Marijuana or Marihuana: Cannabis Names Throughout History


Marijuana has been known by thousands of different names throughout its history. Some names are known almost worldwide – weed or cannabis – while others developed locally and their use remains somewhat limited – dagga or mota. So, what is the story behind the cannabis names we all know and use?

A Brief History of Cannabis Around the World

Cannabis may be one of humanity’s oldest cultivated crops, with evidence of its growth and use extending back 12,000 years. ‘Hemp’ was initially used to create rope, clothing, paper, and other items countries needed to grow and thrive. The first record of cannabis being used as a medicine—provided as an anesthetic during surgery—dates back to 4000 B.C. The medical encyclopedia Pen Ts’ao, supposedly compiled by Emperor Shen Nung circa 2700 B.C., lists the cannabis plant, or ‘ma’, among hundreds of other drugs and remedies.

By 1000 B.C., cannabis would make its way to Europe and India where, among other benefits, it was lauded for its ability to relieve pain and anxiety. The Anglo-Saxon invasions during the 5th century brought cannabis from the Germanic tribes to Britain. Cannabis seeds were found on Viking ships and burial mounds in the mid-9th century. Studies suggest that cannabis use varied in different countries and regions. Medieval Germans used the plant to relieve pain during childbirth. In India, ‘ganja’ was employed both for its medical benefits and its inebriating effects. Individuals in Britain, however, had little awareness about the medicinal and intoxicating effects of their ‘hemp’ until the 19th century.

Marijuana in the U.S.

From Europe, cannabis found its way to South America, where it began its climb toward the U.S. In the early 1900s, marijuana or marihuana were informal names borrowed from Mexican Spanish, according to John Hudak of the Brookings Institute, and ‘cannabis’ was still the most prevalent term for the drug in the U.S. and around the world. With the Spanish-American War of 1898, however, many Americans came to resent Mexicans and Mexican immigrants. And in the 1930s, cannabis prohibitionists sought to make the drug appear more dangerous by associating it with the colloquial Mexican name: marijuana or marihuana.

Marihuana (with an ‘h’) was the preferred spelling in the U.S. for decades, and was used in the Marihuana Tax Act of the 1930s and the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. In the 1960s, the ‘j’ spelling (marijuana) began to grow in popularity, and the ‘h’ has largely fallen out of use (except for the DEA, which continues to use marijuana and marihuana interchangeably).

Other Common Cannabis Names

If you’re talking to a relative about the pros and cons of marijuana legalization or telling your Nanna about medical marijuana laws, you’ll want to stick to the basics so everyone understands your point.

  • Cannabis
  • Marijuana
  • Pot
  • Weed

If you’re hanging out with friends who smoke (or who have watched a lot of Seth Rogan movies), you can expand your vocabulary to include common slang terms without losing your audience.

  • Green
  • Grass
  • Ganja
  • Bud
  • Buddha
  • Kush
  • Hash
  • Keef
  • Dope
  • Herb
  • Flower
  • Skunk
  • Chronic
  • Cheeba
  • Mary Jane

Boulder’s First Recreational Marijuana Dispensary

Karing Kind is Boulder’s first recreational marijuana dispensary. We have been a part of the growing cannabis industry in Colorado from the beginning, and we look forward to continuing to grow and serve Colorado residents and visitors. Our wide selection of strains, concentrates, and edibles, including our state-low marijuana tax rate and award-winning budtenders, makes us the perfect Colorado cannabis destination.

Karing Kind is located just off of US-36, one mile north of Broadway, open daily from 9am to 10pm.

While we carry a variety of strains, concentrates, edibles, salves and tinctures, inventory and stock levels fluctuate from week to week and month to month. Check our menu and follow us on Twitter for an up-to-date list of edibles, concentrates and buds available now.