The Difference Between ‘Cannabis’ & ‘Marijuana’

If you have a keen eye and are a frequent consumer of our media, you might have noticed that we never use the term “marijuana,” only “cannabis” or “flower.” Hang around the industry long enough and you’ll realize that this is a growing trend for several reasons.

We think our friends at Smoke Reports said it best: “Cannabis deserves a better conversation. A better conversation requires a common language.”

Smoke Reports, a definitive source for strain and dispensary data, has published a series of white papers on the intersection of cannabis business and culture, written by Jay Healy. The first installment detailed the linguistic history of cannabis and hemp prohibition efforts in the United States during the late 1920s and 1930s.

“Marihuana” was originally used as a racialized term to describe the cigarettes that migrant workers would toke at the end of the day. The term was first popularized by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in order to back up prohibitionist efforts by heightening the fear and racism of the masses. It was because of this connotation that cannabis prohibition became the law of the land with little opposition.

By creating a slang term that played on the social disparities of the time, the FBN was able to transform the familiar, highly useful and therapeutic cannabis plant into a scary, dangerously mind-altering drug called “marijuana” that no one knew anything about. Think about it: isn’t that what many are doing by continuing to use prohibition-era slang in the context of the modern cannabis movement?

Craft brewers don’t use the terms “brewski” or “suds” to refer to their products – they go about it with an air of seriousness and professionalism. Why can’t it be the same for cannabis? Every time it is referred to as “pot,” “marijuana” or “weed,” essentially what’s happening is a cheapening of the craft mentality that goes into creating amazing cannabis products.

Read: Al Jazeera America – Weed all about it: The origins of the word ‘marijuana’

In their third whitepaper, the editorial board at continues on these points, having observed generally that common language used to describe the cannabis industry varies widely between political subdivisions – in other words, federal, state, and local authorities tend to use different terms. It varies widely between industry participants according to region. It varies widely between the various sectors – growers, manufacturers, and retailers/dispensaries.

The industry has always been able to speak within its own confines. But as cannabis gains legitimacy and legality, the industry must now communicate differently. The Northern California grower must speak with the Southern California dispensary. Seed producers may wish to establish consumer branding across a broad range of product categories. We must all communicate with consumers. But most notably, we must deal with legalities and regulations that transcend geography, political subdivisions, and the multitude of governmental agencies.

We believe that as cannabis gains legitimacy both in our society and by our laws, a common set of defined terms is important for the industry and for regulation.

Smoke Reports also highlighted the recently signed AB 266 regulations for the California medical cannabis industry, which exclusively used the term “medical cannabis” throughout the text of the bill – significant, because the original Prop 215 legislation almost exclusively used the term “marijuana.” Times certainly change.

Read: NPR – The Mysterious History of ‘Marijuana’

As a media voice for the space, we choose to use the term “cannabis” exclusively simply because it aligns with our brand. It’s a no-brainer because our goal is to highlight the best and brightest people and products in the industry. Cannabis is the scientific name for the plant, so when speaking in terms of medical efficacy, research, innovation and new technology, it’s only natural that we’d rather use the scientific term over a slang one. Furthermore, we pride ourselves in presenting the most accurate information possible about what’s going on in the cannabis industry. Grassroots authenticity is important in this community, but being factual and having a unified message is what makes a movement truly successful.

Major players in the space, including Harborside Health Center, also prefer to use “cannabis,” when referring to the plant and the industry as a whole.

Move the industry forward by abstaining from using “marijuana,” “pot,” and “weed,” and use the word “cannabis” instead. Will you share this article and encourage your friends and family to make the switch?

  • I certainly don’t like the words, weed and dope in reference to cannabis but marijuana is a common word that has long been used by Spanish speaking peoples all around the world and it appears to be a very old word and it and its derivative words are now commonly used around the world.
    Cannabis is a good word but there is no reason to politically correct people for using the word marijuana.
    Yes, let us remember the racist act that demonized this word but let us not partake of its racist demonization again.

    • “Mota” is the Spanish word. Marijuana or marihuana were racist slang terms from back in the day. It is ALL cannabis. Cannabis sativa (L).

  • Ma – China, hemp, 麻.
    Note how the character looks like hemp plants. May be the origin of the word
    marijuana. (‘Sesame’ is Zhī-ma, 芝麻, meaning ‘Foreign Hemp’)

    Machona – Angola, Brazil.

    Maconha – Portuguese, cannabis.

    Madini – India, the intoxicator.

    Ma-fei-san – China, a narcotic bubbling compound.

    Ma fen – China, Fragrant Hemp Branch, female

    Ma’joun – North Africa.

    Majoun – Afghanistan, Hash and date cake

    Ma’kaña – Africa, the Bantu people. May be the
    origin of marijuana in Sth America having arrived there with slaves. However it
    may be the word originates from the word “Ma” from early Chinese
    explorers/traders visiting Africa.

    Mala hierba – Argentina, plant

    Maleza – Argentina, Herb

    Malihwana – Korea, 마리화나

    Ma-mu – China, Hemp tree, woodenly numb.

    Maria – Spanish

    Maria Juanita – Spanish

    Marichouána – Greek, μαριχουάνα

    Marifana – Japan, マリファナ

    “Mariajuana, mariahuana, marihuana, marijuana,
    Indian hemp, .Cannabis sativa L., Cannabis indica, and Cannabis americana are
    synonymous, and in this report the term mariajuana will be understood to apply
    to all the above terms.

    It appears that mariajuana is not a correct term in
    the Spanish language but that it is a provincialism common to Panama and
    derived from the word “maraguango”. The latter mentioned term is a
    general one and is interpreted to mean smoking, drinking, or snuffing of any
    substance that produces the loss of clear mentality, hallucinations, delusions,
    or disturbed sleep.”

    Taken from: The US – Military Surgeon Volume 73 –
    July-December 1933

    There is no consensus about where the word
    “marijuana” came from. The word sounds like a Spanish language cognate, but
    some etymologists trace its origins to China or India. The plant itself
    originated in Central Asia, and China and India were the first two regions to
    begin cultivating it.

    One theory is that Chinese immigrants brought the
    phrase ma ren hua—which translates more or less as “hemp seed flowers”—to
    Mexico, where it became Spanishized into “marijuana.” Another theory is that
    Angolan slaves brought the Bantu word for cannabis—ma’kaña—to the Americas via
    Brazil and Spanish-speakers later adapted it. Yet another theory traces the
    word back to the Semitic root mrr.

    Whatever its origins, there is some agreement that
    the first recorded use of a similar term was in a feature called “The American
    Congo” published in Scribner’s Magazine in 1894. In the article, author John G.
    Burke used the word “mariguan” to refer to a species of plant included in his
    description of the flora on the banks of the Rio Grande River between Texas and

    Mariguana – Mexico

    Marigwana – Haiti

    Marihuana – Croation, Czech, Danish Dutch, German,
    Polish – was the original spelling used in the USA at the time of the
    “Marihuana Tax Act of 1937”. The word marijuana was unknown to most Americans
    at the time and was used by Hearst newspapers to conceal from doctors and
    people generally the fact that it was Cannabis, an important pharmaceutical,
    which was being prohibited.

    Marihuaana – Estonia

    Mariĥuano – Esperanto

    Marijuana – the generally accepted spelling now
    used worldwide – Hindi मारिजुआना, Marathi – मारिजुआना,

    Urdu – بانگ, Persian -ماری جوانا,

    Marijuvāṉā – Tamil – மரிஜுவானா

    Marihuwana – Filipino

    Marikhuan – Mongolia, марихуан

    Marikhuana – Bulgarian – марихуана. Georgia – მარიხუანა.
    Russian – марихуана, Armenian Մարիխուանա

    Marixuana – Tajik, марихуана

    Marïxwana – Kazakh – марихуана

    Mariwana – Chile, Wales

    Mariyuana – Java

    Marychuana – Belarusian, марыхуана

    Marykhuana – Ukraine – маріхуана

  • Art Hallowed

    Feds are just wrong and they know it…rock and a hard place. It not what you say but how you say it…

  • Joshua Perry

    Thanks for the article! The most important things are here. Medical Cannabis goes forward and now there are many dipensaries work but I prefer obtaining from easy process, comfortable prices and a qualified physician who gave me cannabis consultation fully online.

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