Marijuana Or Marihuana?

Jun 12, 2017

There’s a slight difference in spelling that you’ll find if you see the word “marijuana” written out casually, and in Michigan politics as “marihuana.” But the variance of an “h” versus a “j” in the center of the word actually has a long history behind it.

We spoke with Josh Hovey, the vice president of the Lansing-based Truscott Rossman PR firm, which represents the Marijuana Policy Project, to get more information.

“The scientific word for marijuana is cannabis, and historically that’s how it’s always been described, but the word marijuana came into use both with an “h” and a “j” spelling early in the 20th century, when anti-cannabis prohibitionists wanted to make cannabis sound more dangerous,” Hovey said.

“At the time, there was a lot of public anxiety about Mexican-American immigrants coming into the U.S. – similar to how there is today with immigrants as well,” Hovey said. “So, by referring to cannabis as marijuana which is the Mexican term, they were able to stoke some racist and xenophobic fears and help to push for tighter regulations and eventually banning the substance.”

But as far as changing the spelling, Hovey said that doesn’t seem likely

“There’s no real impetus to go in and change it, but hopefully the legislature will have so little to do that they can get to working on little issues like this.”