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Washington State Lawmakers Delete the Word ‘Marijuana’ from State Laws and Go with ‘Cannabis’, Instead!


cannabis instead of marijuana

Just recently, lawmakers in the state of Washington passed a law to remove the word “marijuana” in several parts of the Revised Code of Washington. The bill titled House Bill 1210 will switch the word “marijuana” with the term “cannabis” in every state statute. The bill was officially enacted into law on the 11th of March 2022, with changes coming into effect in June, 2022.


The legislation’s sponsor and Washington state Representative, Melanie Morgan explained to the house that the term “marijuana” has racist undertones. She affirmed that as recreational use of marijuana became prominent it was inimically attributed to Mexican immigrants. Hence, this gives the word “marijuana” a racist and pejorative undertone. She went on to say that even though the word seems simple since it’s just a single word, taking such a step is a part of righting the wrongs committed against Brown and Black people for cannabis use.


Racist words in the Constitution

According to Morgan, the term “marijuana” was first used by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics’s pioneer commissioner, Harry Anslinger. Aslinger was the man majorly responsible for the passing into law the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. This Tax Act marked the beginning of the ban on marijuana across the United States. 


Quoting the words of Aslinger, Morgan explained how he believed cannabis to be the most brutal type of drug in mankind’s history. Aslinger at that time pointed out that the majority of cannabis users were Hispanic, Negroes, Caribbean, and various entertainers. He spread the word around that the music of swing and jazz was satanic which was a result of cannabis usage. Aslinger was indeed a racist enforcer who made such claims with zero scientific backings.


In support of Morgan, Emily Wicks, another Washington State Rep affirmed that passing the bill into law will help shape and form new perspectives about cannabis. Joy Hollingsworth, the CEO, and founder of Hollingsworth Cannabis Company during an interview with KIRO TV news affirmed that it was also a welcomed development. She affirmed that “marijuana” is truly an unwelcome word for many people in various black and brown communities.


Hollingsworth added that the term “marijuana” has always been discussed within communities as a word that demonizes cannabis. A word Hollingsworth herself learned from her mother about its negative association.


Hollingsworth affirmed it was her mother who educated them on the derogatory use of the word and why such a term should not be used by her and her siblings. She continued to say that a lot of individuals in the black community have served terms and continue to serve terms for years over cannabis use partly because of the derogatory reputation of cannabis.


Hollingsworth affirmed that passing House Bill 1210 into law is a positive step forward. However, she also claimed she would love to witness more effort regarding the social equity of cannabis from lawmakers. She also asserted that a win is a win and this is one they will gladly take. But, they shouldn’t get caught up in the euphoria of a performative action of equity. She believes more actions and actual changes in policy and legislation should follow as it shouldn’t be just mere words from lawmakers.


According to Hollingsworth, a great idea would be for cannabis taxes to be invested in communities that are disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. She added that the communities of color will truly feel the positive impact of the industry if the funds are directed toward college scholarships. 


Hollingsworth believes that a housing loan will also go a long way, especially for families looking to purchase a home in the Central District of Seattle. These ideas from Hollingsworth are just creative ways she honestly feels the impact of the industry can be truly felt in the black community. She affirmed that is exactly what she wants.


Advocates Support Bill  and Cannabis Industry

Passing into law the House Bill 1210 was no easy achievement. However, thanks to the support of industry representatives, and national and state advocacy groups for cannabis reform, the goal was achieved. Among the industry representatives, one notable group is the retail trade group called Craft Cannabis Coalition (CCC). The company is based in Tacoma and has actively supported the bill from the onset.


According to Adán Espino Jr., the Executive Director of CCC, the association is glad to be supporting social equity in the marijuana industry. He affirmed in the email sent to the Center Square that the group truly understands the damages the war on drugs has caused and the bill is a positive step in the right direction. Espino Jr. went on to write that while the group does comprehend the transition of the word “marijuana” to “cannabis”, the company doesn’t feel strongly about the word “marijuana”. He added that as the industry keeps growing and reaches new heights of professionalism if the word ” marijuana” is no longer of use then so be it.


A member of the NCIS’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Tiffany Watkins, also mentioned the need for Washington to make adequate efforts regarding social equity across the cannabis industry. Tiffany via the email affirmed that the time is now for lawmakers to permanently drop terms with racist undertones. She believes that switching “marijuana” with “cannabis” is a positive development, there’s still so much left to be done to correct the wrongs of the War on Drugs.


She added that more might should be shone on states with over a decade of cannabis operations with zero social equity programs. Without a social equity program, the entry barriers faced by people of color can never be acknowledged or identified.


As regards social equity in Washington’s cannabis industry, the state legislature established a Task Force in 2020. The goal of the task force is to create recommendations and policies that would support the state’s cannabis industry. At the moment, the panel is still designing various proposals to offer grants to applicants for social equity. The grants are expected to help fund the licensing and establishment of new cannabis companies in the state. 



Certainly, replacing the term “marijuana” with the term “cannabis” in every state statute is a positive step in the right direction. But just like Hollingsworth asserted, more work needs to be done, otherwise, this will only be a performative direction from the lawmakers.


If this House Bill 1210  is going to make any impact, actions and actual changes in policy and legislation should follow as it shouldn’t be just mere words from lawmakers






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