Should You Say Cannabis or Marijuana?

For those new to cannabis, they might have some trouble even deciding what to call the very thing they are using. While marijuana is by far the most popular term, most of those in the industry prefer the far more accurate term cannabis.

Of course, many will simply use their favorite slang for marijuana. Weed and pot remain among the most popular.

But for those looking to decide between saying cannabis or marijuana, cannabis has some clear advantages. For one, all products come from the Cannabis genus –  Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. This includes CBD and hemp products, as well.

Second, cannabis is the term used the most worldwide.

And third, the term marijuana has some troubling connotations from the past. There’s also the fact that no is quite sure how it even became a word in the first place. Or when. Or where.

The Troubling Use of the World Marijuana

A check with Google shows that marijuana is the far more dominant term when it comes to searchers. Marijuana also is the term most often seen in the media, even though debate on this issue continues in many places. But there is some troubling history with the use of the term.

Back in the 1930s, anti-cannabis public officials used the term marijuana (then often spelled “mahijuana”) to attach its use to Mexican immigrants, and not in a positive way. Those who wished to make marijuana illegal launched a campaign to have the drug demonized and associated with crime allegedly sweeping into the country from Mexico.

It’s the featured word in the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Some believe U.S. officials adopted a foreign-sounding name for the act to stoke anti-immigration sentiment.

However, the term eventually took on a life of its own, and most today are unlikely unaware of the term’s troubling associations. They may also not know that no one has a definitive answer on why it is even a word.

Where Did The Term Marijuana Come From?

While the term marijuana was certainly used in Mexico, no one seems sure that it started there.

A fascinating paper on this subject was produced years ago by Alan Piper at Kingston University in the United Kingdom. Piper wrote in “The Mysterious Origins of the Word Marihuana” that the word may have come from China (ma ren hua). However, there’s also a good case made for it starting in Moorish Spain. He also writes that it’s possible it was a “loan word” taken from indigenous South  American tribes that were already growing cannabis when Europeans arrived.

Even the first written use of the word contains a confusing number of variants and different definitions. The first known use of the word is “mariguan,” used by a researcher to describe a plant along the Rio Grande in an 1894 article in Scribner’s. But other publications around the turn of the century used the term marihuma, mariahuana, marihuano and maraguango.

Bottom line: No one really knows for sure who started using marijuana to refer to cannabis, or why. For those looking for a non-controversial and accurate way to refer to the plant, choosing cannabis is probably the way to go.

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