Frequently Used Terms Related to Cannabis Microbiology

Frequently used terms related to cannabis microbiology.


Paraphernalia used for the preparation and consumption of cannabis and cannabis extracts, including but not limited to pipes, rolling papers, grinders, water-pipes, and vaporizers.


Bacteria consisting of thousands of individual species. While they are rarely found in cannabis samples and are not considered a human pathogen, actinomycetes may cause allergic reactions to certain individuals when cannabis is smoked or ingested.


Recreational use of cannabis that has been legalized at the state level for adults aged 21 and over, by contrast to medicinal use.


A microorganism (such as bacteria) that thrives within an oxygenated environment and requiring oxygen to proliferate.

Agar (aka Agar-Agar)

Gelatinous substance consisting of polysaccharides from the cell walls of some species of red algae used for quality assessment testing in food and cannabis. Agar is a made up of two active ingredients, the linear polysaccharide agarose and a heterogeneous mixture of smaller molecules called agaropectin.

Aerobic Count

Testing for Total Aerobic Count (TAC) will detect to what extent bacterial aerobes are present within a sample. TAC testing doesn’t specify the type of bacteria present or whether the said bacteria is pathogenic, benign or beneficial.

Alcohol extraction (aka “ethanol extraction”)

Cannabis extraction method whereby ethanol is mixed with the plant material to remove cannabinoids and terpenes, while also filtering out undesirable compounds such as contaminants, pesticides, solvents, and heavy metals that reduce the quality and purity of the end product.

American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP)

A non-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization promoting the responsible use of herbal products and medicines.

Analytical chromatography

Methodology used to determine the concentration of compounds within a sample. Analytical chromatography relies on the differing rates that various compounds move through a known absorbent, and can be used to measure cannabinoid potency, residual solvents, and terpene profile in a cannabis sample.

Anatomy (Cannabis)

The stalk, stems, fan leaves, bud, node, and internode of the cannabis plant. Healthy female plants develop large colas, which are large flower clusters containing most of the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes. Also see “bract,” “cola,” “fan leaves,” “flower,” “internode,” “node,” and “stem.”


Acronym originally for the Association of Analytical Chemists. In 1991, it was officially renamed to AOAC International. A non-profit organization responsible for establishing industry-standard chemical analysis methods designed to provide reliable results within the framework of chemical and microbiological analyses.


Fungal organism that is ubiquitous in soil and plants. In a human host, aspergillus can cause invasive lung disease to individuals with compromised immune systems. The main species of concern for cannabis microbial testing are: A. niger, A. flavus, A. terreus, and A. fumigatus.

Aspergillus niger (A. niger)

Aspergillus niger is one of the most common species of aspergillus, and the main cause of the disease, Black mold, found on certain fruits and nots, and potentially, cannabis. Widely used in biotechnology to produce food enzymes and citric acid, it is also a human pathogen and has been known to cause pneumonia.

Aspergillus flavus (A. flavus)

A saprophyte growing on dead plant and animal tissue. A. flavus is a known human pathogen and can be found growing on legumes, cereal grains, tree nuts, and cannabis. A. flavus is the second-leading cause of aspergillosis (after A. fumigatus) and is a common cause of superficial infection.

Aspergillus terreus (A. terreus)

Aspergillus terreus is a saprotrophic mold mostly found in tropical and sub-tropical climates, but found in all parts of the world. It can proliferate in soil, compost and dust. It has been known to contaminate stored corn, barley, peanuts, and cannabis. As a human pathogen, A. terreus—like A. flavus, A. niger and A. fumigatus—can cause invasive aspergillosis (IA).

Aspergillus fumigatus (A. fumigatus)

A saprophytic fungus that plays a significant industrial role in the recycling of carbon and nitrogen. As one of the most common airborne fungi, humans and other animals can come into contact with A. fumigatus regularly. While healthy hosts can usually mount an effective defense against A. fumigatus, immunocompromised individuals remain at risk of infection.

Association of Analytical Chemists (AOAC)

See “AOAC.”


Instrument relying on water, pressure, and heat to create an extremely hot steam, effectively killing harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, and spores found on items that are placed within a pressure vessel.

Bacterial pathogens

Approximately 5% of bacterial species are known pathogens. The species of most concern to the cannabis industry are E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus.


A specific quantity of cannabis, cannabis concentrate or cannabis-infused product produced during a specified period of time, and using the same extraction or manufacturing method, formulation recipe and standard operating procedure. In the case of cannabis flower, a batch usually represents a single harvest of a specific cultivar.

Beverage (cannabis-infused)

A cannabis-infused product designed to be consumed by drinking. Some recreational markets offer cannabis syrup concentrate which can be mixed with water, soda water, etc.


A precise or imprecise measurement of the absorption rate and dosage of a drug once it is absorbed into the system. A drug that has been delivered intravenously can be said to have 100% bioavailability as it reaches the blood system immediately with no reduction in dosage.

Biological Pest Control

A method of integrated pest management (IPM) by which specific natural predators (aka “beneficials”) are introduced to the crop in a controlled fashion, with the goal of minimizing or completely avoid the use of pesticides.

Black mold

A fungus commonly found on certain fruits and vegetables, caused by exposure Aspergillus niger (A. niger).

Botrytis cinerea

Fungal pathogen potentially found in cannabis. While botrytis cinerea does not cause infection to humans, some users may experience a brief allergic reaction.


Slang for a pipe specifically intended for smoking cannabis flower.


Anatomical section of the female cannabis plant encapsulating the reproductive sections. Appearing as the tiny leaves of the cola, bracts contain high concentrations of trichomes, and as a result, demonstrate among the highest THC counts of a flower specimen. Also see “sugar leaves.”

BTGN testing

Quantitative test to reveal total bile-tolerant gram-negative counts in a sample. The acceptable limits for BTGN are commonly <102 colony forming units per gram (CFU/g).

Butane extraction (aka “butane hash oil extraction” or “BHO extraction”)

A process by which a solvent is used to remove the trichomes from the rest of the plant, while preserving the cannabis flavor, aroma, and properties as much as possible. The end product may have a soft, waxy consistency (aka “wax,” “butter,” etc.) or a present as a hard, clear resin (aka “shatter”). The resulting consistency is not representative of any particular potency or purity.


A translucent layer at the base of the female cannabis flower—often falsely equivocated with the bract—that is invisible to the naked eye.


Abbreviation for cannabichromene, one of the non-psychoactive cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Like the more well-known THC and CBD, CBC stems from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA).


Abbreviation for cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, stemming from cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). CBD from hemp is federally legal and widely-used commercially for wellness products. A study was published in early 2022, suggesting that CBD may be effective in preventing Covid-19 infection. However, more research is needed before these findings can be considered conclusive.


Abbreviation for cannabigerolic acid, the chemical precursor to three of the major cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant: THCA, CBDA, and CBCA, which in turn convert to THC, CBD and CBD when decarboxylated thus activating many of the psychoactive and therapeutic effects of cannabis.


Abbreviation for cannabinol. Non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, commonly marketed in cannabis and hemp products designed to be used as sleep-aids. Additional research on humans is needed to quantify CBN efficacy for sleep, as well as its other suggested uses including: Appetite suppression, pain relief, and immune system benefits.


Naturally occurring compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. The most well-known among these compounds is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), the main psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis.

Cannabinoid profile

Data pertaining to the specific concentration of various cannabinoids in a given cannabis product. Many states are mandated to display the cannabinoid profile of cannabis products on the outside of packaging.


A genus of flowering plants in the family Cannabaceae, originating in Asia and now cultivated worldwide for therapeutic and recreational purposes. The number of known cannabis species is debatable and artificial selection through widespread agriculture has further blurred the lines. Cannabis users generally recognize three main families of cannabis: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and hybrids (sativa and indica cress-breeds). These types are further broken-down into individual cultivars (aka “strains”), each displaying unique characteristics.

Cannabis safety

When used by adults in moderation, cannabis is largely considered to be among the safer adult-use drugs, and may offer many potential health benefits. That said, cannabis use has been shown to adversely interfere with brain development in minors and therefore remains illegal for individuals under the age of 21 to consume without a valid medical exemption. Cannabis use has been correlated with an increased risk of accidental injury, and therefore driving and the use of heavy machinery should be strictly avoided. Frequent cannabis use has been linked to an increased risk of developing schizophrenia or other psychoses in individuals who have a genetic predisposition.

Cannabis microbiology

The study of microorganisms—particularly fungi and bacteria—that are known to potentially contaminate cannabis and cannabis byproducts.


A cannabis-infused pill that is taken orally, delivering a precise dose of cannabinoids.


Central flower-cluster forming along the upper portion of the main stems and large branches in a mature female cannabis plant, often appearing as teardrop-shaped buds capable of growing upwards of 24-inches in a controlled setting.

Canopy space

Measured area utilized to produce mature cannabis plants, calculated in square feet using the outside boundaries of any area that contains mature marijuana plants.


Equipment used to quickly and efficiently separate samples by way of centrifugal force.

Chief Scientific Officer (CSO)

The highest-ranking individual in the microbiology lab, overseeing all scientific operations and endeavors, while bearing full responsibility for safety, outcomes, staff management, lab hygiene, fiscal reporting, risk management, lab operations, and work culture.


Sample preparation technique targeting a large linear dynamic range that allows for a single extraction/dilution scheme, allowing both low-level and high-concentration cannabinoids to be quantified.


Genetic copy of a mother plant obtained by selectively clipping and subsequentially planting viable branches. Mother plants must be replaced after several generations of providing clones. Clones begin development during the vegetative stage, thus skipping the germinating and seedling stages that occur when cultivating from seeds.

Closed-loop extraction

Extraction method used to remove cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), as well as terpenes from the cannabis plant, resulting in a high-potency and pure concentrate. Closed-loop extraction utilizes a closed vessel, thus assuring that the hydrocarbon solvent never makes contact with the outside atmosphere—hence the name “closed loop extractor.”

CO2 extraction (aka “supercritical carbon dioxide extraction”)

Method used to separate various components from the cannabis plant, known for producing a pure, clean, and safe byproduct. CO2 acts as a cleaning agent, allowing microbial bacteria, molds, and mildews to be killed during the extraction process.


Flower clusters found at the apex of the female cannabis plant. Cola anatomy includes the calyx, pistils, and sugar leaves, the latter of which contains a high density of trichomes. Also see “calyx,” “pistil,” “sugar leaves,” and “trichomes.”


Bacteria present in the digestive tracts of animals (including humans) that is also commonly found in plant material and soil.

Compliance testing

State-mandated testing of cannabis and cannabis-infused product performed to assure that products comply with state regulations, are accurately labeled, and are safe for human consumption. With no federal mandate, each state mandates different levels of compliance testing.


The end result of a cannabis extraction process, whereby undesirable compounds are removed from the raw cannabis plant, yielding a higher-potency and purer product. Concentrates can either be infused into manufactured cannabis products or consumed directly through the use of a vaporizer designed for such use.

Concentrate vaporizer

Instrument used to vaporize cannabis concentrate for inhalation. These generally come in the form of an electronic device (allowing for precise temperature settings) or as a water-pipe fitted with a heating element (aka “dab rig”).


A cannabis plant of a specific phenotype and chemical make-up, often referred to as a “strain.”


In agriculture, cultivation refers to the systematic production of food and other botanical commodities for human use or consumption. Commercial cannabis cultivation largely occurs within in-door greenhouses where environmental conditions, including temperature, humidity, light, and nutrients, can be strictly controlled and adjusted as needed.

Culture method

A process for multiplying microbial organisms by encouraging reproduction within a predetermined culture medium under controlled laboratory conditions. Methods include liquid/broth culture, Agar plate and stab culture, and solid plate culture.


Process occurring after the harvest of a cannabis crop, whereby the harvested plant material dries for 2-4 weeks in dark, climate-controlled environment to help emphasize and accentuate flavors, while diminishing vegetal taste.


A process whereby heat naturally activates compounds found within the cannabis plant, converting THCA, CBDA, and CBCA to THC, CBD, and CBC respectively. When inhaling cannabis, the heat necessary to create smoke or vapor naturally decarboxylates cannabinoids at the time of ingestion. In the manufacture of cannabis-infused products, cannabis oil needs to be decarboxylated prior to its injection into the product.

Delivery method

Chosen method by which cannabinoids are consumed by the end user, comprising the various types of products available in the marketplace. The traditional delivery method for cannabis is by smoking or inhaling heated vapor. Additional delivery methods include drinking infused beverages, consuming infused edible products (often chocolate or gummy candy), ingesting sublingual tinctures, and applying cannabis-infused transdermal patches that have been designed to slowly release cannabinoids into the bloodstream.


An establishment that has been licensed to legally sell adult-use (aka recreational) and/or medical-use cannabis products.


The measurement of cannabinoids for a single application or use. While the full effects of cannabis can be felt within minutes of inhaling smoke or vapor, other products (such as edibles) can take much longer. It’s therefore important for users of infused THC products to know the dosage they are comfortable with to avoid an unpleasant experience.

Dry Labbing

The act of supplying plausible results to a hypothetical experiment based on historical data.

Endocannabinoid (aka endogenous cannabinoids)

Molecules in the form of lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors produced in the bodies of most mammals, including humans. Similar in structure to the cannabinoids found within cannabis, endocannabinoids may play a role in regulating sleep, mood, appetite, memory, as well as other biological systems. Upon the ingestion of cannabis, endocannabinoids essentially act as receptors to cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, CBG, and CBN.

Endocannabinoid system

A biological system found in mammals, made up of endocannabinoids, endogenous lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptor proteins are expressed throughout the vertebrate central nervous system and peripheral nervous system.


Method to enhance population density of microorganisms within the total microbial population by manipulating physiological conditions. This allows small populations of microorganisms to grow to detectable levels, in turn allowing for the speciation of microorganisms at the onset, thus reducing costs and saving time.

Ethanol extraction

See “alcohol extraction.”


A cannabis-infused product that is ingested via the digestive system, including candy, food, and beverages.

Environmental monitoring

A means of demonstrating an acceptable microbiological quality in the controlled environment and subsequentially detecting changes through the collection of data relating to microbial numbers recovered from clean samples.

Escherichia coli (aka E. coli)

Bacterial pathogen living in the digestive systems of many healthy mammals, including humans. Most E. coli play role in healthy digestion but other types can cause illness, commonly diarrhea or even illness outside of the intestinal tract. While healthy individuals fully recover from E. coli within a week, some young children and older individuals can suffer from acute and life-threatening kidney failure. Some non-pathogenic E. coli strains provide the host benefits such as vitamin K and B12.


See “concentrate.”


See “Butane Extraction” and “CO2 Extraction.”

Fan leaves

Cannabis fan leaves are the typical “fingered” cannabis leaves, composed of the petiole, ventral surface, dorsal surface, and apex. While fan leaves are crucial to cannabis growth, they contain a low concentration of cannabinoids and are therefore generally discarded at harvest.


See “Gender (Plant).”

Flower (aka “bud”)

The part of the cannabis plant containing the highest concentration of cannabinoids and predominantly sold at retail. Retail flower must go through a curing process prior to packaging and sale. In addition, flower generally goes through a manual “manicure” trim process to achieve an aesthetically pleasing end product.


The final development phase during which flowers form and develop on cannabis plants, generally consisting of the last 6-8 weeks prior to harvest.

Food safety

Methodology for the safe handling, preparation and storage of food in order to reduce or eliminate pathogenic risk.

Fungal pathogen

Includes mold, mildew, and yeast. Of these, only mold is found on cannabis.

Fungal spores

Microscopic biological particles that serve as “seeds” in the reproduction of fungi.

Gender (plant)

Cannabis plants can be either male or female, depending on the types of flowers produced. Commercial cannabis requires selectively breeding only female plants, due to the fact that male plants produce cannabinoids in much lower concentrations than found in female flowers. In order for commercial female plants to properly develop, they must be completely quarantined from male specimens.

Germinating stage

The first stage of development when growing cannabis from seeds, lasting the first one-to-seven days after seeds are planted.

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)

Farming guidelines—largely based on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Guide to Minimizing Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Produce—for reducing the risk of microbial contamination related to food borne illnesses.

Good Laboratory Practices (GLP)

Quality system concerned with the organizational process and conditions under which non-clinical health and environmental safety studies are planned, performed, monitored, recorded, and archived.

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)

A set of practices and guidelines required in order to conform to the manufacturing standards set by agencies controlling authorization and licensing relating to the manufacture and sale of food and beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, dietary supplements, and medical devices.


A structure with transparent walls and roof in which plants requiring regulated climatic conditions are grown. Greenhouses may range in size from small sheds to industrial-sized buildings. Unlike an indoor grow, greenhouses allow cannabis plants access to natural sunlight, while still providing a degree of control to the climate and air quality.


Accessory used to reduce the particle size of cannabis buds (aka flower) in preparation for combustion or vaporization. A reduction in particle size expands the total surface area so that material is heated more evenly, thus creating a denser smoke or vapor.

Grow (noun)

Slang for a cannabis cultivation facility.

Growth cycle

The stages of development in the cannabis plant including germination, seedling, vegetative, and flowering. When cloning cannabis from a mother plant, cuttings begin in the vegetative stage.


A type of chewable cannabis-infused candy, typically broken into dosages of 5-10mg of THC per piece.

Grey mold

A microscopic pathogen that thrives in high moisture and humidity levels, generally above 90%. Grey mold can be transferred via a wound present on growing plants.


The stage occurring at the end of cannabis development once plants have completely flowered, whereby plants are cut and removed from the greenhouse. Harvested plants are hung to dry and subsequentially cured. If being sold at retail, flowers undergo an additional manicure trim process to achieve an aesthetically pleasing appearance, prior to packaging.


A botanical class of Cannabis sativa cultivars grown specifically for industrial or medicinal use containing little or no psychoactive compounds (THC). Throughout history, hemp has had many industrial uses including the manufacture of rope, paper, fuel, and clothing. Hemp is also used in the manufacture of federally legal CBD wellness products mirroring typical THC product types, without inducing a psychoactive effect.


A female cannabis plant that begins to show male characteristics. Due to the strict quarantine that needs to be maintained between male and female cannabis plants, it’s essential that growers always be vigilant about identifying and removing hermaphrodites from the crop as soon as possible.

Hood / Biosafety cabinet

An enclosed, ventilated laboratory workspace designed to safely work with potentially harmful pathogens and bacteria.

Hop latent virus (aka “Hop Latent Viroid,” HLVd)

Hop latent virus is a plant pathogenic virus traditionally associated with beer hop, and quickly becoming a common cannabis pathogen. HLVd appears as a single-stranded, circular infectious RNA and is dependent on its host plant's metabolism for replication. Crops infected with HLVd do not develop properly and are not commercially viable. A study published in 2021 by Dark Heart Industries, a California-based cannabis genetics company, showed that 1/3 of California cultivation sites tested were positive for HLVd, accounting for an estimated $4B in losses industry-wide.

Human health

As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), human health is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”


A cannabis cultivar with genetic heredity in both Cannabis sativa and Cannabis Indica, and generally showing selected characteristics of both.


A method of growing cannabis without the use of traditional soil using nutrient-rich water.


Cannabis microbiology testing requires "heat-only" or "standard" incubators that sustain temperatures only above the lab’s ambient temperature. Used for growing and storing bacterial cultures, incubators provide a controlled and contaminant-free environment perfectly suited for microbiological testing by regulating conditions such as temperature, humidity, and CO2.

Infused pre-roll

A manufactured cannabis cigarette consisting of flower, plus one or more cannabis concentrates such as hash, and thus yielding a much greater potency than a cigarette comprised of flower alone. Also see “pre-roll.”

In-house testing

Laboratory analysis of prepared cannabis samples performed at the site of cultivation and/or manufacturing.

Indica (aka Cannabis indica)

Generally regarded to be one of the two main species of the cannabis plant, by contrast to Cannabis sativa.

Indoor grow

A cannabis cultivation facility where plants are grown exclusively in an enclosed area without access to natural sunlight. This allows farmers to exert complete control over the crop’s environmental factors including air temperature, CO2 levels, lighting schedule, and humidity, independent of local conditions.

Internal Controls

Steps built into the methodology of a performed experiment used to validate the reliability of the results. A “positive control” makes use of an element which has already been shown to produce a desired outcome, whereas a “negative control” utilizes a substance or element for which immaterial result can be predicted.


Acronym for Integrated Pest Management. An IPM plan consists of measures, procedures, and materials used to reduce, eliminate and control the negative impact that biological pests have on a cannabis cultivation site.

ISO/IEC 17025:2005

International Organization for Standardization section applying to general competency to carry out tests and/or calibrations, including sampling. This also includes testing and calibration performed using standard, non-standard, and laboratory-developed methods.

Lab Technician

Ensures that cannabis samples are collected using appropriate methods adhering to standard operating procedures.

Lab shopping

The unethical practice of choosing a cannabis testing lab based solely on the expectation of a favorable—but not necessarily accurate or precise—result.


Under natural conditions, the lifecycle of an outdoor cannabis plant is one year, meaning that it forms flowers for reproduction on an annual basis. In a controlled indoor or greenhouse setting, this time period can be truncated substantially to 10-12 weeks from seed (or clone) to harvest.


Acronym for Laboratory Information Management System, a software-based platform allowing for maximum efficiency in lab operations.


Bacterial pathogen generally associated with food contamination that can cause severe infection in humans.


See “Gender (Plant).”


Traditional synonym for the cannabis plant. Due to the word’s etymology and association with early 20th century racist propaganda (particularly against those of Latino origin, hence the Spanish name) during early the early days of cannabis prohibition, the cannabis industry at-large has now completely phased out the term in favor of “cannabis” or another substitute.

Mass Spectrometry

Method to measure the mass of molecules and compounds within a given sample, specifically Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) and Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LCMS).

Medical use

Cannabis use that has been legalized at the state level for the treatment of certain ailments, illnesses and symptoms, and thus requiring a doctor’s prescription for an individual to purchase cannabis products within that state. While the list of qualifying conditions varies from state-to-state, generally included are chronic pain, insomnia, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, seizures, depression, and anxiety.


The scientific study of microscopic organisms that are invisible to the naked-eye, includes bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, prions, protozoa, and algae. Collectively, these are known as “microbes.”

Microbial toxins

Toxins produced by microorganisms that are sometimes responsible for causing infection and disease to other living organisms, including humans.

Mother plant

A plant used for industrial cannabis cloning serving to provide clippings that are subsequentially planted and developed during the vegetative stage of growth through the flowering stage. Mother plants need to be replaced after several generations of use.


See “Pipette.”

Modes of consumption

See “Delivery method.”

Moisture analyzer

Equipment used to provide a repeatable way to effectively quantify water content through a process of measuring before-and-after weight differences in samples.

Molecular biology

The biological study of cellular molecules (i.e., proteins and nucleic acids), including their composition, structure, and interactivity.


Fungal pathogen responsible for the rare disease Mucormycosis in humans.

Multi-State Operator (MSO)

A cannabis company licensed to conduct business in more than one state.


Toxic compounds that are naturally produced by certain types of molds, growing on numerous foodstuffs such as cereals, dried fruits, nuts, spices, and potentially cannabis.

Negative Control

See “Internal Controls.”


Anatomical section of the female and male cannabis plant stem w¬here flowers, branches, and leaves commence growth. It is important to consistently monitor cannabis nodes for signs of hermaphrodization, so that specimens beginning to show characteristics of both genders are removed from the crop as early as possible.


A business-to-business facility that produces cannabis clones, immature plants, seeds, and/or other agricultural products used specifically and solely for the planting, propagation, and cultivation of cannabis.

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy

Method used to measure magnetic fields around atomic nuclei.

Outdoor grow

Traditional outdoor cannabis farming requires much less investment than indoor farming, as it relies mostly on natural conditions and sunlight. However, growing cannabis outdoors also limits the amount of control farmers can exert over their crops and subjects the plants to potentially harmful weather conditions.


Manufacturing stage in which final product is placed into child-resistant retail packaging and labeled per state requirements. Packaged products are generally quarantined within the manufacturing facility while batch testing is done. Upon passing required state testing, quarantined products can be released to the warehouse and transported to retail locations.


A disease-causing microorganism, such as bacteria and fungi.

PCR cabinet

A Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) cabinet (aka “PCR hood,” “clean bench,” “laminar flow hood”) providing a HEPA-filtered vertical laminar flow that effectively eliminates contaminants between amplifications and during preparatory procedures.

PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) 

PCR is a diagnostic tool employed for detecting contamination in cannabis or cannabis-infused products by microorganisms. It involves generating millions of copies of target DNA to allow for detection in a short time.


A genus of fungal mold that has been spotted in cannabis plants. Except in extremely rare cases, the genus is not known to cause disease.


The study of drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion.


A process by which hazardous heavy metal contaminants are naturally absorbed from the soil.


Instrument used to precisely transport a measured volume of liquid from one container to another without any reduction in mass. Micropipettes are used for smaller volumes of liquid, generally under 1,000 μl.


The female reproductive organs of a flower, comprising of an ovule-containing ovary, style, and a receptive stigma.

Plant anatomy

See “Anatomy, Cannabis sativa.”

Positive Control

See “Internal Controls.”


Development stage of cannabis growth beginning one-to-two weeks after the vegetative stage and ending at the commencement of the final flowering developmental stage.


A cannabis cigarette that has been manufactured. Typically, manufactured pre-rolls contain a built-in filter made of paper or glass. They can be sold individually or in packs. Also see “infused pre-roll.”

Processing (manufacture)

In manufacturing, processing may refer to post-production steps needed to prepare cannabis for retail, such as manicure trim.

Processing (retail)

In the context of a cannabis retail establishment, processing refers to the chain of events leading from the customer making their final purchase selection through to the point-of-sale, including the transfer of saleable product from a secure location to the cash register.

Product types

See “delivery method.”


Microbial human pathogen unlikely to infect healthy individuals. However, P. aeruginosa can cause problems, particularly to those with compromised immune systems.

Quality Assurance (QA)

A methodology by which the process of quality management is monitored, measured and verified.

Quality Control (QC)

The process of verifying that the final output of manufactured products meets or exceeds established criteria.

Quality Assurance (QA) Manager

Has the authority to halt work in the lab as necessary, and is also responsible for implementation of the ISO/IEC 17025 Quality Management System (QMS), including risk assessment, auditing, error documentation, and addressing complaints.

Quality Control/Operations Manager

Individual acting as proxy leadership when the CSO is off-premises. Conversely, the CSO must be able to rely on and delegate their most important duties to the Quality Control/Operations Manager.

Quarantine period (product)

Time during which manufactured product is stored prior to final release to the warehouse, during which the batch is sent for mandatory compliance testing.

Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR)

Provides real-time detection of pathogens within a flower sample, including microbes, bacteria, and fungus. qPCR also can identify the specific genes needed to produce THCA and CBDA. By allowing segments of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) to be amplified in quantity, an abundance of genetic clones can be created for subsequent analysis. Also see “PCR.”


Acronym for Quick, Easy, Cheap, Effective, Rugged, and Safe methodology originally developed for agricultural commodities that can be beneficial in cannabis analysis, particularly for pesticide detection.


See “Adult-use.”


The set of rules and ordinances governing the legal production, distribution, and sale of state-legalized medical and/or adult-use cannabis. As cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, no national regulations exist and it remains illegal to cross state borders with cannabis.

Residual solvent

Undesirable byproducts as a result of a manufacturing process.


A cannabis establishment that has been licensed to sell adult-use or medical cannabis to end-users. Cannabis retail establishments are often referred to as “dispensaries,” particularly when they are serving a medicinal clientele. Also see “adult-use.”

Route of administration

See “Delivery method.”


A dangerous bacterial pathogen consisting of two species—S. enterica and S. bongori, with over 2,500 distinct serotypes divided between them—that potentially thrives on cannabis.

Sample increment

The quantity of samples—often specified in state cannabis regulations—needed to accurately represent the batch being tested. For flower, concentrates, and extracts, the sample increment guideline is based on the total weight of the batch. For cannabis-infused products, the increment is based on the total quantity of units in the batch for sale at retail.

Sample preparation

A repeatable technique by which small samples of cannabis or cannabis product are carefully prepared for analysis to assure that human error, bias, matrix anomalies, and cross-contamination are mitigated as much as possible. By following a rigorous sample preparation procedure, a relatively small amount of material can be used to reliably and precisely represent the entire batch.

Sample receipt coordinator

Individual responsible for performing custody control, sample intake, and order processing. This individual also ensures specimens are sampled in accordance with Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) and prepares reports relating to sample throughput and turnaround times.


Fungal pathogens that attack dead plant material.


Generally regarded to be one of the two main species of the cannabis plant, by contrast to Cannabis indica.

Schedule I

Drugs that are defined at the federal level to have no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Despite growing evidence to the contrary, cannabis currently remains defined as a Schedule 1 drug by the Federal government alongside heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ecstasy, methaqualone, and peyote.


A young sporophyte developing out of a plant embryo from a seed.


A type of cannabis business whose core business areas encompass all stages of cannabis production, manufacture, distribution and retail. Also see “Vertically integrated.”


Small, loose cannabis particles that have fallen off or been removed from dried flower. While cannabis consumers typically gravitate towards purchasing more aesthetically pleasing flowers, users often reduce flower to “shake” by using a grinder to increase surface area prior to inhalation.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC)

A diverse group of bacteria that are frequently found in the intestines of most mammals, including humans. While the majority of STEC strains are harmless, some varieties produce toxins that can cause digestive illness, in particular diarrhea, cramps, and vomiting. FoodSafety.gov lists E. coli among the top five food-related bacterial illnesses in the US.


See “Fungal Spores.”

State cannabis regulatory agencies

With no federal legalization of cannabis, each state with legalized cannabis has established regulated agencies to maintain the safe and secure production, distribution, and sale of cannabis products. While some states have grouped cannabis as part of their health department, others have combined it with state agencies monitoring liquor sales. There is little consistency between states as to how these departments are named and operate, examples being New York Office of Cannabis Management, California Bureau of Cannabis Control, and Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Staphylococcus (aka staph)

Spherical gram-positive bacteria in the family Staphylococcaceae from the order Bacillales, forming in grape-like clusters and potentially causing infection in humans.


See “Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.”


The main stalk and branches of the cannabis plant that support flowers and leaves.


A delivery method used with cannabis-based tinctures, by which a measured amount of liquid is placed under the tongue for maximum bioavailability and efficiency. Also see “bioavailability” “tincture,” and “delivery methods.”

Sugar Leaves

Small leaves protruding from the flowers of female cannabis plants. Sugar leaves are named for the dence concentration of trichomes that appear as a crystalized dust on the surface of the leaf, making this the most THC-rich section of the plant.

TAMC Testing

Quantitative test to reveal total aerobic microbial counts (TAMC) within a sample. The acceptable limits for TAMC are commonly <104 CFU/g.

TC testing

Quantitative test to reveal total coliform counts in a sample. The acceptable limits for TC are commonly <102 colony forming units per gram (CFU/g).


Aromatic compounds found in many plants, commonly associated with cannabis due to the high concentrations contained therein. In addition to their influence on aroma and flavor, each individual terpene is thought to have unique health benefits to humans. Additionally, it’s hypothesized that these health benefits multiply exponentially as terpenes and cannabinoids interact with each other within the endocannabinoid system. This amplification is commonly referred to as “The Entourage Effect.”

Tetrahydrocannabinol (∆⁸-THC)

The main psychoactive cannabinoid compound found in the cannabis plant, is also said to provide unique medicinal and therapeutic benefits.

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA)

THC in its raw form prior to decarboxylation. The psychoactive properties of THC do not emerge until it has been converted from THCA.


See “Tetrahydrocannabinol (∆⁸-THC).”


Used to amplify segments of DNA for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analytics. Once a reaction mixture has been placed into the thermocycler, its temperature can be increased or decreased in precise and pre-programmable steps.


A THC or CBD infused liquid that is designed to be administered orally, either sublingually or through the digestive tract. Also see “sublingual.”


A product category that encompasses creams, oils, lotions, etc. designed to be applied directly to the skin. THC does not enter the bloodstream when administered topically, and as a result all cannabis topicals are non-psychoactive.

Transdermal patch

A cannabis or CBD infused adhesive patch that is applied to the skin (generally the arm or inner-wrist), delivering cannabinoids over an extended period of time, generally in between 12 and 96-hours.


Appendages on the surface of cannabis flowers that produce cannabinoids and terpenes. While trichomes are found across the entire plant, highest concentrations are found in the flower, bract, and leaves of the cannabis plant. Also see “sugar leaves.”

Trim (verb)

As “manicure trim,” the process of making cannabis flower aesthetically pleasing prior to packaging and sale.

Trim (noun)

Synonym for “shake,” often used in production facilities for extraction given shake’s high-THC content and limited appeal at retail. Also see “shake.”

TYMC testing

Quantitative test to reveal total yeast and mold counts (TYMC) within a sample. The acceptable limits for TYMC are commonly 103 CFU/g.

United States Pharmacopeia (USP)

Recommendations published annually by the United States Pharmacopeial Convention, a nonprofit organization that owns the trademark and also owns the copyright on the pharmacopeia itself.

Vape pen

A handheld device for vaporizing prepared cannabis extracts. Vape pens come in two basic varieties; cartridges (that are affixed to batteries that can be recharged via USB) and disposable pens (with a built-in, single-use battery). Typically offered in gram and ½ gram varieties, a cartridge can usually deliver 200-500 puffs.


A cannabis delivery method whereby plant material or a concentrate is heated to a pre-combustion temperature, releasing vapor that can be subsequentially inhaled. Vaping is generally considered to be less carcinogenic than smoking, although further studies are required to determine the true risks and benefits of vaping.


A portable, handheld or table-top device designed to vaporize cannabis and cannabis concentrates prior to inhalation. Most vaporizers include an adjustable thermostat allowing for precise (or semi-precise) temperature settings.

Vegetative stage

Stage of cannabis development beginning 2-3 weeks after the seedling stage (if growing from seeds) or immediately after planting clones.

Vertical integration

See “Seed-to-Sale.”

Veterinary products

A product category aimed at treating pets with specific conditions or disorders.

Water activity (Aw)

A measure of available water that determines the degree to which a cannabis or cannabis-infused product will support the growth of microorganisms.

Water pipe

Colloquially referred to as a “bong,” a smoking apparatus whereby smoke is filtered through water prior to inhalation.

Yeast and mold

Microorganisms causing deterioration and decomposition of foods, and potentially cannabis. Yeasts and molds both belong to the fungi family, and fungi is naturally found on all plants in low levels. Certain species of yeast and mold, such as Aspergillus fumigatus, produce toxins that can cause potentially fatal infections.