The word “marijuana” has been used for decades, but now favor is swinging away from the term. Due to the history behind the word, it’s now considered a quasi-taboo way to refer to the plant. More and more people are using the term “cannabis” instead. Not only is this to give more dignity to the plant, but to distance themselves from the implications of the word “marijuana”. But what are those implications? To understand the new aversion to this word, we need to get into a little bit of history.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, cannabis was already present as a medicine and occasional recreational pastime for those rich enough to afford it. It wasn’t all that common for everyday folk however. It also wasn’t referred to as “marijuana” but as “cannabis”. Not until a mass immigration of Mexican people flooded North America in the 1930’s did this term surface. It was used commonly by these immigrants, but another thing made it an iconic term: racist political tactics.
With the advent of the reefer madness era came a public backlash against other cultures. Namely black and Mexican immigrants. The term marijuana was used in a derogatory manner. It became associated with crime and evil.
And all because of political figures, most famously FBI’s first Director of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger. He launched a vicious, race-based campaign against cannabis use, saying things like:
Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind… Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage.
Yeah, you read that right. This man was as racist as they come with a vendetta against cannabis users.
So now, people are trying to distance themselves from this taboo term. More and more publications have dropped the use of the word, and it’s now considered almost “low class” to use it. Some people deeply offended by the term, while others say that the racist implications faded a long time ago. Still, the movement towards dropping the term is strong, and you’re sure to see less and less of the M word.
Shasta Nelson is a California Native and a cannabis connoisseur. She's been involved in the industry at every level since she was a teenager. Currently she provides content for Roottie, DOPE Magazine, and Terpenes and Testing. She's also a creative writer, with a graphic novel underway.