Marijuana, Reefer, Weed: How Language Keeps Evolving for the Devil’s Lettuce


Kush. Bud. Herb.

Who is aware of what to name marijuana lately?

Born of the want for secrecy, slang has lengthy dominated pot tradition. But as entrepreneurs search to capitalize on new legal guidelines legalizing leisure and medical marijuana, they too are grappling with what to name it.

Heading to the dispensary to purchase a number of nugs or dabs? Marketers looking for to use the $10 billion market would like that you simply simply referred to as it hashish.

Shirley Halperin, an writer of 2007’s “Pot Culture: The A-Z Guide to Stoner Language and Life,” has seen the shift lately. Not way back, she met with an government to speak about his firm’s merchandise. “He physically winced when I said the word ‘pot,’” she recalled. “Businesses don’t want to call it ‘weed.’”

Cannabis, she mentioned, “sounds like it has purpose in the world.”

[Reefer insanity or pot paradise? Read about the stunning legacy of the place the place authorized weed started.]

A good place to begin to understand the shifting language is with Peter Sokolowski, the editor at large at Merriam-Webster.

“Words we think of today as leftovers from the 1960s are really leftover from the 1930s,” he said. But it is important to look even further back, he added. Terms like cannabis and ganja go back centuries, and have long been used to describe the plant and its medicinal properties.

Indeed, the word “marijuana” was introduced to the English language as recently as 1874 and was derived from Spanish, Mr. Sokolowski said. And it was the Spaniards who brought cannabis to Mexico’s land, which they hoped to cultivate for industrial-use hemp. They had a number of spellings for the word, including “mariguana” and “marihuana.” But unlike the word “cannabis,” it picked up a negative meaning.

In 2013, NPR wrote a thorough explanation of the word in which people said it had racist and anti-immigrant implications. In the piece, NPR cited news articles from the early 20th century suggesting that marijuana — or marihuana — was responsible for inciting violence among Mexicans who smoked it. It was sometimes called “loco weed.” (Loco means “crazy” in Spanish.)

That imagery was part of an anti-cannabis movement and helped to prompt a crackdown on illegal cannabis use, which culminated in the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. “Suddenly the drug has a whole new identity,” NPR wrote.

Mr. Chong, who has argued in favor of legal cannabis, agreed. “It became evil,” he said.

Long before Snoop Dogg became a de facto ambassador for the cannabis industry, Mr. Chong, now 81, and his comedy partner, Cheech Marin, poked fun at stoner culture in their movies, playing affable smokers on the run from the police. “I was known as the pothead guy,” Mr. Chong said. In 1978’s “Up in Smoke,” they drive a van from Mexico to Los Angeles that is made of resin from cannabis plants. In 1981’s “Nice Dreams,” they sell marijuana out of an ice cream truck.

By the 1970s, hyperlocal terms for marijuana had emerged that would gain widespread use.

Take, for instance, 420. Many people use it to describe the smoking of cannabis. According to Ms. Halperin, the author, the term originated in 1971 in San Rafael, Calif., when a group of high school students used it as code to meet up and smoke. “Now 420 permeates pop culture,” she said.

Around that time, President Richard M. Nixon sought to further criminalize marijuana and called for a war on drugs. In response, marijuana advocates began to market the plant as cannabis or under its scientific name, cannabis sativa, Ms. Halperin said. The goal was to take away the stigma.

But attitudes were changing, and pot culture was becoming mainstream. “We were proud to be stoners,” said Ms. Halperin, who previously worked for High Times magazine. Movies featuring smokers became cult classics or box office hits, including 1982’s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and, in the 1990s, “Dazed and Confused” and “The Big Lebowski,” which stars Jeff Bridges as an aging hippie called The Dude. In 2008’s “Pineapple Express,” with Seth Rogen and James Franco, marijuana was central to the plot.



Source link Nytimes.com

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