What’s in a Name?

As cannabis takes its rightful place as an important botanical medicine, it’s time to consign the term ‘marijuana’ to the history books.

By Duke Rodriguez, CEO and President of Ultra Health, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA.

For nearly 70 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) has defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In the spirit of the WHO definition, 28 American states have approved medical cannabis for the treatment of many debilitating conditions impacting the physical and mental well-being of their communities.  Eight states have gone further and addressed the social well-being of their populations by fully legalizing the adult use of cannabis.

The full benefits of cannabis will only be revealed by the advancement of research into therapeutic use and a better overall understanding of the plant. Our knowledge is already developing fast – and it’s time that is reflected in how we refer to the plant and its genus. As the cannabis industry progresses, the terminology we use to describe our product needs to evolve as well. While there are many colloquial terms that misrepresent the cannabis plant, there is one term in particular that society needs to leave in the past: marijuana.

“As the cannabis industry progresses, the terminology we use to describe our product needs to evolve as well.”

The plant’s scientific genus is Cannabis. Marijuana, on the other hand, is a racially charged, pejorative term that was introduced in the United States in the early 1900s. Early supporters of prohibition referred to cannabis as the “devil’s weed”, and soon after the term ‘marihuana’ (many current US laws continue to refer to the original spelling with an ‘h’, versus the more commonly used version with a ‘j’) was introduced to the public, in an attempt to reinforce a connection between cannabis and the minorities who allegedly introduced the drug.

Researchers studying cannabis do not deserve to be derogatorily identified as ‘marijuana’ scientists. Enlightened members of the academic community and the media are already elevating the discourse on cannabis through proper nomenclature; after all, a common scientific language is essential to accelerate the cross-pollination of thought and collaboration.

“A common scientific language is essential to accelerate the cross-pollination of thought and collaboration.”

International cannabis collaboration is already evident. Israeli firms, such as our partners Panaxia Pharmaceutical Industries, are exporting proprietary processes, protocols and intellectual properties on scientific dosing, product development and quality standards utilizing Good Manufacturing Practices designed for the US cannabis market.  Such partnerships are helping us go beyond traditional smoke-inhaled delivery to more complex and dose-specific cannabis suppositories, metered inhalers, sublingual tablets, pastilles, concentrates and oils.

As well as international collaboration, a new form of cannabis expansion is emerging through the right of sovereignty of indigenous tribes in North America.  In both the US and Canada, Tribal Nations are exercising their government-to-government relationship to accelerate cannabis markets, products, and economic development.  The Las Vegas Paiute Tribe of Nevada is currently constructing a state-of-the-art cultivation and retail network for a market with 43 million annual visitors, and cannabis legalization approved for adult use effective January 1, 2017.

Native Tribes engaging in cannabis commerce follows a long tradition of self-sufficiency and self-determination of indigenous people. Evidenced by the success of Native American-owned casinos in the US, we can anticipate that tribal cannabis initiatives will facilitate a new era of cannabis discovery, testing, development and innovation, to be shepherded by individuals culturally aligned with natural, sustainable and holistic healing.

The scientific truth about cannabis will become increasingly clear going forward. The population trend in attitudes is toward greater understanding and acceptance, and the integration of cannabis protocols in physical, mental and social well-being is becoming a reality. If we are to continue to evolve as an industry, institutionalized stigmas need to be removed through discovery, debate and the introduction of collaborative efforts brought forth by new alliances. In this global effort, there is no room for outdated, offensive terminology like ‘marijuana’.

Worldwide, the art and science of cannabis is embracing a new normal.  As observed by physicist Max Planck, “scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” A new generation is now actively engaged in the science of cannabis, and will provide the evidence-based truths we need, to rise above the cognitive quagmire of the past.