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Alana Rossi
August 19, 2023

Ganja is an ancient colloquial term specifically referring to the herbaceous cultivated smokeable flowers and buds of mature female cannabis plants containing intoxicating cannabinoids like THC. While the term’s etymological origins remain debated, ganja first emerged in Vedic and post-Vedic literature in India as one of the Sanskrit words for cannabis. However, ganja became more narrowly associated with ritual and recreational psychoactive uses of cannabis flowering tops, whereas the Sanskrit word bhang referenced leaves and seeds used for medicine or food. Formulations of ganja and similar terms exist from India across the Hindi belt into East and Southeast Asia mirroring the historic spread of cannabis smoking culture across the continent. Starting in the 19th century, ganja permeated the global English lexicon largely via Indian indentured servants and laborers immigrating into Jamaica and introducing traditional cultivation and smoking practices to the local population. Jamaican Rastafarians especially incorporated ganja into spiritual use. Jamaica's cultural influence disseminating reggae music worldwide further amplified global familiarity with the term.

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