In the last few years, public opinion of cannabis has evolved into a positive one. Thanks to legalization, the stigma surrounding cannabis use has waned, paving the way for a new relationship with the plant. But the industry is at odds with itself. A dedication to upholding the stoner community’s roots in counterculture contradicts its vision for a more progressive, destigmatized future.
Offensive strain names in particular are a primary contributor to this dissonance. With a strain named Alaskan Thunder Fuck, how will I convince my Grandma to spark a bowl with me? To further the positive image of cannabis use, its time to rename these cannabis strains.
“Marijuana”: A Racist History
Just like everything else that white people have ruined, the American cannabis saga is rooted in racism, systemic or otherwise. Even the nickname “Marijuana” points to the racist origins of the cannabis prohibition.
Just ask Big Pharma Kingpin Harry Anslinger , who spearheaded prohibition campaigns during the 1930’s.
Threatened by the medicinal benefits of cannabis and its potential impact on the narcotics industry, Anslinger weaponized racism to convince white America that “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind… Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers.”
Unfortunately, this misrepresentation has reverberated in the generations to follow. It was only recently that the community eschewed “marijuana” in favor of the scientific name, cannabis.
Still, federal criminalization continues to disproportionately affect people of color, but especially Black people.
A Return to Science
In an attempt to practice anti-racism and destigmatize cannabis, many industry folk have advocated for nixing the word “marijuana” from the stoner lexicon altogether. But racism is present in cannabis (remember when Dabbing Granny dropped the N-word?) both overtly and covertly.
If we as a community are to create a progressive and accessible culture, then why can I still buy “Asian Fantasy” at my local dispensary? And, dear god, who in the hell thought “Trump OG” was a good idea?
Kosher Kush, FKA…
Renaming problematic strains is not without precedent. According to Wikileaf, the strain “Jew Gold” was renamed to the still-questionable Kosher Kush in a grand gesture of virtue-signaling. Still, Kosher Kush is the parent strain of the seemingly innocuous strain “24k Gold.” Which, is the same anti-semitic joke, just sneakier.
Beyond being pejorative, there are some strain names that are just straight up tasteless. For whatever reason, there are multiple strains named for horrific incidents involving mass death or other disaster. Such as the beloved Chernobyl, or Agent Orange. How are we supposed to spread good vibes if we’re smoking something named after an herbicide used in chemical warfare? And, if I wanted my lungs to get irradiated I would just go to Chernobyl. Leafly’s description of the strain brings no clarity as to why we are smoking death weed and only describes its flavor as that of “lime sherbert.” I can’t say that I’ve ever smelled sherbert and thought it smelled like nuclear devastation.
Commitment To Progress
I mean, I get it. Y’all were high when you named those strains. Cannabis was something you hid in your sock drawer. It was something that you told your mom was ‘just oregano, and no, I’m not high, I was just watching Marley and Me’. But the time has come to consider how our sentimentality may be detrimental for our industry and community in the long term.
The more we uphold an exclusionary counterculture by sticking with pejorative strain names, then less people will have the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from the amazing plant that is cannabis. Renaming strains is a good first step beyond legalization; but without reparative action, it does nothing to assuage the harm that prohibition caused and continues to cause to communities of color.