Column: The M-Word Revisited – Why the Industry Should Embrace the Term ‘Marijuana’

By George Jage

What’s in a name? What word – or words – define our industry?

Several industry pioneers have lobbied the business community to use the word “cannabis” in lieu of “marijuana.”

The premise is that the latter term is strewn with negative historical events and racial connotations. Others argue that there are many uses for the whole plant and its many different varieties extending far beyond what is known in modern vernacular as marijuana.

With due respect to these pioneers, I submit that hiding from a word that few people today associate with negative campaigns and false propaganda long since forgotten is in fact more potentially damaging than helpful.

Shunning the single most commonly used name for the product we cultivate, process and sell can be perceived as the tactics of individuals and organizations who try to conceal truths.

We live in an age when “pink slime” in hamburger meat is given fancy scientific names by big corporations and Americans are repeatedly reassured that it’s harmless.

The truth and reality about what is commonly known across the country by everyday consumers as marijuana is overwhelmingly positive, and we should not appear to be hiding behind scientific words or pushing separate nomenclature in the industry that is not widely used in the consumer marketplace.

Suggesting that the widespread popularization of the word marijuana over 80 years ago by the acknowledged racist William Hearst therefore makes the word itself racist does not stand up to logic. No one today feels college basketball is an inherently racist sport because Adolph Rupp coached an all-white team in the 1940s.

Nothing about the word marijuana, listed in every major dictionary of the English language, is itself racist. And nothing would be more undermining to the tactics of the anti-marijuana movement than to take this word back as our own.

When the national government inevitably decriminalizes this drug and the FDA eventually regulates it, they will define “marijuana” as the common-use term for cannabis. It is the term codified in most state laws across the country. It is embraced proudly by advocacy organizations that have long been at the forefront of the fight to legalize marijuana across the country.

It is a perfectly good word, and we should embrace it.

To be clear, I couldn’t agree more with other industry leaders that we must be careful in our choice of words given the unique challenges our industry faces.

The words we use are as important as the actions we take – which is exactly why we need to be familiar and benign by using the common tongue, instead of the foreign, scientific and obscure.

We must ensure that people view this as the same product many of them have used or tried for the past 50 years. This is an herbal medicine, not a pharmacological product. It is familiar. It is beneficial. It is safe.

There are business reasons to adopt the term marijuana as well.

One notable result of the cannabis language campaign has been a confusing morass of canna-companies in every area of our industry. Heck, we here at CannaBusiness Media even jumped on the bandwagon, recasting our market-leading national business conference and expo and our overarching brand in a new canna-light.

Unfortunately, the result has been canna-confusion, particularly as a slew of similarly named conferences cropped up this year.

In my short time with the company, it is clear that Marijuana Business Daily and the Marijuana Business Factbook are our most recognized resources and are furthermore highly trusted and valued by the industry. We are grateful to our 15,000+ daily readers to be of service, and we take the trust you’ve placed in our honesty and integrity very seriously.

We have therefore decided to cut through the name games and return to our roots.

This week, we are rolling out a new brand identity for our entire family of business information services and professional events. With the recent Supreme Court ruling that organizations have the same rights as individuals, we could be clinically diagnosed with schizophrenia, but I assure you we are taking the medicine we need to cure the disorder.

Hence, the longest running and most attended national event will revert to its original identity as the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo. Our print trade publication, CannaBusiness Magazine, is quickly approaching the 10,000 mark of qualified subscribers and will be renamed Marijuana Business Magazine with the upcoming fall issue.

And our company brand will move from its canna-counterpart to Marijuana Business Media.

Our brand will speak clearly to our purpose and those we serve: The marijuana business community.

With that said, we look forward to serving the new and the longstanding, the aspiring and the accomplished, the leaders and the learners to the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo, Nov. 12-14, at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in fabulous Las Vegas.

It presents an ideal forum to discuss important issues facing the industry, including the language and terms we use.

George Jage is president and publisher of Marijuana Business Media, which is the parent company of Marijuana Business Daily