medical marijuana

The Anatomy of the Cannabis Plant

The cannabis plant is one of the oldest plants on earth, and various cultures have used it for millennia. The plant’s history is fascinating, but it is also good to understand what exactly a cannabis plant looks like in order to appreciate its utility. This blog post will cover the anatomy of the cannabis plant so you can better understand how different parts work together and why they are necessary for this incredible medicinal herb.

The Anatomy of the Cannabis Plant


Cannabis seeds the core to the anatomy of the cannabis plant. They are developed in female plants and contain the DNA of a male and a female. To sprout, seeds need to germinate and develop a taproot, which will become the main root that anchors the plant.

Cotyledon leaves

The first leaves to appear on a seedling after germination are these. They are usually paired, and seeing them means your seed has appropriately germinated and will grow healthy and robust.


The root system grows from the plant’s main stem into the ground. The main root of a seedling is known as the “taproot.” Roots are the lifelines of a cannabis plant, and they pull the water and oxygen the plant needs to thrive. Mycorrhizae, a helpful fungus, can be added to the soil to better root systems.


The main stem, also known as the stalk, of a cannabis plant arises straight from the root system and supports all lateral branches. The stem provides a plant with structure and stability. After about five nodes, growers will frequently top the stem to force the plant to develop laterally further, resulting in more bud sites.


Branches develop from the main stem and support fan leaves and buds. To produce additional bud sites, growers train cannabis plants by topping branches.


A node is a location on a plant where one branch branches off of another. Some nodes may contain fan leaves and buds, but not all. Preflowers, or the beginnings of male and female sex organs, can be seen at nodes in the development of cannabis plants. The distance between nodes is known as “internodal spacing” it provides a hint about how tall a plant will grow.

Fan leaves

The enormous, iconic leaves of the cannabis plant are known as fan leaves. They reflect light for the plant and hence have little to no resin and are regularly removed during trimming.

Sugar leaves

These leaves are the tiny, resin-coated leaves that buds develop around. Sugar leaves are often kept as “trim” during harvest and create pre-rolls, extracts, and other cannabis goods.


The buds of a cannabis plant are what we see in the dispensary. They include cannabinoids and terpenes, making you high or offering health advantages. Flowers are only created by female cannabis plants and must be dried before consumption.


A cluster of buds known as a “bud site” is also referred to as a “cola.” The main cola also called the apical bud, develops at the top of the plant, while smaller colas may be seen along with the budding sites of lower branches.

Bract and calyx

A bract encapsulates the female reproductive organs. They have green tear-shaped leaves and are blanketed in resin glands, which produce the most concentrated cannabinoids of all plant parts. The calyx, covered by these bracts and unnoticed by the naked eye, refers to a translucent layer surrounding the base’s ovule.

Stigma and pistil

The pistil is the reproductive part, and the bright, hair-like strands on its tip are known as stamens. The color of the pistil’s stigmas begins white and gradually darkens to yellow, orange, red, or brown throughout growth. The stigmas gather pollen. They are essential in reproduction, but stigmas contribute little to the flower’s effectiveness and taste.


Despite their tiny size, the blanket of crystal resin on a cannabis bud is impossible to overlook. Translucent, mushroom-shaped glands on the leaves, stems, and calyxes secrete this resin. Plants designed trichomes to deter animals and the weather from harming them. These clear globes ooze aromatic oils called terpenes and therapeutic cannabinoids like THC and CBD. These trichomes, as well as their powerful sugar-like resin, influence the formation of hash.

Male vs. female marijuana plants

Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning it can be male or female, and the male and female reproductive organs appear on different plants. The flowers of the female plant are what you currently have in your home.

Female plants produce the resin-secreting flower that is trimmed down into the buds that are smokable, while males create pollen sacs near the base of the leaves. Male plants pollinate females to begin seed development, but sinsemilla buds—those produced from female plants without seeds—are what we consume.

Growers might use clones and the genetically identical clippings from a parent strain to ensure the sex of their plants. Feminized seeds can also be created through a unique breeding technique.

How to determine the sex of a marijuana plant

Cannabis plants show their sex by growing between their nodes, where leaves and branches extend from the stalk. Pollen sacs will develop on a male plant to spread seeds, and stigma will develop on a female to catch pollen. You can see these differences weeks before they start serving their purposes in the reproduction cycle. These are known as “pre-flowers.”

Pre-flowers begin to develop after four weeks. However, they may take a little longer depending on how quickly the sprouting phase occurs. By the sixth week, you should be able to find the pre-flowers and determine the sex of your plant.

Examine the plant’s nodes and look for the early growth of tiny sacs on a male or two bracts on a female, eventually producing the hair-like stigma.

Female marijuana plants

Females are notorious in cannabis plants, as they are the ones that produce the buds that we all adore. When you see a photo of a cannabis plant with buds, it is a female plant you’re looking at. After absorbing pollen from males, females produce seeds to carry on both plants’ DNA into the following generation.

However, because cannabis is primarily grown for buds rather than seeds, the practice of producing sinsemilla, or “seedless,” cannabis is still widespread today: to prevent pollination, females, and males are grown separately or even thrown away. This allows female plants to channel their efforts into bud development rather than seed production.

When two different types of the same species are crossed, males and females are generally only fertilized when creating new strains or crossing over plants.

Male marijuana plants

Instead of buds, female cannabis plants produce pollen sacs. Because you do not want male plants to fertilize the females, which would result in seeds—no one wants to smoke seeds—males are generally discarded. In the breeding process, males are essential, but they should usually be left to professionals. Males contribute half of the genetic makeup passed on to seeds while pollinating females.

Because of this, it is critical to analyze the male plants’ genetics. Their form, growth rate, pest and mold resistance, and climate resilience can all be passed on to future generations to improve their quality.

Males are often used to make soft fiber hemp materials like clothing or table cloths. In contrast, females create a rougher, more durable fiber. Male plants can also produce hemp oil and hash from the leaves, stems, and sacs. THC is present in males but in much lower quantities.

Now that we all understand the anatomy of the cannabis plant, it is no surprise that cannabis plants are fascinating. Not only do they have an exciting history, but they also come in many different shapes and sizes–some of which may be pretty surprising! They can grow up to 6 feet tall or be short and stout. They can produce thick leaves that vary in shape from plant to plant, but our love for the magical plant stays the same regardless.

Using Cannabis as Medicine

For centuries people have been using cannabis as medicine. Recent studies have shown that it has an even greater potential in treating more medical conditions than we initially thought possible. So whether you are a student looking for information on cannabis research or someone curious about how cannabis can be used to treat their condition, read on–this guide is for you. We will cover everything you need to know about using cannabis as medicine, including the legality of cannabis, how to purchase cannabis for medicinal purposes, and the benefits and differences in each strain.

The Beginning of the Legal Medical Cannabis Journey

The history of medical cannabis dates back as early as 2737 B.C. when it was cited as medicine in the world’s first book on pharmacopeia. Shen Nung, a mythical emperor and famous Chinese herbalist cited the benefits of cannabis in his book “Pen Ts’ao Ching – The Classic of Herbal Medicine”.

However, as time went on and politics came into play, cannabis became outlawed around the world–despite its medicinal benefits. In the U.S., prohibition lasted over 80 years throughout the 1900’s which led to mass incarcerations targeted towards the Black and Mexican communities. In 1996 California passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, a law that allowed patients with a valid doctor’s recommendation or a designated Primary Caregiver to purchase, possess, and grow marijuana for medical use. Once the California state government passed the first medical marijuana legislation with Proposition 215. It started a snowball effect that has led to similar measures being approved in over 36 other states across the nation.

How to Purchase Medical Marijuana

Once you have established that your condition or illness qualifies you to join your state’s medical marijuana program, the next step is to locate a doctor or clinic that can give you a recommendation. Each state has its own unique medical marijuana card or certification, so be sure to research your state’s requirements. Many states, including California, require that you have your medical marijuana recommendation renewed on a yearly or bi-annual basis. Additionally, most dispensaries will need you to bring in your valid recommendation every time you visit.

What is the Difference Between Cannabis Strains?

While some claim that indica-dominant strains offer a more body-weighted effect and Sativa-dominant strains provide more of an invigorating cerebral experience, this is not always the case. It’s actually the combination of cannabinoids and terpenes that are responsible for how a strain makes you feel.

How did indica-dominant strains acquire the stigma of causing users to feel “couch-locked”? The most probable reason is that, in general, indica-dominant strains have greater amounts of terpenes like myrcene or linalool. Whereas Sativa-dominant strains get the reputation for being invigorating thanks to high amounts of terpenes like alpha-pinene, limonene, and beta-caryophyllene.

Indica-Dominant Effects

The strong body high we all know and love is produced by the indica strain. For some, indica’s tend to provide “couch lock,” or a degree of drowsiness. Indicas are also well-known for causing hunger and reducing bodily discomfort and pains. Many people like to smoke indica-dominant strains before going to sleep to help relax and fall asleep quicker.

Sativa-Dominant Effects

Sativa’s, on the other hand, are popular for producing a “head high.” They are designed to help boost your mood, focus on tasks, and spark creativity. Sativas are most well-known for delivering an overall sense of well-being and happiness.

Hybrid Effects

Hybrids are strains that combine indica and sativa genetics, producing a combination of effects. Consumers generally consider hybrids pleasurable as they may either energize or calm you down, depending on the strain’s family history. Connoisseurs choose hybrids for their various therapeutic effects, ranging from lowering anxiety and stress to treating chemotherapy or radiation-induced problems.

What is THC?

delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of the most common therapeutic compounds found in the cannabis Sativa plant. THC has become the most popular for its intoxicating, psychoactive effects.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating, highly therapeutic compound found in the cannabis Sativa plant.

The key difference between THC and CBD is that CBD will not make you feel high. In fact, some studies have shown CBD can actually help mitigate negative side effects like anxiety, hunger, and sedation if you miscalculate your dose and consume too much THC. Since these two cannabinoids have an almost identical chemical makeup they tend to work together to compound their benefits.

A cannabis sativa plant can be classified according to its CBD and THC production potentials:

  • Type I cannabis sativa contains more than 0.3% THC and less than 0.5% CBD.
  • Type II cannabis sativa contains more than 0.3% THC and 0.5% CBD.
  • Type III cannabis sativa contains less than 0.3% THC and more than 0.5% CBD.

Type I and type II cannabis sativa are considered marijuana while type III is classified as hemp.

CBD can be derived from any type of cannabis sativa plant, but it’s legal throughout the U.S. only when it comes from hemp specifically

The Medical Benefits of Cannabis

It’s important to note that medical research on cannabis is very limited as the plant is still considered a Schedule 1 drug. Therefore, budtenders are not legally allowed to provide you with medical advice, but rather recommendations for products that could potentially help with things like:

  • Epilepsy and seizure disorders
  • Pain and inflammation
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Opioid withdrawal
  • Migraines
  • Insomnia
  • Minimizing side effects from cancer treatments

With so much to learn about cannabis, it can be hard to know where to start. We hope this guide helped give some insight into using cannabis as medicine. Be sure to check out our other articles to learn more or click here to enroll in our free demo: Effectively Communicating as a Dispensary Tech

Understanding the Laws Regulating Medical Marijuana

What is Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana refers to any part of the cannabis plant that can be used to alleviate a variety of health conditions. When people use medical marijuana, they are seeking relief from pain and medical symptoms, not to get high.

The cannabis that is legally sold in dispensaries for medicinal purposes is typically the same as the kind used for pleasure. However, as research continues to identify how the chemicals in the cannabis plant react in the human body, new strains of medical marijuana are being developed with a focus on health benefits and fewer chemicals that cause mind altering effects.


Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the most commonly used cannabinoids extracted from the cannabis plant. After CBD is removed from the plant, it is mixed with a carrier oil such as hemp seed or coconut oil. It is known to have therapeutic effects to alleviate conditions such as nerve issues, PTSD, physical pain, epilepsy, and autism.

THC is the psychoactive compound that is responsible for the psychological effects of cannabis. THC causes cells in the brain to release dopamine, which is what creates its feelings of euphoria.

CBD affects the body very differently than THC. Compared to THC, it would take almost 100 times more CBD to have any impact on the body’s cannabinoid receptors. Unlike THC, CBD does not cause any feelings of euphoria or intoxication, which makes it an acceptable medical treatment that is safer than the addiction and overdose issues associated with opioids that are traditionally prescribed to manage pain.

Federal vs. State Marijuana Laws

Cannabis is a prohibited substance according to the Controlled Substances Act that was passed in 1970.  Under this act, the Drug Enforcement Administration considers marijuana  a Schedule I drug.  This means that it is prohibited because of its potential for abuse, and there are not believed to be any medically acceptable uses.

Many more laws regarding the use of cannabis have been added, amended, repealed, and reinstated since the 70s.  Today, there are over 30 states that have legalized the possession of medical marijuana.  One of the main concerns with legalizing marijuana in individual states is that it is still considered illegal by the federal government. Federal laws take precedence over state laws, which means that you can be arrested and prosecuted for having and using medical marijuana, even if it is legal in your state.

Most of the state medical marijuana laws protect not only the users of medical marijuana, but they also protect their caregivers who may supply their medical marijuana. Many of the state laws include lists of specific conditions that qualify for the use of medical marijuana.

FDA Approval

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved cannabis for the treatment of any specific diseases or conditions. However, the FDA has approved some drugs that do contain cannabis.  These include Epidiolex, Marinol, Syndros, and Cesamet. These cannabis-derived drugs can only be purchased with a prescription from a licensed healthcare practitioner.

Learn More About Medical Marijuana

The legalization of medical cannabis is advancing worldwide, and there is much more that you can learn about medical marijuana and its use in the healthcare industry., a leader in education with nationally accredited colleges, offers courses to help educate the growing global community of healthcare professionals, caregivers, and patients who want to learn about the science and clinical data behind medical cannabis.

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