Racist words

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at ask420@newsreview.com.

Hey, Ngaio, here’s a weed question—is there anything you’d recommend for smoking that has minimal bad effects on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or are edibles my only option?


via Twitter

Aw, man. COPD (which covers a variety of ailments, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema) is generally caused by irritation and inflammation in the lungs. Cannabis is an excellent anti-inflammatory medicine, but smoking weed is definitely a lung irritant. Now, I AM NOT A DOCTOR, but available research recommends that people with COPD avoid smoking anything. For those of you worried about getting a lung disease from smoking cannabis, rest assured. The studies say that moderate cannabis use does not cause COPD, but may lead to chronic bronchitis. So I would advise everyone to moderate their smoked cannabis intake, lay off the tobacco and eat an edible every once in awhile. I wish you luck, and I hope you feel better soon.

I need to know if the word “marijuana” is offensive or not, so I can stop fighting with my friends.

—Sem Antiks

via Twitter

This is a great question. And one worthy of some discussion. The word “marijuana” is beloved by most of the cannabis culture. Along with “weed” and “pot,” it’s one of the most searched and recognized slang terms for the plant. “Mary Jane” (it’s how you say “marijuana” in English) gave Rick James a hit song. “Merry Jane” is the name of Snoop Dogg’s canna-centric website. There is a hip-hop band called “Los Marijuanos.”

The word “marijuana” is embedded deep in the everyday lexicon of the cannabis user. But it also has racist origins.

Harry Anslinger—the father of the movement to criminalize cannabis and the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930—had this to say about weed: “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.” Racist and sexist. Great.

Anslinger used the word “marijuana” to make the cannabis plant—which had been used in a variety of over-the-counter medicines before cannabis prohibition—seem more exotic and vaguely Mexican in order to drum up support for his racist dreams of prohibition. It worked. Not only did he succeed in making cannabis illegal, cannabis law enforcement became a tool to enforce systemic racism and imprison people of color.

Now, as cannabis becomes more legal every day, many people would like for folks to stop saying “marijuana” because they say it feeds into a negative stigma. I see their point, and I agree with them for the most part. However, convincing the entire world to stop using the word is a steep climb. But I feel like it is worth the effort. Language is forever changing. “Pre-rolls” used to be “doobies.” In conclusion, I would say that the word “marijuana” is indeed offensive to some people, so it is best to err on the side of caution. And stop fighting with your friends.