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Marijuana is a slang term for cannabis. Derived from Mexican Spanish and corrupted from its original spelling marihuana, the term marijuana gained popularity in the US at the turn of the 20th century. Some etymologists trace the word to the Chinese term “mar ren hua” meaning “hemp seed flower.”

“I enjoy smoking marijuana with my friends.”

“He seemed anxious before he smoked some marijuana.” 

Difference between marijuana and cannabis

Both marijuana and cannabis refer to the same plant. Marijuana, however, has a racist history in the United States.

History of marijuana

American historical figures such as Harry J. Anslinger vilified cannabis and began using “marijuana” when campaigning for the plant’s prohibition. The campaign centered largely on racism toward Mexican and Black people.

The term signaled the otherness of cannabis consumers and perpetuated white supremacy with its connotation of exoticism, ignoring the fact that by the 1920s cannabis (and its name) had already been adopted in American society as a medicine and recreational substance. Some folks use “marijuana” consciously as a way of reclaiming ownership of the term.