plant Protection Organisation). A phytosanitary certificate for export or for re-export can be issued only by a public officer who is technically qualified and duly authorised by an NPPO (ISPM 12).
PIC/S is the abbreviation and logo used to describe both the Pharmaceutical Inspection Convention (PIC) and the Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme (PIC Scheme) operating together in parallel.
Originating from the whole plant as opposed to synthetically produced.
(a) A structure or building (b) A vehicle, vessel or aircraft (c) A place (whether or not enclosed or built on), including a place situated underground or under water (d) A part of a thing referred to in paragraph (a), (b) or (c).
Means a mixture, solid or liquid, containing a drug.
Clinicians that do not work for the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, but instead have created private consultations at a cost directly to the patient, OR in Australia clinics specialising in the prescription of cannabis derived unlicensed medicines available under the Special Access and Authorised Prescriber Schemes.
Is the practice of achieving uniformity of active ingredients in the end product. Without uniformity, no pharmaceutical material or product can be released to the market.
Production of cannabis includes processing and packaging of the product, labelling, storage, testing or releasing for distribution (excluding cultivation) in the EU; OR Consists of harvest and placing in a container for the purpose of manufacture or research (AU).
Prohibition is the act or practice of forbidding something by law; more particularly the term refers to the banning of the manufacture, storage (whether in barrels or in bottles), transportation, sale, possession, and consumption of alcoholic beverages or certain drugs.
This Act of UK Parliament contains provision about psychoactive substances. (2) Section 2 defines what is meant by a “psychoactive substance”. (3) Sections 4 to 10 contain provision about offences relating to psychoactive substances. (4) Section 11 provides for exceptions to those offences. (5) Sections 12 to 35 contain powers for dealing with prohibited activities in respect of psychoactive substances, in particular powers to give prohibition notices and make prohibition orders. (6) Sections 36 to 54 contain enforcement powers.


Quality Management System – A set of policies, processes and procedures required for planning and execution (production/development/service) in the core business area of an organisation.

Action of proving that any equipment works correctly and actually leads to the expected results. The word validation is sometimes widened to incorporate the concept of qualification.
A systematic process for the assessment, control, communication, and review of risks to the quality of the drug product across the product lifecycle.


An action taken to resolve a problem with therapeutic goods for which there are established deficiencies in quality, efficacy or safety.
The sticky, light to dark brown, cannabinoid rich, secretion of the trichomes (glands) of the cannabis plant. Trichomes appear on flowers and sugar leaves of mature female plants. These trichomes produce all of the medical efficacy and psychoactive effects of marijuana. Resin is considered the most valuable part of the plant and delivers the majority of the psychoactive compound THC. Products containing resin are called concentrates.
Risk Management refers to the identification and weighing of risks and the development of treatments to reduce risk. Risk Management is one of the most valuable parts of an effective Quality System.


Special Access Scheme Category for the prescription and authorisation of unlicensed drugs.
Super Critical Carbon Dioxide Extraction – may also refer to Sub-Critical Carbon Dioxide Extraction.

Standard Operating Procedures.

A category of unlicensed medicines that are manufactured or procured specifically to meet the special clinical needs of an individual patient.

Sponsors are the nominated entity (Physician, prescribing nurse, company, research institute etc.) on documentation for the importation of products into the UK for use in UK clinical trials; import investigational medicinal products (IMPs) into Great Britain from outside the UK; or for prescription as a ‘special’.

Standardisation means adjusting the herbal substance/herbal preparation to a defined content of a constituent or a group of constituents with known therapeutic activity respectively either by adding excipients or by blending batches of the herbal substance and/or herbal preparation (e.g. standardised extracts).
A medicine administered via the mouth, placing a drug under the tongue to dissolve and absorb into the blood stream.
Includes the following, whether free of charge or otherwise: (a) Supply by way of sale, exchange, gift, lease, loan, hire or hire-purchase (b) Supply by way of sample (c) Supply in the course of testing safety or efficacy (d) Supply by way of administration to, or application in the treatment of, a person.

A substance made by chemical synthesis to imitate its plant-derived equivalent.


Any of a large group of volatile unsaturated hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of plants, especially conifers and citrus trees. They are based on a cyclic molecule having the formula C10H16. They are used industrially for their scent, flavour and as solvents.
Delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol, a major psychotropic cannabinoid.


A documented program that provides a high degree of assurance that a specific process, method, or system will consistently produce a result meeting pre-determined acceptance criteria.

verb: vape; third person present: vapes; past tense: vaped; past participle: vaped; gerund or present participle: vaping

inhale and exhale vapour containing nicotine and flavouring produced by a device designed for this purpose.

“I’d rather people vaped indoors than smoked outside”

noun: vape; plural noun: vapes

a device used for inhaling vapour containing nicotine and flavouring.

“I’ve been using a vape now for 15 weeks”

The procedure for qualifying suppliers of raw materials, equipment or services consists of three methods, and the extent of each depends on the risk classification of their products / services.


The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organisation, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget. The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland.

World Health Organisation is an arm of the United Nations tasked with the oversight of global health standards and disease mitigation.

Instructions written for every part of the production process, outlining the required materials, responsibilities, expected outcomes and actions to be taken in case any discrepancies are observed. The work instructions and logbooks make the bulk of the QMS.


With thanks to the following contributors:

  • Members of the CIC Standards Working Group
  • Elisabetta Faenza, James Hutton Ltd
  • Professor Mike Barnes, Cannabis Industry Council
  • Ralph MacMurray, MedBud