History on the slang of cannabis

Nowadays, the word “weed” is probably the most international word ever existing along with pizza, hotel or internet. In fact, pronouncing those sweet four letters will make you understand almost everywhere in the world. 

Since the popularization of cannabis, many words have been trying to describe the magic plant. Let’s dig into the slang of cannabis!

  • In 1934, cannabis was for the first time mentioned in a newspaper in the US as “ marijuana*” with a ” * ” stating a definition of the unknown word “ a drug, long common in Mexico, made from a variety of hemp weed”. In fact, the word marijuana is of Mexican origin and means “the weed that intoxicates”. 
  • In 1943, the TIME published its first long article about what they referred to as “the weed”, a word that back in the time, was still unfamiliar. 

Weed started to have its own slang that goes from obvious to more evasive names, among them muggles, mooters, Mary Warner, Mary Jane, Indian hay, loco weed, love weed, bambalacha, mohasky, mu, moocah, grass, tea or blue sage. Cigarettes made out of weed used to be called killers, goof-butts, joy-smokes, giggle-smokes or again reefers. 

Most of those words have faded with the years passing, however, cannabis still has a modern slang which originates from different languages, roots in religion or out of a need to conceal during prohibition. This slang is now part of popular culture and mainstream dialogue all around the world. 

  • GANJA: probably one of the oldest terms on cannabis modern slang! This term is nowadays associated with the Rastafarian religion though the history of the word comes back to a much older time. In fact the term originally comes from Sanskrit, the original language from South Asia. In the middle of 1800, British colonialists brought Indians and Africans slaves to Jamaica to work on the plantation. 
  • KUSH: the term originates from the original plants grown in the Hindu Kush region, which goes from the Afghanistan to Pakistan border. The word is usually used to name several strains of marijuana, though it is also employed to describe high-grade weed. 
  • POT: one of the most used colloquialisms who became popular during prohibition in the 30’s and ‘40s. It comes from the contraction of “potación de guaya”, a Mexican Spanish drink made out of a mixture of marijuana buds and wine or brandy. 
  • 420: the origins of the number are a bit unclear. In fact, some think the term comes from an old police code used to indicate smoking in progress, while others say it comes from The Grateful Dead’s room number of preference when they were on tour. 420 refers to the time high school students of California would meet to smoke weed in the 70’s. 

Those slang are likely to remain part of our culture despite the influence of medical marijuana which has been filling the weed language with more scientific and less colloquial terms. 

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