Popular Names for Cannabis

cannabis names etymology

Welcome back! Last time, we took a preliminary look at cannabis names, focusing on the established scientific names of the three species of cannabis currently known to us, which form the lineage of all existing cannabis strains.

Today, we’re going to consider the best-known cannabis nicknames, and take a look at what prompted these popular – sometimes infamous – epithets.

Popular Names for Cannabis

Let’s start with most infamous of cannabis nicknames, which also happens to be the one with the richest (and fraught) history!

Where Does the Word Marijuana Come From

“Marijuana” possesses perhaps the richest – and most contested – past of any cannabis nicknames. From about the middle of the 19th century until the turn of the 20th, cannabis was fairly commonplace, being used as an additive in medicines made by large pharmaceutical companies and becoming a popular trend for the elite society folk (in the form of hashish).

marijuana name 1920s
In the early 20th century, cannabis was popular with the elite crowd.

The concept of smoking cannabis came in on the coattails of the close to one million Mexican immigrants that entered the US between 1910 and 1920. The spread of this newfound consumption method seems to have kicked off the rumblings of cannabis control (tied to the regulation of opioids and psychoactives), but no major stigma developed until around the 30s.

More immigrants arrived and bad bad jazz music took off. When the divides began to fall between immigrants and Black Americans, jazz and nightclubs, some of the upper crust decided cannabis was a drug of choice for ne’er-do-wells, and the stigma grew, initiating “reefer madness” and all kinds of crazy claims like the fact that cannabis could make you into a murderous maniac (we assume this effect happened sometime after they ate all the chips and had a long nap on the couch). Perhaps to distance this dangerous substance from the harmless plant everyone was enjoying a few years earlier, the term “marijuana” was coined.

(You can get a bit more info on what happened over the next few years in this great article by Leafly.)

The word “marijuana” is based on Mexican Spanish, and can also be spelled marihuana or mariguana. It’s possible it comes from the word “mallihuan” which means prisoner – a slight to the immigrants and Black Americans who were supposedly the most frequent users. This similarity could be a coincidence, however; it’s also possible it’s based on the word mejorana, which simply means oregano (basically – herb).

It seems most likely that marijuana was a term chosen by the upper class and the future opponents because it had a lovely foreign sound to it (specifically Mexican?), further emphasising their insistence that cannabis was something strange and dangerous.

It’s easy to see why a lot of proponents today are urging advocates to stop using this word and turn the conversation back to “cannabis”, or even some other labels which, while closer to “street names”, are less steeped in negative history.

Why is Cannabis Called Pot?

Despite a witty play on words courtesy of Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg, use of the word “pot” for cannabis doesn’t actually have anything to do with kitchen supplies.

The term is actually shorthand for the word “potacion de guayaya”, a Spanish beverage made by steeping buds of the cannabis plant in wine. The English translation: “drink of grief”. Fun times.

Why Is Cannabis Called Weed?

According to Civilized, weed is an “older, edgier, and all-American” term for everyone’s favorite plant. Technically, the term specifically described a cannabis cigarette, and was even mentioned in a 1930s news article that noted the migration of cannabis use from uptown to Harlem. Apparently, there’s also a little 1932 ditty called “Song of the Weed” by Melody Maker, which helped popularize the term in the UK.

What’s your common name of choice for your choice strain? And speaking of choices, at Growers Choice we have an excellent selection of premium cannabis seeds for sale, so why not check them out and start growing your very own crop of the plant that has divided a nation!

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