Racism Buried Within the Word “Marijuana”

The stigmas surrounding cannabis continue to shed a negative light on the industry.

The dried buds of the cannabis plant have been viewed in a negative light for many years. It’s been called dope, grass, reefer, among many other things, all which have negative stigmas attached. Names like grass and dope are mainly used by those who oppose the use of cannabis.

However, it’s actually the word “marijuana” which carries a dark and racist past.

Marijuana, although sounding exotic, was used years ago to be portrayed as something foreign to Americans. It was deemed as something that could even bring about a negative way of thinking and behavioral changes.

The person who led the prohibition effort, Mr. Henry Aslinger stated years ago,

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers.”

He was convinced that their “satanic music,” jazz and dance was a result of using marijuana.

marijuana in a container

“Cannabis” and “marijuana” are used interchangeably

in the 21st century, both names are viewed in the same light, with no prejudice attached more to one than that of the other. However, many would prefer the name cannabis to be utilized. During this time of intense changes, some believe “marijuana” is a name linked to prejudice and negativity, and it should not be used.

One of the oldest and largest dispensaries in California, Habourside stated that,

“‘Marijuana’ has come to be associated with the idea that cannabis is a dangerous and addictive intoxicant, not a holistic, herbal medicine”

The statement continued to say that the stigma has influenced negative views and has been used for the legalization of cannabis throughout the U.S.

The origin of the word marijuana is unknown

According to the book “Cannabis: A History” by Martin Booth, the name marijuana may have originated from the Aztec language of Mexico.

It is said that the cannabis arrived in the late 19th century, early 20th century. Mexican workers couriered it into the south-west of America from Brazil and the Caribbean. It was then adopted by black jazz musicians.

Over the past years, the cannabis market has progressed so greatly it is now a multi-billion dollar industry. However, as the market grows and expands, many persons are facing the consequences of not adhering to the quantity restrictions. Two years ago, cannabis-related arrests rose to 600,000 throughout the U.S, the majority were for possession.

Very few of the 600,000 spent time in prison for cannabis-related offenses, but the conviction hinders student loans, housing, and employment.

Statistics revealed the rate cannabis is used by different races. The Ameican Civil Liberties Union reported that with 10 years more African Americans were arrested of cannabis possession than that of white Americans.

Through legalization, some states and communities are willing to assist those with minor cannabis-related convictions to clear their records and also, help the entrepreneurs within the industry.

marijuana jars

Cannabis racism is still prevalent

Some politicians in developing markets had the opportunity to make a difference but they did not. The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, former Alabama state senator, has been assuring that the cannabis industry will have a very difficult time maturing. He stated in 2016

“Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Instead of opposing this stance, the top trade group within the cannabis industry, National Cannabis Industry Association, took a step back in fear of angering him. Many Republicans, including President Trump, have decided to accept cannabis, mostly for medical purposes, but Sessions is adamant about his war on weed.

His removal of the Cole amendment, allows the federal government to prosecute cannabis businesses harshly.

As with all racism and prejudice behavior, its the communities that have the capacity to promote a change. They can decide if the name “marijuana” and its history will continue to affect cannabis progress.