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Cannabis Flower 101

cannabis buds in a bowl

Marijuana flower is known by a variety of names, and it’s the most common form of marijuana that people encounter. Flower can be enjoyed in many different ways. In this guide, we’ll explain:

  • What is Marijuana Flower?
  • What are the Different Types of Cannabis Flower?
  • What Do you Need to Buy to Smoke Flower?
  • How to Measure Potency?

What is Marijuana Flower?

When we’re talking about cannabis flower, we’re essentially referring to the dried flower bud of a female cannabis plant. Flower contains a full spectrum of cannabinoids that help to create the psychoactive effects experienced when smoking marijuana. It also contains trichomes, a significant source of THC and terpenes, the organic aromas found in the oils of flowering marijuana. Typically, once the flower is harvested, it is then dried, cured, and prepared for sale at a licensed dispensary.

What are the Different Types of Cannabis Flower?

There are plenty of different names out there for cannabis flower, so we’ll stick to what you can most commonly find in Verilife dispensaries. First, dispensaries sell what’s called loose flower. This means that it’s only the flower bud itself.

Loose flower includes three types:

  • Premium: When you think of a cannabis bud - also called a nug for its nugget-like shape - you’re likely thinking of premium flower. This is the full, dense cannabis bud, found at the end of the plant’s stems. Because it’s the part of the plant that receives the most nutrients, it’s rich in trichomes and terpenes, packing a ton of flavor. Premium flower is typically the most expensive type of flower on a dispensary menu. 
  • Popcorn: These small but mighty versions of cannabis flower get their name because they’re about the size of a kernel of popped popcorn. They are smaller in size because they grow beneath the premium buds, which means they don’t get as many nutrients. They may have lower levels of trichomes, which means they aren’t as flavorful as premium flower. However, they are also more budget-friendly.
  • Shake: While you can see the structure of a flower bud in both premium and popcorn flower, shake consists of loose flower material. Shake can consist of multiple different cannabis plants that are packaged together or used in pre-rolls, edibles, or concentrates.

Each of these flower types can be found in indica, sativa, and hybrid strains, making it easy to find exactly the right product you’d like to try in the potency you crave.

Curious about the difference between indica and sativa? Learn more in our guide.

What Do you Need to Buy to Smoke Flower?

First thing’s first, don’t be shy about visiting a marijuana dispensary in your area. Dispensary staff are experts who are more than happy to help you choose the right flower and tools you need, as well as answer any questions you might have along the way. It can be a great way to experience flower for the first time. Once all your questions are answered, you’ll need two things: the flower of your choice and a tool to smoke it.

Read our tips for preparing for your first dispensary visit.

Most dispensaries - depending on the state you’re in - carry different strains of flower to choose from, so you’ll need to identify what you’re looking to get out of your experience. Remember, while packaging will typically give you an idea of the effects of a strain, everyone reacts differently, so it’s important to start slow.

Once you’ve decided on the flower, you’ll need to choose your method of consumption. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use tool, you might want to consider a vaporizer. With vaping, you can put the flower in the vaporizer and let the tool do the work for you. You’ll most likely need to purchase:

  • A grinder: Grinders let you easily break your cannabis flower into smaller pieces for easier smoking. It also helps keep your fingers from getting sticky when handling the flower. While some smokers choose not to use grinders, it is an easy way for beginners to enjoy their flower.
  • A glass pipe, water pipe, or papers and filters: These three options are the most common ways to smoke flower.
    • Glass Pipes: These handheld pipes are convenient, portable, and easy to use. They also come in a variety of colors and styles. Your flower is packed on one side and then you inhale the smoke from the other end.
    • Water Pipes: These pipes (sometimes referred to as bongs) incorporate water in the pipe to cool the smoke. Water pipes also make it easier to avoid inhaling ash.
    • Papers & Filters: These tools allow you to roll your own “joint.” You place the ground-up flower on the paper, with a filter on one end, and you roll it. Simply light the non-filtered end and smoke it as you would a cigarette.

For anyone interested in smoking cannabis “joints,” you can get products called pre-rolls. This takes the work out of creating it yourself and allows you to simply enjoy your flower.

How to Measure the Potency of Marijuana Flower

Every cannabis product, from concentrates to edibles, is unique when it comes to potency, and flower is no exception. When measuring flower potency, it’s important to measure the concentration of cannabinoids in the flower bud.

When looking at a raw flower product label, you may see a note that says it contains 10% THCA. (THC is actually THCA that has been exposed to heat or light, which is why labels for raw flower say THCA.) This is the potency of the product, and it means there is 100 mg of THC for every gram of combusted (heated) flower. So if you’re buying 3.5 g of flower at 10% THCA, you’re buying 350 mg of THC. For the average smoker or vaper, this would last a few sessions.

To understand how potency might affect you, we’ve made this simple chart for beginners:

  • Less than 10% THC: Mild psychoactive effects. You can feel the effects of the strain but they aren’t overwhelming.
  • 10% - 20% THC: Stronger psychoactive effects. Whether you’re smoking by yourself or sharing with friends, a single session with this potency of flower will leaving you feeling all the effects of the strain.
  • More than 20% THC: Strongest psychoactive effects. We do not recommend beginners start with this level of potency.

As with all cannabis products, you should start slow and go from there. Multiple sessions with a lower THC product can result in the same effects as a stronger product, making it much easier to dose to your needs.

Learn how to store your cannabis flower properly with our guide.

Is Flower Right for You

This answer depends solely on you. If you like the tactile process of loading a glass pipe or holding the flower in your hand, and you don’t mind smoking or vaping, flower can be a great cannabis product for you.

There are other options available though. Check out our guides, Vaping 101 and Concentrates 101, to learn more about different cannabis products available to try.


Recreational Cannabis is not available in all states. Cannabis is for medical use only and may only be used by certified patients in Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and medical marijuana patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations.

This website contains cannabis information and is restricted to individuals 21 years of age or older. Please confirm your age:

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