Keyword searches can sometimes make molehills appear to be mountains, and if this article elevates a letter-to-the-editor to the status of an opinion of the editorial board, we apologize.
A Talent, Oregon farmer has apparently brought his viticulture, biology, and chemistry books to the esoteric but weighty etymology battle about the proper name of cannabis. (We're trotting out all the $5 words we can think of since this particular guest column in the Oregonian website starts out with 9 Latin nouns in the first paragraph.)
The book he should have brought: American History.
This erudite and no doubt skilled and experienced northwestern viticulturist opines that his peers would look at him funny if he went to market to sell vitis instead of grapes, or solanum instead of tomatoes. Fair point, if it were made in a historical and social vacuum.
His argument is that using the word cannabis is a form of re-branding, and that the right word to use is marijuana. "By eschewing the long-standing colloquialisms associated with the drug, the industry is essentially rebranding itself in an effort to appear more legitimate and professional," he claims.
Now, all respect to this man, his work, and his knowledge. It's just he opinion that gives us pause.What this line of thinking misses (open history book to 1937...) is that while cannabis was known by its proper name or "hemp" in the many centuries it was used in agriculture, paper, textiles, and recreation, the word marijuana was created for a political effect. The racially-tinged invention - often spelled marihuana to emphasize its exotic sound - "...was firmly rooted in prejudices against Mexican immigrants and African-Americans, who were associated with marijuana use at the time. This racially freighted history lives on in current federal policy, which is so driven by myth and propaganda that it is almost impervious to reason."
Many argue that it's not evil to call it cannabis, but the opposite: the word 'marijuana' is akin to many vile racist terms that won't be listed here. (It is not much different than adding a racial component to the word cotton, for example.) And by adding a racial component to cannabis by calling it 'marijuana', politicians' ulterior motives enabled America's longest war (the War on Drugs) to claim a inordinate number of casualties in minority communities.
We found it ironic that this Oregonian agricultural expert would not acknowledge the historical genesis of this destructive word, and instead wag a finger at those who would try to bring its ethnically neutral and scientifically proper name into the light.
For the record: "marijuana" IS the social construct, foisted upon the world reeling from the end of Prohibition, mass migration, and the Great Depression. If any word should be left in the dustbin of history, it's this one.
image source: food.ndtv.com