Once Again, “Marijuana” Is Not A Racist Term

So long as hempsters and patients disrespect tokers, none of them will achieve true freedom

End Federal Marijuana Prohibition Map
This is what happens when all the tribes in cannabis fight only for their particular cause.

I was in an online conversation with a huge supporter of industrial hemp when that person explained to me that it is critical we stop using the word “marijuana.”

*sigh* Here we go again.

It was explained to me that “marijuana” is based on racism. I was told that “marijuana” was a slang term used to discredit cannabis. The only way we could change consumer behavior, they stated, was by refusing to use “marijuana” any longer and educating consumers about cannabis.

The final note was disdain from the hempster for those of us who say “marijuana,” because that only refers to smoking and getting high. I guess they’d better tell that to the patients using cannabis medicinally in 28 medical “marijuana” states.

Of course, I disagree strongly with the idea that “marijuana” is a racist term and I am offended when people insinuate I’m a racist for using it. “Marijuana” is the term Mexicans used to describe the flowering tops of cannabis plants that are dried and prepared for smoking. In South Africa, the term they use is “dagga.” In Jamaica, the term is “ganja.”

If, during the early 20th Century, we were being flooded by immigrants from Jamaica or South Africa, and Harry J. Anslinger and Randolph Hearst wished to demonize them, they’d have popularized the terms “dagga” or “ganja”, as those, too, are foreign-sounding words associated with dark-skinned immigrants.

That wouldn’t mean that if I mention “dagga” or “ganja” when I ask for a smoke, that I am racist, and neither does it mean that if I ask for “marijuana.” That is to say, just because eighty years ago white racists used “marijuana” for racist purposes to scare ignorant white people, that doesn’t make “marijuana” a racist term.

Any hatred of Hispanics or fear of the unknown connoted by “marijuana” in 1937 has long since dissipated. “Marijuana” is what most Americans know as the term for cannabis. If they associate anything negative with that, it’s the Vietnam War and hippies and left-wing politics. Calling it “cannabis” won’t evaporate those associations, as people now know what the plant is and what it does, no matter what you call it.

Calling it “cannabis” isn’t going to magically cause this “change [in] consumer behavior” – whatever that change is – that needs to be happening. Legalization of “marijuana” is supported by 60% of the public. Medical “marijuana” is legal in 28 states and supported by 93% of the public. Somehow, people are embracing “marijuana” even though it’s “slang to discredit cannabis.”

But telling people they’re using a forbidden racist slang term will cause a change in behavior, and that’s for the listener to be turned off by the person who just insinuated they are an ignorant racist. When you tell them you don’t say “marijuana,” you say “cannabis,” you’ve just got them wondering what it is that’s so shameful about your marijuana use that you have to dress it up in a fancy euphemism, like a sewer worker who insists he’s an “industrial sanitation wastewater manager.”

Furthermore, “cannabis” isn’t always the best term. It is the scientific name (fully: cannabis sativa L.), just like “canine” is the scientific name for dogs (fully: canis lupus familiaris) and “bovine” is the scientific name for cows (fully: Bos taurus of the bovinae family). So, yes, if you’re talking about the plant, be it hemp or not, it’s more properly a “cannabis” plant than a “marijuana” plant, just as if we’re talking about dogs and wolves, they’re “canines,” and cows and oxen are “bovines.”

But when I’m smoking the dried flowering tops of cannabis plants bred specifically to enhance their THC content for the purposes of inducing euphoria, I’m smoking “marijuana.” Sure, I could say I’m smoking “cannabis,” but that would be as accurate as saying I’m feeding “Bos taurus” flesh to my “canis lupus familiaris” when I’m giving my “dog” some “steak.”

Finally, when we are talking about changing the laws that ban cannabis plants, we are most definitely talking about reforming “marijuana” (or “marihuana”) laws, as that is the legally-defined term that keeps us under subjugation.

These days, we cannot afford to be four or more bickering cannabis camps that refuse to support one another. The medical cannabis people can no longer afford to ignore and look down with disdain on the recreational consumers, and neither should the hemp people do that, just because we like to “get high,” as they put it. After all, there are 30 million of us “stoners” and a whole heck of a lot fewer of you hempsters and patients.

Hemp and marijuana are not “two distinct topics;” we are all victims of the prohibition of one cannabis plant. So long as we “pot smokers” remain the red-headed stepchild of cannabis, some patients who deserve medical cannabis will be stuck on the wrong side of the “Patients Not Criminals” line, and the hempsters will keep being stuck with <0.3% THC cultivars and ridiculous cultivation restrictions.

One Plant, One People, One Fight, One Love.

Russ Belville
About Russ Belville 191 Articles
Russ Belville - or "Radical" Russ, as he is known on-air - hosts The Russ Belville Show - The Voice of the Marijuana Nation, a two-hour live news and talk radio program for the cannabis community, weekdays at 3pm Pacific on RadicalRuss.com (learn more on our Podcast page).  The show is based in Portland, Oregon, but "Radical" Russ has traveled over 300,000 air miles in the past five years, bringing his show to report live from hundreds of cannabis conferences, marijuana expos, hemp festivals, and legalization events in over 50 North American cities.