The ability to identify cannabis leaves may enable you to distinguish marijuana growing in the soil. Cannabis sativa grows throughout many regions of the United States except for the hottest and coldest areas -- desert southwest and upper Great Plains regions. Learn the basic characteristics of marijuana plants to identify the leaves and buds. According to the Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide, marijuana plants may grow as tall as 10 feet.
Identify a cannabis seedling. The first leaves -- called cotyledons -- lack the serrated edges and have an oval shape. The initial true leaves appear opposite the stems and they appear significantly different from the cotyledons because they have serrated edges and a thinner shape.
Examine the stem of a cannabis plant. A cannabis stem appears fuzzy or hairy, and it may leak a sap that has a strong scent. The scent of the sap is the distinctive smell of fresh cannabis.
Check the cannabis leaves. The upper leaves on a cannabis plant grow in an alternating pattern from the stems in a palmate pattern, meaning that they originate from the end of a leafstalk. The cannabis leaves will have between five and nine leaflets with serrated edges and fuzzy surfaces.
Smell the cannabis plant, especially the leaves and flowers. A cannabis plant has a distinctive and strong scent that can help you positively identify it. Other plants may resemble the cannabis plant somewhat, but these plants will lack the same scent.
Look for buds or flowers on the cannabis plant. Cannabis plants produce either male or female flowers -- not both on the same plant. Flowers on a cannabis plant grow from the stem near the point where leaves originate. Male flowers produce a bud with one stem in the middle and female flowers usually produce clusters of blooms.