Published On: January 25, 2021854 words4.6 min read

by Reverend Kelly Addison

Marijuana is a bad word.


While it may not be an “official” curse word it is becoming one of those words within the cannabis community where we use the first letter of a dirty word to refer to it – like the  “C” Word and the “F” Word (you know the words) – now, we just refer to marijuana as the “M” word, and there are a lot of good reasons why the community has taken this shift in language.

Cannabis sativa is the flowering part from the plant genus known as Cannabaceae, and cannabis is the botanical term used to describe the plant known as “weed”, “pot”, and yes, “marijuana”. “These terms are important to take note of,” says Anne-Marie Fischer, a cannabis writer who founded CannaWrite, “Cannabis has had a very dark past, and this intentional change of language shows that we are willing to bring cannabis back into the light, to make it the plant it was always intended to be.”

As noted in many history books, cannabis used to be in everything, and it grew wild almost everywhere for centuries. It was a plant that grew so wild that livestock would eat it, and when humans ate the animals, they would receive the medicinal benefits from the cannabis that was ingested. Cannabis has long been a medicine and a religious sacrament… Until it wasn’t.

Cannabis was taken from us and we were told it was bad.

In the 1930’s, the Big Pharmaceutical companies in the U.S.A. needed to start making some money so they created pills (mostly amphetamines) and told people they needed them more than the plants to make them well. Then, they decided that because it was too easy for cannabis to be grown, and people to get well and healthy from it, they will say it is evil and tell people it is associated with the races of humans that had been unfairly stigmatized and placed under prohibition in both Canada, the U.S.A., and around the world.


While marijuana may have origins in ancient Chinese medicine, the word cannabis sativa was replaced in political discourse with “Marihuana” which is the Mexican-Spanish term meaning “prisoner”, and the term was used to make the plant sound exotic as a way to somehow portray its danger.

“Marijuana” became an ugly word for hate. The people responsible for the hate, the men making all the rules, used the word to drive fear into the hearts of people who were using the plant. Advertising campaigns, movies, and magazine articles spread propaganda everywhere.

Propaganda posters from the 1940’s. Films that were made to brain wash western society in to believing cannabis was evil.


“After learning about Harry J. Anslinger, Emily Murphy, and the racist origins of Reefer Madness and prohibition, I stopped using the term ‘marijuana’,” said Tamara Lilien, Cannabis Sommelier, and Consultant at CannaLilly Consulting, “It is most appropriate to use the botanical term, ‘cannabis’.”

Propaganda posters alongside photographs of cannabis to offset the horror versus the reality of the beauty of the plant. As seen on the walls of Kelly’s Green Lounge, Orono, Ontario.

Along with the way we refer to the plant itself, language is becoming increasingly important when describing the plant’s effects.

Cultivar or “cultivated variety” is what we are calling the different types of cannabis now, rather than strain, of which there are literally thousands of these profiles. A cultivar describes the genetic makeup, terpene profiles, and specific effects of a particular type of cannabis plant. Strains are simply the names that their grower decides to call them. Names like “White Window”, “Pineapple Express”, and “Green Crack” are some varieties of what we used to refer to as strains. “Strain describes a species, like bacteria or viruses, that acts on its host, but it should not be applied to the plant world,” said Lilien.

As we work to update our language around cannabis, the words sativa, indica, and hybrid, are on their way to becoming old language in Canada. More Licensed Producers (LPs) are adding terpene profiles and cannabinoid percentages to their labelling. Laboratory testing is required to understand the plants’ cultivar profiles to categorize them by their terpenes and flavonoids.

For humans to find balance (homeostasis) in their endocannabinoid system they need to find the right combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant compounds that works for them. Going and looking for just any cannabis labeled “sativa” or “indica” is not going to give you the best benefits you need to bring balance within your mind and body. If you consume a cultivar that has a terpene in it that doesn’t agree with you, you’ll know it!

If we want cannabis to work in the best way possible, we need to keep this intentional change in language moving forward. There are only two countries in the world that have legalized cannabis (Uruguay and Canada) and it’s up to these nations to set the standards for how cannabis is talked about. If we keep using the terms of yesterday, we will not advance our studies. 

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