There is a rather popular argument among cannabis advocates that the term ‘marijuana’ is problematic and should be abandoned altogether, and while it comes with the best of intentions, it is not necessarily the best idea.
The arguments against the word marijuana do in fact contain a legitimate insight, which is that the word marijuana was disseminated by prohibitionist propaganda in order to give cannabis racial connotations that played off racism to gain support for criminalizing that plant. The word marijuana was meant to invoke thoughts of Mexicans as well as other minorities in order to demonize it. It was a successful gambit, as history shows.
What is wrong if we associate cannabis with Mexicans and minorities now? If you are not racist, the connotation need not be negative. You can use it to celebrate the Mexicans who popularized the plants use in America. You can use it to celebrate the black jazz innovators whose use of the plant helped pave the way for modern American art. In this view, the word marijuana can be seen as celebrating the history of marijuana despite the machinations of prohibitionists.
It would also be a shame to succumb to enforced language, as does the mainstream media whose newspeak has helped keep cannabis down. Giving into political correctness is a disempowering process in which we surrender to the madness of our opponents.
Gay men and women were called “queers”, “faggots” and “dykes” in order to demonize them. But they co-opted those terms and made them their own in order to take that power away from homophobes.
Similarly many blacks have taken the derogatory term “nigger” and made it a regular part of their lexicon, which robs racists of the power the word once had.
Why not do the same with marijuana? Why not co-opt it from the history of oppression and make it a proud sign of our heritage? An expression of North America’s proud history of cannabis use!
Another reason I will not stop using it is technical. If you have never ran a website and promotional social media campaigns, these are things you are probably not familiar with. On the internet, words matter. More popular words, the ones most likely to be typed into a search box, will provide the best results. If my goal is to spread more information in the fight for cannabis, then I cannot ignore the things that get results.
The fact is, because of its history, the term marijuana is the one people are most familiar with. And those looking for information are probably going to use it to make searches. Do I want weaken the chances that they will find the articles I have written? What purpose would that serve? I don’t write these just to send virtue signals, or secondary political statements. I am trying to be effective as an advocate. Can an argument be made that effectiveness doesn’t matter?
The final reason I will not stop using the term is simply because I like it. It was marijuana when I was a little kid watching my parents hurriedly stash it when I entered the room. It was marijuana when I started smoking it. It is a nice word, is it not? Say it aloud right now.
Now say it faster.
Roll your tongue.
Turn yourself around.
Yeah…that’s what it’s all about.
This getting high thing is suppose to be fun, never forget that. If stoners start taking themselves too seriously then we will have destroyed cannabis culture and become politicized authoritarians who nobody wants to hang out with. Do we really want to sound like vegans, cross-fitters and Prius owners? Is it really a good idea to sabotage our good nature with self-righteousness? What exactly does the coinage of pedantic reactionary behavior buy us?
Fuck racism and prohibition, let’s take marijuana back!