learn | 08.26.2020

Understand The Difference Between Cannabis, Marijuana And Ganja

Our favorite plant has a variety of different names, but what do they actually refer to?

Herb, ganja, cannabis, pot. We have many names for our beloved plant, but where did the pseudonyms come from? With literally thousands of different terms used to describe it, it can become confusing to know if they’re all referring to the same plant. Whether slang or the scientific name is used, the end goal of herb is always to enjoy a nice, relaxing buzz. If the term in question is unknown, a calm high might be hard to achieve.

As the image of herb and its’ users is elevated, so are the names by which we call it, as older terms are beginning to reflect the outdated stereotypes associated with cannabis users. The constantly evolving cannabis world is continuing to select new words to refer to marijuana, and it’s leading to some confusion. Yes, they all refer to the same hemp plant, so what do the different names mean?


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Cannabis has been known for centuries as the scientific term because of its traditional medical use. This is also where we get the word cannabinoid.

The oldest term is suspected to have originated around 450 B.C. The Ancient Greeks first used the phrase in reference to the plant’s medical properties. Greeks would create a type of sauna, placing cannabis on hot rocks to produce smoke, which they inhaled while bathing.


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It’s interesting to note that in Mexico (where the term marijuana is derived from), before marijuana became a common slang term the word was used to refer to a mixture of herbs used for medical purposes. After the Mexican Revolution, many refugees brought the plant to the United States for recreational use, leading to America’s first anti-marijuana laws in 1913, where the term marijuana, or “marihuana”, was introduced to the masses.


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Many might associate the term ganja with Rastafarians and  Bob Marley, but it’s actually a word derived from Sanscrit, and was used commonly in India to describe a specific, very potent strain of sativa. Legend has it the Ganges River was actually named after this strain because of the plants’ ability to flourish along the river bank.


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Gaining mass popularity in the 1970’s, “pot” has since become an outdated term. While the origins are not completely clear, many believe the term stems from a Spanish wine called potiguaya, which means “drink of grief.” Cannabis was used to infuse the wine, leaving drinkers with an extreme high.


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Since the late 1980’s, people have been referring to “weed” because of its ability to grow wildly, even in the harshest of conditions, and still thrive, much like a common weed. It also refers to the plant’s natural ability to sprout without warning, anywhere a seed may land.

Like the term pot, weed is also quickly becoming outdated, as it can be interpreted in a negative manner. Think Alice in Wonderland, when all the flowers in the garden thought Alice was a weed.


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Most recently, cannabis enthusiasts have adopted the term “herb” in reference to the hemp plant. Today’s users are determined to shed light on the life-saving medical uses associated with this natural plant, and herbs are commonly noted for their medicinal properties. Aside from the natural aspect, herb is a sophisticated term, unlike pot or weed, which reflects the educated, informed, multi-talented cannabis users of today.

What is your favorite way to refer to the plant? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.

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