Cannabis plant as a species has been mentioned in scripts since the time of Ancient Greece, but it was properly cataloged in the XVIII century for the first time.
While it is estimated that its use as an intoxication method has been known to some ancient cultures its first reports in modern culture appear around the 1930s and many names for the plant and the drug derived from it come from this period.
Despite it being the most popular term to refer to the plant, “marijuana” actually is just one of the nicknames it was given to it over time. After the Mexican Revolution in 1910 there was an increased influx of immigrants to the USA from the South American continent. Many of these immigrants were farmers and common folk who had a popular intoxication method at that time for them was smoking cannabis leaves.
The term they used for the plant was “mariguana” and the anti-immigration population of the USA first made a move to ban the term, trying to further separate themselves from the immigrants. After the spread of “marijuana”, a new name for cannabis, continued along the Gulf of Mexico and all the way to New Orleans, it started to become tied to the jazz music and culture, which further sparked the mass hatred towards the plant.
It was at that time that another, albeit less popular term for the plant appeared, created to fuel the fear of the people towards the drug, the “Loco weed.”
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This particular nickname for the cannabis plant is probably the most debated one when it comes to its origin. The popular belief is that its stems from the Spanish term potiguaya or potaguaya which in term come from potación de guaya a name for the particular type of mulled wine which among other ingredients used steeped cannabis buds. The problem with this theory is that there are no records of any mention of potación de guaya which makes this theory less believable.
However, there is an alternative theory about the term that actually has ties to the term “tea”, one of the older and less popular nicknames. It is believed that the term “pot” was made as a play on words with the term “teapot” and that it remained as a popular slang term. A third theory claims that “pot” came to be, as a result of jazz musicians sometimes carrying mysterious potted plants with them.
The term “weed” actually dates all the way back to 1929, where it was first mentioned in the American Speech. After that, it was mentioned a couple of times before it disappears from the media in the late 50s. It starts to reappear in the 90s and the 00s and has since grown to be the most popular term for the cannabis plant and the drug that comes from it, in the modern media.
The rise in popularity of the term is mostly written up to the fact that newer generations have wanted to move away from “pot” which they considered their parent’s term for the cannabis plant.
While many people believe that “ganja” is a term for cannabis that originated from Jamaica, this is actually a common misconception. It is true that this particular nickname is the most widely used one in Jamaica, but it actually originates from the language called Sanskrit. During the 19th century, the British colonists were looking for a large amount of working power. They found it on the Indian subcontinent and as a result over 40,000 Indians were sent to various plantations including the ones in Jamaica.
Since cannabis or “ganja” was considered sacred in some parts of Hinduism, many laborers from India brought cannabis smoking with them to the Caribbean plantations. There they were mixed with the local workers and the practice together with the name was passed on to the Jamaican populace. This was said to be one of the cornerstones of Rastafarian culture, as smoking cannabis in Hinduism had a spiritual meaning, which the Rastafarians inherited.
Other Popular Street Names
While the above-mentioned terms are the most internationally well known, when it comes to speaking countries, there are other terms that were popularized in the later years, with some being particular to a certain area.
- Joint – a popular term for a cannabis cigarette rolled in a thinner, partially translucent paper
- Blunt – similar to joint, but rolled in a thicker, tobacco paper
- Spliff – cigarette made from the combination of tobacco and cannabis
- Bowl – glass pipe used for smoking cannabis
- Mary Jane – nickname for cannabis, derived from the term “MJ” also used as an abbreviation for “marijuana”
- Bud – nickname for cannabis, stems from the fact that cannabis buds have the highest concentration of THC in them and are most commonly smoked
These are by no means all the known nicknames or codenames for cannabis and the consumption of it. As the time goes on, more and more terms are invented each day, usually in an attempt to be able to talk about cannabis in public.
It appears that every culture or group have at least a few unique terms that they use on a regular basis, which in the long run amounts to hundreds even, thousands of known and unknown nicknames. Reefer, dope, herb, skunk and the list goes on. This just comes to show the popularity of the cannabis smoking subculture in the modern world.