Slang words and synonyms

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

I have been a budtender for 10 years, and I’m still baffled why we in the culture still refer to medical marijuana as “pot,” “weed,” “grass,” etc. It seems to me that we, as patients, will never get the same treatment or respect as a patient taking pharmaceuticals simply because it’s been downgraded and laughed at for so long.

You kinda have a point, but I am not sure I agree with you. What do you suggest we do? Already, people say things like “medicating” instead of “getting high.” It’s not a “pot shop” or even a “cannabis club,” it’s a “medical marijuana dispensary.” It’s not a “joint,” it’s a “prerolled cannabis cigarette.” I mean, you refer to yourself as a “budtender” and not a “medical cannabis-dispensing professional.” And what’s wrong with a little slang? If I used the word “cannabis” every time I mentioned cannabis, this column would get hella repetitive.

I know it sounds weird when a strain has a horrible name, but ultimately, I don’t think it matters much. Use the words you like, and listen to what people mean and not just what words they use, and we will all get along fine.

I would like a job in the cannabis industry. Any tips?

Good luck. The cannabis industry seems to be having a few issues, at least in California. The vape cartridge crisis and slow sales have caused a recent spate of layoffs at more than a few larger companies. Flow Kana, Eaze, Jetty extracts and a few others have fired a bunch of folks because cannabis isn’t flying off the shelves.

Why? Well, there are a few issues. The biggest one is most likely the fact that while cannabis is supposed to be legal all over California, only 20% of cities and counties even allow for cannabis businesses. Another factor is that high taxes make it difficult for cannabis dispensaries to compete with the traditional illegal market. Michael Steinmetz, founder and CEO of Flow Kana, had this to say recently in The Sacramento Bee: “We ask elected officials to ease the heavy state tax burden which makes licensed retailers non-competitive with the illicit market. As a model, we ask the state to look to the craft beer industry and help us create a tax structure based on measured output and production so that smaller businesses labor under a lower rate.”

He also goes on to ask the state to find better ways to help illicit vendors move into the legal and licensed marketplace.

He is right. California regulators are doing their best, I suppose, but the regulatory scheme has had problems from the start. It’s not just the taxes. The cost to open a club is sky-high. Not to mention all of the shenanigans and behind-the-scenes chicanery that have allowed shortsighted, big money operators to push smaller operators out of the game. The whole thing is a mess, and I hope the state can get it together enough so that we can have a thriving, profitable and well-regulated industry in 2020.