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Orwell's 1984 was one of the first books to really point out how much words tend to define our reality. Though it may have been a science fiction book, there was a lot of fact to it—and you can see it in a lot of political dialogues currently going on in the American landscape.
As people start to fight for legalization of cannabis, people are getting increasingly aware of the words they use. "Medical marijuana" was the ideal term to use for a long time, but these days, many experts are believing that we should be saying cannabis instead of marijuana.
They have a point, if you think about it. Here's why you might want to switch up your word of choice a bit when talking to those who want to keep it banned.
The word "marijuana" is actually a racist term for the plant, if you consider the history of cannabis's prohibition.
Believe it or not, people used cannabis for a very long time prior to its illegalization. People were proud cannabis farmers for centuries, but when prohibition came into play, politicians were quick to point out that "marijuana" was what minorities were smoking.
Using that term remains an ugly, racist way to call Mary Jane. It's a term that's tied to decades, if not centuries, of racist policies. Racism is still a major factor in why cannabis is still illegal.
By saying cannabis instead of marijuana, you subtly guide the conversation away from prohibition's ugly roots and put cannabis on an even playing ground.
"Cannabis" is also a more proper term for the plant.
Let's focus in on the scientific side of the reason why we should say cannabis instead of marijuana. Marijuana is not the proper name for cannabis, at least when it comes to the actual scientific name for it.
It's cannabis, as in cannabis sativa or cannabis sativa indica. If you look at Wikipedia, those are the official scientific names for each plant. So, out of respect to science, you should be calling it "cannabis."
Marijuana, pot, weed, and sticky icky aren't names that inspire confidence in you.
Here's the issue most people who are pro-legalization tend to find when they're trying to open up a discussion: they get cast aside by others because of the "stupid stoner" stereotype. To be taken seriously, you need to show them that you're not stupid and that you're not just a drug addict.
When you use street names for cannabis, you're not helping yourself combat that bad image. If anything, you should say cannabis instead of marijuana to prove that you're educated on the subject.
It's also a subtle way to get people thinking of it in a medical sense.
Hearing "medical marijuana" makes many people think of potheads who are just using an issue as an excuse to get high and wasted. Obviously, this isn't the truth, but that's the kind of thing that people tend to think.
When you say the term "cannabis," there's a slightly medical and scientific connotation to it—even when you're not using the scientific name of the plant in full. People respond to these subtle nudges, and it can help them open up to the medically beneficial perks of its use.
The choice to use one term over another is a classic political trick that helps you control the dialogue.
Choosing to use the term cannabis instead of marijuana is actually taking a page from classic political discourse. By packaging it in a way that makes it more respectable or by using a term with different connotations, people end up controlling the dialogue.
This tactic may seem cheap, but it works far better than you'd expect. It's the same reason why people say they are either "pro-choice" or "pro-life," rather than "pro-choice" or "anti-choice." One sounds better than the other.
We still tend to think of "marijuana" as illegal.
Truthfully, marijuana is getting legalized in a number of states and we all know this. However, there's something kind of grimy about calling cannabis marijuana—simply because it's been hammered into our minds that it's illegal for so long.
You never really hear law enforcement talk about cannabis being illegal while using the term "cannabis." This small switch can help us see it as a potentially legal and destigmatized material.
The propaganda against cannabis always uses the term "marijuana," and sadly, a lot of people are still brainwashed that way.
We all know that marijuana is a Spanish word for cannabis. We also all tend to have the same knee-jerk reaction to the word marijuana, and associate it with being illegal. Big surprise, right? Not really.
Propaganda against cannabis has been around since the 1930s, and sad to say, it's worked. You can thank Harry Anslinger for making sure people didn't know that cannabis can cure chronic pain and a slew of different medical conditions.
A scary amount of individuals still have an instant reaction when they hear the word "marijuana" throughout much of the country, and when you've been that brainwashed, it's hard to break through years of indoctrination.
That small tweak of just saying cannabis instead of marijuana can be enough to help nudge them away from the brainwashing and let them think for themselves.
Advocates and industry members are already starting to use this term.
The green boom has led to a lot of new businesses, and way more industries than we ever imagined. Part of the establishment of any new sector is having the right lingo and establishing the right kind of buzzwords.
Industry specialists are starting to use cannabis instead of marijuana when discussing their products and legalization. If you want to get a job in the cannabis world, you'll do the same.
We need people to wake up to the benefits of medical cannabis before they get into the idea of recreational cannabis.
Getting rid of prohibition-style practices will take a step by step approach. By chipping away at laws banning the use of cannabis as a whole, we will come closer and closer to making it work.
Cannabis, as a term, connotes a medical, scientific, and therefore pharmaceutical plant. People are okay with legalizing medicine because medicine is good for you, right? Right now, we have to work on that first.
If we want to see recreational use legalized, we have to get people onboard with medical use first. Using the term cannabis instead of marijuana is a good way to start that conversation.
Lastly, it's time to change.
The United States has a lot of problems and hangups when it comes to the way we talk about cannabis—and I mean a lot. Using the term cannabis instead of marijuana is one of the easiest ways to make sure that we see the change we want to see, even if it's a slight one.
So, maybe it's time we drop the m-word, after all.