Pubdate: Fri, 27 Oct 2017
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Aly Thomson
Page: A5


Claims it's racist

HALIFAX * A Halifax councillor says he will no longer use the term
"marijuana" because it is racist, sparking a social media debate over
the well-used synonym for cannabis.

Coun. Shawn Cleary said a police officer he works with on a cannabis
legalization task force recently brought it to his attention that the
term has a racist history.

Cleary said in the early 1900s during the criminalization of cannabis
in the U.S., "marijuana" was used to demonize marginalized
communities, namely Mexicans.

He said after doing some of his own research on the term's origins, he
decided to stop using it, tweeting earlier this week: "Let's do what
we can to not perpetuate racism."

"These are teaching moments."

His tweets have prompted a social media firestorm - including comments
from a fellow councillor denouncing the issue.

"Only in Canada could you smoke it but not say it," Coun. Matt Whitman
said on Twitter in response to a poll from a Halifax radio station,
which tweeted: "Should we stop using the word marijuana?"

Some Twitter users said they were unaware of the word's racist history
and thanked Cleary for informing them, while others questioned the
validity of his comments.

Earlier this year, the U.S. National Hispanic Caucus of State
Legislators passed a resolution calling for the decriminalization of
cannabis, and took note of its racist history.

"During the 1920s and 1930s, when it was first penalized in various
states, cannabis use was portrayed as a cultural vice of Mexican
immigrants to the United States, and racist and xenophobic politicians
and government officials used cannabis prohibition specifically to
target and criminalize Mexican-American culture and incarcerate
Mexican-Americans," the document said.

"The racist politicians who first criminalized cannabis, used the term
"marijuana" … to refer to it, precisely because they wanted to
underscore that it was a Latino, particularly Mexican 'vice'. "

Barinder Rasode, CEO of the National Institute for Cannabis Health and
Education, said cannabis is a more "progressive" term and one that
should be used as the country moves toward legalization next July.

"We've seen words that are used to describe ethnic communities, sexual
orientation and women have changed over time because we're recognizing
issues of equality and progressiveness," said Rasode.

"I do believe the word marijuana has context attached to it of the old
world - the illegal market. When I grew up, cannabis was considered a
gateway drug. Now, as our understanding has changed and considering
the role the product will now play in society, I think with that we do
have to change words because marijuana has negative connotations."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt