What to call weed

Weed words to know; origins of cannabis slang



The etiquette does and don’ts of cannabis consumption, be mindful and considerate of others.


*In the tune of that one cannabis education jingle from 2019*

“Weed, Pot, Cannabis, Mary Jane, 10 million other names that get confusing in your brain.”

There are a lot of names used for cannabis; but what are they and where did they originate?

Cannabis is a hemp plant that naturally grows in warmer climates and is used for varying recreational and medicinal and religious reasons according to dictionary.com.

Throughout its history, cannabis has been called a string of different words. However, different references have different connotations and weights attached to them. 

Taking time to understand the history behind each word opens the opportunity to look further into the systemic issues related to cannabis. Even lawmakers are beginning to pay more attention to language use and making changes.

On March 31, Gov. Inslee passed a law to strike the word “Marijuana” from all state laws in favor of using “cannabis,” wrote David Hyde, KUOW reporter, in his article for KUOW NPR. 

“Washington Democrat Melanie Morgan, who sponsored the bill in the state House, calls the word marijuana ‘pejorative and racist.’ Morgan said replacing it is merely one way to create change,” Hyde wrote.

To gain a better understanding of Pullman’s cannabis culture, I conducted a small research experiment to see what people in the area call or heard cannabis referred to.

I called every dispensary in the Pullman area that I could find. Over the phone, each sales clerk was asked to list off every name for cannabis that they could think of.

Out of nine dispensaries, three different locations responded and a total of four dispensary employees’ answers were tallied. I also spoke with five different WSU students and repeated the same question to them. 

These are the top six most commonly said “weed words” to describe cannabis:

(Full results can be found at the bottom of the article.)

Pullman Area Dispensary Tally

Cannabis: 3

Marijuana: 3

Weed: 3

Ganja: 3

Pot: 3

Mary Jane: 2

WSU Undergraduate Students Tally


Mary Jane:4

Marijuana: 4


Cannabis: 3


After each person finished listing off cannabis words, I asked a final question: Do you know where any of these words come from or originate? 

“I think my best guess would be over the years, cultivators have come up with different terms for the plant,” dispensary sale clerk Anonymous 1 said. 

However, out of the four dispensary workers in Pullman, only one person was able to correctly identify a single word’s origins. 


 “I would say Ganja probably originates from Indian Culture, [but] I’m not really too well versed in where these words originate,” dispensary sale clerk Anon 3 said.

Despite working in such close proximity to cannabis, dispensary sales clerk Anon 2, said that until I had asked, he did not realize how much he did not know about cannabis history. 

“It’s worth reflecting, when you see coverage of the humble weed, how much global, geopolitical, historical weight is packed into even its name. All that history is still reverberating in the lives of the men and women affected by the drug every day.” Thompson said. 

So … in case you did not know, here is where those top “Weed Words” originate. 


Cannabis is the scientific name of the hemp plant. 

“Cannabis is a genus of the flowering plant family Cannabaceae, including cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis,” according to leafy.com.

The different varieties of cannabis are made unique by natural compounds called cannabinoids and have been cultivated worldwide for centuries for their medicinal properties.

Marijuana and Mary Jane

“Marihuana” or “Mariguana” is the name of the cannabis in Spanish;  “Marijuana” is an Anglicization of the word, wrote Matt Thompson, NRP Code Switch reporter, in his article “The Mysterious History Of ‘Marijuana.”

The word’s origin dates back to the late nineteenth century, according to dictionary.com. It is an Americanism for the Mexican Spanish marihuana or mariguana, which is associated with the personal name María Juana. In English, María Juana means Mary Jane.

“This disparity between ‘cannabis’ mentions pre-1900 and ‘marihuana’ references post-1900 is wildly jarring,” Thompson wrote in his NPR article. “It’s almost as though the papers are describing two different drugs.”

In the early 1900s, various articles depicted Marijuana differently from Cannabis. Historians note that ‘marijuana’ was the word most people in Mexico used for the drug cannabis by the 19th century, Hyde wrote in his KUOW article

“Anti-drug activists often used the word marijuana in a negative way, and the media and government officials also turned it against people of color, including Mexican immigrants and jazz musicians,” Hyde wrote. “Then, in 1937, the federal government outlawed the drug.”


“Cannabis is an extraordinarily global plant and has a variety of identities all around the world. This is one of the reasons the drug has so many names,” Thompson wrote.  “— ‘ganja’ comes from Sanskrit.”

“In [the Sanskrit] language, ganja is the term for female cannabis flowers that are unfertilized,” according to weedmaps.com. 

Although ganja’s origins are from India, the term was heavily popularized in Jamaica.

“Rastas, another term for followers of the Rastafari movement, use ganja as part of their spiritual practice,” according to weedmaps.com. “Musician Bob Marley was Jamaica’s most visible Rasta and often made references to Rastafari ideals and ganja in his music (including in songs like “Ganja Gun” and “One Drop”).”


Commonly eaten by cattle and horses resulting in several negative effects, ‘Locoweed’ was often mistaken for cannabis in the 20th century. 

“[Weed] starts to show up as a term for marijuana in the U.S. at the beginning of the 20th century,” wrote Mariah Woelfel, NPR reporter, in her article “Pot? Weed? Marijuana? What Should We Call It?”

The term was used for an undesirable plant as far back as the 1400s, and as a term for tobacco dating back to the 1600s, Woelfel wrote.

“This word was sometimes used interchangeably with marijuana in late 19th century Mexico, so when stories about marijuana started to make their way to the U.S., the two plants got conflated,” Woelfel wrote.


Now this one may be a shock. Pot, like many of the others … is an abbreviated word. 

“The word came into use in America in the late 1930s,” according to dictionary.com. 

“It is a shortening of the Spanish potiguaya or potaguaya that came from potación de guaya, a wine or brandy in which marijuana buds have been steeped. It literally means ‘the drink of grief.’”

The use of the word “pot” in reference to cannabis is a generational choice difference. [Pot] is used more by Generation X, as opposed to young millennials or Generation Z, Woelfel wrote in her NPR article.  

Undergraduate Students Tally


Mary Jane:4

Marijuana: 4


Cannabis: 3



Devil’s Lettuce: 2

Grass: 2




Doja: 1


Aloe Vera: 1

Anon 1 (20) WSU sophomore undergraduate student (Animal science management)

Anon 2 (19) WSU junior undergraduate student (Psychology and Human Development)

Anon 3 (18) WSU freshman undergraduate student (did not give major)

Anon 4(22) WSU Senior undergraduate student (did not give major)

Anon 5(22) WSU Senior undergraduate student (did not give major)

Pullman Area Dispensary Tally

Cannabis: 3

Marijuana: 3

Weed: 3

Ganja: 3

Pot: 3

Mary Jane: 2

Devil’s Lettuce: 2

Kush: 2

Hash: 2

Grass: 2

Dank: 1

Skunk: 1

Good stuff: 1

Trees: 1

Loud: 1

Sticky Icky: 1

Dope: 1 





Called 9 dispensaries, 3 answered 

Dispensary one: Anon 1(24), Dispensary sales clerk

Dispensary two: Anon 2 (25), Dispensary sales clerk

Dispensary three: Anon 3 (27), Dispensary sales clerk

Dispensary three: Anon 4 (31),  Dispensary store manager