Using the Terms “Cannabis”, “Marijuana”, and “Hemp”: A 60 Second Primer

Interchanging the terms “cannabis” and “marijuana” is fine for casual conversation but can cause problems with legal analysis.

On the west coast, the term “cannabis” is quickly replacing “marijuana” as the preferred term. While this may be proper and laudable from a botanical and historical perspective, it muddies the water when analyzing legal issues. Here’s my 60 second primer on when to use these terms:

March 25, 2019

Rod Kight is an attorney who represents lawful cannabis businesses. He speaks at cannabis conferences across the country, drafts and presents cannabis legislation to foreign governments, is regularly quoted on cannabis matters in the media, and maintains the Kight on Cannabis legal blog, where he discusses legal issues affecting the cannabis industry. You can contact him here.

4 comments on “Using the Terms “Cannabis”, “Marijuana”, and “Hemp”: A 60 Second PrimerAdd yours →

  1. Marijuana is not a “made-up” term – it is the name used for many decades by the people who consumed the plant.

    1. Kathleen- Thank you for reading and commenting. To be clear, I agree that the term “marijuana” has been used for decades by people who consumed the plant. It appears that the term came into use around the turn of the century and was either invented by, or employed by, Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics. According to all accounts, Anslinger was a supporter of prohibition and the criminalization of drugs, and played a pivotal role in cannabis prohibition.

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