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Cannabis – What’s In A Name?

In the battle for hearts and minds concerning medical marijuana, how it’s referred to may be quite important.

Cannabis has many slang names – just to name a few : pot, dope, weed, mary jane, wacky tabacky, grass, indian hemp and ganja. Then there’s the associated jargon such as bong, stoner, baked, etc. etc. etc.

Word associations are important – for most people, any of these terms may bring to mind recreational use of the plant and perhaps stir up a “reefer madness” type of attitude. Whether that’s justified or not is an entirely separate issue.

While by no means a scientific survey, a recent poll run by Orlando Business Journal  indicated nearly three-quarters of participants said slang terms should not be used in the naming of medical marijuana stores.

Medical cannabis is a hot button topic in Florida. It does have a lot of support (around 7 in 10 voters) in that state, but shifting perceptions has been a crucial aspect in a campaign to get the issue of medical cannabis on the ballot this year.

While using terms or slang associated with recreational use may make for clever headlines, product or store names; it may not do much for the cause – in Florida or elsewhere. It certainly doesn’t help to enhance the credibility of medical cannabis.

To use a non-medicinal comparison; in the alcoholic beverage industry it’s rare to see a bottle of wine name along the lines of “Legless” or a liquor store called “Inebriated Incorporated”. Nor does it use imagery of someone sitting at home getting plastered. In fact, any sort of reference to intoxication is avoided, even though alcoholic drinks are widely used for their effects.

Why? Perceptions.

So it makes even less sense to use recreational use terminology to describe, discuss or promote a product that has a primary purpose of therapy; and in the case of marijuana compounds such as cannabidiol, has no narcotic effect.

In order for what is perceived to be extreme to become mainstream, it needs to appear to be mainstream. Medical cannabis and associated products need to be divorced entirely from the recreational use aspect. It’s medicine – it’s serious stuff, not r & r.

It’s challenging enough in many places in the world to stop prejudices coming to the fore even when using correct terminology such as “cannabis”, “marijuana” or “industrial hemp“. The industry shouldn’t make it harder for itself and probably also needs to communicate this when dealing with the press.

Terry Lassitenaz
Terry Lassitenaz writes exclusively for Hemp Gazette and has done so since the site launched in 2015. He has a special interest in the political arena relating to medical cannabis, particularly in Australia, and addressing the many myths surrounding this incredibly useful plant. You can contact Terry here.

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