We've decided to take a weekly look at a word or phrase that's caught our attention, whether for its history, usage, etymology, or just because it has an interesting story. This week, we look into how we came to call cannabis "marijuana," and the role Mexico played in that shift.
Marijuana has been intertwined with race and ethnicity in America since well before the word "marijuana" was coined. The drug, , has a disturbing case of multiple personality disorder: It's a go-to pop culture punch line. It's the foundation of a growing recreational and medicinal industry. , it's also the reason for more than half of the drug arrests in the U.S. A deeply disproportionate number of marijuana arrests (the vast majority of which are for possession) befall African-Americans, despite similar rates of usage among whites and blacks, the ACLU says.
Throughout the 19th century, news reports and medical journal articles almost always use the plant's formal name, cannabis. Numerous accounts say that "marijuana" came into popular usage in the U.S. in the early 20th century because anti-cannabis factions wanted to underscore the drug's "Mexican-ness." It was meant to play off of anti-immigrant sentiments.
For the rest of the story: http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/07/14/201981025/the-mysterious-history-of-marijuana