ANIMAL has a longstanding policy to not use the word “marijuana.” Cannabis? Sure. Weed? Definitely. Pot? Not my term of choice, but hey, it turns up sometimes. Marijuana, though? Almost never. NPR has a good article explaining why.

A common version of the story of the criminalization of pot goes like this: Cannabis was outlawed because various powerful interests (some of which have economic motives to suppress hemp production) were able to craft it into a bogeyman in the popular imagination, by spreading tales of homicidal mania touched off by consumption of the dreaded Mexican “locoweed.” Fear of brown people combined with fear of nightmare drugs used by brown people to produce a wave of public action against the “marijuana menace.” That combo led to restrictions in state after state, ultimately resulting in federal prohibition.

The piece has a fascinating history of the word’s etymology, and what that may or may not have to do with its eventual criminalization, ultimately concluding that it’s hard to conclude just where “marijuana” comes from. But it is fact, as NPR acknowledges, that references to the plant in the media flipped from “cannabis” to “marijuana” in the early 20th century, and that officials like¬†Henry Anslinger, U.S. Narcotics Commissioner in the ’30s, said things like “I wish I could show you what a small marihuana cigaret can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents,” when campaigning against cannabis in the media and to Congress.

And we’d rather not use the term with the loaded, racist backstory. So now you know.

(Photo: Eggrole/Flickr)