14 Far-Out Facts About the Weed Leaf
In decades past, there was no better way to declare you were a stoner than by repping the weed leaf on everything you wore. To some in the modern cannabis industry, the pot leaf may be more of an eyesore than an icon.
The truth, though, is that the weed leaf is just as steeped into cannabis culture as it is into cannabis tea—which, it turns out, is one of the best ways to use pot leaves (see idea #8). In this entertaining jaunt into marijuana’s most notable symbol, deepen your knowledge of the weed leaf and everything it means to the contemporary cannabis community.
1. The weed leaf has 7 (or even 9) points, not 5
If you were to ask a random person on the street how many points a pot leaf has, they’d probably say, “five.” First, they might ask you why you asked that question, but once everything’s cleared up, you can reveal that cannabis leaves usually have at least seven and may have as many as 13 points or “leaflets.”
The number of leaflets each leaf on a cannabis plant will express is determined by genetics and environmental conditions. The healthier a cannabis plant is, the more leaflets its top leaves will have. Even the most robust pot leaves, however, usually feature fewer leaflets as you move toward the core stem of the plant or into areas where light doesn’t penetrate.
2. Weed leaves with 3 points aren’t weed leaves at all
If a pot leaf has less than three points, it’s either extremely unhealthy or was taken from an entirely different species of plant. While the distinctions can get vague, cannabis can be considered to be composed of three species, and the buds from one of these species won’t even get you high.
These days, the differences between Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica aren’t considered great enough for each variant to be considered its own species. There’s another type of cannabis, however, that’s very different from the other two: Cannabis ruderalis.
Growing short and stocky while not bearing usable quantities of THC, ruderalis plants are also identifiable by their smaller, three-pointed leaves. Cannabis ruderalis leaves often bear smaller pseudo-leaflets at their bases, but they only have three main leaflets.
3. You can smoke pot leaves…
Before anyone tells you that you can’t smoke pot leaves, rest assured that you can. The question is, however: Do you want to?
4. … But, pot leaves won’t get you high
Cannabis leaves taste terrible to smoke due to their high chlorophyll and mineral content. The smoke they produce is harsher, and, most importantly, smoking pot leaves will not get you high.
Period. It simply won’t happen. Cannabis leaves do not contain high enough concentrations of cannabinoids to get you high, and you probably won’t even have any fun while smoking them.
5. Indica and sativa pot leaves look different
One of the reasons scientists thought Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica were different species for years is their considerably different-looking leaves. Sativa-leaning strains of cannabis usually have longer leaves with thinner leaflets, and they often have larger numbers of leaflets as well.
Indica-leaning strains, however, bear short and stocky leaves—just like indica buds. Indica leaves are darker in color, and they usually don’t have as many leaflets.
6. You can make weed leaves into juice
Disappointed first-time amateur pot growers often don’t know what to do with all their leftover leaves after the trimming process is over. Don’t fret, though, esteemed cannabis enthusiast: There’s something else you can do with pot leaves aside from smoking them. We’re talking, of course, about juicing.
If YouTube were to be believed, juicing might just be the answer to all the world’s problems. In concrete terms, though, juicing does solve at least one problem: How to turn weed leaves into something useful. Instead of cannabinoids, pot leaves contain impressive quantities of essential minerals, making the weed leaf an ideal “veggie” to juice on its own or alongside your other favorite leafy greens.
7. Cannabis leaves are great sources of essential nutrients
The three main essential minerals cannabis leaves contain are magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. They’re also rich, though, in terpenes and especially flavonoids, both of which are believed to have potent anti-inflammatory properties that may aid digestion and offer many other benefits. Cannabis leaves also contain reasonably high concentrations of zinc, potassium, and iron, making them surprisingly similar to popular leafy greens like kale and arugula in terms of nutritional properties.
8. You can brew cannabis leaves into tea
Exposing cannabis leaves to heat destroys many of their most desirable nutrients. In exchange, though, brewing weed leaves into tea unlocks their hidden deliciousness just as much as smoking them makes weed leaves absolutely disgusting.
You can brew pot leaves into tea either fresh or dried. To replicate the usual tea experience, it might be best to allow cannabis leaves to dry before crushing or grinding them. Then, you could put your cannabis leaves in a tea infuser just like any other type of loose herbal tea.
Cannabis tea can be as simple, though, as a fresh leaf plucked off a plant and dropped into a mug of hot water. For the sweetest weed tea, choose a sugar leaf.
9. Sugar leaves are the most coveted
In the world of cannabis cultivation, the term “sugar leaf” refers to the type of small, trichome-encrusted leaf that appears near the bud of a weed plant. While not actually part of the bud, a sugar leaf is close enough to the action to get bathed in a small portion of the glow.
In concrete terms, this means sugar leaves contain enough terpenes to be delicious and (potentially) enough cannabinoids to get you high. As an added bonus, some cannabis growers even think sugar leaves taste delicious when popped into your mouth—us included.
10. The weed leaf has been depicted for over 12,000 years
These neolithic-era artists could have been depicting something else entirely, but there’s a cave painting on the island of Kyushu in Japan that looks oddly like that little symbol you remember the cool kids doodling in their high-school notebooks. Dated to around 10,000 BC, this lithograph depicts something that looks a lot like a cannabis leaf being lifted aloft, seemingly in veneration or even worship. As if that weren’t enough, Ancient Egyptian wall carvings depict the goddess Seshat with something that also looks conspicuously like stoner culture’s most iconic symbol perched above her head.
11. Australian pot leaves are bastards
Now, we don’t mean any offense to our cannabis comrades Down Under, but your pot leaves aren’t exactly the most desirable party guests. Calling them “bastards” might be a bit much, but that’s what they call themselves, actually: Australian bastard cannabis (ABC) is a form of Cannabis sativa so mutated that it looks like another plant entirely.
ABC bud doesn’t contain much THC, and bastard cannabis leaves look downright funky. More like an artichoke and less like the bud you smoke, we think Australia should feel free to keep ABC right where it belongs: quarantined all by itself on the world’s biggest inhabited island.
12. Pot leaves can diagnose disease
We don’t recommend canceling your next doctor’s appointment and asking a pot plant about that lump on your neck instead. What we’re talking about here are diseases and nutritional deficiencies that affect cannabis plants, not humans.
How a cannabis leaf looks while it’s growing can tell you an awful lot about the plant it’s growing on. Veteran growers can identify common deficiencies, including magnesium and molybdenum deficiency, with just a cursory glance at a single leaf. The leaves are also often the first parts of a cannabis plant that show signs of environmental dangers like pests or excessive heat.
13. You can’t advertise with a pot leaf on Facebook
Though there have been increasingly vehement calls for the social media giant (recently restructured as “Meta”) to reverse its position, Facebook still won’t let anyone who advertises on its platform use the image of a pot leaf in their ads. Instated in 2010, this pot leaf ban also applies to Meta’s other major property, Instagram.
True, delta 9 THC is still a federally illegal substance, and the pot leaf is mostly associated with the use of this single cannabinoid. Lots of different cannabinoids are produced in the buds to which pot leaves are attached, however, and most of them are non-intoxicating and considered to be hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill.
14. The weed leaf was an icon of cannabis legalization
Get with the times, Facebook. The pot leaf isn’t just about getting high anymore. In fact, it never really was.
Since the days Jack Herer proudly wore goofy tie-dyed T-shirts emblazoned with the pot leaf while he debated the benefits of cannabis with random passerby at the Venice Boardwalk in the 1980s, the cannabis leaf has always been a symbol of freedom, not intoxication.
“It’s just a leaf, and it’s not even the part that gets you high.” Right on, man. Let the pot leaf flag fly free forever.