Back to learn more about the nicknames of cannabis? By the time we’re done here, you’re going to be a font of (maybe slightly useless) information and a real hit at parties!
Today, we’re going to look at some “street” names of cannabis – basically, names that have grown out of the plant’s place in popular culture, as opposed to globally recognized or scientific variations. That said, the one’s we’ll look at on this round should be familiar to most people with even half an ear in the cannabis community.
Without further ado…
More Cannabis Nicknames
This term blazed into popularity in the 20s, when “Reefer Madness” became a phrase of choice for media and politicians bent on painting cannabis as the Big Bad – a dangerous drug that ruins lives, families, and even prompts psychotic rage.
The actual origin of the term is pretty innocuous, though. The “reefer” is the individual on a sailboat who is in charge of rolling the sail canvas and – you guessed it – a rolled canvas looks a bit like a joint.
It’s also possible that this term grew from the Spanish slang term Grifo, apparently for no reason other than that it’s Spanish?
Another better known nickname, “dope” actually has quite the history as a word for many different substances. It was used in the 1800s for a gravy-like sauce, for sweet syrup in the early 1900s, and for a brand of cola a few years later. These are all thick liquids, so it’s interesting that the term became synonymous with cannabis; apparently beginning in the late 19th century, “dope” could mean a thick substance used in opioid smoking.
“Dope” as another word for cannabis specifically didn’t actually catch on until the 50s, and the term isn’t done morphing, yet. Today, it’s more commonly used to refer to heroin or other opiates, so we’d recommend asking for some clarification if someone offers you dope.
If you guessed this nickname comes from the Rastafarian religion, you’d be wrong (though we totally understand the assumption). In fact, “ganja” is Sanskrit for – go figure – cannabis. Some think the Ganges River was named thus because cannabis grows along its banks!
A plant is a plant is a plant?
This was a popular word for cannabis during the totally groovy 60s and 70s, and most people are definitely put in mind of flower-bedecked hair and bell bottoms when they hear it. The term could have been coined due to the cannabis of the day’s similarity to lawn clippings (it’s fairly widely accepted they didn’t have the highest quality weed in those days), and may also be a reference to “sacred grass,” a spiritually significant plant in India.
This one might seem pretty self-explanatory, given the term’s audible similarity to that most famous of nicknames, marijuana. But according to a post of Quora, it’s actually not completely clear which term inspired which. It could be that due to a desire to personify their favorite plant, people gave it an Anglicized name (Maria = Mary; Juanita = Jane).
One etymologicon (a person who studies where words come from) suggested the opposite might have occured: people of Spanish origin hear Americans refer to the plant as Mary Jane and start calling it marijuana instead. The problem with this theory is that, as we learned in an earlier installment, marijuana seems to have been coined by the mid-century jerks who wanted to sully its reputation.
Or maybe people just started having fun coming up with terms from the obvious shorthand for marijuana: MJ. (We can do that, too: MoJo. Mundo Joint. More Joy. See?)
Personally, I’m rather a fan of one person’s theory on a Grasscity forum: that a woman named Mary Jane discovered cannabis. Well … sure. You go, girl!
What do you call cannabis? Do you feel like there’s a moral imperative here, or should people just go on calling this healing plant whatever they want, as long as they keep praising its name?