The Power of Language in the Perception of Cannabis
The cannabis plant has a long and turbulent history. While one of the world’s most ancient medicines, cannabis was demonized through prohibition. Beginning with Harry J. Anslinger as the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’ s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the war on drugs began. A campaign fueled by fear and racism led to a woefully misinformed public. Cannabis was no longer just a plant. It was a dangerous drug. Today, we are still experiencing the ramifications of these acts. Despite the plant’s extensive medicinal value, cannabis carries a harsh stigma and still federally illegal status.
Slang Discredits the Powers of the Plant
There are many words for cannabis, which has taken on a number of names over the years. A budding black market gave way to slang terms. Innuendos like grass, weed, refer and pot became popular among generational subcultures. In fact, it’s estimated that there are 1,000 slang words for cannabis. Why so many words for one plant? Partly out of necessity, and partly out of fun, cannabis adopted a unique set of terminology over time.
However, as the progression of cannabis moves forward, and the cannabis industry becomes a professional industry, so must our language. Words like weed or pot are not reflective of what the cannabis plant truly is. If we truly want to dismantle prohibition once and for all, we must share what cannabis actually is. There is still a lot of misinformation around cannabis today. Using terms like pot only furthers the spread of this misinformation.
Take how the media portrays legitimate cannabis businesses like dispensaries, for example. Instead of calling these places what they are, dispensaries, they are called pot shops or medical weed businesses. These terms do not carry a positive association. Nor do they accurately describe what a dispensary is. If we want to transcend beyond these negative stereotypes, we must be selective in how we present this plant to the public.
Reform Relies on Education
What will it take so that cannabis no longer carries a negative stigma? Education is one of our most powerful weapons against prohibition. The more informed the public is about cannabis, the less the stigma will stick. When people see cannabis as a plant, instead of a drug, the negative stereotypes will fall apart. They will understand that this plant is neither harmful nor dangerous. In fact, it is one of many healing plants on this planet. Helping people realize the history of cannabis and its implications today is imperative. Until people truly understand what this plant is, only then can we collectively move beyond prohibition. Education is key to this progress. This includes Marijuana Training Courses for employees of the industry as well as informational seminars geared toward the general public. As a community, we must strive to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Sharing factual, quality, and research based information is fundamental to our success in changing the public’s perception of cannabis and creating a long term professional cannabis industry in the United States – and even worldwide!
At HempStaff, we believe education is vital to dismantling prohibition. Which is why we are dedicated to budtender training for those looking to work in dispensaries. We believe knowledgeable and passionate advocates are key to progress as a community and professional industry.