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Marijuana vs. Cannabis vs. Weed

Is there any difference between marijuana, cannabis, and weed? While they are all pretty much the same, each has its own unique story behind it.

I’m sure you’ve heard thousands of names for it. Marijuana, cannabis, and weed are the most common. Then there are some more vibrant ones like ganja, chronic, trees, and, my personal favourite, Mary Jane. Over time, so many nicknames have sprung up for the sticky, icky herb. And it’s not because stoners didn’t know what to call it. The illegal nature of the skunky plant made it dangerous to deal in, so many names cropped up as a way to disguise what was going on. Now that it has become popular throughout most of the world, what do we call it? And is there any difference?

The short answer is no. There is no difference. Marijuana, cannabis, and weed are all the same thing and can be used interchangeably. The long answer is that the names may refer to different parts and types of the plant. Each has a background with its own history. It doesn’t make a big difference which name you use, and anywhere you go, a smoker will recognize most of these terms.

Since the people that smoke sticky buds are usually relaxed, I don’t think anyone’s going to complain if you don’t identify it correctly. It does help to learn the lingo, as each name has a distinct story behind it. Let’s delve into what separates marijuana, cannabis, and weed.


The first use of the word "cannabis" was in the 1700’s. It became established as the scientific name and is the most commonly accepted. Cannabis is a term for the genus of flowering plants within the Cannabacae family. It's a blanket term that includes 170 different plants, divided into Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis. Both hemp and marijuana fall into this category.

When the wonder drug was legalised in America back in 2013, Illinois lawmakers decided cannabis was the best name to use because of its scientific background. Some of the other names have controversial ties to the history of the plant, so they wanted one that was more neutral. When referring to ganja for medicinal purposes, most of the time you will see the term cannabis.


This is one of the more controversial names for reefer. Its first use was in newspaper prints in the 1890s and came from the Mexican word marihuana. Speculated to be a derivative of "Nahuatl mallihuan", meaning "prisoner". It was used by lower class citizens, such as prisoners and soldiers, hence the name. There is not much evidence as to where the word originally came from, so it is shrouded in the mystery of history. The use of the name by American newspapers was an intentional way to demonise the drug and where it was coming from, Mexico. Regardless of the bad intentions, the root of the word lies deep in Mexican culture.

If you want to get more specific, marijuana refers to the leaves, seeds, and stems of the cannabis plant. It also gave rise to the name Mary Jane being used in reference to weed. Many parents thought Mary Jane was just another friend in their kids' high school.


If you’re one of the cool kids, you’ll likely refer to cannabis as "weed." It is most common in the younger generations. You generally won’t hear a politician or doctor referring to the magic plant as weed. In the 1400s, it was an undesirable plant that you’d pull from your garden. In the 1600s, it was a popular name for tobacco. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it became interchangeable with marijuana.

It may have also spawned from the Mexican "locoweed". A plant that produces terrible effects when eaten by animals. While the name may have negative connotations behind it, you will most likely ask your dealer for a bag of weed. Not a bag of cannabis sativa.

Which one should you use?

There is no right answer as to which name is correct, unless you are trying to be politically correct. The name you use likely boils down to what generation you were born in, and it honestly doesn’t change a thing when you are lighting up your favourite sticky icky buds.

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