Hawaii Shies Away From “Marijuana”

Marijuana vs. cannabis - Hawaii
Image: Public Domain

The term “marijuana” in relation to its medicinal use is making lawmakers in Hawaii so uncomfortable, there’s a Bill in the works to change the word in any related legislation to “cannabis”.

The word has its roots dating back to the late 1800’s and was derived from the Mexican-Spanish words marihuana or mariguana. That’s why some U.S. states still use the spelling “marihuana” in legislation. The evolution of the word was also influenced by the Spanish proper name Maria Juana – “Mary Jane”.

“”Marijuana” has no scientific basis but carries prejudicial implications rooted in racial stereotypes from the early twentieth century era when cannabis use was first criminalized in the United States,” says the Bill.

“The term “cannabis” carries no such negative connotations and is a more accurate and appropriate term to describe a plant that has been legalized for medicinal use in Hawaii, twenty-seven other states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.”

Should the bill pass muster, all references to “medical marijuana” and similar terms in the Hawaii Revised Statutes and Hawaii Administrative Rules will be amended to “medical cannabis”.

The bill moved from the Senate to the House Judiciary Committee a couple of weeks ago, which recommended its passage yesterday.

The full wording of the latest version of S.B. NO.786 can be viewed here.

Among the primary sponsors of the bill is Senator Mike Gabbard. Senator Gabbard is also a strong supporter of industrial hemp; another plant that has suffered from its association with marijuana.

Will changing the word make much difference? As we mentioned last year, how medical cannabis is referred to may be quite important with regard to perceptions.

Browsing through headlines of news items related to cannabis medicines on any day you’ll see wide use of slang terms that have strong associations with recreational and illegal use. It’s the type of thing that sticks in the mind of politicians, provides ammunition for opponents and stigmatises patients.

Using these words in media may be good clickbait, but as to whether it helps win hearts and minds or just confirms prejudices in some is another matter.