Partly due to its prohibition, cannabis must be one of the terms with the greatest number of nicknames always with the aim of diverting attention. As new designations appear in order to avoid people saying the real word, many of them have evolved differently over time depending on which parts of the world they are used. Weed, Pot, Kush, Marijuana, Herb, Ganja, Green, Mari, Chronic, Purp, Haze, Bud, Nug, and even Marihuana all are used terms to designate the same plant.
Many of them are funny or even nice names. However, the word ''marijuana'' is clearly the problem here, and you will see why we should all stop using it right now and use ''cannabis'' instead.
We can never overstate our firm intention to democratize the use of cannabis and to eliminate the taboos associated with the consumption of this plant. It may often seem like a great mission since we can easily get lost along the way, but here's a little easy change you can make in this regard right now.
Marijuana Is an Invented Word Full of Racism
First, we must understand that the words mari, marijuana or marihuana are pure inventions. None of them are officially recognized by any world authority.
“Marijuana” was a slang term that followed the many Mexican immigrants who were seeking refuge from the civil war in the early 1900s. The term marijuana was subsequently adopted by the propagandists of the time in an attempt to attach a racist and negative stigma to its public perception.
One of these propagandists was William Randolph Hearst, a yellow press publisher, who popularized the term marijuana striving to make hemp illegal because the hemp paper industry was threatening the profitability of its timber business. He used his control of hundreds of newspapers to orchestrate a vicious propaganda campaign against cannabis, which featured preposterous and false stories about black and brown men committing outrageous acts of murder and maiming. This campaign played on the predominantly racist public opinion to make cannabis illegal at the federal level in 1937. Since then, marijuana has been associated with the idea that cannabis is a toxic, dangerous and addictive drug. This stigma has played a big part in stymying cannabis legalization efforts throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Harry Anslinger was the first director of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics and became the head of the DEA at the end of his career. Anslinger was instrumental in the criminalization of cannabis. He drafted the Marihuana Tax Act with the intention of making both, hemp and its cousin cannabis, illegal in the United States. This effectively separated the scientific name from the legal name of the plant. Therefore, physicians could no longer use it for medicinal purposes. Anslinger even attached blatantly a negative racial stigma to his propaganda to further marginalize the plant as a harmful drug.
Today, the racist undertones of incarceration for consumption or possession remain. African Americans and Native Americans are incarcerated for cannabis possession at a significantly higher rate than white people, even though there is an insignificant difference between their respective cannabis use.
Cannabis is the scientific name of the plant
Why cannabis is still referred as “marijuana”? Some may assume that marijuana is the Latin name for the plant, but that is not the case. “Cannabis” is actually its real name, which comes from Greek κάνναβις (Kànnabis). This genus contains the three psychoactive plants we love so well: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and their cousin Cannabis Ruderalis.
Can we call an apple, an apple? There are no plants listed under the name “marijuana.” From a botanical point of view, “cannabis” is the right term used to designate the plant and its flower.
Language is important because it defines our ideas. Words have a power that transcends their formal meaning. When we change words, we can also change the thoughts that underlie them. By switching the words we use to describe cannabis and herbal medicine, we can help people understand the real matter, and see through the decades of propaganda. Such awareness will convert cannabis opponents into supporters, and bring the day closer when no one else will ever be arrested for consuming or possessing cannabis.
At Maïtri, we choose to use the correct scientific term for cannabis and hope that Quebec and Canada will follow suit. We choose to use a name that demonstrates respect for the plant, and above all, respect for all our fellow humans. We believe that using the proper term for this plant, rather than using racially-charged slang, is a critical step towards the legitimization of this plant.