Over the years, there have been plenty of names connected to the plant most commonly referred to as “weed.” Pot, reefer, ganja, cannabis and marijuana are among the most common, but apparently, one of those names may soon be considered taboo in Canada upon the plant’s legalization in July.
That’s right, the common term marijuana might become extinct—and for good reason.
What’s In A Name?
As the months toward legalization in Canada wane, the term “cannabis” has slowly, but surely, overtaken the word “marijuana” as the primary term used to refer to the plant.
Upon first glance, one would probably assume it’s just a professional term, used to legitimize a drug that was once considered heinous. However, the real reason behind the sweeping change might surprise you.
While it is true that government officials in Canada are holding off from using typical slang words associated with illegal cannabis, marijuana always seemed to be one of the more formal forms of the world. However, in reality, the word holds more negative connotations than any street name ever had.
The term marijuana is actually linked to the “reefer madness” era. The word first gained popularity in the 1930s as an attempt to demonize the plant, by associating it with Mexican immigrants. The term marijuana or marihuana was, at the time, the most commonly used word in Mexican/Spanish culture.
According to the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, the word was first used by “racist politicians who first criminalized cannabis because they wanted to underscore that it was a Latino, particularly Mexican, vice.”
The phrase wasn’t common in the U.S. until the 1930s when Harry Anslinger, the director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, began his decades-long campaign against cannabis. He strategically used the word in order to implement a “foreign” connotation with the plant.
“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind,” Anslinger once said in testimony before Congress. “Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage.”
Final Hit: Could The Term ‘Marijuana’ Be Banned In Canada?
While it’s unlikely the term itself could be “banned,” Canada has, for the most part, stopped using it. Health Canada hasn’t used the word since 2016, and most professionals tied to industry almost exclusively refer to the plant as cannabis.
Additionally, there are some government officials embracing the unofficial name change. Halifax politician Shawn Cleary recently took to Twitter to announce he would no longer be using the term.
“Let’s do what we can to not perpetuate racism,” he said on Twitter.
While critics were quick to jump on Cleary by explaining that Mexican isn’t technically a race, the politician’s uneasiness regarding the word is certainly warranted. The term still perpetuates divisiveness and represents a dark period of time in the history of cannabis.