Washington lawmakers claim term 'marijuana' is racist, remove it from state laws

"The term 'marijuana' itself is pejorative and racist," a Democrat state representative, who sponsored the bill, said during testimony.


A bill in Washington will soon take effect striking the word "marijuana" from all state laws after progressive lawmakers deemed the term "racist." The change removes the word, swapping it out for the term "cannabis" instead.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill, which passed unanimously and changes every Revised Code of Washington, into law March 11. The changes take effect in June.

Supporters of the bill, House Bill 1210, say the word "marijuana" has a long history of racism, claiming its usage is racist against black and brown people.

"The term 'marijuana' itself is pejorative and racist," Washington state Rep. Melanie Morgan, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said during testimony in 2021. Morgan discussed the word's history, which originates from Spanish.

Morgan said that as recreational marijuana use became more popular, "it was negatively associated with Mexican immigrants." The state lawmaker claimed it is "racist terminology" and was used "to lock up black and brown people."

Hollingsworth Cannabis Company's owner Joy Hollingsworth, whose family business includes a pot farm, says for people of color in the industry, the word "marijuana" comes with a burden. "It had been talked about for a long time in our community about how that word demonizes the cannabis plant," she said.

Hollingsworth says she learned about the "trauma" behind the word from her mother, according to KIRO-TV. "She was the one who educated us on the term and how it was derogatory and we shouldn't use it anymore," Hollingsworth said.

"We have a lot of people, especially in the black community that went to prison over cannabis for years. That were locked up, separated from their nuclear family, which is huge," Hollingsworth said, adding it "triggers" people of color. "It's really painful for people to hear that word and it triggers them," Hollingsworth said.


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