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November 22, 2022 20 mins

This is a bonus episode of PSYCHOACTIVE. The next episode of PSYCHOACTIVE will be my interview with Ellen Scanlon. She’s the host and creator of the podcast, 'How to Do the Pot,” a weekly podcast for women, by women, that tries to demystify cannabis for people looking to learn safe and trustworthy advice about a topic they might know little about. In advance of my interview with her, we're giving you an episode of her podcast called “Weed Words."

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hi, I'm Ethan Nadelman, and this is Psychoactive, a production
of I Heart Radio and Protozoa Pictures. Psychoactive is the
show where we talk about all things drugs. But any
views expressed here do not represent those of I Heart Media,
Protozoa Pictures, or their executives and employees. Indeed, heat as

(00:23):
an inveterate contrarian, I can tell you they may not
even represent my own. And nothing contained in this show
should be used as medical advice or encouragement to use
any type of drugs. Hello, Psychoactive listeners, So today I

(00:44):
have a bonus episode for you. One of my guests
coming up is Ellen Scanlon, who hosts the podcast How
to Do the Pot about women and cannabis. Their experiences,
the advice, the joys, the worries, they all have really
focused on women and marijuana. Uh that she'll be my
guest in one of the upcoming episodes and Psychoactive. But
today we bring you a special episode of her podcast.

(01:07):
It's called Weed Words. This podcast discusses cannabis and is
intended for audiences twenty one and over. Welcome to How
to Do the Pot, a podcast demystifying Cannabis for Women.
I'm Ellen Scanlon. Today's episode is part of our series
called weed Words, where we pick a tricky, telling or

(01:30):
thought provoking term, or sometimes it's a funny, fictitious or
factual phrase, and we explore all the ins and outs
of that weed word so that you can do the
pot with confidence. You've heard this plant called a lot
of names, weed, cannabis, pot, grass, or Mary Jane, and

(01:54):
you've probably heard these words in association with four twenty,
the high holiday that takes place every year on April.
The term four twenty was coined in the nineteen seventies
and has grown into a worldwide celebration of cannabis culture.
But it's hard to talk about for twenty without recognizing

(02:17):
that forty thousand people are still in prison in the
US for cannabis crimes. And did you know that while
black and white people consume cannabis at the same rates,
black people are nearly four times more likely to be
arrested for cannabis. So today, in honor of all the

(02:39):
cannabis advocates who have worked so hard for legalization and
an equitable industry, we are going to talk about a
word that may surprise you with its history. Today's weed
word marijuana. It's a word so synonymous with cannabis, and

(03:06):
sometimes it's used interchangeably, but as we'll learn today, it's
a complicated term with a pretty sordid past. Alyssa Yeoman
is a marketing manager at Leafley, the world's largest cannabis
information resource, and a co host of Leafley's podcast, The
roll Up. I asked her about the word marijuana and

(03:29):
why she thinks it's so mainstream. I think it's because
the government has an impact on how we talk about things,
in the language you use for things. In my opinion,
marijuana is someone who's maybe not yet interacting with the
plant regularly, or maybe hasn't interacted with the plant, which
I think is why we can know it's still search

(03:50):
so much, because people are trying to discover what it's about.
And I think once you're deeper into that discovery, then
you'll start using terms like cannabis or weed in marijuana,
and it kind of would drop out of your vocabulary
at that point. The origins of marijuana, the word itself
is comes from oppressive and a racist place, although it's

(04:11):
lost some of its bite because we often don't think
about the history of the word. It's still a racist word.
Just basically, all pocs were kind of lumped into these
marijuana users, so that's who it's racist against. To fully
understand this, let's talk about what to most people is
a secret history about cannabis. So to the time machine,

(04:44):
cannabis has been consumed for thousands of years all across
the world. A few notable and very old examples include
the ancient Egyptians, who use cannabis as a holy anointing oil,
the ancient Chinese, who detailed over a hundred different medicinal
uses for the plant, and in India, the Hindu god

(05:07):
Shiva is fable to have rested under a cannabis plant
and eaten its leaves. The ancient Greek, and Roman and
Arabic cultures all have records using the plant. But how
do we get from this ancient past to today's use
of the word marijuana. For that, we need to travel
to the America's, specifically the United States. Back in the

(05:33):
early sixteen hundreds, hemp was grown in the US like
any other crop. Ropes, sales, and textiles were all made
from it. By the seventeen hundreds, it was common and
President George Washington even explored the possibility of using cannabis
medicinally in his journals. By the eighteen hundreds, cannabis was

(05:54):
widely accepted as medicine and was in many mainstream products.
It was added to the U S Pharmacopeia, which contained
recipes for the formulation of popular medicines, and was listed
as a treatment for opioid withdrawal, appetite stimulation, pain, and
as an anti nausea medicine. To show you how mainstream

(06:17):
it was. By the late eighteen hundreds, Vanity Fair magazine
even advertised for a hashish candy that was quote a
pleasurable and harmless stimulant that could cure melancholy and nervousness.
Hashish was glamorized by celebrities and enjoyed by the wealthy,
and the ad wasn't considered radical. By nineteen hundred, cannabis

(06:39):
was a widely used ingredient in many different American made medications.
So what happened the US was introduced to the word marijuana.
Cannabis had been here for hundreds of years, but it
wasn't until nineteen ten when the word marijuana first appeared.

(07:00):
Up until that point, the plant was just cannabis. What's
significant about nineteen ten. From then until nineteen twenty, nearly
a million Mexican immigrants legally immigrated to the United States
to escape the Mexican Revolution. These immigrants consumed cannabis differently.

(07:21):
They smoked it recreationally, a method that really hadn't been
widely adopted by people in the US. Cannabis had been
consumed for its intoxicating effects in hashish candies and medicines
like tinctures, but now a different culture was bringing its
love of cannabis to the States. Essentially, prior to nineteen ten,

(07:42):
the word marijuana wasn't even in the American vocabulary. Marijuana
is a Mexican Spanish term. Maybe if you've seen it
spelled with an age, that's where that comes from. And
so when that started to happen and people came over,
that's when they started calling it local weed. It became
known as the Mexican menace. Anti drug advocates and anti

(08:05):
Mexican immigrant advocates began to rebrand the plant. They worked
to ensure that cannabis was no longer thought of as
a medicinal herb enjoyed for thousands of years, it became
a degraded, immoral activity that was negatively associated with Mexican immigrants.

(08:25):
People started calling it local weed loco, a Spanish word
for crazy, and marijuana spelled with an H instead of
a J, so that English speaking Americans would recognize the
pronunciation of the word. By nineteen thirteen, the first bill
banning local weed passed in California. Within the next decade,

(08:49):
twenty five other states past laws banning cannabis without any
public outcry or much political debate. Anti cannabis propaganda was
in all the headlines, usually with marijuana spelled with an H,
and things only got worse for the plant from there.

(09:11):
By the nineteen thirties, the Great Depression began to affect
millions of Americans. Unemployment was widespread, and those that didn't
lose their jobs faced pay cuts. The previous influx of
Mexican immigrants meant that there was a surplus in the
labor force, and the added competition for work meant that

(09:33):
the disdain for Mexican Americans only grew to A guy
named Harry Ann Slinger, he is like all about reefer madness,
is ready to direct this newly created Federal Brewer of
narcotics and comes out saying like marijuana is the most
violence causing drug and at the time, while as jazz

(09:55):
and stuff was on the Upswing used that to say, Hey, Mary,
juana is only used by these dark skinned people to
make them feel like they are as good as white people. Um. Yeah,
that was essentially one of the quotes that he said,
and he used this kind of went on his own
little like marijuana tour created Reefer Madness, and then that

(10:22):
led to that Marijuana Tacks Act of ninety seven where
it became federally criminalized in the US. You might remember
hearing about Harry Anslinger in our Paranoia Weed Words episode.
He was the first director of the Federal Bureau of
Narcotics and the godfather of Reefer Madness, the propaganda movement

(10:45):
and film responsible for stirring up a lot of the
fear and paranoia around cannabis that still exists today. In
case you haven't seen this now cult classic film, here's
a clip from the Refer Madness trailer. These high school
boys and girls are having a hop at the local

(11:06):
soda fountain. Innocently they dance, innocent of a new and
deadly menace lurking behind closed doors. Marijuana the burning weed
with its roots in hell. For more on refer madness,
check out our paranoia episode. Before this and before the

(11:27):
nineteen ten people were using it pretty much unanimously as
medicine and in the home. But with that coming in
and people looking for someone to blame during the Great
Depression and refer madness kind of all coinciding. That's where
we have the term marijuana come into play. In The
Marijuana Tax Act was passed, marijuana again being spelled with

(11:49):
an H instead of a J. This tax made the
plant expensive and only wealthy, primarily white people, could access cannabis.
It's not a big leap to surmise. This was an
effort to prevent people of color from consuming cannabis while
still allowing richer white Americans an opportunity to enjoy the plant.

(12:13):
By the early nineteen forties, cannabis was removed from the
U S Pharmacopeia and discredited, and in the early nineteen fifties,
the Bogs Act passed strict mandatory punishments for cannabis consumers.
Then came the nineteen sixties and the counterculture movement started
to question this narrative. President John F. Kennedy and Vice

(12:36):
President Lyndon Johnson commissioned reports that found that cannabis did
not lead to more dangerous drugs or induce violence. And
then we get to the part where we'd than war
on drugs. So this is from we fast forward from
nineteen thirties to nine eighty. Um, people are still scared
of marijuana, still associating it with people of color who

(12:59):
are bringing darkness and all of these bad things quote unquote,
and Reagan decides to use the term marijuana when doing
the War on drugs, and so marijuana becomes the term
that lawmakers are using and that they're using to demonize people.
This was the era that gave us former First Lady

(13:20):
Nancy Reagan's Just Say No campaign and President Reagan's Anti
Drug Abuse Act, which equated marijuana with heroin. As alyssa
woman just said, it was really used to demonize people,
especially people of color, and a lot of the effects
of this history are still felt heavily today. Christine de

(13:44):
la Rosa, the co founder and CEO of the People's Ecosystem,
shares what it was like to tell her traditional Mexican
parents about consuming cannabis to help with the symptoms of
the autoimmune disease lupus. And so I said, you know,
I came out because I really wanted to talk to
you about something. And they're like, okay, you know, what
do you want to talk about? And I said, well,

(14:05):
I said, the reason I look this way, the reason
I feel this way, the reason I was able to
get on a plane, the reason my doctor's cleared me
for the plane is because I have been using cannabis,
you know, to help me with my lupus, and it's
been very transformative. And I remember my mother. My dad's
looking down. My mother's like trying to compute what I'm saying.

(14:28):
And I said, you know, Mom, you told me when
I was growing up, like, don't smoke marijuana because they're
going to think you're a lazy Mexican. I said, And
when I realized that this propaganda that we were sold
as people of color has kept us from being able
to heal holistically, I said, so I've decided to go
into the cannabis business. I didn't even finish this sentence,

(14:50):
and my mother said in Spanish, um, I'll translate for you.
She was like, why are you always shaving the family
it's just like, I'm not shaming the family. It was
comical now, but I remember just feeling so, you know, like,
oh my god, I'm crushing my mother. And then I
said to her, I said, Mom, I said, you were
there with me when I was on the floor and
telling you I was dying and my house was like

(15:11):
a hot mess. I said, do you see me now,
I'm not walking with a cane. I was able to
get on a plane. I said, do you see my
eyes are brighter and my skin looks healthier, And She's
like yes, And I said I would not be here today.
I said, imagine all of the people in the US
and around the world that are in that same place
right now. And it's important that there's people of color

(15:34):
that own in the industry because other people of color
will see that, and all of the propaganda that they've
been sold about being lazy Mexicans if they smoke marijuana,
being drug lords, being cartel people is dispelled when they
see themselves reflected in the industry that's legal. And so
what I would tell other people that come from deeply

(15:54):
religious backgrounds, that come from deeply conservative areas is to
really just talk honestly with your people, whether it's your
family or your friends, and explain to them why you're
using it. And you know, if you say I want
to use it because I'm a recreational pot smoker, you'll
also tell them that, like, there's nothing wrong with this.
We've been told that there was something wrong. There was

(16:16):
a set of propaganda that was put forth to say
it's wrong, But it's actually not wrong. It's a plant.
I'm gonna tell you what's wrong. What's wrong is parmaceutical
company making billions of dollars creating oxycotton. That's wrong. Christine's
story is a powerful reminder of the lingering effects of
the decades of anti marijuana propaganda that flooded the media

(16:38):
and deeply affected people of color, especially the Mexican American community.
And while there is still a lot of work to
be done, I believe that speaking about the plant without
the added weight of a history of exclusion and prejudice
definitely helps, especially when we talk about it in English

(16:58):
in the United States. And yet, for many of us,
the choice to use or not use the word marijuana
isn't steeped in social justice or political knowledge. It's a
regurgitation of a term we've heard for decades, probably without
thinking much about it. But is marijuana an appropriate word

(17:22):
to use? Alyssa woman shares her thoughts. That's a great question.
I think cannabis is the appropriate term to use. It's
the Latin term for it, it's the the plant name.
It was the term that people were using for it
before they started using it to oppress other people. That's

(17:42):
when the switch happened. I think when it comes to
talking about cannabis and marijuana and the history of both
the term marijuana, and I think you really can't talk
about cannabis without talking about the War on drugs. I
think the best thing you can always do is remain open,
and I think people are often scared to approach conversations

(18:03):
with those who are already very enthusiastic about cannabis because
we have all this knowledge, we are keeping up with
the latest. But I think that can come off as
almost the latest in a way where there is the
gate keeping and there's all this information that someone new
coming into it isn't going to know, and then immediately
will feel like dumb for not knowing something. I found

(18:28):
out through education myself that marijuana was a Mexican Spanish word, right, like,
I wouldn't have known that before, and now when I
think about it and I hear it, I hear how Yeah,
this isn't a word that came from the English language.
But anytime you have these conversations, I think just going
in open, non judgmental, and just prepared to be patient

(18:49):
with people, knowing that many people are still scared of marijuana,
whether that because of stigma, family upbringing, or because of
a bad experience that they had when they first tried
it with someone who wasn't necessarily looking out for the
best interest. The words you use are of course up

(19:10):
to you, and I hope explaining why this particular weed
word isn't our favorite gives you a better understanding of
the deep history of cannabis in our culture. For lots
more information and past episodes, visit do the Pot dot

(19:31):
com and that's also where you can sign up for
our newsletter for sneak peaks behind the scenes. Please follow
us on socials at Do the Pot, and if you
like how to Do the Pot, please rate and review
us on Apple Podcasts. It really helps more people find
the show. Thanks to our writer Malia Grasca and our
producers Maddie Fair and Nick Patrie. I'm Ellen Scanlon, and

(19:55):
thanks for listening to How to Do the Pot. The
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