All you need to know about cannabis slangs

cannabis slangs
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Marijuana slang has evolved for well over a century. From its early days, when cannabis was legal, to the post-prohibition era we’re in now, pot terminology has always reflected marijuana’s cultural influence.

Today, accepted terms like “weed” and “bud” are used openly in mainstream media. Meanwhile, old slang like “reefer” and new cannabis lingo like “shatter” reveal marijuana’s long, complex history in the US.

Let’s explore the diverse and colorful language that’s sprung up around cannabis over the decades. Understanding marijuana slangs provide insight into weed’s constantly changing relationship with American society.

“Marijuana” itself is slang

Before looking at slang terms for cannabis, it helps know even the word “marijuana” started as slang. In the 19th century, “cannabis” was the official name used in medicine and science for the plant Cannabis sativa.

The word “marijuana” emerged later in Mexican Spanish. Exact origins are unclear, but it may come from mariguan, meaning “intoxicant.” Or Maria Juana, slang for brothels where cannabis was used.

Early anti-cannabis campaigns spread “Marijuana”

Around 1900, American media began demonizing “marijuana” as a dangerous, addictive drug used by outsiders like Mexican immigrants. This was part of efforts to make cannabis illegal at the federal level.

Although technically still cannabis, lawmakers and newspapers used “marijuana” to stir up fear over the plant’s mind-altering properties. Cortical campaigns linked it to crime, violence, and social unrest.

So ironically, “marijuana” entered American English as a slang word used to support cannabis prohibition.

Jazz era slang: “Reefer”, “Viper”, “Mary Jane”

In the early 20th century, cannabis use was becoming popular in the emerging jazz scene and among urban minorities. With cannabis made illegal in 1937, veteran pot smokers coined insider code words and slang for marijuana:

  • “Reefer” – Believed to derive from the Mexican Spanish word “grifo” referring to cannabis flowers.
  • “Viper” – From the 1920s, describing a pot smoker. Referencing vipers or snakes, suggesting sly, sneaky behavior to conceal illegal activity.
  • “Mary Jane” – Slang name for marijuana dating to the 1920s. Origin uncertain, but may reference brothel slang like “Mary Jane shoes” for womens’ high heeled shoes.
  • “Muggles” – 1920s term referring to marijuana, popularized by early New Orleans jazz musicians.
  • “Gage” – Also 1930s jazz era slang for cannabis.

These insider terms allowed the jazz community to discuss marijuana discreetly as its use spread. Authorities unfamiliar with slang would be unaware about references to weed hidden in jazz songs and culture.

Marijuana’s association with jazz culture contributed to its “dangerous” outlaw image to mainstream society. Despite cannabis being broadly illegal, speakeasies and underground clubs enabled weed smoking to flourish in the Jazz Age.

Hippie counterculture slang

When the hippie counterculture embraced marijuana in the 1960s, new cannabis slangs entered American vocabulary:

  • “Grass” – Refers to the plant’s leaves and stems. Slang term popularized in the ‘60s.
  • “Pot” – Likely refers to container (“pot”) where marijuana is stored. In use since 1930s.
  • “Ganja” – From Sanskrit term “ganjika”, became common in 1960s referring to potent cannabis.
  • “Weed” – Long used term implying undesirable, invasive plant. Applied to cannabis in 1960s hippie era.
  • “Herb” – Borrowed from Jamaica, used for marijuana from the 1970s onward.
  • “Bud” – Describes the flower or “buds” which are harvested for consumption.

Hippies also adopted existing jazz era slang like “reefer”. This pot terminology reflected marijuana’s central role in the hippie counter-culture protest movement. Weed slang was a shared code reinforcing their ethos of peace, love, and expanded consciousness.

Ironically, the hippie era also birthed marketing terms like “skunk” and “kush” still used today to sell premium marijuana strains.

Modern marijuana slang

More recent decades have added to the diverse lexicon around cannabis:

  • Chronic – High potency strains of marijuana. ‘90s slang derived from “hydroponic” cultivation.
  • “420” – Code term referring to consuming cannabis. From urban myth of 1970s high school students meeting at 4:20pm.
  • “Dank” – High quality potent marijuana, first used 1980s.
  • “Skunk” – Strong smelling marijuana strains, named for scent similarity.
  • “Kush” – General term for potent Indica strains, first popularized in 1990s.
  • “Dabs” – Refers to butane hash oil extraction from cannabis. Related terms “dabbing” or “doing dabs”.

New specialized terms for superior strains and concentrated extracts reflect marijuana’s evolution and growing popularity since the 1990s.

The internet age has accelerated the creation and spread of cannabis slangs. Online forums enable new lingo to emerge and propagate rapidly among weed enthusiasts.

Cannabis extracts and concentrates slang

Newer marijuana extracts have also sprouted their own exotic vocabulary:

  • “Wax” – Oils thickened from butane extraction process, resembling wax.
  • “Shatter” – THC oils that form brittle, glass-like sheets when cooled post-extraction.
  • “Budder” – Soft, waxy cannabis oils resembling butter texture.
  • “Live resin” – Made from fresh frozen buds rather than dried, using a solvent like butane. High in terpenes.
  • “Full spectrum” – Contains all the cannabinoids and terpenes of the cannabis plant.
  • “Distillate” – Pure THC oil with terpenes and cannabinoids removed. Clear, odorless.
  • “Isolate” – Pure isolated powder form of THC, CBD, or other cannabinoids.

Marijuana extracts and concentrates have become more popular in states with legalized recreational use. This subset of cannabis culture has developed its own crypto-lingo.

Extract slang often describes texture, appearance, or production methods. Labels like “shatter” and “budder” let insiders discuss products discreetly.

Cannabis culture continues to evolve

Marijuana slang gives a fascinating window into America’s complex history with the cannabis plant. From its association with outsiders and minorities, to counterculture revolt, and now widespread acceptance, marijuana terminology reflects changing attitudes.

Continued legalization will likely soften pot’s edgy outlaw image. We may see formerly covert cannabis slangs become mainstream and marketed. But marijuana culture will also keep creating fresh jargon and code words. New generations of users will put their own spin on weed lingo.

Because cannabis remains a dynamic social force, with more evolution in language and culture to come. The lexicon around marijuana is sure to expand right along with legalization over the next decades.

Key highlights in marijuana slang history

Tracing the lineage of cannabis slangs reveal some interesting high points:

  • Early 20th century – “Marijuana” enters American vernacular as a pejorative term to stigmatize cannabis, ironically becoming the common word used even by users.
  • 1920s Jazz Age – Slang like “reefer”, “tea”, “gage” allows convert reference to pot in speakeasies and clubs where weed smoking spreads.
  • 1960s counterculture – Hippies adopt jazz terms like “joint” and create new ones like “grass” and “weed” that reflect marijuana’s central role in their anti-establishment movement.
  • 1990s and beyond – Potency-based terms like “chronic” arise. Specialized slang for concentrates and extracts develops as marijuana use grows.
  • Internet age – Cannabis slangs spreads rapidly online, with new lingo emerging from forums and social media.

While the legality of marijuana is changing, language and culture continue to evolve. The colorful history and future of cannabis slangs highlights weed’s deep connection to American society.

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