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Pot? Weed? Marijuana? What Should We Call It?!

Buds! Weed! Pot, reefer, Mary J, dope, grass & ganja... the slang we use for cannabis is as diverse as the many strains of the plant itself. What are the origins of these weed nicknames? What do they mean? It's time for a history lesson on the best slang terms for cannabis.
November 11, 2022
Est. Reading: 8 minutes
Table of Contents

There are only two groups of people in this world - we know, you’ve probably heard this kind of rhetoric before, but trust us, we’ve finally boiled it down to the nitty gritty. What are these two distinctive types of people?! Simply put, the two kinds of people in the world can be grouped into the following archetypes:

Those who insist on pronouncing/spelling everything correctly

Those who use slang or give everything nicknames

That’s it, eh? Not what you were expecting? We were shocked to discover this immutable truth too, but there you have it. You’re either the kind of person who is a stickler for using full, correct names, titles or phrases - or you’re someone who has a pet name, slang or unique terms for your everyday communication.

Case in point: pot, ganja, weed, Mary J, electric lettuce, dope or… Cannabis. This plant in all its varieties comes in many forms, but it almost has as many names or slang terms as it does cannabinoids.

Have you ever wondered why cannabis has so many different identifiers? Why is it called pot? What are the differences between pot, weed buds and ganja? It’s time for a fun history lesson on the best weed nicknames and slang for weed from all over the world.

Why Is It Called Pot? Ganja? Dope?

There are so many different names for cannabis that you might assume there’s no way they’re all referring to the same plants, right? The fact that there are so many slangs for weed should tell you something about cannabis’ diversity. Many stoners have wondered aloud or quested after the answers to some of the most fundamentally intriguing questions about cannabis, such as:

Have you ever considered the thousands upon thousands of unique genetic strains of cannabis that grow in various parts of the globe?

What about the hundreds of active compounds like cannabinoids or terpenes that create a unique experience, everytime?

How has cannabis maintained such a medical, cultural & spiritual prominence for so long, all over the world? What makes it so special?

Cannabis, ganja, reefer, pot, dope and all the other weed nicknames might shed light on the answers to these big questions. Cannabis and hemp both can be hybridized, grow in many environments, exhibit unique traits from crop-to-crop, and have shown us humans a lot about indoor and outdoor cultivation. Because cannabis, ganja, pot, marijuana, reefer, hashish and other slangs for weed come in so many shapes, colors, sizes and potencies we’ve developed really diverse relationships to this wondrous plant.

Some areas in the world have a real affinity for Sativas because they naturally thrive in their environments. In other parts, Indicas reign supreme and so their cannabis preferences lean more towards Indica-strains. Then there is a huge wave of progress in the Hybrids department - everyone and their grandmother are growing & smoking incredibly potent and multifaceted Hybrid strains that are all the rage in the modern cannabis scene. Oh, and don’t forget about those autoflowers - Ruderalis are very hearty and can grow in those more northerly regions.

So, why is it called pot? What are the differences between pot and weed? Why are there so many slangs for weed and weed nicknames? There are so many characteristics that can change, be manipulated or even randomized from crop-to-crop, so every new batch of cannabis has the potential to be unique from the last. This is why there are so many weed nicknames or unique slangs for weed that dominate in certain regions of the world: cannabis means something different to different people. For some, ganja is a way of life; for others pot is a fun hangout enhancer; for many more hashish has been a traditional medicine for generations.

Another consideration for why there are so many different nicknames like bud, weed, pot and ganja has to do with cannabis’ illicit status throughout the 20th century. Cannabis is still a controlled substance in most countries around the world, and even in places like Canada where it is Federally legalized it can face scrutiny, stigma and unfair restrictions. This has been the case for many decades, and the cannabis community is nothing if they’re not innovative.

So, weed nicknames like ganja, weed, pot, grass or Mary J were sometimes created out of necessity - they couldn’t talk about cannabis outright, so they came up with alternative names for their beloved buds. Authorities caught on to terms like cannabis, hemp, marijuana and even hashish, so to avoid too much unwanted attention a lot of these slangs for weed were meant to be used as a shield for our stoner ancestors’ safety.

Now that we understand the reasons why there are so many kinds of weed nicknames, let’s take a trip down memory lane as we talk about the origins of ganja, pot, weed, dope, Mary J and other iconic slangs for weed.

Origins of Weed Nicknames & Slangs for Weed

Pot

Why is it called pot? Are we known as potheads because of this weed nickname? Or is it called pot because it’s smoked by potheads?! This ‘chicken and the egg’ situation need not apply, because “pot” actually comes from similar origins to the word “marijuana”. Potiguaya is a traditional infused wine in Mexico, one that includes cannabis blended in with grapes to produce a medicinal/spiritual draught.

Potiguaya itself wasn’t necessarily a popular export, but the name stuck as much of the United States’ cannabis supply came through Mexico. Thus, pot took the cannabis world by storm and it has continued to resonate today with us potheads.

Marijuana

Speaking of spanish-speaking influences on the cannabis lexicon, “Mary Jane”, “Mary J” or “the Juana” originate in a very controversial term we know as marijuana. Marijuana is so entrenched in the cannabis world that it’d be crazy to think of calling it anything else, right? You might actually be wrong to use this term if you knew the origins of the word.
Marijuana, or marihuana, is actually associated with its original derogatory meaning for a “prisoner” or “criminal”. As millions of immigrants flocked to the United States, Canada and the UK, they brought with them their close ties to this “evil plant” we know as cannabis. Law enforcement and governments alike started using the term “marihuana” to describe not only this despised plant, but the people they racially profiled and showed prejudice against.

Mary J was taken back by the people in a bold move to declare their rights & freedoms, but there’s no escaping the downright evil origins of the term. For this reason, many people today refrain from calling it marijuana at all, but we understand if you continue to do so - it’s an affirmation of our rights to cannabis culture & freedoms.

Ganja

One of the most memorable, roll-off-your-tongue weed nicknames ever comes to us from - you guessed it - one of the heartlands of marijuana: Jamaica. Technically speaking, the actual word “ganja” hails from India, meaning “buds of flowers” in Sanskrit. Ganja was brought into the mainstream as a popular term for marijuana by none other than Bob Marley and the Rastafari movement.

Reggae and ganja are closely linked, and since the 1960’s and 70’s ganja has continued to evolve into an entire way of life. Ganja isn’t just a slang for weed, it’s a lifestyle: good vibes, good buds, and peace & love to the world mon.

Weed

What are the differences between pot and weed? You could say that pot was more popular in the decades of free love (1950’s - 1970’s) while weed is more of a modern age term. Pot seems to be popular in the United States while weed dominated Canada & Europe, but there isn’t enough evidence to suggest this in any official capacity.

Weed is self-descriptive and it leaves little to the imagination, which is probably why it became so popular with young people in the 1990’s to today. “Weed” wasn’t meant to be derogatory even though it has been looked down upon as “dirty weed” by some authorities over the years. Weed is a young person’s cannabis term and it will continue to be used as more and more young adults turn to cannabis for their fun & health.

Dope

The dopest nickname for weed? It’s dope, bruh… duh! Dope doesn’t need much explaining because the word says it all. Authorities called anyone who consumed cannabis “dopes”, and so the weed world did what they always do - flipped the script and took back the power of the term itself.

Dope isn’t a great slang for weed because it is so nefariously associated with stigma towards “dopey, zombie-like stoner freaks”. That being said, it’s popular amongst young people today, so its resurgence probably hints at its lasting cultural significance.

Grass

Grass is green, weed is mostly green, so it makes sense that people would ‘smoke grass’, right? Simply put, grass was an endearing term that gained prominence in the 1960’s and beyond. Grass is harmless, so it seems like this weed nickname became popular because it eased some of the tensions surrounding marijuana, pot or reefer.

The grass is always greener on the other side, and we’re definitely on the other side of stigmas towards cannabis culture. We’ll continue to use this slang because it’s easy going and relaxed, just like how cannabis makes us feel.

Hashish

Hash or hashish is an ancient word of Arabic origin. Hashish is an ancient Middle Eastern word that described the powdered extracts or resins from cannabis that were rolled into waxy balls or bricks. Hash actually has a really cool and intense origin story too - hired killers would consume high-potency hashish to center them, calm their nerves or enervate their minds & bodies before committing their violent acts.

These “hashishins” became the term we’re all familiar with in “assassin”. This doesn’t mean that every contract killer is high on hash, but in the old days that’s exactly the kind of scary combination of murderous intent & brain-buzz that you’d want to avoid.

Reefer

Thanks to hilariously misguided and outdated “educational films” like Reefer Madness (1950’s), the term reefer gained popularity as a giant middle finger to “the man”. This slang for weed came about during the dark days of the reefer madness period where homes were broken into, plants were destroyed and people were wrongfully incarcerated for cannabis use/cultivation.

It’s no wonder why stoners were angry and used the term reefer almost ironically. Some suggest that reefer is also rooted in the Mexican word “grifo” which was another derogatory slang used for people who enjoyed smoking cannabis too often. Either way, reefer is a pillar of the cannabis lexicon even today, so the good guys won out in the end.

Some Honorable Mentions:
Electric Lettuce
Skunk Shrub
Chronic
Herb
Cheeba
Broccoli
Flower
Jolly Green

There you have it! The differences between buds and weed and pot and ganja are sometimes cultural, sometimes forced, and almost always come about from the strong willed populace of stoners around the globe. No matter what you call your cannabis, keep championing this plant in all its shades of green glory. Always defend your rights to consume pot, to grow ganja, to smoke dope, to stay healthy with weed, to get high with Mary J, and to improve your quality life with cannabis.

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