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What is Cannabis Flower?

Male cannabis indica plant.

Cannabis has gone by a lot of different nicknames over the years: bud, nugs, grass, weed, pot, ganja, reefer, herb, and chronic, to name a few.

As the cannabis industry evolves from an underground, illegal black market to a legitimately recognized industry for natural, healing medicine, researchers and cannabis professionals have done a great job of breaking down the many unique aspects of the cannabis plant.

Here at Leafwell, we’re in the business of connecting medical cannabis patients with their medicine. Part of that mission is ensuring our readers understand the ins and outs of how their medicine works and how to use it properly.

Today, we’re going to focus on breaking down what cannabis flower is, how and why it works the way it does, and how patients can utilize cannabis flower to live their healthiest lives.

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What Exactly is Cannabis Flower?

With the maturity and diversity of cannabis-infused product options available in legal and medical markets throughout the country, it’s more important than ever to break the different aspects of the cannabis plant down in ways that are simple and accessible.

After all, a medical patient could have a terrible time if they’re going to the dispensary looking for a 1:1 CBD to THC disposable and end up walking out with something stronger.

So, what exactly is cannabis flower? Simply put, it’s the part of the cannabis plant that people have been smoking for thousands of years now. If you’ve gone to a dispensary to buy some pre-rolls or have ever taken a hit from a blunt or a joint, you know firsthand what cannabis flower is.

Cannabis flower comprises the so-called “buds” or “nugs” that are typically ground up and smoked. Vast portions of your local dispensary’s menu are likely devoted to different indica, sativa, or hybrid forms of cannabis flower, so it’s pretty hard to miss.

Even disposable vape pens full of THC-infused oils and concentrates typically used in dab rigs are derived from cannabis flower. But what exactly is it?

It might come as a surprise to many that, at least when it comes to cannabis plants and the flower they produce, sex matters. Female cannabis plants produce the best quality flower, which means they’re generally more sought out and coveted than male plants (which have uses of their own).

When it comes to smokable cannabis flower, though, female plants are the best option for overall quality. As long as they’re kept separate from male plants, they’ll keep producing top-notch flower for cannabis consumers everywhere.

While there’s still debate whether it’s better to have virginal or sexually experienced female plants when it comes to producing top-notch flower, the science is clear about the role of female plants in that process. And, in general, sensimilla (unfertilized, female, seedless buds) are generally better.

Benefits of Using Cannabis Flower

Why should you opt for cannabis flower on your next trip to the dispensary? Well, there are a few reasons every cannabis user, especially medical patients, shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss cannabis flower for other options.

Familiarity of Use

First and foremost, familiarity should undoubtedly be a factor. If you’ve enjoyed some of the most common forms of cannabis consumption, such as joints, blunts, bong rips, bowls, etc., you’ve likely enjoyed some cannabis flower already.

From the perspective of simplicity and ease of use, cannabis flower is among the easiest ways to consume and enjoy the benefits of cannabis as a medical patient.

Smoking cannabis flower is fast-acting, getting the healing, pain-reducing cannabinoids into your system quicker than most other methods to ease symptoms of serious illnesses faster, and it’s simple to do.

When it comes to, for example, rolling a joint at home with cannabis flower from the dispensary, all you’ll need is a lighter, a filter, and some rolling papers.

Other forms of medication have some serious downsides. Edibles and pills can take a long time to kick in and can be difficult to dose. Concentrates can be overwhelming in both their forms of consumption and their overall strength. Infused creams don’t come in handy for easing pain in hard-to-reach areas or for those with severe mobility issues.

Smoking or vaping some cannabis flower is a simple and easy way to get the most out of your medicine without the downsides and difficulties of other forms of therapy.

Ease of Dosage

Speaking of downsides, it’s worth noting that cannabis flower is much easier to dose than any other form. However, getting an accurate number on the number of cannabinoids in every puff or toke is difficult. It’s well-known that edible forms of medication can be notoriously tricky to get the dosage right, but let’s compare some other forms to how precise you can be with cannabis flower.

With cannabis-infused oil vapes, you have to trust that the cannabinoid and terpene ratios are accurate. Thankfully, testing requirements are improving, and measuring cannabinoid intake can be easier with a high-quality vape pen.

While the directions on the package can give you a decent idea of how much medicine you’re getting per pull on the vape, multiple factors like lung capacity, tolerance, and weight can change that math.

With cannabis flower, you can quickly and easily measure out the amount of cannabis you want to use with a food scale and some trial and error. If you want to know how much CBD, THC, or other cannabinoids there are in the weight you are using, look at the test results.

You can get a calculator and multiply the weight by the percentage (if given as a percentage). It may not be completely accurate, but for many, vaping or smoking cannabis flower is the ideal method of ingestion, as the effects are immediate and far easier to control compared to edibles.

Starting with Leafwell’s often-recommended “slow and low” policy on dosage, you’ll measure out a small starting dose of cannabis flower. Once you smoke that dose, see how it affects you. If you’re not getting your desired effects, try a bit more.

Keep that process going until you get to the proper dosage then you’ll know how much cannabis flower is enough. Simply put, this process wouldn’t work for oil vapes.

Versatility of Uses

Another factor to consider is the versatility of cannabis flower. Nearly all of the other forms of consumption you can get at your local dispensary come from cannabis flower anyway. Plus, most are more expensive than the flower itself.

So why not buy the flower and make whatever you’re looking for yourself? If you want to avoid smoking cannabis flower, you can always vape it or make an edible or tincture of your own.

Making cannabis edibles and oils is relatively simple and easy, and if you’re a dedicated cannabis lover, you can even make your own concentrates.

While it might take a little bit of work and research to figure out how to do it, making cannabis products out of the cannabis flower you’re buying is an excellent way to save money and control the dosage of your products!

Sativa vs. Indica vs. Hybrid Flower – Is There a Difference?

In the past, people differentiated between cannabis types by their growth patterns. Sativas are tall and large and take up to 14 weeks to grow. Indicas are short, stout, and take up to eight weeks to grow.

They also compared their effects. Sativas are more cerebral and energetic, usually higher in THC and THCV, whereas indicas are more sedative and relaxing, with high THC and CBD contents.

Hybrids are a mixture of indicas and sativas, taking growth and effect aspects from both.

However, these categories are rough distinctions at best, with many saying that the “sativa,” “indica,” and “hybrid” labels are meaningless. This is because when you test a plant for its chemical composition, you will find more similarities than differences between an indica and a sativa.

The hybridization of cannabis strains has made indicas and sativas even more similar.

What seems to matter most is the environment in which a plant is grown. A Blue Dream grown in California may differ from a Blue Dream grown in Colorado despite having the same genetic base.

This is because the type of soil, amount of sunlight, humidity, altitude, and any other environmental factors can affect what cannabinoids and terpenes the plant produces. This can be seen when cannabis is in the wild, too.

For example, a Kush variety growing near some mountains in India will grow like a sativa at low altitudes but like an indica at higher altitudes.

That said, it is still possible for breeders to create their own type of cannabis and breed for specific traits. Terpenes, in particular, can make a specific variety distinct (e.g., Bubblegum or Blueberry, which have unique terpene profiles), so the smell and flavors can carry on to the next generation.

Similarly, growers and breeders can select plants high in CBD content and create new cannabis varietals high in CBD via selective breeding.

Hence, trademark “strains” are preferred to be called “cultivars” because “strains” are a misnomer. Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica are more similar than different.

You can breed all sorts of exciting cannabinoid and terpene profiles regardless of the genetic base being used; it just takes time, skill, and patience to develop specific profiles. Even then, they can change from environment to environment and generation to generation.

On the whole, it is best to remember that the distinctions made between indicas and sativas are mostly arbitrary. The only actual test of a particular variety’s effects are the cannabinoid and terpene test results, and trying it out to see what effect it has on you personally (taking into account that the ingestion method will have different effects as well).

Medical vs. Recreational Flower

It is a common misconception that there is a big difference between recreational and medical marijuana. However, cannabis is cannabis.

The recreational weed you purchase is also thought to help treat many of the conditions and ailments that medical patients buy medical marijuana for. There are only a few key differences, most of which are distinguished by industry and compliance regulations — namely accessibility, cost, and THC/CBD levels.


Medical marijuana is legal in 38 states, as opposed to recreational weed, which is currently legal in 24 (and even fewer have operational and licensed adult-use dispensaries). Because of current laws and the public sentiment driving legalization efforts, medical marijuana is more accessible than adult-use cannabis and likely will be for a while.


Because it is distributed for medical purposes, medical marijuana is often cheaper than its recreational counterpart. Not only that, but taxes are usually much lower for medical marijuana.

Taxes vary by state, but a lot of states have generally fairly heavy taxes on adult-use weed. Medical cannabis, on the other hand, typically has far fewer taxes applied to its purchase.

THC vs. CBD Levels

Just like with recreational marijuana, there are different types of medical marijuana, including various strains and consumption methods (e.g., flower, pre-rolls, vapes, concentrates, gummies, etc.).

The CBD-to-THC ratio is the most significant difference between medical and recreational strains. A lot of people using cannabis for medical purposes want the benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive high that can get in the way of day-to-day activities such as work, school, etc.

Therefore, common medical marijuana strains have lower THC levels and higher CBD levels since CBD is not psychoactive but still offers medicinal benefits.

The only thing that makes lower THC-level strains of medical marijuana, however, is when it is labeled as such. CBD and THC content does not innately make cannabis medical and recreational.

How Can Cannabis Flower Be Used?

When it comes to how a medical patient can utilize the cannabis flower that they either grow at home or buy at their local dispensary, the options are virtually endless.

Cannabis flower can, of course, be smoked using a joint, blunt, pipe, or bong for immediate and effective results. It can also be utilized to create cannabis-infused oils like RSO or other vape oils.

Suppose you’re feeling ambitious and creative or live an active, healthy lifestyle and want to avoid smoking. In that case, you can even make that cannabis flower into a whole assortment of different edibles.

Cannabis flower is the versatile heart and soul of the overall cannabis industry. As long as you have some flower, you’ll be able to enjoy the healing power of medical cannabis in nearly any form you want.

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Originally Published: July 2021

Last Updated: March 2024

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