As marijuana goes mainstream, people are rethinking the term, claiming we should ditch “marijuana” because it’s racist, and instead, say “cannabis.” Individuals should say what they like, but this rule is too simplistic for such a complex drug. We should develop more, not fewer, words for what we need to say.
It makes sense that some want to avoid the “m-word.” Marijuana has always had a unique place in American history and politics, according to scholar Emily Dufton, author of Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana Activism in America. No other drug has inspired this kind of debate and been tied to issues from war to racism to criminal justice. (Dufton herself is an “equal-opportunity user” of words, who says part of the fun of writing about this drug is the ability to use so many different terms.)
But the word “marijuana” is not racist. It was once a means of rebellion, says Santiago Ivan Guerra, a professor of Southwest Studies at Colorado College. When Europeans first arrived in present-day Mexico, they ordered the indigenous residents to convert to Christianity and stop growing their own psychoactive drugs (morning glory, peyote, and psilocybin). Instead, the indigenous Mexicans were told to grow hemp for rope. [Read more at The Verge]
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