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Out with ‘Marijuana,’ In with ‘Cannabis’

Dianelle Bresler
Written by Dianelle Bresler

With a great start to 2018, Recreational Cannabis has now become legalized in California for any adult over the age of 21 (1). Here at Cannabis Packaging News, the New Year’s Resolution we encourage all our readers to make is to consciously transition to using the botanically and etymologically correct term for our favorite medicinal plant; Cannabis (2). Let us celebrate the beginning of this New Year by learning about the history or the word ‘Marijuana,’ and why it is so important to begin phasing-out its use.

Cannabis, the flowering plant originally from Central and South Asia, contains 483 known compounds, of which the four most recognized ones are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol, and tetrahydrocannabivarin. Cannabis that was the preferred pharmaceutical term for household uses of remedies and medicines made of the Hemp plant that treated common aliments.

Though ‘Marijuana’ remains the most recognized word in the United States for the Cannabis plant, its origin comes from a time of racial prejudice. The word Marijuana didn’t exist in the vernacular of American culture prior to 1910. Then, during the period of Prohibition (1920-1933), the Federal government and various religious organizations created the myth that Cannabis was a corrupting foreign substance leading to promiscuous and dangerous behavior. This effectively created the stigma that Cannabis had no medical purposes, a stigma that is still believed today (4).

In 1930, Harry Anslinger, first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, launched a vicious propaganda campaign against Cannabis, and it was his racist persecution that popularized the term ‘Marijuana.’ He exploited white, middle-class prejudices and fears by using the Spanish word for the Cannabis plant, counting on the fact that people are more likely to be intimidated by a foreign language. He is quoted as saying: “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.” His efforts to fully vilify Cannabis succeeded with the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which criminalized the use of both Medical and Recreational Cannabis in all of the United States (4).

Even though ‘Marijuana’ is now recognized globally, its history of racial persecution can never be completely expunged from its connotation. For many years it has been associated with illegal and immoral behavior. But, as we start this new era of Recreational legalization in California, let us also start a new era of a term free of negative implication. A term that exactly represents the healing, medicinal, and positive effect that Cannabis use has. So, here at Cannabis Packaging News, we say: Out with ‘Marijuana,’ and In with ‘Cannabis!’ Happy New Year!

  1. http://www.thecannifornian.com/cannabis-culture/everything-know-california-marijuana-laws-kicking-jan-1-2018/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_(drug)
  3. https://casapalmera.com/blog/nicknames-street-names-and-slang-for-marijuana/
  4. https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/where-did-the-word-marijuana-come-from-anyway-01fb
  5. http://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2016/general/en/pdf/prop64-title-summ-analysis.pdf

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Dianelle Bresler

Dianelle Bresler

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