where does my weed come from

Parts of the cannabis plant

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  1. Types of weed plants
  2. How to tell male from female marijuana plants
  3. How to propagate cannabis plants

Cannabis grows in a variety of climates around the world and can be used in many applications: rope, biofuel, paper, and many medical and recreational uses. The plant is part of the Cannabaceae family, which also includes hops. It is further classified as Cannabis sativa L . Each part of the plant serves a purpose and while the whole of a cannabis plant is certainly greater than the sum of its parts, knowing its parts can inform your experience and appreciation of it. Below are descriptions of each of the plant’s parts and the functions they perform.

Each part of the cannabis plant serves a purpose.

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The flowers of the female marijuana plant can be identified by their small teardrop structures, which consist of pistils attached to bracts. Cannabis flowers are usually covered with a frosty-looking coating of trichomes, with a heavier density of trichomes making for a more desirable flower.

The main part of the flower, at the end of a female plant’s stem is composed of many small floral clusters. In general, the bigger, heavier, and more densely covered in trichomes a cola is, the better quality it will be, although some cultivars will naturally grow flowers that are more loosely structured and airy.


The small leaves that surround the reproductive cells of a female weed plant. When a female plant is exposed to pollen from a male marijuana plant, the bracts surround and shield the seed pod.


Marijuana trichomes are hairlike appendages found on the surface of the cannabis plant. Trichomes protect the plant from external stressors and contain resinous glands that create flavonoids, cannabinoids and terpenes — the chemical compounds that give the marijuana plant its unique features and effects. Trichomes give cannabis buds a crystal-like sheen and make them sticky feeling.

Within the glandular trichomes, there are three main types: bulbous, capitate-sessile and capitate-stalked.

Non-glandular trichomes are called cystoliths. Bulbous trichomes are tiny bulbs that are sparsely located throughout the entire plant, but are so small they can’t be seen with the naked eye. Capitate-sessile trichomes are more abundant than bulbous trichomes, found on the underside of the sugar leaves and fan leaves, but are usually only visible through a microscope. Capitate-stalked trichomes are shaped like mushrooms and contain a large trichome head at the top of the stalk. These are the trichomes that can be easily seen on the cannabis flower surface.

The point at which the stem and leaf intersect. Nodes can hold one or more leaves or offshoots. As explained below, nodes are important to be familiar with, as they are where cannabis plants begin to grow either pollen sacs (male cannabis plants) or pistils (female cannabis plants). Understanding the sex of a marijuana plant is crucial to the final product, since only female plants produce flowers and since non-pollinated flowers are far superior than pollinated buds when it comes to consumption.

Fan leaves

Leaves are important components of a weed plant, and there are actually a couple types of marijuana leaves. The large, protruding leaves that appear along the length of the plant are called fan leaves. Theses leaves are essential to the living plant’s photosynthesis, but are always removed from the finished, harvested product.

Sugar leaves

As opposed to fan leaves, sugar leaves are small leaves found throughout cannabis colas’ cupping buds that are typically trimmed off the flower after harvest. They are called “sugar leaves” because of the high volume of trichomes found on them, which makes it look like the leaves are covered in sugar. Sugar leaf trim can be used to make edibles or concentrates.

The main support structure of the marijuana plant, the stem transports fluids, nutrients, and information from the roots to the rest of the weed plant. The stem provides a foundation to give fan leaves access to the light they need to facilitate growth and carries the weight of heavy colas.

Pistils vs. stigmas

There is often a lot of confusion surrounding pistils and stigmas, with many people confusing one of the other. Here’s a quick breakdown on the difference between the two important cannabis plant components.

What is a pistil?

The pistil is the primary piece of the female flower’s reproductive system, comprising a single ovule with two protruding stigmas.

What are stigmas?

The thin hairs that extend from a female’s bract to catch male pollen. They are commonly confused with pistils. Knowing how to identify stigmas is an important part of growing weed, as these are the telltale signs that a plant is female and will therefore produce the cannabinoid-rich flowers you’re trying to harvest.

Cannabis grows in a variety of climates around the world and can be used in many applications: rope, biofuel, paper, and many medical and recreational uses. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Types of weed plants

If you want to stay in touch with the origins of your favorite cannabis products, knowing the ins and outs of the plant at the industry’s core is a good place to start. And that includes knowing not only the specific parts of a cannabis plant, but also the different types and strains of weed that exist.

Along with understanding the various parts of a marijuana plant, you should also know about the different types of cannabis. While there are long-held claims about the effects that sativas, indicas, and hybrids offer, current research suggests that the effects of cannabis are determined by a person’s endocannabinoid system and the plant-specific cannabinoid profile.

Despite that, cannabis is typically classified in the following four categories:

  • Indica: Indica-leaning weed plants tend to produce dense, fat, heavy buds during the flowering stage. These strains are typically believed to give consumers a “body high” instead of a more cerebral high.
  • Sativa: Sativa plants tend to produce buds that are airy and more formed than indica plants. Sativa strains of the weed plant are often said to offer users a more cerebral, energetic, “buzzy” highs.
  • Hybrid: As a blend of sativa and indica, hybrid strains are generally believed to give you a more balanced high.
  • Hemp: Hemp plants are part of the cannabis family, but they differ from a regular weed plant in that they produce only trace amounts of THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating effects of the marijuana plant. In the U.S., the 2018 Farm Bill specified hemp as a cannabis plant containing up to 0.3% THC. However, hemp plants produce a number of other important cannabinoids, most notably cannabidiol (CBD), and their fibers are used to produce a range of textiles.

To break it down even further, there are numerous strains within each of the more general categories indica, sativa, and hybrid. Understanding and becoming familiar with these various strains is what will really enable you to target — on a specific level — the type of experience you have when consuming weed.

How to tell male from female marijuana plants

Typically, you will be able to distinguish between male and female cannabis plants when the plant is about six weeks old. To figure out the sex of a marijuana plant , look at the plant’s nodes, where the leaves and branches connect to the main stem.

Male plants will produce pollen sacs that at first look like little tiny balls and then grow into larger clusters of oblong-shaped sacs. Conversely, a female weed plant will produce pistils, which in their early stages look like thin hairs and then eventually start growing into more structured ovules and stigmas.

To figure out the sex of a marijuana plant, look at the plant’s nodes, where the leaves and branches connect to the main stem. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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There is one very important reason why it’s crucial to be able to distinguish male from female plants: Only female plants produce flowers. Because male plants produce pollen sacs, they do not generate any of the buds that people actually harvest and consume. From the perspective of growing weed for human consumption, male plants are really only good for propagating brand new baby plants from seed.

With the exception of consciously choosing to reproduce plants through pollination (as opposed to cloning a female plant), growers must carefully keep male plants away from female plants.

Hermaphrodite plants are a rare monecious plant, meaning it develops both male and female sex organs. Hermaphrodites are primarily formed if a female weed plant is exposed to extreme conditions during key stages of growth. Flowers from hermaphrodite plants will be full of seeds, making them very poor quality for consumption. To avoid this, growers must be experts at spotting both hermaphrodite and male plants early and then getting rid of them before they ruin nearby female plants.

Many breeders produce seeds that are feminized as a way to avoid male genetics. These feminized seeds only carry female genetics, and in most cases, is guaranteed to produce female plants. Another option is to grow auto-flowering strains, which are genetically engineered to automatically flower after a brief vegetative period of two to four weeks.

How to propagate cannabis plants

Knowing the parts of a marijuana plant is necessary for propagating cannabis plants. Propagation refers to the process of using one plant to create new plants. In general, cannabis growers do this in one of two ways:

  1. Cloning : Cloning is a popular method, as it allows you to get multiple baby plants from a single adult plant, without having to buy seeds or go through the longer process of germinating, planting, and growing a weed plant from seed. To clone a marijuana plant, carefully cut a branch away from the stem right at the node. From there, place the cutting into a growing medium, typically either suspended in water or inserted into a starter plug. When the cutting develops roots you can then transplant it into a larger container or the ground, depending on where you’re going to be growing the plant.
  2. Seeds: Growing from seed requires you to start from scratch, and is ideally suited to growers who are novices, growers who want to produce a new type or strain than what they’re already growing, and growers who don’t have a plant they want to replicate exactly. To grow a weed plant from seed, place a seed in some sort of starting medium such as rockwool or peat pellets and keep it moist until it sprouts. As the sprout develops leaves and roots, it will start requiring more and more light. When a decent little ball of roots has formed, transplant the baby marijuana plant to a larger container or the ground and proceed to feed, water, and ventilate it until the weed plant reaches maturity.

The cannabis plant has many different parts to it. Learn about the cola, calyx, trichomes and more.

Where does my weed come from

Research from one think tank finds that as much as two-thirds of the pot in the U.S. could be coming from Mexico, sales of which fuel the drug war south of the border. At the same time, the growing acceptance of medical marijuana may be boosting domestic production.

The fact is that when you buy pot on the black market, there’s usually no way to know where it came from. In the world of high-end marijuana, there aren’t any labels or stickers; just fancy sounding cannabis strains.

“We were just dealing with some AK-47, Sour Diesel, and O.G.,” explained a dreadlocked marijuana middleman after making a pot purchase.

What he and his partner do is illegal, so they asked that their identities not be revealed. They are both in their 20’s and asked to be described as “the conservative looking one and the hippie with dreads.”

They are part of a tiny section of the drug economy that actually knows where their product comes from.

They drive to Northern California to buy directly from growers or from distributors who buy from growers there. Most of their business is from the so-called “Emerald Triangle,” a cluster of counties that are to marijuana what Napa and Sonoma counties are to wine.

“I would feel that we are kind of a rarity as far as being as connected as we are,” the clean-cut one said.

He said he knows who is profiting from his purchases. It is not violent drug cartels in Mexico, but working people in the Emerald Triangle.

He said money going to them “is going to profit families and paying mortgages.”

After the middlemen make their purchases, they sell to other dealers, college kids, medical marijuana users and professionals in Las Vegas. Those are customers who are serious enough about quality to pay $60 for an eighth of an ounce – or enough for about 15 joints.

“They want a high THC content. They want to see no seeds,” the clean cut one said. “They want to see big, puffy nuggets, sticky, sticky weed.”

And it’s getting easier for those smokers to get what they want.

“There has never been a time where it has been this easy to get access to high quality marijuana,” said Beau Kilmer, the co-director of the Drug Policy Research Center at the Rand Corporation in Los Angeles, a public policy think tank.

That availability seems to be a result of the rising medical marijuana industry in California and more people growing domestically. A few years ago a pound of pretty high end Northern California weed at wholesale price went for about $3500, now the price has fallen to about $2500 (though street prices have remained constant).

But Kilmer’s research shows high quality marijuana remains a small part of the national market.

“The large majority of the country still is consuming commercial grade marijuana, not the high quality stuff,” Kilmer said.

In fact, at least 80 percent of the marijuana smoked in the US is commercial grade, according to Kilmer’s estimates. It costs just a fraction of the nice stuff coming out of the Emerald Triangle and is likely less potent. And where does that commercial grade pot come from?

Kilmer says a large chunk is imported from Mexico. Purchasing that smuggled pot would benefit the Mexican cartels who are engaged in violent turf battles south of the border.

While law enforcement officials said Mexican nationals are behind much of the cultivation of marijuana on California’s public lands, there isn’t evidence at this point that those sales directly benefit the major drug trafficking organizations south of the border, such as the Sinaloa Cartel or the Gulf Cartel.

Regardless of the social implications, Mexican-grown weed doesn’t have a good reputation in Las Vegas.

“Oh man, Mexican is like, jeez, it’s like dirty,” said Ryan Chrisman, a local construction worker who was relaxing on the Las Vegas strip on a recent week night. “It has seeds. It taste like nothing.”

Another smoker complained of the side-effects.

“It gives me a headache, the Mexican weed does,” said a man hawking water bottles to tourists. He just gave his first name, Mike, which was also tattooed on his neck.

“I’d rather smoke the stuff in the smoke shops that ain’t even weed,” he said.

Finally, a visiting hip hop artist from Chicago who uses the name Donahmeni, explained the American appetite for Mexican pot.

“I ain’t gonna front: I love the dirt,” Donahmeni said while selling his CDs in front of the Bellagio. He calls the low-grade marijuana that is typically grown in Mexico, “dirt,” as in dirt weed. And he likes it because it’s cheap.

“I can smoke 20 blunts, you know what I am saying,” Donahmeni said.

Beau Kilmer’s research finds that somewhere between 40 to 67 percent of all marijuana in the US probably comes from Mexico. But it’s impossible to track the marijuana market with any certainty because much of the data remains murky.

To quantify the American appetite for pot, researchers must rely on survey data that asks only limited questions about marijuana use. Or on data from law enforcement seizures that may not be a useful proxy for the amount of pot actually distributed and consumed.

Good statistics on who is smoking what, from where, and how much, is critical for making effective marijuana policy, according to Kilmer.

“This is important for assessing the amount of revenues that the Mexican drug trafficking organizations are bringing in,” Kilmer said. “It’s also important for making projections about legalization.”

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