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 "Marihuana" Adoption

The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906

Hooked on Euphonics

The Prohibitionist "Prisoner" Theory

Wacky Wiley

Harry Anslinger: The Godfather of Cannabis Prohibition

The Muckrakers!

Is the Term "Marijuana" Racist?

Timothy Leary vs. Marihuana Tax Act

The First Marihuana Tax Act Arrest

Nixon vs. Shafer Commission

Nixon vs. Lennon

Prohibition’s Racist Roots

Cannabis and the CSA

The Substance Schedules