This is the third in a series of whitepapers by the editorial board. Smoke Reports is a small San Francisco company working hard to improve the relationship between cannabis and human beings through education, outreach and technology. Our editorial whitepapers are intended to express our views on cannabis and the cannabis industry. They are meant to engage a discussion among all members of the cannabis community – growers, manufacturers, dispensaries, retailers, patients and consumers. We encourage your comments and feedback.

Referring to Cannabis: The Need to Establish a Uniform Language for the Industry

An editorial whitepaper from


The historic illegality of cannabis has necessarily driven the cannabis industry underground and into isolated sectors. Growers, sellers and consumers have each developed their own unique language as a result. Geographic separation exaggerates such differences, and those clinging to the outlaw nature of cannabis use language left over from cannabis prohibition. As cannabis evolves to a legal status, regulatory legislation is reflecting this diversity of language.


The cannabis industry and cannabis regulatory efforts would be far more efficient with the use of a common language. Developing a common language is an organic process which should not and cannot be dictated. The California legislative process for cannabis legalization and regulation incorporates all viewpoints of California society. It is the best foundation for creating a common language.

We urge the cannabis industry, cannabis regulators and cannabis consumers to adopt the definitions found in present and future California legislation as a common language for our community.


“Cannabis deserves a better conversation.” 
“A better conversation requires a common language.”  –


Smoke Reports is a small San Francisco company working hard to improve the relationship between cannabis and human beings through education, outreach and technology.

This editorial whitepaper’s purpose is to put forth a discussion topic related to that relationship – the language that we as an industry use when referring to our products. It’s the third of a series of three editorial whitepapers dealing with this subject.

Our first whitepaper advocated for the exclusive use of the term “cannabis” when referring to our industry and our products. As our industry matures and moves toward legalization, it is time we leave behind the legacy of euphemistic terms for cannabis that connote illegality and illegitimacy. We feel that “marijuana” falls into both these categories.


The second whitepaper discussed the common use of the terms sativa and indica. We accept the consumer and marketing use of these terms when describing cannabis products, provided the use of these terms is not confused with scientific classification.

For our third whitepaper, the editorial board at observes generally that common language used to describe our industry varies widely between political subdivisions (federal, state, and local authority). It varies widely between industry participants according to region. It varies widely between the various sectors – growers, manufacturers, and retailers/dispensaries.

Echoing our whitepaper that advocates for the use of the term cannabis, we also observe a common use of language that associates cannabis with illegitimacy and illegal activity. We observe that all those involved with our industry, and most importantly lawmakers, law enforcement, and industry regulators, have each chosen their own set of terms and definitions according to the needs of the moment. Law-abiding purchasers and consumers of cannabis are left to figure it these terms on their own.

Too Much Pot

The industry has always been able to speak within its own confines. But as cannabis gains legitimacy and legality, the industry must now communicate differently. The Northern California grower must speak with the Southern California dispensary. Seed producers may wish to establish consumer branding across a broad range of product categories. We must all communicate with consumers. But most notably, we must deal with legalities and regulations that transcend geography, political subdivisions, and the multitude of governmental agencies.

We believe that as cannabis gains legitimacy both in our society and by our laws, a common set of defined terms is important for the industry and for regulation. believes that cannabis deserves a better conversation. The purpose of this whitepaper is not to create that language – but to urge the industry to use a standard lexicon. To that end, the editorial board at recommends that the industry look to the developing legal framework in California as a model for industry and product definitions.


The industry of the cannabis in America has been fractured for the last hundred or so years. Although cannabis commerce has certainly transacted, one is hard pressed to even consider it as an “industry” compared to other consumable markets. Cannabis has been illegal. Cannabis commerce went underground out of necessity, resulting in disparate and isolated enclaves each embracing its own culture. Whether it be an agrarian culture, a street-sale culture, an herbal culture or a consumer culture, language reflects each enclave’s unique relationship with cannabis. Geographic linguistic distinctions arise when the community is so fractured, only compounding the problem.

A lack of a common language can be illustrated with a simple example. What if Mississippi called it a potato, Louisiana called it a pomme de terre, eastern Texas called it a tater and then suddenly, our federal government declared “potatoes” illegal. Within each geographic region, there would exist a tangle of industry knowledge, legal authority and consumer preferences. With the current fractured industry and the movement toward legalization, such is currently the case in the cannabis industry.

The benefits to a common language are clear. The industry can communicate without confusion. Business can efficiently identify and distribute product. Legislators can regulate in a manner clear to all. Doctors can effectively communicate research. The community can develop a standard knowledge base.


The problem with communication is obvious. A common language would be of tremendous benefit to the cannabis community as states continue to produce legislation.


The editorial board at advocates the embracing of a standard set of defined terms for our industry and in cannabis regulatory legislation – language and terminology which expresses the positive aspects and beneficial nature of cannabis.

The editorial board at however, has struggled with advocating the next step. Our initial effort toward that end was limited to demonstrating the disparity in cannabis terminology. We felt that by showing the disparity of language, the industry could transform. After much internal discussion, we concluded that such an endeavor would yield few practical results. In addition, the editorial board at believes that it has no place in attempting to dictate a lexicon.


Upon further consideration, the editorial board recognizes that others may be far more qualified to create an industry lexicon. To that end, we went about searching for the best possible vehicle to create industry-standard and legal-standard language. After much consideration of the alternatives, we believe the legislative process in California is setting a proper standard.

While California was not the first state to legalize cannabis for adult use, it is on the cutting edge in the formation of a cannabis industry. Not being first has an advantage – California may assimilate the best of what has gone before it. Current California legislation reflects the benefits of this advantage.

We are particularly impressed with the language in California’s proposed medical cannabis regulatory bill AB266. What first caught our attention was the exclusive use of the term “medical cannabis,” which reflects the views advocated in our first whitepaper.

The editorial board at observes the poor attempts of other states’ cannabis legislation. Some legislation was poorly written because they were the first – and such an observation is only the result of hindsight. Other states have written legislation which clearly excludes the input of the cannabis industry and the cannabis community.

We observed legislation purporting to “legalize” various aspects and forms of cannabis that simply serve the desires of law enforcement or a small group of industry insiders. Discussing the consequences of many of these other legislative efforts falls outside the scope of this white paper. We observe that none of these problems are appearing in California legislation, thereby lending assurance that the California legislative process will incorporate all aspects of California society – including the cannabis industry.

As such, we believe that the legislative process in California is to be trusted. We know with certainty that the aforementioned AB266 was amended in close association with the medical cannabis advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. Additionally, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy produced impressive results and is expected to guide California’s legalization efforts. This process is what we wish to see in the development of industry common terms. That thoughtful process is evident in California’s embodiment of legal definitions for cannabis terminology in proposed and current legislation. We again are impressed with the definitions section appearing in AB266.


The editorial board at believes that because the cannabis industry needs to have a common language, the best vehicle for the development of consumer and industry-common terms is this legislative process in California. We urge the cannabis community to adopt the definitions is California’s current and proposed legislation.


Departing from our previous whitepaper formats, we wish to include additional editorial discussion adding specific detail to our advocacy. Reproduced below is the definitions section of AB266 with our additional comments in italics.

  1. Cannabinoid” means a chemical compound that is unique to and derived from cannabis, also known as phytocannabinoid.
  2. Cannabis” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., Cannabis indica, or Cannabis ruderalis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin, whether crude or purified, extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds, or resin. “Cannabis” does not include the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination. “Cannabis” also means the separated resin, whether crude or purified, obtained from marijuana. Without limiting the definition, “cannabis” also means marijuana as defined by Section 11018 of the Health and Safety Code as enacted by Chapter 1407 of the Statutes of 1972.
  3. Cannabis concentrate” means manufactured cannabis that has undergone a process to concentrate the cannabinoid active ingredient, thereby increasing the product’s potency.
  4. Caregiver” or “primary caregiver” has the same meaning as that term is defined in Section 11362.7 of the Health and Safety Code.
  5. Certified testing laboratory” means a laboratory that is certified by the State Department of Public Health to perform random sample testing of medical cannabis pursuant to the certification standards for these facilities promulgated by the department.
  6. Commercial cannabis activity” means any cultivation, possession, manufacture, processing, storing, laboratory testing, labeling, transporting, distribution, or sale of cannabis or cannabis product, or any technology platform that enables qualified patients or primary caregivers to arrange for or facilitate any of the above-described functions with a third party, except as set forth in Section 19316.
  7. Cultivation” means any activity involving the planting, growing, harvesting, drying, processing, or trimming of cannabis.
  8. Delivery” means the commercial transfer of medical cannabis or medical cannabis products from a dispensary to a primary caregiver or qualified patient, as defined in Section 11362.7 of the Health and Safety Code.
  9. Delivery service” means a person issued a state license by the State Board of Equalization pursuant to this chapter and a local license or permit, to deliver medical cannabis or medical cannabis products, up to an amount determined by the department, to patients, testing laboratories, or to events or locations where it will be used solely for promotional purposes. A delivery service shall not be required to obtain a transporter license.
  10. Director” means the director of the Office of Medical Cannabis Regulation.
  11. Dispensary” means a physical retail establishment operating from a fixed location, including mobile deliveries that are expressly authorized by local ordinance originating from the location, that makes retail sales of medical cannabis or medical cannabis products.
  12. Dispensing” means any activity involving the retail sale of medical cannabis or medical cannabis products from a dispensary.
  13. Distribution” means the first sale of cannabis in this state. Distribution does not include the sale of cannabis from a cultivator to a distributor.
  14. Distributor” means a person who is engaged in the business of purchasing medical cannabis in this state from a licensed cultivator and who then distributes the medical cannabis to a manufacturer or dispensary.
  15. Dried flower” means all dead medical cannabis that has been harvested, dried, cured, or otherwise processed, excluding leaves and stems.
  16. Edible cannabis product” means manufactured cannabis that is intended to be used, in whole or in part, for human consumption, including, but not limited to, chewing gum.
  17. Fund” means the Medical Cannabis Regulation Fund established pursuant to Section 19361.
  18. Identification program” means the universal identification certificate program for licensees.
  19. Labor peace agreement” means an agreement between a licensee and a bona fide labor organization that, at a minimum, protects the state’s proprietary interests by prohibiting labor organizations and members from engaging in picketing, work stoppages, boycotts, and any other economic interference with the applicant’s business. This agreement means that the applicant has agreed not to disrupt efforts by the bona fide labor organization to communicate with, and attempt to organize and represent, the applicant’s employees. The agreement shall provide a bona fide labor organization access at reasonable times to areas in which the applicant’s employees work, for the purpose of meeting with employees to discuss their right to representation, employment rights under state law, and terms and conditions of employment. This type of agreement shall not mandate a particular method of election or certification of the bona fide labor organization.
  20. Licensed cultivation site” means a person that plants, grows, cultivates, harvests, dries, or processes medical cannabis, or that does all or any combination of those activities, and that is issued a state license pursuant to this chapter and a local license or permit.
  21. Licensed dispensing facility” means a person that provides medical cannabis, medical cannabis products, or devices for the use of medical cannabis or medical cannabis products, either individually or in any combination, that is issued a state license pursuant to this chapter and a local license or permit.
  22. Licensed manufacturer” means a person that conducts the production, preparation, propagation, compounding, or processing of medical cannabis or medical cannabis products, either directly or indirectly or by extraction processes, or independently by means of chemical synthesis or by a combination of extraction and chemical synthesis, and includes a location that packages or repackages medical cannabis or medical cannabis products or labeling or relabeling of its container, and that has been issued both a local license or permit and a state license pursuant to this chapter.
  23. Licensed transporter” means a person issued a state license by the Board of Equalization to transport medical cannabis or medical cannabis products above a limit determined by the board between facilities that have been issued a state license or to dispensing facilities in the City of Los Angeles pursuant to this chapter.
  24. Licensee” means a person issued a state license under this chapter to engage in commercial cannabis activity.
  25. Licensing authority” means the state agency responsible for granting and renewing state licenses and regulating the relevant licensees. For licensed cultivators, the licensing authority is the Division of Medical Cannabis Cultivation in the Department of Food and Agriculture. For dispensaries and transporters, the licensing authority is the Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation within the State Board of Equalization. For licensed manufacturers and certified testing laboratories, the licensing authority is the Division of Medical Cannabis Manufacturing and Testing within the State Department of Public Health.
  26. Live plants” means living medical cannabis flowers and plants, including seeds, immature plants, and vegetative stage plants.
  27. Manufactured cannabis” means raw cannabis that has undergone a process whereby the raw agricultural product has been transformed into a concentrate, an edible product, or a topical product.
  28. Manufacturing site” means a location that produces, prepares, propagates, compounds, or processes medical cannabis or medical cannabis products, directly or indirectly, by extraction processes, independently by means of chemical synthesis, or by a combination of extraction and chemical synthesis, and is owned and operated by a licensee for these activities pursuant to this chapter.
  29. Medical cannabis,” “medical cannabis product,” or “cannabis product” means a product containing cannabis, including, but not limited to, concentrates and extractions, intended to be sold for use by medical cannabis patients in California pursuant to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Proposition 215).
  30. Nursery” means a licensee that produces only clones, immature plants, seeds, and other agricultural products used specifically for the planting, propagation, and cultivation of medical cannabis.
  31. Office” means the Governor’s Office of Medical Cannabis Regulation.
  32. Permit,” “local license,” or “local permit” means an official document granted by a local jurisdiction that specifically authorizes a person to conduct commercial cannabis activity in the local jurisdiction.
  33. Person” means an individual, firm, partnership, joint venture, association, corporation, limited liability company, estate, trust, business trust, receiver, syndicate, or any other group or combination acting as a unit and includes the plural as well as the singular number.
  34. State license ” or “license” means a state license issued pursuant to this chapter.
  35. Topical cannabis” means a product intended for external use.
  36. Transport” means the transfer of medical cannabis or medical cannabis products from the permitted business location of one licensee to the permitted business location of another licensee, or to dispensing facilities in the City of Los Angeles, for the purposes of conducting commercial cannabis activity authorized by licensees pursuant to this chapter.


We ask that all industry participants (from seed producer to budtender) be aware how we refer to our products. We ask that the press remember that “pot” is not just one thing and that, yes it is legal in many places. We ask our lawmakers to consult with knowledgeable industry participants in defining terms during the drafting of legislation. We ask all to realize that cannabis is forming as an industry – an industry open to many participants – and that thought should be given to language and vocabulary.

We wish unify our community by having a standard language within which to operate. We encourage the use of terminology found in current and pending California legislation.


Cannabis and hemp are legitimate agricultural products with legitimate industrial, medical and social purpose. If we feel this way, our language should so reflect. We urge all to think of how we speak. Cannabis deserves a better conversation and that conversation begins with a common language. For that, we should be looking at California legislation.

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