“The term ‘marijuana’ itself is pejorative and racist,” Washington state Representative Melanie Morgan, a Democrat, said regarding the piece of legislation, officially known as House Bill 1210, which she sponsored.
Morgan added that, “As recreational marijuana use became more popular, it was negatively associated with Mexican immigrants.”
“Even though it seems simple because it’s just one word, the reality is we’re healing the wrongs that were committed against black and brown people around cannabis,” she said.
Additionally, the governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, spoke out against the harmful effects of the word’s use, saying during the signing ceremony that, “The term ‘marijuana’ has a racist history in the United States.”
“It was used in anti-immigrant rhetoric in the early 20th century,” Inslee said.
“We are tied to our history of language, and changing the word to ‘cannabis’ signals that we acknowledge the history of that language that targeted communities of color.”
Local news station KIRO7 reported on the passage of the bill. The station interviewed a neighborhood weed dealer, Joy Hollingsworth, who supported the passage of the bill.
“It had been talked about for a long time in our community about how that word demonizes the cannabis plant,” she said.
“We have a lot of people, especially in the black community that went to prison over cannabis for years. That were locked up, separated from their nuclear family, which is huge,” she said.
Hollingsworth concluded by saying that, “It’s really painful for people to hear that word and it triggers them.”
Washington is part of a gang of blue states that want to ban the word “marijuana,” including Virginia and Maine, which have proposed similar legislation.
However, some experts have said the claim that “marijuana” has racist roots is half-baked at best.
“The use of the word is in no way racist,” said Isaac Campos, associate professor of history at the University of Cincinnati.
“It’s just the Mexican word for marijuana, and to stop using it is just to try to erase, essentially, Mexico’s history with this drug and Mexico’s influence on the United States.”