Marijuana or Cannabis

Marijuana or Cannabis

What do we call the drug?

Here’s the first jurisdiction to tax our subject:

British Indian colonizers used “hemp drugs” generally, ganja and bhang and more for different products, cannabis rarely, and only for the plant (marijuana not at all):

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant.

Marijuana is a mind-altering (psychoactive)
drug, produced by the Cannabis sativa plant. 

Beyond official federal sources, there are lots of opinions.  I googled marijuana or cannabis – and I may slant what I found toward marijuana.

Harborside, which is among the oldest and largest dispensaries in California, says on its website: “‘Marijuana’ has come to be associated with the idea that cannabis is a dangerous and addictive intoxicant, not a holistic, herbal medicine … This stigma has played a big part in stymying cannabis legalization efforts throughout the US.”

It’s clear why a business like Harborside would prefer the more scientific word for branding purposes, but does that mean everyone should follow along?

(I know the author, who is at the top of hemp drug journalism — I recommend the whold article)

Queen Adesuyi, senior national policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, brought up another aspect of marijuana usage. That is: Labeling marijuana as racist or offensive may alienate many of the people most connected to the plant—and those disproportionately targeted by the War on Drugs.

“The word cannabis is very disconnected to most communities,” she said. “Your average person does not refer to the plant as cannabis.”

“As we’re working to advance legalization across the country, what we don’t want is a complete whitewashing of the history of marijuana criminalization and the impact that’s had on people of color,” Adesuyi added. “This is something we’re seeing the industry do. There’s an active attempt to revamp what the plant means, and who it represents.”

“When you think about ‘the new face of cannabis’” presented by some companies, she said, “it oftentimes is not in alignment with [those most affected by] the stigmatized and criminalized history of the plant.”

There’s also the question of political focus and wasted resources. “It’s important to lead the public discussion about the terms we use,” said Calvin Stovall, Leafly’s East Coast editor, “but I don’t think it’s productive to police how consumers or other members of the industry use the word marijuana.

“I’d rather see us direct our collective energy at the institutional level—to change the laws that are racist and offensive. Forcing people to take a political stance by only saying cannabis and never marijuana creates a dynamic where the legalization community gets caught up arguing among ourselves about terminology.”

Decision time in Word Court

After weeks of conversation and rumination, I find myself disagreeing with Rep. Melanie Morgan.

Let me say it clearly: Marijuana is not pejorative or racist.

The impulse that drove Morgan to change the language of Washington State law wasn’t unfounded, though. It’s time to update the legal conversation to cannabis. But Morgan’s diagnosis was imprecise and too simplistic. Marijuana is a problematic, complicated word with a problematic, complicated history. In the year 2022 it exists in a state of flux, loathed by some while used without malice by many.

Thriving in the cannabis world requires flexibility and quick adaptive reflexes. The language we use reflects that. We’re constantly reading the room to determine the appropriate verbiage. Mostly it’s cannabis or marijuana, but now and then it’s weed and sometimes it’s pot. Sometimes it can feel like living in a Key & Peele code-switch sketch.

That’s my answer today. Stay tuned. It’ll probably change, because language never stops evolving and neither should we.

Stop saying ‘marijuana’? Lawmakers say it’s racist

David Hyde

March 31, 2022 / 11:55 am

caption: Chelsea Stenson trims marijuana buds before packaging  on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, at House of Cultivar in Seattle.

Chelsea Stenson trims marijuana buds before packaging on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, at House of Cultivar in Seattle. 

KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer


Gov. Jay Inslee recently signed a bill striking the word “marijuana” from the text of all state law. The measure says to use the word “cannabis” instead.

The effort in Washington is part of a national movement to retire the word.

Washington Democrat Melanie Morgan, who sponsored the bill in the state House, calls the word marijuana “pejorative and racist.” Morgan said replacing it is merely one way to create change.

Some cannabis retailers and industry trade groups have stopped using the word. Earlier this year, Maine and Virginia also introduced bills about striking the word marijuana from their laws.

Recreational weed is now legal in these states. But lawmakers are seeking to address the ways that decades of anti-drug policies continue to affect communities of color. For instance, arrests and incarceration for drug crimes have hit Black and Latino communities hardest. Arrests can make it harder to find a job, buy a home and build generational wealth.

“This is just another layer, of peeling off the systemic racism that’s built in our system,” Morgan said of the effort to retire the word marijuana.

But some historians are raising concerns about this effort. They say those who support it are leaning too heavily on a version of cannabis history that’s seeped into popular culture. They say that Morgan and other reformers who point to racist usage of the word have based that assessment on an incomplete reading of cannabis history.

The marijuana story

Historians note that “marijuana” was the word most people in Mexico used for the drug cannabis by the 19th century. Here in the U.S., by the 1920s and ’30s, anti-drug crusaders spread false claims about the effects of smoking marijuana. The 1936 movie “Reefer Madness” famously repeated this misinformation, claiming weed-smoking led to murder, suicide and insanity.

 Anti-drug activists often used the word marijuana in a negative way, and the media and government officials also turned it against people of color, including Mexican immigrants and jazz musicians. Then, in 1937, the federal government outlawed the drug.

That popularized narrative is part of why many now say the word marijuana should be retired. But historians KUOW spoke with believe the popular version of cannabis history is incomplete, and ultimately inaccurate.

“The idea that the word marijuana is racist, I just think it’s nonsense. Marijuana is just the Mexican word for drug cannabis,” said Isaac Campos, a professor of Latin American history who has studied the story of weed.

The making of a myth

Campos said stories about smoking marijuana leading to madness and violence didn’t originate in the U.S. They were first printed in Mexican newspapers, and it was the Mexican government that ended up outlawing the drug first — nearly 20 years before the U.S. did.

U.S. media reprinted anti-weed stories from the Mexican press. And as immigrants moved north, many carried negative stories about marijuana with them.

According to Campos, the more complete story of the word marijuana is a story about the influence of Mexican culture. He believes banning the word would erase that history.

Campos doesn’t deny that racists have sometimes used the word marijuana in a pejorative way. But he argues many other words, such as “salsa,” have also been used in racist ways without anyone calling for their retirement.

“The way we use the word marijuana in the United States is not unlike the way we use the word salsa in the United States. Salsa in Mexico just means ‘sauce.’ It’s any kind of sauce — it could be a Hollandaise sauce — it’s not necessarily what we call salsa in this country. 

“But the fact that we use it for a certain kind of Mexican sauce that goes on tacos just shows that Mexican cuisine has had a huge influence in this country,” Campos said.

Another cannabis historian, Adam Rathge, said something else is missing from pop-culture histories of weed. Long before anyone in the U.S. linked Mexican immigrants with the word marijuana, doctors and lawmakers in America were raising concerns about consuming cannabis.

“If you read 19th century medical journals or if you go look at laws that are passed in the 19th century, at the state level, there’s immediate concern by American physicians about the potential negative effects of cannabis,” Rathge said.

But that story was forgotten. In its place, by the 1980s, the cannabis legalization movement instead preferred a partially made-up narrative, based largely on an influential book written by a pot legalization activist named Jack Herer, who claimed America had a simple love affair with hemp and cannabis before racist prohibition began.

The film “Dazed and Confused” satirized this version of history, with tales of George Washington smoking weed with Martha Washington’s assistance, back when the “whole country” was supposedly “getting high.”

 For her part, Rep. Melanie Morgan stands by the new measure nixing the word marijuana from state law. But she also said she welcomes more information and debate about the linguistic history of the word.

“I’m glad that this is causing conversations, because what this is doing is actually opening the door to bigger issues,” Morgan said.

Morgan pointed to other bills to address structural racism that did not pass this legislative session, including an attempt to increase the number of cannabis businesses licenses that go to communities most affected by the war on drugs, and a bill she sponsored to address racial, economic and social disparities.

The measure striking the word marijuana from Washington state law starts to go into effect this coming June.

#CBD #Hemp

Marijuana or Cannabis

August 28, 2023 10:58 pm