The Word “Marijuana” is Deemed Racist in Washington State

The Washington State Legislature recently enacted a bill that replaces the word “marijuana” in all state legislation with “cannabis,” citing the Spanish word’s purported racist origins.

According to local CBS station KIRO 7, Democratic state Rep. Melanie Morgan argued during 2021 testimony over House Bill 1210, which she sponsored, “the term ‘marijuana’ itself is derogatory and discriminatory.”

“As recreational marijuana use became more popular, it was negatively associated with Mexican immigrants,” Morgan described. “Even though it seems simple because it’s just one word, the reality is we’re healing the wrongs that were committed against Black and Brown people around cannabis.”

Morgan went on to reference Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who was a key figure in the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, which prohibited the sale and processing of marijuana.

“It was … Anslinger that said, and I quote, ‘Marijuana is the most violent causing drug in the history of mankind. And most marijuana users are Negroes, Hispanic, Caribbean, and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz, and swing result from marijuana usage,'”  Morgan stated.

She went on to say, “It was utilized as a racist euphemism to lock up Black and Brown people.”

After passing overwhelmingly on March 11, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill, and its provisions will take effect in June.

In 2020, Washington state lawmakers established the “Washington Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis,” with the goal of increasing diversity among pot shop owners by providing grants and financial aid to minority cannabis license applicants.

This piece was written by Staff Writer on April 26, 2022. It originally appeared in and is used by permission.


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