Clarifying how to spell marijuana

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Is it marijuana or marihuana, or does it really matter?

Based on a recent cannabis bill being considered by lawmakers in Alabama, there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding how to properly spell marijuana – or marihuana, if you prefer. There is still not a single consensus on which is the proper spelling, but it is certainly something that has to be considered by lawmakers, especially when drafting marijuana/marihuana bills.

In the US, marihuana was used first, with Harry J. Anslinger’s national campaign against the plant in the 1930s. Prior to that, the plant, regardless of the spelling, had not received a lot of attention in the country, so the spelling began to stick. It was ultimately added to what became the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

However, the etymology of the word is rooted in marijuana, the Spanish word for the plant. This has ultimately become the most accepted version over the years and is the one that is now seen most often when anyone is discussing the plant.

In some states, the alternative “H” spelling still exists because of Anslinger and his work to put marijuana in such a negative light. As the national policy spelled it Marihuana, certain states adopted the same spelling, as well. Alabama is one of these and its Constitution references marihuana. As such, any legislative effort created today on the subject must adhere to the same spelling, meaning that all marijuana bills are actually marihuana bills.

It may sound trivial, but it ultimately means that there cannot be a consensus on how marijuana is spelled. At the end of the day, though, perhaps it just doesn’t really matter.

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