Wednesday, January 29, 2014

With legalization comes shift in language and branding for cannabis

The path to legalization and acceptance of cannabis in the US is beginning to track the Prohibition era giving way to the modern market for alcohol. Pejoratives like "hooch" and generic terms like whiskey slowly transformed into respected brand names and less loaded descriptions as the product is recognized as less of a threat and social evil. We are now seeing the same with "weed" and "marijuana", as such references disappear in favor of the less judgmental "cannabis" and recognized strain names and artisanal branding. In 20 years even "getting high" may sound like a relic of the Cheech and Chong past.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Boston Globe

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Back in the 1990s, when my parents tried to talk to my brother and me about marijuana, the word they used was 'dope'—which for us meant either 'heroin” or 'Hello, I am a clueless baby boomer.' Slang terms for drugs are notoriously hard to pin down: Pity the poor ethno-linguist with her notepad, trailing kids through schoolyards and back alleys to quiz them about the etymology of 'crunked.'

These days, though, marijuana language is beginning to come clean. Starting this year, Colorado and Washington state have legalized recreational use; meanwhile, Massachusetts and 19 other states, plus the District of Columbia, now allow the prescription of medical marijuana. As this underground economy goes legit, language is moving along with it, serving as a kind of barometer of the drug’s political fortunes. In 20 years, calling marijuana 'weed'—or even, some say, 'marijuana'—may sound about as antiquated as asking for a glass of 'hooch' after Prohibition.

For many of the drug’s defenders, the word 'marijuana' has a pejorative meaning that dates back to the birth of the American antidrug movement. Until the early 20th century, the plant was generally known as 'cannabis,' its Latin genus name, or 'hemp'; it shows up on early American prescribing records and was dispensed as a cure-all. 'Marijuana,' a Mexican Spanish term with obscure roots, began to take over during the prohibition efforts of the 1920s and 1930s, spearheaded by Federal Bureau of Narcotics head Harry J. Anslinger and given popular voice in the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst. Like 'reefer,' a slang term associated with African-Americans, 'marijuana' was used to gin up racial fears of the drug’s social effects. NPR’s Codeswitch blog recently quoted one 1925 headline from The New York Times: 'Mexican, Crazed By Marihuana, Runs Amuck With Butcher Knife.'

Jack Herer’s 'The Emperor Wears No Clothes,' a seminal text for the medical marijuana movement first published in 1985, lays out a somewhat sensationalized version of the racist history of prohibition and refers to cannabis as 'the plant we denigrate with the slang name marijuana.' Since then, and particularly as legalization battles spread from California in 1996 across the country, 'marijuana' has become a shibboleth. 'If somebody uses "cannabis" it means he’s more or less pro-normalization, and someone who uses "marijuana" is anti,' Mark A.R. Kleiman, a drug policy expert at UCLA, told me. When Ricardo Baca became The Denver Post’s first-ever 'marijuana editor' last fall, he received a flurry of e-mails and Reddit messages begging him to change the title to 'cannabis editor' and alter the Post’s style guide accordingly. He and the Post’s copy chief decided not to, because marijuana is still the more common term. But, given activists’ energy, he said, 'I do think we’ll see more of the word "cannabis" in the coming years.'

The shift toward 'cannabis' has been accompanied by a slow creep of medical language into the lexicon. Dale Gieringer, a researcher and the California state coordinator of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, known as NORML, said that in his social circle, 'Let’s get high' has been replaced by a semifacetious 'Let’s medicate!' Dispensary names in medical-marijuana states offer a glimpse of the drug’s new quasi-medical, quasi-legal landscape, in which providers’ need to be vague (to avoid federal prosecution) meets the need to promote to a wide-ranging clientele. In Denver, names run the gamut from direct ('Discount Medical Marijuana') to white-coat-esque ('Medicinal Wellness Center') to woo-woo ('Greener Pasture Compassion Center')—each selling an image of marijuana, as well as the product itself."

No comments:

Post a Comment