The Basics of Cannabis: Product Types

New to cannabis? Read on to learn about some of the basic cannabis product types.

Most everyone knows about cannabis in its classic form: Flower. But there are several other products that flower can be made into, including extracts, concentrates, and edibles. Each product type has unique characteristics in physical and chemical properties and may uniquely affect users. Read the following to get a sense of what the cannabis market has to offer. 


The cannabis flower, sometimes called “bud,” is the raw, chemically rich structure of the cannabis plant. It is the least processed form in which cannabis is often consumed. It has usually been dried, cured, and trimmed but has not been refined or augmented like other cannabis products.

The potency of cannabis flower depends upon the plant’s genetic lineage, as well as the growing method and environment. These factors will determine the chemical makeup of the plant’s buds, which consists of two categories of molecular compounds: cannabinoids, and terpenoids (terpenes).

Consumption Method: Inhalation (smoking or vaping)

Benefits: Easy to dose, quick onset, widely available, convenient consumption

Onset: Less than a minute

Potency: Potency can vary anywhere from 5 to 30 percent of total active cannabinoids.

Duration: Though it varies from person to person, studies have shown it can last around 2 hours.

Types: The current identifiers are sativa, indica, and hybrid.


Extracts are concentrated cannabis products made without the use of a solvent. They contain more cannabinoids and terpenes than raw flowers and allow users to ingest less undesired plant material during consumption.

The potency of cannabis extracts depends on raw plant material used in their production and the extraction process. They are generally believed to provide a fuller spectrum of active compounds than concentrates made using more intense solvent-based extraction methods.

Administration Method: Inhalation (smoking or vaping)

Benefits: Quick onset, less plant material consumed

Onset: Usually under a minute

Potency: Potency can vary anywhere from 30 to 80 percent of total active cannabinoids.

Duration: Studies show that effects can last around 2 hours.

Product Types: Kief, bubble hash, rosin, any other solventless extraction


Concentrates are highly potent cannabis products made using a solvent, like butane or ethanol, to separate the active compounds from the plant material. They often contain exact percentages of cannabinoids and terpenes and allow users to ingest almost no undesired plant bi-products during consumption.

They are frequently used to fill cartridges that fit a variety of vaporizer devices. Because these products are made using harsh solvents that may not be healthy at specific concentrations, chemical analysis is necessary to ensure that the remaining residual chemicals are below a threshold for safe consumption.

Administration Method: Inhalation (smoking or vaping)

Benefit: Quick onset, less plant material consumed

Onset: Within a minute.

Potency: Potency can vary anywhere from 40 to 90 percent of total active cannabinoids.

Duration: Studies show that effects can last around 2 hours.

Product Types: Distillate, isolate, shatter, wax, any other solvent-based extraction

Marijuana Infused Products (MIPs)

Several products derived from cannabis come in a processed form that does not require inhalation. These smokeless cannabis options, known as marijuana-infused products or MIPs, are ingested orally, applied to the skin, or administered sublingually (under the tongue).

The effects experienced from consuming MIPs vary depending on the method of administration. Still, they will all be different from inhalation because they are processed differently by the body. In simplified terms, the active compounds in cannabis will bind with endocannabinoid receptors and cross the blood-brain barrier at different rates depending on whether they’re metabolized by the liver, processed in the lungs, or applied externally to the skin. Read more on that process here.

Through analytical testing, we can verify the potency of marijuana-infused products so that consumers can track effects and avoid problems related to consuming too much. Additionally, chemical analysis confirms that the same food-safety standards for unmedicated foods or orally administered medicines are met.


Consumption Method: Ingestion

Onset: 30-120 minutes

Duration: 3 – 4+ hours

Benefits: No inhalation, discreet, long-lasting

Potency: Varies (Typically 0 to 100mg)

Cannabis-infused edibles are simple to administer because they are consumed like any other food product. However, caution is recommended when consuming edibles because each cannabis user is unique in terms of metabolism and endocannabinoid response and because edibles tend to have a more prolonged, more intense effect. Go slow at first and start with a low dose.


Consumption Method: Sublingual (under the tongue) or Ingestion

Onset: 15 – 60 minutes

Duration: 1 – 3+ hours

Benefit: No inhalation, precise dose control, long-lasting

Potency: Varies (Typically 0 to 50mg)

Tinctures are one of the oldest known forms of medicinal cannabis. They are typically made by soaking activated/decarbed cannabis in ethanol or another food-safe solvent. Tinctures can be administered under the tongue, which will allow the active compounds into the bloodstream faster. They can also infuse other foods or drinks and will have effects similar to other edible cannabis products.

The potency of a tincture is dependent upon the flower or concentrate used in the infusion process. Like edibles, it’s essential that a tincture provider understand how to determine the potency of their final product and then have the product tested to confirm amounts of active compounds per serving.

Topicals & Transdermals

Consumption Method: Applied to Skin

Onset: Varies

Duration: Varies

Benefit: No inhalation or Ingestion, targeted relief, fewer side effects

Potency: Varies (Typically 0 to 50mg per application)

Topical lotions and transdermal patches are among the newest products being developed for administering cannabis. They are primarily meant for individuals attempting to leverage the medicinal power of cannabis for localized relief or a more prolonged, controlled release of cannabinoids.

Topical lotions are applied externally and have no way of entering the bloodstream. There is anecdotal evidence that these products are helpful for targeted relief of joint inflammation and muscle pain. However, research focused on these products is minimal and hard evidence supporting their effectiveness is hard to find.

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