Seeing the Garden for the Trees: Cannabis / Marijuana Debate

When we talk about the legal landscape, political identities, social issues, and economic benefits associated with something we choose words to transmit our feelings about the subject. Typically we take the word most familiar to us. The word whose meaning we feel emphasizes our own beliefs. When communicating ideas, we create countless iterations of our reality and the dreams we think-up. The study of where these meanings originate and the forms they take is known as Etymology, a branch of Linguistics. Tracing the lineage of the words we use is helpful in unraveling their meaning in our society, ultimately leading to the creation of new words, or neologism.

Today we’ll be sussing out the meaning of and history related to the Cannabis (Marijuana) plant, a member of the family Cannabaceae whose relations include Humulus (hops), and Celtis (Hackberries). The terms not in parenthesizes are intended to be authoritative, arising from scientific roots. The depth given to the scientific terms stems from their use in the understanding the world through experiments, giving credence to a holistic interpretation of the plant. But what we also see here are the words inside parenthesizes like Marijuana, a word originating from Latin-American culture.

Marijuana has a much narrower spectrum of use in its introduction to the English language, starting in the early 1900’s. From the onset, a social debate was framed around the word ‘marijuana’ as being something outside American Culture, owing its intended meaning to the Latin people said to be inflicting the ‘devil weed’ on our great country. The truth rests in a reality of social inequality by which people of color were discriminated against, using language to set apart cultural differences. Through the use of unfamiliar words (marijuana, weed, jive, dope, ect..), a meaning is coded allowing the “Drug War” to emerge.

Most people today see the “Drug War” for what it is: A War on Thought.

The thoughts being repressed are those of ‘Other’ Cultures, other ways of ‘being’. And during the 1930’s America was flooded by cultures all vying for their piece of the American Pie. Certain groups believed their piece was deservedly larger (typically the flawed ideas stemming from long histories of racism).

But today, with the majority’s perceptions turned, why are we fighting against ourselves? We know grandmothers, fathers, lawyers, dentists, janitors, and many others who enjoy the cannabis plant. With the quasi-legal status of cannabis we know many of those same people who now make a living with cannabis.

So why are we still fighting for recognition, for legitimacy?

We discussed that reason in our previous article: Why is the Government Bogarting the Cannabis Economy? The simple answer is the money to be made on both sides of the “Drug War”.


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