The Origin of "Marijuana"

By David Jenison

A Washington Post headline from 1905 read: “Terrors of Marihuana!” The story was one of many fed to the press by cannabis prohibitionists who wanted to see the plant banned. At the time, most readers knew about cannabis from advertisements, doctors and the local pharmacy, but “marihuana” (as it was originally spelt) was presumably something totally different. The Greek word κάνναβις—transliterated into Latin as “cannabis”—likely originated with the Scythian or Thracian tribes a long time ago. Marihuana, on the other hand, is local Spanish slang that likely originated in the late 1800s, yet its etymology is largely shrouded in mystery because the term was so rarely used. In fact, the general public first learned the term through prohibitionist propaganda that treated marihuana as a new threat, not the cannabis with which the public was already familiar. Why did prohibitionists adopt an obscure slang term rather than use the standard botanical and medical name? Where do researchers believe the word “marihuana” originated, and how did it eventually become the common name for cannabis? PRØHBTD explains.

The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906

The "Marihuana" Adoption

Harry Anslinger: The Godfather of Cannabis Prohibition

Hooked on Euphonics

The First Marihuana Tax Act Arrest

The Prohibitionist "Prisoner" Theory

Myth Busting: 420 Edition

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937

Was Harry Anslinger a Racist?

The Anslinger Gore Files

The Start of Cannabis Prohibition

Wacky Wiley

Is "Marijuana" Racist?

Should Cannabis be Legal?

What is Hemp?