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 long-standing, 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

29 comments on “Column: The M-Word Revisited – Why the Industry Should Embrace the Term ‘Marijuana’
  1. Daniel on

    Seems that it would be much easier to brand the term cannabis (i.e. “canna”) than the term marijuana…. Additionally, the term cannabis is a more globally utilized term…

    Reply
  2. Andrew Thomson on

    Perhaps your case is factually accurate in the famous marihuana mecca of Rhode Island, but here in Humboldt County, both terms are in wide use today it with different meanings. Marijuana as a word has been unfashionable and seen as an out of date term like “lid” or “grass” which reveals the elderly age or outdated viewpoint or as the word choice of an outsider who isn’t personally a user. Wen it is used it is used mainly by police as a negative term, specifically linking it with illegality. When referring to legal businesses, almost everyone says cannabis. Including cops. Your point may be valid for the 1970s and grandpa / grandma but for the majority of youth and new users they use other terms, cannabis, hemp, dabs, whatever they say they use specific words not generalities from a long gone era of the past.

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  3. kenny on

    totally disagree with the article. use the word “marijuana” just because the government does? uh, no. i’m sticking with cannabis, the more technically sound name and official descriptor.

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  4. Joanie on

    C3 Patients Association/Idrasil specifically changed to this wording 2 years ago. It is the scientific name and should be regarded as such especially in the medical field.

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  5. Andrew Thomson on

    By this logic we should call it Weed Business Magazine or Pot Business Magazibe since those terms are both more commonly used by all types of users worldwide than “marihuana” or “marijuana” which brings up another point, cannabis has only one correct spelling but numerous spellings are accepted by dictionaries for Mary Jane. So if we want to use a term that is already widely used and understood, to minimize confusion and ambiguity, within the business community especially, where this media company’s customers and subscribers reside, the term cannabis is more widely used than marijuana by any spelling.

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  6. Donna on

    I 100% agree with this article in every respect. I also agree with the above email comments. I love the humor of the article, the facts it presents, and the laughs it brought. Marijuana, Cannabis, whatever it is called, we all know of it’s value and what it does to contribute to each of us personally. Enjoy!

    Reply
  7. Andrew Thomson on

    Whoops just realized another giant problem with this ill considered decision: using the word Marijuana or marihuana specifically and explicitly excludes hemp. Marijuana by any definition only includes flowers and leaves, not seeds, stalks or fiber. So are hemp business no longer welcome here? Will you be excluding any stories about seeds and fiber based business and only exclusively covering flowers and extracts from them? This is extremely limiting and short sighted. A giant step backwards about 20 years, o when the term marijuana was popular in normal contemporary vernacular. Today it is an old timey term that connotes ignorance or hostility to cannabis more than it does comfort and familiarity. Ask your teenage kids what words their generation uses to denote cannabis and they will tell you “buds, weed, pot, kgb, dank, the kind, flowers, erl, dabs, hemp or cannabis.” Marijuana is what their parents, teachers and square old narcs call it.

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  8. Dee on

    It should go to Cannabis IMO. But the bigger issue with words has to do with the way places are marketing and labeling their goods. We don’t need people going to stereotypical type branding it helps nothing and doesn’t sway that last little bit still on the fence about legalizing that it can be done properly and with some damn dignity!

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  9. Shelley on

    Thank goodness a lean toward nostalgia, so to speak.I fully understand why this labeling change has been occurring and it is wise and well intentioned to a degree. However I am some what rubbed the wrong way by this line in the sand behavior.
    We are all in this togather for the same reason, RELIEF, on many fronts.
    So lets all, embrace it all and continue “Onward Through the Fog”.

    Reply
  10. Jeff Brown on

    It seems to me that marijuana is probably known by more people then cannabis. However that is changing and changing quickly. I wrote a book called Marijuana and the Bible for the very reason of name recognition. In time I may change it to Cannabis and the Bible

    Reply
  11. CBP Chuck on

    As an independent small business owner I must say that the change to marijuana seems somewhat silly to me. That term is dated, skewed, reflecting the negative connotations of a decades long prohibition and it is not the English name used prior to all the bad press. In business call it what it is or go by the wayside along with the oppression. IMHO

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  12. Victoria on

    A rose by any other name would smell as sweet; the names of things do not matter as much as defining what they ARE. – A rose is a rose is a rose; things are what they are. – As with all things, the public (people not in the trade) will understand general terminology better and use common words and phrases when doing research and that will lead them to everything in the industry much more easily. Seems like a sound business decision. If you check keywords, Marijuana leads with 16,348 in search engine popularity vs. 13,169 for cannabis, 2,659 for hemp, and 480 for hemp seeds. Of course higher volume keywords also make a category more competitive. But, check around. Is any other industry of the plant kingdom using a scientific term to promote its business to a specific industry and its consumers? No. Lead with general, non-confusing, people-friendly terminology, but Teach and Educate to include scientific terminology, benefits, legality, safety, history, labeling guidelines, and everything people need to know about the industry as it is legalized. Use common words to draw people in. Educate them further for personal benefit and many will also be led to become part of the industry and in the business as well. High schools and colleges are not using the word cannabis to educate students; they are using the word marijuana and warning them and their parents that the potency and levels of THC in 2014 are much greater than that experienced in the 70’s. The only way to spin the positive side is through education and re-educating the public to understand the modern direction and use. Just because you use the word Marijuana does not mean that the show, news, or publications could not also grow and departmentalize to include other terminology and byproducts as a way to build the industry further.

    Reply
  13. Misha on

    I disagree. We don’t call the ATF “Booze, Butts, and Guns” because those are slang terms, and all 3 are high value industries just as cannabusinesses are.
    Respect should be shown to our industry, our plants, our patients and to us.

    Reply
  14. Arthur Oldschool on

    Great–let’s perpetuate outdated racist Orwellian propaganda. It’s what “the man” wants us to call it. Translation: my company isn’t making enough money: let’s jump on a bandwagon and act like we know where it’s going!

    Reply
  15. Handytrim on

    So continue to use a racially derived and provocative name because that’s how the government wants you to feel about it? Even though the rest of the world uses its correct name (though countries like the UK have to also resort to calling it by intentionally provocative and deliberately negative connotations such as skunk to continue its policy of lies and propaganda…at least in the US and rest of the world you have acknowledged it is a legitimate and effectual medicine whilst in the UK our government continues the ridiculous lie that it has zero medicinal benefits…whilst allowing GW Pharmaceuticals to produce and sell a WHOLE cannabis tincture called Sativex throughout the world). But that has never stopped America from making their own version of ‘English’ suit their own ends. It is cannabis and only ignorant and ill-informed call it by its derogative names.

    Reply
  16. WashingtonWeedSales.com on

    Terms also very from area-to-area, State-to-State. Here in the PNW weed, smoke, and marijuana are fairly common terms for recreational cannabis user. Its no different slang or accents used by folks in various parts of the US.

    As mentioned by other commentors, as generations change so does their use of terms and businesses can adapt to the changing slang within the industry. We prefer ‘weed’ but that is us.

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  17. Scott on

    I disagree vehemently with the author. I’ve been an activist against racism, for cannabis, and been arrested for marijuana. The word marijuana needs to die with old laws.

    Reply
  18. Arthur Oldschool on

    The word “marihuana” was created by the precursor to the CIA, the FBI and Harry Anslinger. It is NOT a Spanish word. It is created with Manchurian candidates and mind washed robots in mind. Hemp is as American as apple pie. It doesn’t need to be dirtied and obfuscated by slang terminology created as a diversion program to fill the jails and coffers of the justice system.

    Reply
  19. mmj patient on

    Very long winded but two main corrections. First, the analogy comparing the word marijuana to a basketball coach is soo far off that it isn’t even an analogy. A better example would be to use a football team name like the Chiefs. This WAS deemed to still be racist so the word marijuana is more similar to this analogy than to an all white basketball team.
    Also as far as saying the feds will use the word “marijuana,” sorry you must not have read any of the Controlled Substance Act or many state laws as the actual word used is “marihuana” with an H not a J. So maybe you want to change the name to MariHuana Business Daily as it seems you are conserned if people call it cannabis your group name will not show up in a search result.

    Reply
  20. Doc Ault on

    I recognize the sound of an educated, yet ill-informed writer. Corporations, the Inc. folks, that monopolized the word “marijuana”, want you to embrace it. After all, they likely spent a small fortune to be the holders of that name. No thanks, I’ll refer to it respectfully and correctly. Cannabis.

    Reply
  21. Vallerius on

    Cannabis is the preferred term of the government in Illinois, as demonstrated through our law and regulations. We are beginning a “Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.” And cannabis is more closely related cannabinoid, which will become increasingly important in legal and medical contexts.

    Reply
  22. kerry b on

    Glad to hear you guys are reverting to ‘Marijuana’. It is what the plant is really known as, and this is important. No one refers to the latin name for tomato- we all just call them tomatoes.

    Reply
  23. Joel Aigner on

    The only leverage that the word “Marijuana” has really is that it’s used by the Government.

    It was first used by the Government when they criminalized it.

    It’s not that it’s racist, it’s that it was part of an overall smear campaign of lies and untruth to create fear and subservience to arbitrary dictates.

    When you say “we cultivate” what do you mean by “we”. You, yourself grow?

    To me using “Marijuana” indicates a tie to oppression and manipulation of the masses’ minds and markets.

    And being that cannabis does not have such baggage while still being incredibly branding friendly.

    Hence industry groups such National Cannabis Industry Alliance (NCIA).

    I hate the word Marijuana.

    Reply

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