Why Cannabis Is No Longer Called Marijuana?

For most people, it came as something of a surprise when what we’d always known as marijuana began to be called cannabis. When terminology changes, it’s understandable to be confused or to wonder why the change was necessary. Was cannabis something new or a different version of cannabis (when you consider hemp and CBD, there’s another whole layer of complexity to naming this plant correctly) or was there something wrong with the term marijuana?

Of course, those people who have followed the issue closely for many years and understand the history of cannabis in this country, the change couldn’t have come soon enough. The efforts to decriminalize, legalize, and destigmatize cannabis for medical and recreational use has been accompanied by an effort to end the use of the word marijuana.


Let’s take a look at the reason behind the name drop.


What Are The Various Slang Terms For Cannabis?


Cannabis and marijuana are just two of the many terms that have traditionally been used to refer to the plant scientifically known as cannabis sativa. Before examining why cannabis is the term preferred today, here’s a list of the many slang terms that have been associated with the plant over the years:


  • Cannabis

  • Marijuana

  • Weed

  • Pot

  • Dope

  • Reefer

  • Grass

  • Ganja

  • Mary Jane

  • Chronic

  • Kush

  • Herb

  • Hash

  • 420

  • Whacky tabacky

  • Blaze

  • Guage

  • Jive

  • Trees


These are just some of the most common slang words. I’m sure you all could come up with many more of your own. (One of my personal favorites is the sticky icky.) But for now, let’s focus on the one term that until relatively recently was considered the formal term, but which has rapidly fallen out of fashion: marijuana.


The History Of The Term Marijuana


The term "marihuana" or "mariguana" originated in Mexican Spanish, where it passed into English. While their is no definitive proof as to its origin, the Oxford English Dictionary states that it might have arisen from the Nahuatl word mallihuan, which means prisoner, though this claim is disputed and is not generally accepted today. Others hypothesize the word originally comes from the Chinese 麻仁花 (ma ren hua) though some linguists claim that itself is a loan word from a semitic root.


Whatever its provenance, there's little doubt that it entered English in the late 19th century, with early citings in Hubert Howe Bancroft's 1873 The Native Races of the Pacific States of North America and the 2nd edition of Webster's New International Dictionary.


The reason for the movement away from the term marijuana is that it became popularized in the US in the 1930s as part of an effort to associate it immigrants. Opponents to the plant wanted to stigmatize its use by using the foreign name. In fact, when the Tax Act of 1937 was passed, it was officially called the Marihuana Tax Act, codifying marijuana as the official name henceforth. It would be many decades later when activists and advocates argued that because of the racist and xenophobic history of the word, it should no longer be used, and instead replaced by the more scientific name cannabis.


What The Name Change Means For Cannabis Marketers?


Not everyone agrees that the name change was necessary, and even people who prefer the term cannabis might still refer to medical marijuana. In other instance, people of latinx origin are actively trying to reclaim the word for themselves as part of their heritage, but whatever your personal opinions on the subject, there’s little doubt that from a business standpoint, the world has moved on. Cannabis is now the generally agreed upon term.


For cannabis marketers, it’s really a simple decision. It’s always better to avoid controversy when possible and there’s no compelling argument against the name change for most people, except they don’t like change. We recommend that every forward-thinking cannabis business excise the word marijuana from all of their internal and external communications, and instead use the term cannabis.


As for other slang terms, such as weed, kush, or pot, while they are certainly not as negatively charged as marijuana, there’s still an association that people may have with drug culture that could prove a hinderance to your branding as a legal cannabis business. While some businesses have embraced this legacy as part of their brand identity, others have chosen to concentrate on a new look for cannabis.


Where your business falls on this spectrum is a personal choice, but a choice that should be made deliberately as part of your overall branding strategy.


Partner With The Hood Collective For Your Cannabis Marketing Needs


No matter what you call it, cannabis as an industry is growing fast. If cannabis business owners want to keep up, they need to do more than just make a great product or service, but they need to make sure people know about it. That’s where a professional cannabis marketing agency comes in.


At The Hood Collective, our team of graphic designers, photographers, and videographers make the success of our clients the top priority. We are committed to helping businesses thrive, but in a sustainable and reputable way. That means no short cuts. Whether you’re associated with a cannabis farm, indoor grow-op, processor, dispensary, or any other ancillary cannabis business, our premium marketing content will make it easier to engage your target audience.


The Hood Collective specializes in creating top-notch cannabis content for any sized budget. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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