The "M" Word - The History Behind the Term

The article below was published on the Harborside Health Center website and we're sharing it because it reflects one of the 7 Leaf values- advocacy.  We advocate for patients and their right to use cannabis and we're also advocates for those who have faced discrimination due to years of propaganda that have led to unjustified fear of using the word "marijuana".  

The reason we use the "m" word sparingly, and prefer to use the term 'cannabis', is because we think it is time to rethink and to redefine marijuana and what it can do to help the world.  By giving the original plant name back, we are giving it the respect it deserves and our hope is that by spreading awareness of its true history, we are initiating an open conversation among even the most anti-drug proponents.

As the article below states, most people find the word "marijuana" offensive after they learn the history behind the term.  We urge you to pass this information on in order to create a collective awareness about this historically-demonized plant.

Cannabis has immense potential, and like the criminalized minorities that it has been associated with, it has been deprived of a voice of its own.  Until now.  We are the voice of cannabis, and so are you.

Our hope is that by spreading this awareness, we are advocates for change- the change of the conversation and thus the overall perspective of this vilified plant. Our culture in the U.S. has been taught to fear it, and it's time to ask ourselves, why?

It is time to transform our culturally engendered 'fear' into freedom, and the street name of 'marijuana,' which we've been accustomed, into 'cannabis'. 


Why do we use the term “marijuana” sparingly? The answer lies in the roots of the phrase, and our dedication to changing the perception of cannabis to one of wellness and healing.  We prefer to use the word cannabis, because it is a respectful, scientific term that encompasses all the many different uses of the plant.

The word "marijuana" or “marihuana” is an emotional, pejorative term that has played a key role in creating the negative stigma that still tragically clings to this holistic, herbal medicine. Most cannabis users recognize the "M word" as offensive, once they learn its history.

The “marijuana” term started off life as a Mexican folk name for cannabis, but was first popularized in the US by the notorious yellow press publisher, William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was a racist, as well as being committed to the prohibition of marijuana, which threatened his timber investments. He used his control of hundreds of newspapers to orchestrate a vicious propaganda campaign against cannabis, which featured lurid (and false) stories about black and brown men committing outrageous acts of murder and mayhem. That campaign played on then-predominantly racist public opinion to make cannabis illegal at the federal level in 1937. Since then, “marijuana” has come to be associated with the idea that cannabis is a dangerous and addictive intoxicant, not a holistic, herbal medicine for helping people deal with the effects of cancer, AIDS, wasting syndrome and other conditions. This stigma has played a big part in stymieing cannabis legalization efforts throughout the U.S.

Language is important because it defines our ideas. Words have a power that transcends their formal meaning. When we change words, we can also change the thoughts that underlie them. By changing the words we use to describe cannabis and herbal medicine, we can help our fellow citizens understand the truth about it, and see through the decades of propaganda.

That understanding will convert cannabis opponents into supporters, and bring closer the day when all our prisoners go free, and nobody else is ever again arrested for using or possessing “marijuana”.

Harborside Health Center provides safe access to alternative, therapeutic cannabis (a.k.a. marijuana) to patients with a recommendation from a California doctor.