Article written by
Shanti RyleContent Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
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Some authorities estimate that there are at least 1,200 slang words related to cannabis, with more added all the time as its cultural influence evolves. Cannabis is its proper name, but we at Leafwell and throughout the industry will often use terms like medical marijuana, or weed, to reach people who are less familiar with the word.
This article dives into some of the most well-known slang terms for cannabis and why a single plant has hundreds and hundreds of different names.
Why Are There So Many Slang Terms for Cannabis?
If cannabis or Cannabis sativa is the scientifically correct word, why do we need hundreds of slang words to describe it?
As with most slang, the many words for marijuana arose from a need to conceal discussion about it from authority figures or are words borrowed from other languages or cultures. There were dozens of terms for cannabis before governments across the globe made it illegal, exponentially increasing the variety of individuals coming up with their own turns of phrase.
The illegality created the need for new terminology, and as legalization changes, so do the terms. But weed, pot, ganja, and grass still are commonly understood to refer to cannabis, even as it becomes more mainstream, and users’ creativity when it comes to naming is unlikely to wane.
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Street Slang for Cannabis
The term “pot” derives from the word “potiguaya,” Spanish for marijuana leaves. It was first used in the U.S. in the 1930s and could also refer to “potacion de guaya,” a wine in which marijuana buds have been steeped, translated as “the drink of grief.”
Along with bush or weed, “grass” refers to the bushy green color and texture of cannabis plants, especially in shake form. Many cannabis plants growing together also look similar to a grassy field.
Mary Jane is a pun on the word marijuana, which is thought to be a compound of the Spanish names Maria and Juana. However, no one is sure where the Spanish word “marijuana” first came from, though many have speculated. One of the most plausible theories is adapting the Chinese word for hemp seed flower, “ma ren hua,” which mutated when immigrants brought it to the Americas.
Dope originally referred to opium in the late 19th century, but by the mid-1900s, it referred to all other drugs, particularly marijuana. It could also refer to the “dopey” attitude adopted by some under the influence of so-called indica strains’ sedative effects.
The word “reefer” appeared first on the scene in the 1930s in Don Redman’s song “Reefer Man.” It’s an Anglicized version of the Spanish “grifo,” which is Mexican slang to describe a person under the influence of cannabis. Grifo also refers to tangled, frizzy hair and appropriately can extend to someone in a similarly fuzzy mental state.
Ganja is an ancient Hindi or Sanskrit word for the hemp plant. The term made its way into the Rastafarian culture through England’s transportation of nearly 40,000 indentured Indian people to Jamaica in the mid-to-late 19th century to work on sugar cane plantations. Their knowledge of hemp and its preparations was passed down until ganja became popularized by Rastafarianism, spreading worldwide in the 20th century.
We have rapper Snoop Dogg to thank for this word, which refers to highly potent strains (cultivars). He revealed in a 2014 interview that he misheard the word “hydroponic” – a method for watering cannabis plants – as “hydrochronic” at a party in 1991. He shortened the word to “chronic” and used it as the title of his record.
Slang for Types of Cannabis
Hash is short for “hashish,” the Arabic word for “dried herb,” specifically referring to the highly potent, concentrated resin from the collected trichomes of the cannabis plant. One of its earliest recorded uses is in 1001 Arabian Nights, in “The Tale of the Hashish Eater.”
Bhang refers to the dried leaves of the Cannabis indica plant, from the Sanskrit word “bhangah” for hemp. It is also a preparation of the hemp plant, usually in a drink, with its earliest recorded use in 1000 B.C.
As a cultural term, sativa is used to describe varieties of cannabis, or strains, that have more energizing or “upper” effects, such as Sour Diesel or Blue Dream. Scientifically, Cannabis sativa is a subspecies of cannabis with long, thin fan leaves and taller stalks.
Indica refers colloquially to cannabis strains that produce more relaxing, sedative, and appetite-stimulating effects. Strains like Blueberry Kush or Northern Lights are often used in the evening, when little mental energy is needed or desired, or for more physical relief. Cannabis indica is a subspecies of Cannabis sativa with squat bushes and shorter, broader fan leaves. There is little to differentiate between an indica or sativa varietal, as they are generally more similar than different on a chemical level.
Hybrid is a catch-all cultural term that refers to a strain of cannabis resulting from breeding two other varieties. In practice, all cannabis strains are a hybrid of some sort. In dispensaries, budtenders often use “hybrid” to categorize strains that fall between the more energizing sativas and relaxing indicas.
Ditch weed is technically a term for wild cannabis plants: feral marijuana that grows in the wild descended from industrial hemp plants before cannabis was made illegal. Ditch weed contains little to no amounts of THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis.
Cannabis Slang for Ingestion Methods
The word “toking” most likely originates from the Spanish word “tocar,” which translates to “touch” or “tap.” In the mid-1950s, it became U.S. slang used to refer to the smoking of a cannabis cigarette.
The term “dabbing” in cannabis refers to the act of heating concentrated THC extracted from cannabis and inhaling the vapors, usually using an apparatus called a dab rig. While its origins are uncertain, some sources claim it is related to the popular dance move “the dab,” which looks like the action one would take when coughing after consuming a concentrate.
The word “blazing” comes from the fire used to smoke cannabis and refers to the fiery tip at the end of a joint or in a freshly-lit bowl. The word blaze means to burn brightly or fiercely.
The word “cheeching” comes from actor and cannabis advocate Cheech Marin, a heavy legalization proponent. Weed is sometimes called “cheech,” and the act of “cheeching” means simply consuming cannabis, usually in smoked form.
While not much is known about this term’s origins, cannabis flower can sometimes look like miniature pine trees; particularly buds with long, conical structures. “Smoking trees” may refer to this shape and the act of smoking cannabis.
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