Weed, ganja and hydro- there are countless words available that can be used to refer to cannabis. For pot enthusiasts, such terms take on different meanings, which can vary depending on the context or situation.
For example, calling an adult, who smokes weed and is a functioning member of the professional work force and society, a stoner might raise some eyebrows, compared to calling the individual a cannabis user. Naturally, the latter term is more socially acceptable, especially if the person consumes marijuana for medicinal purposes.
“I say weed all the time and people are offended,” said Lisa Campbell, chairwoman of Women Grow Toronto. “Apparently words like ‘weed’ and ‘pothead’ have stigma associated with them. I like to reclaim them.”
Let’s start with the basics: cannabis is the most proper term for weed. When used in law, medicine, formal writing and case studies, the word is fittingly appropriate because it draws its roots from the scientific term of the plant. Pharmaceutical companies, like Bristol-Meyer’s Squib and Eli Lilly, used the term for their products during the early 1900s. It really doesn’t get any more official than that, so if you’re unsure about what word to use, and are concerned about offending people, it might be worth calling pot, cannabis. People might tell you to loosen up a bit, which then you could move on to using lighter terms, such as weed, bud or green.
Marijuana (in Spanish- marijhuana) is another term that gets tossed around a lot. With legalization spreading like wildfire across the US, many people have been questioning the proper use of the word due to its controversial origins. During the peak of anti-cannabis propaganda in the 1930s, the term was originally coined with a negative application, mostly used by conservative individuals who supported anti-immigration measures. The establishment of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 pushed the title to mainstream territory, forcing people to use the word every time they spoke about the plant.
According to a Library of Congress transcript in 1937, the American Medical Association (AMA) attempted to correct the use of the term during a meeting about the passing of the bill, “Marijuana is not the correct term… Yet the burden of this bill is placed heavily on the doctors and pharmacists of this country.” Outside of the US, marijuana does not carry the same historical weight, and is commonly used with other neutral cannabis terms.
These days, figuring out the right word to use when referring to weed can be confusing. The industry is currently moving away from its rough past, and into medical communities that are slowly opening up to the herb’s medicinal properties. The use of derogatory terms in such contexts could affect this sensitive transition. But on a casual level, you could probably get away with calling weed whatever you want to call it- at least for now.
This post was originally published on June 14, 2016, it was updated on March 15, 2017.