So if you’re like me, you’re probably curious as to why Cannabis has so
many different nicknames. Cannabis is often called “Marijuana”, and for
the longest time I wasn’t quite sure why. Well the answer isn’t quite as
easy as I assumed it would be; the truth is steeped in folklore, word of
mouth and general negative connotations of the wonderful healing herb.
Lets start as far back as I could find; the Mexican Revolution. Before
1910 “Marijuana” didn’t exist as a term for cannabis. Pharmaceutical
companies and doctors only referred to it as Cannabis or Cannabis
extracts in their medicines and remedies. Between 1910-1920 after the
war many immigrants started coming to the united states and bringing
“mariguana” (recreational smoked cannabis) with them. The idea of
actually smoking cannabis as a mainstream concept has its foundation in
that very immigration. In 1913, a bill is passed to criminalize the
cultivation of “Locoweed”. This bill was a push by the board of pharmacy,
as a way to regulate opiates and psychoactive pharmaceuticals and not
actually related to the “reefer madness” that lead to prohibition.
Upon the arrival of all the immigrants many anti-immigrant fears were
realized and prejudices heightened after the great depression.
Historical analysts believe this bigotry was the beginning of the
first marijuana laws which were a form of social control over the
recently immigrated population. Its no coincidence that the first
place to criminalize marijuana (in 1914), El Paso, was in a border
state from Mexico. Around the same time Mexican and Indian immigrate
were carrying marijuana with them to ports, most notably New Orleans,
which lead to the association with Jazz Players, blacks and
prostitutes. In the early 1930s, 29 states had banned marijuana.
A name that you may recognize, like I did, was Harry Anslinger. He was
the director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930
to 1962. He was very vocal on marijuana and he made it his mission to
place a federal ban on cannabis.John Collins, coordinator of the LSE IDEAS
International Drug Policy Project in London, said Anslinger is often
referred to as “The great racist of the war on drugs”. Collins isn’t sure
if Anslinger was ACTUALLY a bigot but he would “play up peoples fears in
order to get his legislation passed”. Anslinger was known to have a large
file on jazz musicians titled “Marijuana and Musicians,”. Anslinger kicked
off his federal crusade against cannabis with the 1937 report, “Marijuana:
Assassin Of Youth”. The same year he testified in front of congress in
favor or marijuana prohibition.
“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind,”
he said during testimony. “Most marijuana smokers are Negroes,
Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and
swing, result from marijuana usage.” His crusade worked, because in 1937
congress approved the Marijuana Tax, the act making possession illegal
throughout the United States. Finally nearly 80 years later, it seems that
the stigma of cannabis use is being lifted slowly throughout the
country. The potential health benefits are becoming more actualized with
clinical testing coming out of the shadows.
The last thing comes down to us as consumers. We choose what to call our
medicine. There are people that call it, “pot” some call it “dope”. some
“herb”, some “grass”….etc. All of our nicknames and monosyllabic slang
terms feel more comfortable and less foreign than the word “marijuana”.
After all, its scientific name is Cannabis and thats the name Ive come
to love and appreciate.
– Tha Red Baron