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Alana Rossi
August 19, 2023

Marijuana refers to the dried flowers, leaves, stems and seeds of cannabis plants containing psychoactive compounds like THC. The term marijuana emerged in the early 1900s during reefer madness propaganda campaigns that sought to demonize cannabis in the public perception. Its exotic sounding Spanish roots were intentionally promoted by prohibitionists to associate cannabis use with marginalized Mexican immigrants. This racist narrative tactic helped drive criminalization policies. So understandably today, many cannabis advocates avoid using the term marijuana entirely due to its problematic xenophobic origins. However, language constantly evolves. What began as a pejorative tool of oppression has now transformed into the most common everyday vernacular used to describe cannabis by English speakers around the world. For most millennials and younger generations, marijuana carries no racist undertones and is used neutrally and harmlessly as a whimsical synonym on par with cannabis, weed, pot or hemp. With shifting attitudes and broader legalization already underway, marijuana seems destined to eventually become just another innocuous word used in the long global history of human cannabis cultivation and enjoyment.

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