Various Forms of Marijuana (Cannabis)

Cannabis—one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States—is used in many different forms.1,2

This page will discuss several different forms of marijuana, the effects of marijuana, natural marijuana vs. synthetic marijuana, and marijuana addiction treatment.

 What is Marijuana (Cannabis)?

Cannabis is an umbrella term that includes all products derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. Marijuana refers to parts of cannabis that contain much of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis plants that contain very little THC are considered “industrial hemp” under United States law.1

When smoked, vaped, or consumed, the THC from marijuana binds to and activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain areas involved with pleasure, memory, concentration, coordination, perception, and more. In disrupting certain neural processes through this receptor activation, THC may elicit a desirable “high” in addition to other physiological effects.2

Although marijuana is legal in many states, it is associated with many risks and negative health effects. At a federal level, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance with a high potential for misuse.2,3

Common street names for cannabis products include:2

  • Weed. 
  • Pot.
  • Mary jane. 
  • Ganja. 
  • Grass.
  • Herb.
  • Bud. 

Synthetic cannabinoids (Spice, K2, etc.) are human-made chemicals that act on the same brain cell receptors as botanically-derived THC, with effects that mimic those of marijuana—sometimes much more potently so. Many of these synthetic substances are illegal, however, manufacturers are constantly avoiding laws by creating new formulas.4

Both natural and synthetic weed is sold and used in various forms. The following sections will break down the various forms of marijuana and their effects and dangers.

Natural Cannabis and Cannabis Concentrates

There are several different forms of marijuana sold in both legal dispensaries or the illicit market, all with potentially negative effects and risks.5

These types of cannabis products can be broadly classified as either marijuana or its derivatives (i.e., concentrates and extracts).


Marijuana refers to the flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant.2,6

People commonly use marijuana in a few different ways, such as:5

  • Smoking pot: Marijuana can be smoked in pipes, bongs (water pipes), joints (hand-rolled cigarettes), or blunts (marijuana rolled in cigar wraps.
  • Eating marijuana edibles: THC products are cooked and mixed into food such as candy, cookies, brownies.

When someone smokes marijuana, they often experience effects almost immediately; however, ingesting marijuana products orally may result in effects being felt 30 minutes to 1 hour later.2,5

Marijuana’s mind-altering effects come primarily from the naturally occurring psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Based on recent DEA drug seizures, the average THC concentration found in marijuana plant materials is around 15%.7

Marijuana Extracts & Concentrates

Cannabis concentrates and extracts are products derived from cannabis plants with highly potent THC concentrations. Marijuana concentrates are produced in various ways, including combining pressure with heat, dry processing, and by using flammable or non-flammable solvents.7

Common names for different types of cannabis extracts and concentrates include:7

  • Hash
  • Hash oil. 
  • Butane hash oil (BHO). 
  • Wax. 
  • Dab. 
  • Shatter. 
  • Amber.
  • Honeycomb. 

Like marijuana, many of these THC-heavy products can be smoked or ingested. Oils and waxes are sometimes vaporized and inhaled through the use of a “vape pen,” “dab rig,” or another device.7

The average THC level found in solvent-based products ranged from 54% to 69% with some products reportedly exceeding 80%. Non-solvent-based products can average around 40-60% THC. Since the THC level is so high in concentrates and extracts, these products can increase the likelihood of experiencing negative reactions.7

While any form of cannabis may contain unnatural adulterants (such as pesticides), marijuana extracts are often also contaminated with residual chemicals used in the extraction process.9

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic marijuana—also known as synthetic cannabinoids—are human-made products that share chemical similarities with the psychoactive components of marijuana plant materials. In other words, though their effects may be somewhat similar, these chemicals are not directly derived from cannabis. Though often marketed as a safe and legal alternative to marijuana, synthetic cannabinoid products are highly dangerous.4

Synthetic cannabinoids are sometimes sold as a liquid to be vaporized and inhaled in vapes, e-cigarettes, and other devices, or these chemicals may be sprayed on shredded dried plant material to be smoked or brewed as tea.4

Other common names for synthetic cannabinoid products include:4

  • Spice. 
  • K2.
  • Synthetic marijuana. 
  • Herbal or liquid incense. 
  • Fake weed. 

Effects of Marijuana

People who use marijuana may experience:2

  • Relaxation.
  • Increased appetite. 
  • Enhanced sensory perception. 
  • Distorted perception of time.

High doses may make someone more likely to experience certain adverse effects. The signs and symptoms of marijuana toxicity (sometimes called marijuana overdose) may also include:2

  • Fear.
  • Anxiety and panic.
  • Psychotic features such as paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations. 
  • A loss of sense of self or other identity disturbances.

Synthetic marijuana products share some of the same effects, but can also be more powerful, unpredictable, and dangerous than marijuana. The effects of synthetic cannabinoids can, in some cases, become life-threatening.4

Dangers of synthetic cannabinoids include toxic reactions such as:4

  • Vomiting. 
  • Elevated blood pressure. 
  • Reduced blood supply to the heart.  
  • Kidney damage. 
  • Violent behavior.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Seizures.  

Varying routes of administration for marijuana, extracts, or synthetic weed may have different effects and risks. For example, smoking marijuana may irritate the throat and lungs, while eating edibles may increase the chances of overdose if someone consumes too much while waiting to feel the effects.2

Chronic use of marijuana—in any form—can lead to physiological dependence and the development of marijuana addiction, also known as cannabis or marijuana use disorder.2,4,8

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) marijuana use disorder affects approximately 30% of people that use the drug.5

Marijuana Addiction Treatment

Cannabis use disorder is a complex but treatable disease.8,9 Treatment typically includes various types of behavioral therapy, peer support, education, and treatment for any co-occurring disorders that are present.9

Greenhouse Treatment Center in Texas employs personalized, evidence-based treatment methods in several different settings, depending on the patient’s needs. The levels of care provided Greenhouse include:

For more information on Greenhouse Treatment Center’s cannabis use disorder treatment programs, rehab admissions, using insurance coverage for addiction treatment, and other rehab payment options, speak with a compassionate admissions navigator available 24/7 at .

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