Why Do You Think They Call it Dope? A Round-Up of Colloquialisms for Cannabis

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Why do you think they call it dope?

There are a multitude of names for our favorite plant:  chronic, herb, indo, skunk, wacky tabacky, ganja, cheeba, salad, ‘dro, KGB, THC or OG.  Ancient Chinese, who cultivated cannabis hemp thousands of years ago, created a very simple symbol for it:  two plants hanging upside down in a shed to dry.  This creative and intuitive symbol also serves as a subtle 420-friendly tat.

In the 1700’s, Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist and the father of modern taxonomy, named it Cannabis Sativa L. (the L credits Linnaeus).  Cannabis is derived from the word canvas.  Sails made of durable hemp canvas were essential for the ships that explored new frontiers and defended homelands.  Sativa is the Latin word for useful, so Professor Linnaeus apparently understood that cannabis is nature’s Swiss Army knife.

The USDA’s Germplasm Resources Information Network classifies the genus Cannabis as a member of Cannabaceae family.  This helpful resource also contains listings for subspecies Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica.  Another branch is Cannabis Ruderalis so you can see how big the family tree of life really is.  Almost every culture on earth has its own name for cannabis hemp.  To the Spanish it is Canamo, Konopoli in Russian, Chanvre in French, Canapa is Italian and Asa in Japanese.  Much more study is needed to fully document the etymology of what I call MediCannaIndiHempyPuffaJuana, so become part of the Cannabis Curriculum and start researching!

Because its use was popular in India during the 1800’s, Indian Hemp became a common term for intoxicating cannabis.  In 1894, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission produced an extensive 3,281 page report  that concluded: “the moderate use practically produces no ill effects.”  Despite this, in the early 1900’s, a dangerous “new” drug started being reported.  Rebranded as marihuana, this evil menace supposedly caused insanity and violent behavior.  The new name was used to confuse people and to demonize the “devil’s lettuce.”

History was thrown out the window and a new means of discriminating against entire swaths of America’s multicultural fabric was created.   Immigrants from Mexico and Asia were singled out as were African American jazz musicians.  They were easy targets with no political backing.  California recently commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the 1st marihuana arrest in 1914.  It is perhaps fitting then, that California was also one of the first states that instituted a workable medical marijuana law after passing Prop 215 in 1996.

Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (i.e., the uber-drug czar fubar), made a career out of stigmatizing cannabis consumers, going so far as to include a lengthy glossary of drug terms in his 1953 book, The Traffic in Narcotics. Reprinted below are the marihuana references only.  To Anslinger, Fu stood for marihuana.  Well FU Harry.  Now, Frances Fu stands for marihuana law reform and ending the war on drugs as a leader of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.  SSDP understands that the energy and intelligence of today’s youth are essential to repealing prohibition.  It is interesting to note that by the time Anslinger wrote The Protectors in 1964, the spelling had changed to marijuana.  For many cannabis activists, the “M-word” is their “N-word.”  Some people despise it while others want to own it.  It is inexcusable, though, that supposedly objective media outlets like the Associated Press continue to vilify cannabis by using derogatory code words like pot.

So why do you think they call it dope?  This famous reefer madness tagline carries on the canard that cannabis makes you dumb and lazy.  Why don’t we ask Richard Branson, Rick Steves or Carl Sagan’s wife what they think about that?  The next time you’re enjoying a hippie speedball (a joint and a cup of coffee), remember that they can call it whatever they want.  We know that Cannabis Sativa L. is the safest and most effective medicine known to man, a great way to relax and have fun and the most versatile industrial crop around.  Put that in your smoke and pipe it, you pinheaded prohibitionists!


Source: The Traffic in Narcotics, By Harry J. Anslinger, 1953

Glossary, Pages 305-316 – Marihuana references only

*  Source: The Protectors, by Harry J. Anslinger, 1964 – Appendix II, page 229

ace – A marihuana cigarette.

bang a reefer – To smoke a marihuana cigarette.

blast – To smoke a marihuana cigarette.

blow one’s roof – To smoke marihuana.

bluesage – A marihuana cigarette.

bo-bo-bush – Marihuana.

boot the gong – To smoke opium or marihuana.

burnie – A marihuana cigarette.

crying weed – A marihuana cigarette.

drag-weed – Marihuana.

dust – Marihuana, heroin, morphine or cocaine.

fraho – Marihuana.

fu – Marihuana.

gage, gauge-butt – Marihuana.

giggle weed – Marihuana.

goof – A marihuana addict.

greta – Marihuana.

griefer – An addict who is habituated to marihuana or Mexican hemp.

griffo – Marihuana.

gyve – A marihuana cigarette.

hay – Marihuana.

heesh – Hashish.

joint – A marijuana cigarette *

jive – Marihuana.

ju-ju – A marihuana cigarette.

killer – A marihuana cigarette.

laughing weed – A marihuana cigarette.

loco weed – Marihuana.

Mary and Johnny –  A marihuana cigarette. Also the marihuana plant.

Mary Ann –  A marihuana cigarette.

Mary Werner – Marihuana. Also a marihuana cigarette.

megg, mezz – Marihuana. Also a marihuana cigarette.

miggles, muggles – Marihuana cigarettes.

moocah, mootie, mu – Marihuana.

moota – A marihuana cigarette.

pack of rocks – A package of marihuana cigarettes.

pot – A marihuana cigarette.

reefer – A marihuana cigarette.

roach – A partially consumed marihuana cigarette.

rockets – Marihuana cigarettes.

snake – An habitual smoker of marihuana.

stick – A marihuana cigarette.

stink weed – Marihuana.

tea – Marihuana.

tea-pad – A marihuana smoking den.

teo – A marihuana smoker.

Texas tea – Marihuana.

twist – A marihuana cigarette.

viper – A marihuana smoker.

weed, viper’s weed – Marihuana.

yen-pop – Marihuana.

Photo Credit: Chuck Coker under (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr