Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed a bill to change the word “marijuana” to “cannabis” throughout the Revised Code of Washington, the Cannabis Observer reports.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Melanie Morgan (D), who also chairs the state’s Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force, and was one of the only cannabis-related bills to pass the Washington legislature this session. HB 1210 took more than a year to make it to the governor’s desk, the Observer notes.
During the bill signing ceremony, Gov. Inslee said the term “marijuana” has “a racist history in the United States. It was used in anti-immigrant rhetoric in the early 20th century.
“We are tied to our history of language,” the governor said, and the change “signals that we acknowledge the history of that language that targeted communities of color.”
Gov. Inslee is referring to the adoption of the word “marijuana” by cannabis prohibition factions in the early 20th century in order to seize on the anti-Mexican sentiments festering among the United States’ primarily white populace. The pejorative was picked up by the media in the 1920s and ’30s and was shared widely, with many referring to “marijuana” as the “Mexican killer weed.”
The campaign worked — by 1932, the plant was banned in 22 states and was made illegal in the entire U.S. by 1937 with the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act. Prior to the adoption of the word “marijuana,” cannabis had been often referred to in the U.S. as “Indian hemp,” “hemp,” or as a “preparation of cannabis.”
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