On Feb. 2, 2018, NowThis Politics posted a video online saying people needed to stop using the word “marijuana,” due to the racist history behind it’s meaning. Although this argument is nothing new, it is still important to understand what makes marijuana such a controversial word.
During the early 20th century, marijuana became a popular translation in the U.S. for a plant known as cannabis. Prohibitionists against cannabis used the term marijuana to associate it with the Mexican immigrants that brought it into the U.S.
The prejudice against the Mexican immigrants and the fear of what cannabis could do, created a myth that the drug would cause people to commit violent crime. Rumors of Mexicans distributing cannabis to American school children also sprouted as a result of the U.S.’s paranoia.
The Director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger used the myth about cannabis being a dangerous foreign drug to promote the Marijuana Tax Act Of 1937. Anslinger’s propaganda campaign against marijuana targeted people of color as examples of marijuana’s violence inducing effects.
Despite learning about the history of marijuana, I believe that NowThis Politics’s argument claiming marijuana to be an offensive term is no longer relevant in today’s culture. Though the term marijuana may have a history of racism, its initial offensive meaning has now changed to something more harmless.
Saying the word marijuana does not seem to have the same racial implications with people today as it did in the 20th century.There is usually no intended malice whenever a person uses the word marijuana to describe cannabis. Now, marijuana is considered just another way of defining a psychoactive drug.
Although I believe that marijuana is no longer an offensive term, I do not think that it is wrong for people to say that the word still has negative racial implications. False conceptions about marijuana still exist in the U.S. despite them no longer being as widespread as they used to be.
There are people such as the United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Republican State Representative Steve Alford who still associate marijuana use as a cause of violent crime.