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Halifax Councillor Calls Out ‘Marijuana’ as a Racist Term

Shawn Cleary says the word was used to demonize Mexicans.
Photos via, Flickr user Pierre

A city councillor in Halifax said he avoids use the term "marijuana" after discovering the history of the word.

That councillor, Shawn Cleary, chairs a committee dealing with implementing cannabis regulation within Nova Scotia as legalization approaches in July 2018.

"It was intentional to demonize the marginalized folks they didn't like very much to make white people feel good about banning this drug," Cleary told Halifax Today. "If there is a racist origin to the word, we should know about that and be aware of it when we use it."


Cleary also replied to a tweet containing the term "marijuana" by a councillor in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. "Scientific name=cannabis," Cleary tweeted at him. "Marijuana was used to demonize Mexicans. Given US political climate, let's do what we can to not perpetuate racism."

Cleary is one of many who has pointed out problems with the word "marijuana." The word is also commonly considered unacceptable within the cannabis industry.

Shantal Arroyo, the co-owner of a cannabis clinic in Montreal, previously told Daily VICE why people shouldn't use the word. "Marijuana, it's a racist term used since the 20s [in connection with] undocumented Mexican workers in the United States," she said. "It's a Spanish term, and why it is touching me is because I am Mexican—and I am not a marijuana."

What Arroyo is referring to is the origins of the use of the "M-word" in the US. The early 1900s was a time when the United States experienced a wave of migrants from Mexico sparked by the Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910. By the 20s, the term had become commonly connected with Mexican immigrants in the US and a stereotype of them being associated with cannabis.

Others in the cannabis industry have been critical of the use of colloquialisms such as "stoner" and "weed," which some perceive as derogatory.