The state of Washington is replacing “marijuana” with “cannabis” in its legal code, citing racist origins in the Spanish-derived word.
House Bill 1210, which Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law on March 11, goes into effect in June. It says that “the use of the term ‘marijuana’ in the United States has discriminatory origins and should be replaced with the more scientifically accurate term ‘cannabis.’”
The new law will alter the Revised Code of Washington, which contains the state’s laws.
State Rep. Melanie Morgan, a Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, said during testimony in the Legislature last year that the word “was negatively associated with Mexican immigrants” as recreational marijuana became popular in the mid-20th century.
“It was used as a racist terminology to lock up Black and Brown people,” Ms. Morgan said.
She quoted Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, as a key figure in passing the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which made it illegal to sell and process the drug.
“Marijuana is the most violent causing drug in the history of mankind,” Anslinger said, according to her quotation. “And most marijuana users are Negroes, Hispanic, Caribbean, and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz, and swing result from marijuana usage.”
Recreational marijuana is legal in Washington, where the state’s Senate passed a final version of the bill by a 41-8 vote on March 1. The state’s House of Representatives passed it by an 83-13 vote on Feb. 2.