Once it’s harvested, dried and cured, cannabis comes in three main formats: whole flower, milled flower and pre-rolls. The plant may be the same, but the way it’s processed and consumed differs for each format. Every consumer is unique — so how do you know which format is best for you?
Let’s break down the basics of whole flower, milled flower and pre-rolled cannabis to find out how they differ and why these differences matter.
What is whole flower?
Dried flower, or whole flower, describes cannabis that has been harvested, dried and cured but whose buds remain intact. We’ve all seen those glorious whole-nug shots on social media; sticky, terpy, spongy, covered in pistils and trichomes. The perk of whole cannabis flower is twofold: It preserves all the terpenes, trichomes and cannabinoids and lets consumers control the coarseness or fineness when grinding it for use. Simply put, whole flower is often the freshest, most potent and flavourful.
The physical attributes of whole flower depend on the production process. Harvesting, drying, and curing all affect the colour, aroma, texture, density, and overall effects of cannabis. Some Licensed Producers use high-tech automation to prepare the cannabis for sale, while others hang-dry and hand-trim in small batches for more of a craft-cannabis approach.
Flower is often characterized by their strains (indica, sativa or hybrid), and comes in 1-gram, 3.5-gram, 7-gram, 14-gram and 28-gram formats in tamper-resistant, child-proof packaging. Cannabis flower is available in the Dried Cannabis section of OCS.ca.
What is milled flower?
Milled cannabis is simply dried flower that has been ground before packaging — it is convenient and often less expensive than whole flower. While it’s more practical than whole flower (as no grinder is needed to prepare the cannabis), cannabinoids can degrade faster when milled. That said, milled flower is popular in Canada, with a variety of brands offering it.
The product can go straight from the package into a vaporizer, bong or rolled into a joint. Unlike with whole flower, consumers can’t control the density of the grind and there is no industry standard for coarseness. This means that some brands offer a more coarsely ground milled flower while other products can be finer.
The best milled cannabis will be made with whole flower — never trim, shake or stems. Some brands offer single-strain milled options, meaning producers only use one type of cannabis flower in the product. Others will combine several similar strains to offer a budget-friendly indica or sativa option that isn’t strain-specific. Milled cannabis is sold in 7-gram, 14-gram and 28-gram packages.
How to consume whole and milled flower
Whole flower can be vaped or smoked with a variety of accessories, but first it should be broken down with a grinder or scissors. Grinding cannabis flower before consuming it helps air circulate, creating a smoother smoke or vapour. Milled flower is ground and ready to consume, so no additional accessories are needed to break it down.
Dried cannabis can be consumed in a variety of ways, depending on your preferences:
What are pre-rolls?
Pre-rolls are cannabis products that are ready for immediate consumption — no accessories needed (except a lighter). They come in three varieties: joints, blunts and infused pre-rolls. There is a certain level of skill and dexterity needed to roll your own; pre-rolls are a quick and easy alternative.
Pre-rolls come in various formats: Standard pre-rolls are ground cannabis flower rolled in a cone or paper and ready to be smoked. Blunts are similar to pre-rolls but instead of paper, they are made with a thicker, cigar-like wrap, usually made from hemp (in Canada, legal blunts are not created with tobacco leaf). Infused pre-rolls are joints with cannabis flower and an added concentrate for flavour and potency. Pre-rolls can be infused with kief, shatter, diamonds, live resin or another type of cannabis concentrate.
The different sizes, strains, rolling papers and filters all contribute to the overall experience. Twisted tip or a flat fold? A blunt wrap or hemp paper? Glass or paper filter? Regular or infused? Similar to milled flower, some pre-rolls are strain-specific while others are blended indica or sativa.
Pre-rolls are available individually or in multi-packs and come in a variety of sizes ranging from 0.35 to 2 grams.
How to consume pre-rolls
Since this product is rolled and ready, all you really need is a lighter. To experience the terpenes and flavonoids, you can try a “dry pull” by inhaling before the joint is lit. Roaches, or the stubbed-out butts of a finished pre-roll, are quite smelly. There are smell-proof accessories that discreetly hold pre-rolls and used filters without the odour, and prevent litter.
What to consider when shopping for dried cannabis
When picking a cannabis product, consider the flower first: what effects, aroma and flavours are you looking for? Terpenes and cannabinoids contribute to the potency, taste, smell and overall experience. But the cannabis itself isn’t the only consideration — there are a number of other factors to choosing your perfect product.
What to know before purchasing whole flower, milled flower or pre-rolls
Consuming cannabis by inhaling is popular, but there are things to consider before you choose to smoke. When you inhale heated cannabis vapour or smoke, the cannabinoids travel into your lungs, where they are absorbed into your bloodstream. While the effects of the cannabis are often felt quickly, the method is not without risk.
There is substantial evidence that the smoke produced by combusted cannabis contains many of the same cancer-causing chemicals as tobacco smoke. There is also substantial evidence that daily cannabis smoking leads to pre-cancerous lesions in the airway. Exposure to second-hand smoke is also harmful, but you can reduce the risk for others by consuming cannabis away from them.
It’s also important to note the myth that inhaling longer or deeply can lead to stronger effects. The THC takes just seconds to absorb into your system, so holding your breath won’t make a difference.
Alternatively, you can opt to consume cannabis another way. Edibles, beverages, oils, and capsules all carry less risk for your lungs.
Find helpful resources and learn more about inhalation as a consumption method through the Cannabis Made Clear online education hub.