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Is Cannabis a Fruit, Vegetable, or Neither?

cannabis flower in an open wooden container with green background

Classification of the cannabis plant into a fruit or a vegetable is actually more complicated than it sounds: technically, it’s a vegetable though it’s more commonly called an herb.

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The Anatomy of Cannabis

Before we can begin unpacking the complicated question of how exactly the cannabis plant is a vegetable, it’s helpful to understand the anatomy of a cannabis plant and the parts you are specifically consuming.

Cannabis sativa is a flowering plant from the family Cannabaceae, which comprises a stem, root, leaves, and flowers. We aren’t concerned with the stem, root, or leaves as these aren’t the plant sections we commonly consume.

It’s worth noting that this plant is herbaceous, meaning it doesn’t have wood like trees do. Cannabis plants have many other parts we won’t cover, such as stomata, chlorophyll, pollen sacs, colas, and sugar leaves.

Male vs. Female Cannabis Plants

There are male and female plants. Male cannabis plants produce pollen, and female cannabis plants produce marijuana buds. In the eyes of most consumers, the most essential part of the marijuana plant is the female flower, which is the section of the plant that’s smoked. (Male plants have some THC content but at much lower levels than the THC content in female plants.)

Female flowers contain a pistil, which is made up of a stigma and an ovule. These are botany terms for the inside sections of the female flower responsible for reproduction. They’re protected by tiny leaves called bract, where many cannabinoids are stored. Additional cannabinoids are stored inside trichomes, which appear as tiny crystals and cover the outside of the flower.

So to recap, the cannabis plant is a herbaceous (non-woody) plant that grows flowers. These flowers consist of pistils, made of an ovule and stigmas, that are protected by a bract and covered in trichomes.

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Fruits vs. Vegetables

Believe it or not, defining fruits and vegetables is not a settled issue in the scientific community. Most people would think that it would be a simple task to classify plants into fruits or veggies, but the variety of plants and their methods of seed dispersal make this issue quite complex.

The definition of a fruit is “the fleshy or dry ripened ovary of a flowering plant.” This means that to be considered a fruit, the consumable product must have developed from the ovary.

The definition of a vegetable is extremely broad and covers almost all edible plant matter of herbaceous plants. Notably, the definition of a vegetable includes flowers like broccoli.

To add an extra bit of complexity, we can also throw in the term “herb.” In botany, the definition of an herb is a seed-producing, non-woody plant that dies down at the end of the growth period.

Is Cannabis a Fruit or Vegetable?

So, to answer the question, cannabis is a vegetable. This is because it’s an edible part of a non-woody plant, which fits the broad definition of a vegetable. It can also be considered a herb.

We know that cannabis is not fruit because it isn’t just the ripened ovary of the cannabis flower. Because we consume the entire flower, and because it’s made of edible herbaceous plant matter, we consider the cannabis plant a vegetable.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is hemp a vegetable?

 is a variety of cannabis that contains much fewer psychoactive ingredients (thus producing fewer psychoactive effects) and is classified as a vegetable.

Can you eat raw marijuana leaves?

Cannabis leaves (like the rest of the plant) are edible and have been consumed by humans for a very long time. You can consume these raw leaves in things like salads or juices, but they won’t get you high.

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