Names like marijuana, grass, pot, Mary Jane and ganja are all terms that refer to the agreed international term cannabis.
Over time the terms marijuana and cannabis have been used interchangeably, but should they?
The truth is there is no marijuana plant. There is a cannabis plant that results in the dried flowers and leaves that are commonly referred to as marijuana.
So, while cannabis is the more encompassing term for the industry, there are some other things to take into consideration when looking at the two words and what they mean.
“It’s true that words carry their history with them and marijuana has been associated with an illegal drug for a long time,” Mignon Fogarty, language expert of the Grammar Girl Podcast, said.
“Words shape public perception and public opinion about issues so having that association with an illegal past, like marijuana does, could be a draw back for the term,” she added.
The term marijuana has its history and roots in the Spanish language.
Prohibition supporters also used it as they worked to demonize marijuana’s use and criminalize those who use it.
High Times Magazine featured an article comparing the words marijuana and cannabis and in it they talked about the adoption of the term marijuana.
“It became identified as the “devil’s weed” by early supporters of prohibition, and many Americans don’t know any other name for the cannabis plant.”
The article goes on to say, “The Spanish word “marijhuana” was adopted to reinforce the connection between the ‘devil’s weed’ and Mexican immigrants who, allegedly, first introduced it to American society.”
Fast-forward to today when medical cannabis dispensaries are found throughout northern Nevada. Both of these terms are still used throughout the industry.
“The value of using the word cannabis over marijuana is, in our industry, we do refer to the plant and the life saving properties of the plant. Marijuana is a slang term. It was derived from movies like Reefer Madness,” Scott Dunseath of Mynt, a local dispensary in Reno, said.
Many Americans have long associated marijuana with smoking and joints and that it is part of the cannabis plant, but the depth of knowledge with the terms varies.
“Cannabis really refers to the different spectrums of medicine the different delivery methods of medicine,” Dunseath said. “Cannabis isn’t just smoking the plant or joints and weed.”
As the cannabis industry continues to gain more traction across states, including Nevada, and adult recreational use moves closer, using the terms the public is most familiar with is an effective way to move medicinal and recreational use forward. This means using marijuana instead of cannabis.
However, others say the familiarity of people with the term marijuana doesn’t mean it should be used. People in the industry say the history and original association of the term marijuana is not what cannabis is about and the focus is on cannabis as a botanical compound and it should be referred to in its own right.
“If you’re trying to change the image of the industry, I also think people need to take care with their fonts and typefaces they use in their marketing material and signage,” Fogarty said. “Sometimes you still see marijuana associated with the ’60s and Summer of Love kind of fonts on billboards and in advertisements.”
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