Other Names For Cannabis And Where They Come From

by greenrush
other names for cannabis

There are over 1,200 other names for cannabis that can be found around the world. Odds are, you've heard at least a few of them at one point or another. But where do these names come from? We've managed to track down the origin stories of some of the most common names for the green plant we all love so much.

Cannabis

other names for cannabis

Let’s start with the most obvious. The word 'cannabis' is one of the oldest names used to refer to the plant. It's also one of the most common names out there. It has its origins in Ancient Greece where people referred to it as 'kánnabis.' The Ancient Greeks wrote of 'kánnabis steam baths' that they would take as a way to recreationally smoke the plant. The modern 'cannabis' is an abbreviation, with roots in the name 'cannabis sativa.' It is found in the Oxford Dictionary as far back as the 1500s when it became the scientific term used to refer to the common hemp plant.

Marijuana

 

No other names for cannabis are quite as popular as 'marijuana.' It is the most-used term for the plant in the United States but it also carries quite a bit of controversy. Some organizations have gone as far as to publically denounce the term, preferring to use other words instead. We'll dive into why it's so controversial in just a second.

 

No other names for cannabis are quite as popular as 'marijuana.' It is the most-used term for the plant in the United States but it also carries quite a bit of controversy. Some organizations have gone as far as to publically denounce the term, preferring to use other words instead. We'll dive into why it's so controversial in just a second.

 

Before 1910, the word 'marijuana' didn't even exist in the United States. People commonly used other names for cannabis such as the English word, 'hemp' to refer to the plant. It wasn't until the Mexican Revolution that the word was introduced in the U.S. Between 1910 and 1920, close to 1 million Mexicans immigrated to the United States by legal means as a result of the Mexican Revolution. They brought with them the notion of smoking cannabis for recreational purposes as well as the word they used to refer to the plant, 'marijuana.'

 

So why is 'marijuana' such a controversial term? The issue of race plays a big part here. Marijuana was used to demonize Mexican immigrants. It was depicted as responsible for violence and delinquency, thus resulting in Mexican immigrants being guilty by association. Hostility and racism towards Mexicans increased and became ingrained in American culture and was exacerbated by the 1936 movie, 'Reefer Madness', (we'll talk more about this little gem later). The movie was closely followed by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which criminalized marijuana on a federal level and solidified its negative stature within the United States.

Weed

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Although we might be pretty familiar with the word, 'weed' is a relatively new term. Coming out of the 80s, 'weed' describes the cannabis plant for what it is. Cannabis can grow in lots of places, as well as under harsh conditions just like, well, a weed. It's by far one of the most simple ways to refer to cannabis, and it's pretty popular too.

Pot

other names for cannabis

Using 'pot' to refer to cannabis is pretty new as well, although it goes a bit farther back than 'weed.' Popularized in the 1970s, ‘smoking pot’ was still enjoying leftover popularity and the limited acceptance it had gained in the 60s. Some people believe the origins of the word 'pot' are pretty self-explanatory and refer to the fact that you can grow cannabis in, you guessed it, a pot.

 

However, the word has a more probable origin. Others claim that it comes from the Spanish word 'potiguaya', which is a kind of steeped marijuana bud drink that resembles mulled wine. Like most words, it was probably shortened for convenience.

Ganja

other names for cannabis

Other names for cannabis often come from its translation into different languages. You'd be forgiven for thinking that 'ganja' is a Rastafarian term. The sheer amount of reggae songs that reference 'ganja' indicate it might be. However, the word 'ganja' actually comes from India. It's simply the Sanskrit word for cannabis. 'Ganja' quite literally has its roots planted on the banks of the River Ganges, as weed grew abundantly along the river. This has led some to suggest that that's where the River got its name.

Reefer

 

Although we don't use this one so much these days, it's got an interesting backstory. Many people think the word 'reefer' comes from the Mexican Spanish word 'Grifo,' which quite literally referred to a marijuana user. The term wasn't popularized in the U.S. until 1936 when ‘Reefer Madness’ hit theaters, plunging the nation into fear of the ‘violence inducing’ marijuana. As we’ve already seen, the movie was instrumental in demonizing Mexican immigrants who had come to the U.S. as a result of the Mexican Revolution.

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