Lt. Governor and Other Dignitaries Scolded for Using the Word ‘Marijuana’


A law enforcement officer stands in front of a poster advertising the Cannabis Film Festival. [Photo by Kim Sallaway. See his work here.]

On Friday, the Lt. Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, and other members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy came to talk with Emerald Triangle growers about marijuana regulation in preparation for possible legalization in 2016 and got an earful about why they should use the word cannabis instead.

The sheer enormity of the Lt. Governor of California arriving in this rural Southern Humboldt community to listen to cannabis farmers (and others) speak helped create an enthusiastic crowd for the out-of-town visitors. Nonetheless, one of the participants called the commission to task for using “racist” terminology. The word “marijuana,” he insisted, should be scrapped and “cannabis” used instead. The crowd enthusiastically agreed.


Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom

Throughout the rest of the meeting, commission members struggled to switch to the usage preferred by the audience. At one point, Assemblymember Jim Wood apologized for using the word marijuana saying that the crowd had “educated” him.

When the meeting began, Newsome pointed out that the panel was there to learn. He related that his mother had taught him “seek first to understand before you seek to be understood.”

But over a year into the two years the commission is slated to operate, understanding the positions of the small farmers in the Emerald Triangle proved tricky. Marijuana and cannabis weren’t the only words indicating a gulf existed between these constituents and their representatives. Understanding the farmers’ need for a regulatory framework that addressed on the ground realities can be difficult for those outside the community. At one point a woman grower asked what rules were the commission considering recommending in regards to bringing cannabis to market–she wanted to know what would be done about legal issues that small farms face as they transport their product from the county the cannabis is grown in to another county where the cannabis is dispensed..

Representative Jared Huffman looked puzzled and asked, “Do you mean trafficking?” The audience groaned and several members of the crowd struggled to explain the nuances without much success.

Nonetheless, there were moments when the crowd spoke and the representatives appeared to have heard and understood the message. One such moment occurred when 25-year-old Jonathan Baker a local resident, spoke. He explained that he was a second generation cannabis farmer and he was worried about “big industry” taking over cannabis production. “Cannabis,” he said, “is [currently] produced by many many small farmers… We do not want 30 to 50 permits for the entire state.” The crowd applauded fervently.

“There are 4000 or more outdoor farms,” Baker said, “Let alone indoor. Please make it viable for all of us to enter [into legal production.]

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Standing room only crowd at Friday’s meeting in Garberville.

For many of the small farmers packing the room during a busy work season, this meeting offered hope that their representatives were developing a regulatory framework that would allow not only them but their children and their children’s children to make a legal living growing cannabis. The members of the commission appeared to agree though for a different reason. According to a report issued in March by the commission,

Keeping marijuana businesses small increases the cost of inspections (due to more numerous sites to be inspected), but also may yield smaller operations which can less easily marshal the resources necessary to overly influence the regulatory process. Allowing large corporate entities makes regulatory inspection easier, but raises risks of regulatory capture.

Marijuana vs cannabis, traveling with product vs trafficking—words show mindsets. As policy makers struggle to use words acceptable to the cannabis community, the effort will shape minds that shape policies.

Friday’s dialogue may be another step towards a society where cannabis farmers are as mainstream as grape growers.




    They will NEVER allow the little guy to have a chunk of the American Dream. In fact, they will tell lies to make you think your life matters to them, and in the end when you realize you’ve been scammed it will be far too late to do anything about it.

    California needs to resist government weed, bean counters, and the coming corporate take over of an industry they fought a war against, and lost it due to their crushing debt.

    If they want to bring it into the open, let’s see them put their money where their mouth is and free prisoners, forgo fines, and let’s hear them say they are sorry for their actions. Anything short of that is simply another lie being told as they move on the game board to steal an industry they had nothing to do with creating.

    Weed should be lawful, allowing ANYONE to enter the industry and should be regulated nothing more than your backyard squash garden.

    Anytime a politician’s lips are moving a lie is being told, along with a back room deal in the works. Trust them as far as you can throw them.

    • Good post, which I agree mostly with. The part I don’t agree with is complicated to explain, but easily identified once exposed. The community might be reclaiming a God given inalienable right, by going along with the program, but they will be signing away another. The 2nd amendment is tossed into the framework. No firearms allowed for cultivators, says the DOJ. Even though there are already genuine laws expanding the severity of punishment for criminals who use a firearm while committing a crime. Cultivating is not a crime, unless the cultivator owns a firearm. Therefore, many cultivators, from peach trees to rhubarb to pot, will now be criminals for another insane reason.
      Combine this with the Water Board regulations that declare pot as agriculture in order to instill across the board regulations. Any garden over 6 plants is now considered industrial agriculture. Agriculture regulations now include pot. Pot, agriculture, all one word. See where this is going? Even the average hobby gardener who grows nothing but rhubarb will not be able to own a firearm if they harvest their rhubarb.


        No doubt there is a greater evil behind the curtain, herding the cattle into pens and selling them into slavery.
        The war on pot has been won by the people that began the movement- we shouldn’t be so quick to sign away rights and call it good. When your enemy is retreating they are chased down and given no rest.
        Sadly, far too many “Americans” are quick to roll over and call it a day.

        Look at Washington where the government growers are hunting the medical people out of anger they cut into the corporate/gov profit. If California bows to tyranny, one of the last free markets will be sunk with no recourse for those that suffered under the violent occupation and destruction of their Rights, Liberty, and Happiness.

        Shouldn’t California lead the nation into freeing the weed? They really need our help, and we need to defeat government weed.

    • Great post, thanks

    • You have had that American dream in the form of an un-taxed occupation comprised of greater freedoms and profits than most of your fellow Americans will ever know and if you didn’t make the most of it and savor it it’s your fault alone.
      “Regulated no more than backyard squash”!?!? Yeah, look how well that has worked for our flora and fauna! If you want to sell you should and will have to adhere to water, fertilizer, herbicide, and insecticide regulations just like other farmers and the landscapers. Get over it, get on board, or get out and take action. These are the good old days….

  • Kym, I don’t think cannabis growers will ever be as mainstream as grape growers, nor will they ever be regulated on the same level. That’s just the political reality at this point in time when the United States is in transition from Prohibition to accepting that adults have the right to chose their intoxicant or medicines without fear of persecution from governments. The reason should be obvious; for good or bad, cannabis is a more powerful psychoactive substance than wine and that scares people in government, so like it or not, that fear gives rise to attempts to control as was clearly demonstrated by all the moralizing, fear mongering and racist undertones that started Prohibition beginning in 1914 in California, then continued with Harry J. Anslinger at the FBN.

    I agree with the people who want to call the plant it’s Latinized name “cannabis” for the purposes of legalization. Lt. Governor Newsom should change the name of his commission as a sign of his education. I don’t blame the people who want to remind him of the historical context of the word “Marijuana” as associated with government control of the plant.

    But let’s not forget that this plant has been called by many names for millennia. The ancient Greeks called it “Kannabis”. The father of Chinese medicine called it “Ma” in 2700BC. The Indians, “Ganja” since the beginning. I’m comfortable with Spanish-Mexican “Marihuana” which pre-dates the racist beginnings of Prohibition. And I’m even comfortable with the anglicized spelling “Marijuana” and all the other names which demonstrate the cultural diversity of the plant.

    With a plant that has so many known uses and so much potential I think more people should lighten up and accept that cannabis will always have many names.

  • regulatory capture..ongoing and relentless…thanks for pointing that out, yet again.

    Another version of ‘some people get busted, and some don’t.’

  • It will be so classic when all of you country bumpkins get squeezed out by the gov. It’s going to price you out of the market. You are lucky right now to get 1400 a pound, that number will fall significantly with legalization making profit margins slim to non for little guys. It’s a straight up fantasy to think you all will survive legalization. You can claim craft market and better product but reality is that the average cannabis user doesn’t really care. You give any city dweller the option of a pricier organic or a not so pricey non organic and see what happens. The future for many is dim. Better get your construction/contractor business going soon.

    • I think you are substantially right about this. I used to say I’d favor pot decriminalization when they decriminalized all drugs. The removal of impetus for heinous drug-related crimes and the despicable uses to which the profits are put by our own government would definitely justify putting my homies out of business.

      I changed my mind on it only because the extent of the medical uses has become clear to me and there are too many really poor people dying of things pot can cure or palliate. They NEED cheap pot. They NEED to be able to grow it themselves or get it cheaply enough or a bunch of serious illnesses are death sentences for them.

      Still, I’m worried when it’s legal to grow and own and sell and the big boys are the only ones profiting, they will be trying to make it illegal to grow your own soon after they’ve gotten established.

  • Opposition to the word “marijuana” is a sad example of the holier-than-thou attitude that the language police display when wanting to divert attention from the issues at hand to the question of who has the moral high ground, and who is part of the politically correct elite. But if you look at the issue in some depth, you will find that a rational line of thought might lead you to conclude that “mariguana” (pronounced “marihuana”) is actually the most respectful term for the good herb.
    Just because Anslinger and the anti-Mexicans “co-opted” the term in the 1930s doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reclaim it. Norteamericanos called it “marihuana” because its introduction in this country indeed came from south of the border. And in the 1970s, when i started smoking weed, it was usually Colombian, Panamanian, or Mexican. Why not respect the people who brought our attention to this herb, by using a traditional Mexican word for it? It’s a GOOD thing, right, not a put-down, to associate a culture with this herb?
    In my opinion, what would be racist would be anglicizing the word to “Mary Jane,” although that does have a friendly, feminine sound. Going to the ancient root “Cannabis” is fine, but i don’t like to cut the Pacific coast Natives out of the picture–so when i go to any word more formal than “weed” or “bud” or “herb,” it will usually be the very respectful “marijuana.”
    (I did some searching through Google books. Couldn’t find the supposed quote from 1874 H.H. Bancroft that first used the word “marijuana” or some form, in his study of Pacific tribes and their cultural byways. But i did find a reprint of some of the original Bancroft material on pp. 143-144 of this book: “Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs,” by Isaac Campos, 2012–looks like a very interesting read.)

    • Not really the holier-than-thou attitude at work here, I don’t think, so much as hating that the PTB have made that word too synonymous with unholiness, and, even more, arguing semantics is a much safer way to show up in support without distinguishing oneself as someone on whom their attention should dwell.

      • Fair enough. I shouldn’t have used such derogatory language. I just get irked at how crowds of people will go along with some persuasive line of what looks at first glance like righteous reasoning.

        Just to press my point further, how about the fact that witches once called themselves that; then the Church and often the State made that word sound evil, associated with crimes punishable by grisly death. Today the witches have been able to reclaim their name with pride. Just because oppressors associated them with wickedness, should they deny their own existence and heritage?

        I think perhaps the reason it’s different with cannabis is that the c-word advocates are trying to act as if they are only into the quantifiable medicinal qualities of the plant, and while “cannabis” (often an ingredient in Victorian-era tinctures and later pharmaceuticals) suggests a scientifically-identified and approved Latin-lexicon botanical, “marijuana” brings to mind getting high, feeling enhanced love of life, of music, of sex, and a questioning of “the man’s” demands on your time and your mind–all those things the War-on-Drugs people claimed happened when you smoked the reefer.

        I proudly own that i love these things about weed, and get a kick out of those who pretend the reasons they want to grow it, or that it has such great market value, do not include that it gets you high! (Not that there aren’t those people who are attached to the promise of high-CBD, or low-THC, alternatives. Maybe we should go ahead and distinguish a common habit of saying “cannabis” when you mean that, and “marijuana” when you mean good ol’ sinsemilla, get-you-high, bud–or leaf–or hash–etc.)

        • I usually call it “dope”. Covers most of the bases! 😎

          I’m in the middle of trying to overcome how much discomfort it gives me. Just turns me into a sex crazed piece of furniture who feels kind of panicky and like she has to concentrate to keep breathing until… bonk… lights out.

          I’m a circus of sleep disorders, and dope makes me fall asleep about 98% of the time. Silly part is I quit smoking dope except rarely forty years ago, and completely at least ten years ago, because other than the couple moments laughing at myself for being an immobilized sex fiend, I was seriously not enjoying myself and kept falling asleep. Took me all this time to go, wait a minute, I can’t sleep!

          I don’t want to turn into a pill freak. Not negotiable. But once in a while I am forced to take one so I can sleep at all. It’s AWFUL. What kind of a twit am I to forget that one of the main reasons I stopped smoking pot was because it made me fall asleep?

          So now I resort to suffering that discomfort, that panicky feeling, when I really MUST get some sleep and only take a pill when I can’t face the alternative.

          • I know what you mean, Nines. I often get very panicky and anxious when high. In the right amounts, it just adds zest and thrill to everything–the adventure of going outside to get firewood! the challenge of answering the telephone! –Anything could happen! But sometimes it’s too much, especially around people–social anxiety is no picnic. However, all that energy taken up in shaking with excitement is usually followed by a good, deep, toasted exhaustion, and a solid night’s sleep. In fact, sometimes i miss being aware of my dreams, so i lay off the weed for a while and sleep lightly enough to know some dreamtime.
            Glad “the dope” can work for your sleep problems.

          • Some people use high CBD cannabis to help with the anxiety.

    • Henry Rollins has a new show one of which was about Cannabis. He claimed the word actually comes from a Mexican mispronounced version of a much older Chinese name given to the plant.

    • Regarding your judgment that its a holier-than-thou attitude, I would observe also that it is a political tactic to get the civil rights for a minority group of citizens that has been historically disrespected and marginalized by the mainstream society. For example, look at the development of the Gay Rights movement and how they brought about word changes like its no longer socially acceptable to say f*g in general.

  • I imagine when that dope grower stood up and scolded everyone for using the term marijuana Sheriff Downing was thinking to himself “See you next week punk”.

  • Gavin Newsom is so pale in the photo insert I almost mistook him for ” Data ” from Star Trek.

  • “Allowing large corporate entities makes regulatory inspection easier, but raises risks of regulatory capture.”


  • Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet.

  • Great, Newsom has been schooled on using the term “Marijuana”. Aside from the medical aspects , the use of pot is drug use, but since we have to sugar coat it I won’t call you a Drug User, I will call you Reality Challenged.

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