Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pot: What's in a name?

Medical marijuana is a controversial subject. There are supporters and opponents.

One supporter emailed us to say that she believes The Oakland Press shows bias against medical marijuana when we use the word "pot' in our headlines.

We certainly did not intend our use of the word to indicate a position for or against. Headline writers like to use short words, because they fit in the limited space we have to get the point across. And, frankly, "marijuana" is a pretty long word.

The nickname "pot" comes from the Spanish word "potiguaya," which means marijuana leaves. It’s a Mexican-Spanish word that is a contraction of potación de guaya, which referred to an alcoholic drink made of marijuana leaves soaked in brandy or wine. The name became popular in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s.

There are certainly a large number of slang terms for marijuana. The slang dictionary lists hundreds. Here are some of the more common terms: Weed, boo, ganja, grass, herb, Mary Jane, Aunt Mary, refer (as in "Refer Madness"), ditchweed (low potency), good stuff or good shit (high potency), bhang (Indian) kif (Moroccan), loco weed, lucas, hash, paca lolo (Hawaiian), and the list goes on and on.

One of the slang terms is hemp, which is the fiber in the stem of the plant. Industrial hemp products are made from Cannabis plants selected to produce an abundance of fiber. To satisfy the UN Narcotics Convention, some hemp strains have been developed which contain minimal levels of THC, the psychoactive molecule that produces the "high" associated with marijuana. George Washington grew Indian hemp on Mount Vernon and wrote to Ben Franklin, "I wouldn't miss the hemp harvest at Mount Vernon for all the tea in China."

The OP has not editorialized in favor of medical marijuana, but we did come down in favor of local control of dispensing the plant as a medicine. We have been in favor of taxing the sale of marijuana as a potential new source of much-needed government revenue.

I would say the position of the newspaper staff is that legalization of medicinal herbs is a good thing, at least as good as the legalization of most of the pharmaceuticals now being legally sold in this country. Many prescribed and over-the-counter drugs are derived from plants.

Now, the question is what do you think? Is the term "pot" a word that indicates negative bias? Tell us what you think.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home