Types of Cannabis and Health Risks

With states legalizing across the country, many people are starting to learn that there are multiple varieties of the cannabis plant, sometimes called "marijuana", and they can be prepared in a variety of ways. The potency of cannabis can vary greatly from one plant to another and from one preparation to another. The route of administration can strongly affect the intensity of marijuana's effects.

One person's experience of taking marijuana can be completely different from that of someone else.

Smoking Weed

Dried marijuana buds
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Often simply called weed or pot, this is the unprocessed form of cannabis. Weed consists of the dried leaves and buds of the female Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica plants.

It has a very pungent and recognizable odor, both in its unburnt state and while being smoked. This odor is quite unlike kitchen herbs, although weed is sometimes "cut" (mixed) with benign kitchen herbs such as oregano and parsley when sold in the underground market.

Weed is commonly smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes, known as joints. The lumpy texture of weed can be felt through the tobacco rolling paper. This is one of the characteristics that can differentiate a joint from a hand-rolled tobacco cigarette.

Hashish and weed can be mixed with rolling tobacco, which is a soft, moist, sticky tobacco preparation designed for hand-rolling. It may also be mixed with the dry tobacco from deconstructed cigarettes. This mixture is referred to as a "spliff".

Weed, hashish, and hashish oil can be smoked in pipes, water pipes, and bongs, or mixed with tobacco and smoked in a chillum. Some young adults have also used e-cigarettes to inhale marijuana through "vaping."


A 50g block of hashish
Farmer Dodds, Flickr

Hashish, or hash for short, is a preparation of marijuana made from the resin of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The resin is dried into blocks of hashish, producing an oily, solid substance.

Cannabis resin can be referred to by the names for the specific type of hash, rather than the generic names of hashish or pot. These different names for hashish include black, goldseal black, redseal black, and Morrocan (Rocky for short).

Hashish is often warmed, crumbled, and rolled together with tobacco. It may also be smoked in a pipe, bong, or chillum.

There are several different types of hashish. The colors range from dark brown or almost black, through various shades of brown, to a dirty yellowish color.

The appearance of different types of hashish can vary as well. Some may look dark and shiny (a bit like licorice) and some may be lighter and dull or matte (a bit like a soup stock cube). The texture of hashish also varies from quite dry and hard, like a piece of fudge, to moist and pliable, like modeling clay.

As with weed, hashish has a very distinctive, pungent odor. It is one of the easiest ways of identifying it as a form of marijuana. The appearance of hashish is so varied that novice users are often duped into buying licorice or other cheap, benign substances that look similar.

Hashish oil, or hash oil, is the strongest form of marijuana and is the least common form of the drug. It is sold in tiny bottles or sealed plastic bags.

Only a small amount is needed to produce the effects of marijuana. Typically, hash oil is smoked in a pipe or painted onto cigarettes or joints.

Cannabis-Infused Food and Drink

Dark chocolate brownies with cherry
Arx0nt / Getty Images

Marijuana can also be taken orally and is often cooked into food. In this form, it is commonly called edibles. A classic way to eat marijuana is in the form of brownies or cookies. However, marijuana can be added to many types of food, just like an herb, and may even appear in candy.

Hashish and hashish oil can be dissolved into milk and consumed in drinks. Milk is the carrier of choice due to its emulsive properties as cannabis is an oil-based substance.

With edible forms of marijuana, it takes longer to feel the psychoactive effects and it can be quite potent.

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8 Sources
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Additional Reading
  • Jones C, Hill M, Pardini D, Meier M. Prevalence and Correlates of Vaping Cannabis in a Sample of Young Adults. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. 30(8):915-921. 2016. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/adb0000217

  • Denning P, Little J, Glickman A. Over the Influence: The Harm Reduction Guide for Managing Drugs and Alcohol. New York: Guilford. 2004.
  • Jacquette D, Allhoff F. (Editors). Cannabis: Philosophy for Everyone. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell. 2010.
  • Stockburger S. Forms of Administration of Cannabis and Their Efficacy. Journal of Pain Management. 9(4):381-386. 2016.