Cannabis-Related Terms 

“Cannabis” is the generic term for products of the plant, Cannabis sativa L.

  • Cannabis is a widely distributed plant¹ that is one of the oldest sources of fiber, food, oil, and medicine²
  • Cannabis, and all of its cannabinoid components, is a controlled substance classified as a Schedule I agent in the US; this classification denotes a drug with a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use³

The scientific name of the cannabis plant4
The two varieties of cannabis – sativa and indica – are considered subspecies; Cannabis sativa subsp. sativa contains <0.3% (dry weight) of THC and Cannabis sativa subsp. indica contains >0.3% of THC.4,5 Current botanical thinking, however, now refers only to a single species – Cannabis sativa L.

Endocannabinoid System and Related Terms

Binding sites for cannabinoids within the brain and body20
Communication system within the brain comprising identified cannabinoid receptors, the endocannabinoids that target the receptors, and the downstream effects21,22

This term originates in endocannabinoid science, but is commonly used to suggest that combining multiple constituents of the whole cannabis plant may result in enhanced therapeutic effects. More data in patients are needed to support or refute this theory
in specific disease states.13,23

Why is this term considered ambiguous? Although the observation of synergy may suggest that adequate efficacy requires a cumulative effect of multiple cannabis constituents, additional testing needs to be done. Preclinical and clinical evidence suggests that some purified cannabinoids are efficacious when administered alone.13

Nutraceuticals & Dietary Supplements

A term derived from combining “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical;” there is no regulatory definition and it does not fall within a recognized regulatory category of the FDA32,33

  • Individual nutraceuticals do not undergo testing for medical or health benefits

A product (other than tobacco) intended for ingestion to add further nutritional value to supplement the diet that contains one or more of the following dietary ingredients (or a constituent/extract of these ingredients)34,35

  • Vitamin
  • Mineral
  • Amino acid
  • Concentrate
  • Metabolite
  • Herb or other botanical
  • Substance to increase total dietary intake

Dietary supplements are FDA regulated as foods, but the FDA has stated that CBD may not be marketed as a dietary supplement.36


Term used to refer to molecules that are found in the cannabis plant and/or that interact with cannabinoid receptors, as well as the derivatives, and transformation products of those molecules.6-9 They can be classified as phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids, or synthetic cannabinoids.

Chemicals produced by the body10 that target cannabinoid receptors11

Cannabinoids produced in the laboratory to structurally or functionally mimic the endocannabinoids or phytocannabinoids10

Over 100 naturally occurring chemicals found in the cannabis plant with a chemical structure related to endocannabinoids.10
The most well-characterized, so far, are described below12:

  • CBD: Cannabidiol, one of the major cannabinoids derived from cannabis or synthesized. CBD is under evaluation for
    its anticonvulsant properties, among other therapeutic uses. CBD has very low affinity at the cannabinoid receptors, type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2), and is not believed to be psychoactive.13
  • THC: Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, a major phytocannabinoid derived from cannabis, is thought to be the pharmacologically most active cannabinoid of the cannabis plant, largely responsible for its psychoactive properties due to its agonist activity at CB1 receptors (behavioral, cognitive, and psychotropic effects)13
  • CBDV: Cannabidivarin, a variant of CBD with some animal evidence supporting anticonvulsant and other effects under investigation14
  • THCV: Tetrahydrocannabidivarin – structurally similar to THC, it is an antagonist at CB115
  • THCA: Δ1-Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, the most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis bred for recreational use; as a nonpsychoactive precursor of THC, THCA converts to THC when heated (to temperatures greater than those found in the human body) or smoked11
The primary aromatic principles found in cannabis, providing the scent and flavor of the cannabis plant16,17

Preparations from cannabis plants that are higher in CBD than plants bred historically for recreation.18
The term “enriched” is often used inappropriately.

Controlled CBD preparation that meets Food and Drug Administration standards of purity, consistency, stability, safety, and efficacy; it can be plant-derived or synthetic.19

Marijuana and Related Terms

A dried mixture of cannabis leaves and flowers12

Concept implying that products derived from the entire cannabis plant may be better than the individual cannabinoids isolated from it (eg, purified CBD-only formulas)13

Use of cannabis or cannabis products used to induce pleasure,
euphoria, relaxation, and to enhance sociability24
Use of cannabis or cannabis products in an attempt to treat disease or alleviate symptoms by patient choice, understanding that there is a lack of placebo controlled trials supporting the favorable efficacy and safety of these products26,27
The DEA also recently affirmed maintaining marijuana as a Schedule I substance.25
Strains of Cannabis sativa L. historically grown for fibrous materials found in stalks and seeds; contain minimal amounts of THC5 and low levels of CBD.4 Used industrially to develop items, such as clothing fiber.4 The flowering portions of the hemp variety may be used to extract CBD.4 Cannabinoids extracted from hemp plants are considered marijuana and are classified as a Schedule I substance.27‡

The Controlled Substances Act does not define hemp, per se. Its definition of marijuana includes all parts of the Cannabis sativa L. plant, and the seeds and resin extracted from any part of such plant; it exempts all marijuana stalk, fiber, and sterilized seeds (and preparations made from them).28

An oil extracted from cannabis seeds by cold pressing. It contains only trace amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes, and is high in unsaturated fatty acids; used in paints and varnishes and in manufacturing soap and a wide variety of food products.4

An extract obtained from the flowering portions of the hemp plant, then dissolved in another oil (coconut, sesame, etc). It typically contains no THC and has no psychoactive properties.29

Concentrated cannabis extracts, often containing very high concentrations of THC30,31

Why is this term considered ambiguous? The constituents are often unclear; the relative amounts of cannabinoids are not always specified.

Regulatory Guidelines§

Known as the “2018 Farm Bill,” this was signed into law by President Trump on December 20, 2018. It removed hemp, which it defined as cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) and derivatives of cannabis with no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis, from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The 2018 Farm Bill also explicitly preserved FDA’s authorities over hemp products under the FD&C Act and Public Health Service Act.39

A designation granted by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research after rigorous placebo-controlled studies to guide correct dosing, safety, and efficacy of new compounds for medical use. 37 Demonstration of product consistency is also required for FDA approval.

Drugs, substances, and certain chemicals used to make drugs are classified into five distinct categories|| (or schedules) at the federal level by the DEA; these depend upon the drug’s acceptable medical use in treatment in the US, their relative abuse potential, and the likelihood of causing dependence when abused 38.

||Schedule 1 is the most restrictive designation.

Known as the “Farm Bill,” this was signed by President Obama on February 7, 2014. Section 7606 highlights the “Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research,” authorizing industrial hemp (Cannabis plants containing 0.3% or less THC by weight) to be used in research and pilot programs by institutions of higher education or state 5.


FDA Public Hearing, May 31, 2019: Scientific Data and Information about Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-Derived Compounds

Webcast Recordings Now Available

A webcast recording of the public hearing is available in four distinct segments. The purpose of the public hearing was to obtain scientific data and information about the safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labeling, and sale of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds.

Each segment is in order based on the agenda. You must allow Adobe Connect or Adobe Flash to run on the site to view the segments below.

For access to the public docket and comments, click here


This website is supported by a grant from Greenwich Biosciences.