Did you know that the DEA has almost 300 slang terms that refer to marijuana? From hilarious phrases like “Yellow Submarine” and “King Louie to downright headscratchers like “Dimba” and “Shoes”, marijuana has quite a lengthy list of aliases. You can check out the full list here, but there are five names for the familiar seven-leafed plant that we’re constantly hearing. You may be familiar with a few, but the real question is what name do you use for the most controversial plant on earth? Keep reading to see what your term for the psychoactive plant says about you!
Cannabis: Medical Reference Or Poser?
The word “cannabis” was coined in the early 1700s as a scientific name for the plant, known as “Cannabis Sativa L.” In fact, lawmakers in Illinois specifically avoided using the word “marijuana” when legalizing medical marijuana in 2013 and opted for something more scientific due to the plant’s controversial history. Dispensaries and other groups within the industry are more prone to use “cannabis” to sound more professional than the more familiar street names like “pot” or “weed.” Additionally, many uneducated individuals associate the word cannabis to refer to all things weed, though the plant is actually the mother plant of both hemp and marijuana. If you choose to say “cannabis” amongst those who actively consume it, be prepared to explain why you use that word instead of the more common terms
Marijuana: Uptight and Possibly Insensitive
While some people have americanized this pronunciation as “mary jane,” or “marriage you wanna” (Thanks, Eminem!), the actual pronunciation has a soft “mary wanna” in accordance with its Mexican roots. Between 1840-1890, the word first popped up as American newspapers began to publish Mexican articles (translated into English) detailing the wicked crimes by people stoned out of their minds. It was often derogatory towards those who consumed it, usually soldiers and prisoners. While it’s not necessarily a word to avoid, some people prefer to use more socially acceptable words that won’t trigger any offense towards those who are familiar with the anti-Mexican era.
Pot: Old-Skool and Outdated
The word "pot" became culturally acceptable around the 1960s but the actual origins of the term are still a mystery. Some speculate that "pot" was simply an abbreviation of a popular Spanish phrase "potacion de guaya" which translates as "potion of grief." This special cocktail consisted of either wine or brandy blended with marijuana leaves, something that is still done today in what is called "crossfading” (where you drink and smoke simultaneously). Another theory is how marijuana tea was brewed in a teapot dedicated solely for infusing hot water with marijuana leaves. Both of these theories are impossible to prove but makes for some fun tales as you puff, puff, and pass. Interestingly enough, the habit of using the word "pot" in reference to marijuana began to fade as the 21st century started. If you still say "pot," you might be showing your age as a Gen X adult a bit more than you realize. Millennials and Gen Z adults will understand exactly what you're talking about, but you might be considered too old to hang with the in-crowd anymore.
Weed: Street-Savvy and Familiar
The term "weed" in reference to the psychoactive plant first popped up in the early 20* century. Yet the word itself was used all the way back in the 1400s in reference to undesirable plants and also in the 1600s as a tobacco term. It’s possible that the word comes from a plant that comes from the southwest and northern regions of Mexico, called “locoweed.” This humorous Spanglish word evokes imagery of crazed locals high out of their mind, but it actually refers to animals who unintentionally consumed the locoweed plant as it grew naturally in the wild. The unsuspecting cattle and horses who munched on the plant reacted terribly to it and the locals were forced to find different grazing areas more suitable for their livestock. The term “locoweed” started to become interchangeable with actual marijuana around the 19th century even though the majority of Mexicans were familiar with both plants. As stories from Mexico made their way stateside, both plants were assumed to be one and the same (similar to how the term cannabis is often assumed to be another word for marijuana). A 1913 California bill actually mentions “locoweed” rather than “weed” as it charted the criminal cultivation of the plant, showing the confusion surrounding both plants at that time. In contrast to the term “pot,” the term “weed” is widely used by millennials and young people. Some Gen Z adults have caught on and have adopted “weed” as the term of choice as opposed to older terms like “marijuana” or “pot.”
Chronic: Negative & Judgy
The word “chronic” has arguable origins that few seem to agree on. One side claims that Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” album, released in 1992, is responsible for the birth of the word, while others state that the album simply popularized a term that was already in existence. Any use of the word prior to 1992 is nearly impossible to find, whether it be in media or literature. The literal definition of chronic means “long-term,” which aptly describes habitual marijuana users. Yet the word has morphed since Dr. Dre’s album to take on a somewhat negative connotation. Some anti-marijuana users have adopted the term in their efforts against drug abuse in an attempt to steer young people away from trying it. Since marijuana is still considered in some circles to be a gateway drug, this term may instill a sense of fearfulness and impending doom into new users curious about its effects. If you use the word “chronic” in association with marijuana, be prepared to get some odd looks mingled with a sense of distrust.
The DEA’s extensive list of names for the psychoactive plant proves that there are a plethora of synonyms that vary based on age, culture, preference, mindset, and more. Other terms like ganja and kush are also very familiar, while other names like Blue Cheese and Holy Grail have been popularized by rappers in hit songs throughout the country. Whatever you’ve learned to call it in early adulthood is most likely the terms you’ll stick with, regardless of the shift in current slang. However, you should pay attention to what terminology is used in addition to slang, both in the United States and throughout the world, especially if you’re looking to stay relevant. For those curious about other words used in reference to the marijuana plant, feel free to browse the DEA’s compilation of terms at your leisure.
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