1st June 2020 The Word “Marijuana”

The Word “Marijuana”

The Word “Marijuan, “Cannabis” is a word with quite a few synonyms—over 1,200. But one of its most common nicknames has a fraught history, which is why you’ll rarely see it used in the burgeoning legal market. Today, we’re digging into the story of why the word “marijuana” became pot’s dominant nickname for so many years.

There’s no consensus as to the word’s etymology. Some link it to the Aztec for for “prisoner,” mallihuan, despite the plant first reaching the New World via Spanish colonizers. Others argue for its Chinese roots, as ma ren hua translates to “hemp seed flower.” Regardless, up to the beginning of the 20th century, the word “marijuana” hadn’t really yet entered American lexicon. “Cannabis,” however, was still an ingredient in commonly-prescribed medicines—and had yet to accrue much stigma.

One of “marijuana’s” earliest US appearances came in the 1910s during the Mexican Revolution. Amidst the news updates on their southern neighbor’s turmoil, many Americans were also exposed to the revolutionary battle songs, one of which you probably already know: La Cucaracha. In some versions of La Cucaracha sang during this time, the titular cockroach is unable to walk due to his lack of “marihuana.” Not quite Top 40 levels of exposure, but the seeds had been planted.

As close to 900,000 Mexicans fled their war-torn home for the US, some brought with them the practice of smoking cannabis, a substance Americans had only seen in tinctures from their doctor, if at all. Other groups were singled out by the government, too. A 1911 letter from California State Board of Pharmacy member Henry J. Finger expressed displeasure at the “hindoos” who were “initiating our whites into [the] habit.” This xenophobia was compounded by the fact that these were the years preceding Prohibition, when political rhetoric against intoxicants was exploding.

California was the first state to succumb to white racial anxieties about people of color smoking a mood-altering substance that wasn’t tobacco. In 1913, the state passed a law that criminalized the cultivation of “locoweed” and laid the groundwork for America’s racially-biased War on Drugs.

Cannabis, though, was still more-or-less legal throughout the country, and became a staple of the emergent jazz scene created by black Americans. A common historical narrative is that slaves were given cannabis to pacify them as slave labor. However, research has shown that most-likely the plant spread across Asia, through the Arabian peninsula and by 1,500 B.C. Egyptians had learned to the medical benefits of cannabis for inflammation and other illnesses.  The medical and cultural use of cannabis by many African people proliferated, connecting the people with the plant through slavery and their liberation in America. Racial anxieties were extremely high in the 1930s. The Great Depression had rocked the economy and Americans were lashing out, looking for something or someone to pin their troubles on. Through the jazz scene, cannabis was no longer something black and brown folks smoked—white people had joined in too. And the establishment was having none of it.

Which brings us to Henry Anslinger, director of the recently-founded Federal Bureau of Narcotics. From his federal soapbox, Anslinger (featured in the image below) gave voice to unfounded, racist fears in his testimony to congress on cannabis’ many evils.

“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind,” claimed Anslinger. “Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage.”

In case you needed further convincing that the guy was a big bigot, in another statement he said that “reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men” and that the main reason to outlaw it would be the negative effect such a policy would have on “degenerate races.” Throughout his years-long crusade against the plant, Anslinger shrewdly referred to it as “marijuana” in an effort to play upon Americans’ fear of the “other.” Still prevalent in medicine cabinets, referring to it as “cannabis” just wouldn’t have had the same effect.

Aiding Anslinger in his goals was media mogul William Randolph Hearst, who used his newspaper empire and—his specialty—yellow journalism to gin up marijuana hysteria with attempts to link its consumption to violent crimes. Historians argue that Hearst’s motives were purely financial, the entire scheme an attempt at destroying the hemp industry that was encroaching on his paper and lumber interests. Whatever his reasons, publications nationwide running countless stories about the evils of marijuana helped solidify public opinion about the plant.

Anslinger’s buzzkill campaign culminated in the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which opened the door for law enforcement to arrest those dealing or possessing pot for the crime of not having paid taxes on it. More importantly, it tied the word “marijuana” to illegality. Though the more clinical “cannabis” would be used in future laws regarding the drugs prohibition and subsequent decriminalization, it would take generations before “marijuana” lost the racial connotations planted by some bigots decades prior.

Given the word’s historical baggage, you can see why the modern cannabis industry shies away from using “marijuana.” But maybe, armed with the knowledge of its hate-based past, now’s the right time for the youngest generation of cannabis users, who grew up never feeling its original racial charge, to reclaim the word as just another of those 1,200 terms for pot.

“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind,” claimed Anslinger. “Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage.” But his rapid bigotry didn’t stop there. “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men,” Anslinger said, stating that the main reason to outlaw it would be the negative effect such a policy would have on “degenerate races.” Throughout his years-long crusade against the plant, Anslinger referred to it as “marijuana,” drawing a clear, racist line between the plant and Americans’ fear of the “other.” As cannabis products were still prevalent in medicine cabinets, referring to it as “cannabis” just wouldn’t have had the same effect.

Aiding Anslinger in his goals was media mogul William Randolph Hearst, who used his newspaper empire and—his specialty—of sensationalist yellow journalism to gin up marijuana hysteria by linking consumption to violent crimes. Historians argue that Hearst’s motives were purely financial, the entire scheme an attempt at destroying the hemp industry that was encroaching on his paper and lumber interests. Whatever Hearst’s reasons, publications nationwide running countless stories about the evils of marijuana helped solidify public opinion against the plant.

Anslinger’s buzzkill campaign culminated in the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which opened the door for law enforcement to arrest those dealing or possessing pot for the crime of not having paid taxes on it. More importantly, it tied the word “marijuana” to illegality. Though the more accurate “cannabis” would be used in future laws guiding prohibition and subsequent decriminalization, Anslinger and Hearst’s campaigns meant it would take generations before “marijuana” lost its racist connotations in popular culture.

Given the word’s historical baggage, you can see why the modern cannabis industry shies away from using “marijuana.” But maybe, armed with the knowledge of its hate-based past, now’s the right time for the newest generation of cannabis users, to reclaim the word as just another one of those 1,200 terms for pot.

Sources

  1. List of names for cannabis, Wikipedia
  2. What Weed Got to Do With It, Southern Methodist University
  3. The Forgotten Origins of Cannabis Prohibition in California, 26 Contemp. Drug Probs. 237
  4. The 6,000-Year History of Medical Cannabis, Visual Capitalist
  5. The origins of the word “marijuana,” Aljazeera
  6. Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence, Google Books

Share this post

https://buyweedonlinepronto.com/product/white-fire-og/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *