Cannabis and Marijuana: What’s the Difference, and Why Does It Matter?

Cannabis and Marijuana: What’s the Difference, and Why Does It Matter?

Updated: 10/16/2023

Often used interchangeably, the terms cannabis vs marijuana can cause confusion amongst new cannabis users. Thankfully, there is no real difference between cannabis and marijuana, with cannabis being the preferred term for cannabis plants and their derivative cannabis products.

While many use the two phrases equally, our cannabis dispensary is here to breakdown the origins of the two terms to better answer the question of is cannabis and marijuana the same thing. Let’s dive right in!

What Is Cannabis?

Cannabis is a term that regards the cannabis plant in the Cannabaceae family. Some of the most popular terms used to reference cannabis include “marijuana”, “pot”, and “weed”, but there are a vast number of other phrases to refer to cannabis and associated cannabis products.

Specifically, the term cannabis refers to the plants of the Cannabis Sativa L plant. Within this species, there are three types of the cannabis plant, including:

  • Cannabis Sativa
  • Cannabis Indica
  • Cannabis Ruderalis

Typically, the cannabis plant is best known for the cannabis sativa plant and indica species. Each of these species offers different qualities and effects for individuals using the substances. For example, the cannabis sativa plant is known to promote feelings of euphoria, while indica is said to soothe aches and pains. In addition, sativa is most common for recreational use, while indica is a common medical cannabis option.

What Is Marijuana?

What Is Marijuana?

As mentioned before, the difference between cannabis and marijuana is simply in the name. Today, marijuana is a slang term used for the same species and is commonly used by recreational cannabis users.

The term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word “marihuana”, and has since been adapted to other languages and used as a slang term for cannabis today. Like other slang terms for the substance, like “weed”, the term is now commonly used today, yet the characteristics of marijuana vs cannabis are truly the same, simply serving as a slang alternative to the origin term of cannabis.

Differentiating Cannabis and Marijuana

So, what is the difference between cannabis and marijuana? As we said before, the difference between the two is rooted in the name itself, with marijuana and weed serving as alternative slang terms.

Specifically, in botany, the science of plants, the term cannabis refers to a family of plants called Cannabis sativa. This family of plants produces unique chemicals called cannabinoids.

Different chemical plants offer different chemical properties. In some cannabis plants, they mainly produce cannabidiol or CBD. When navigating the difference between marijuana and hemp, CBD plants are hemp products and tend to be used to relieve symptoms of anxiety, stress, or nerve pain.

Other types of cannabis, or marijuana, are known for a more mind-altering chemical compound, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This is the psychoactive compound in cannabis that when smoked or ingested produces a “high” feeling. However, these compounds can also have medical benefits, such as pain relief.

In popular culture today, marijuana is a term that is used to refer to cannabis that contains THC, or a plant that will get you high. In fact, while cannabis is the most accurate term, marijuana is one that can be found in most laws, state regulations, and history books as a well-known alternative phrase for cannabis.

Why Is It Important to Know the Difference Between These Two Related Terms?

Why Is It Important to Know the Difference Between These Two Related Terms?

Cannabis has been the long-term moniker for the cannabis plant, especially as the substance grew popular in medicine in the U.S. However, in the early 1900s, the Mexican-Spanish word “marihuana” made its first appearance in America as the first director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Henry Anslinger, made the term prevalent.

Anslinger, who served in his position for over 30 years, was outspoken against cannabis and chose to call it marijuana in propaganda to spread disinformation about cannabis. He, additionally, was the first to use the term “war on drugs.” In fact, in 1937, marihuana (or marijuana) became legally fixed in the Marihuana Tax Act, which was where federal law made the substance illegal in all 50 states.

The war on drugs had harsh effects, primarily for people of color as they were more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession despite a similar rate of use across all races.

While in some states cannabis use is legal and regulated, the effects of the war on drugs still permeate society, and though the term marijuana is casually used today as slang, its roots tie back to the war on drugs dating back to the early 1900s. Though the difference between marijuana and cannabis is insignificant, the terms changed the way society thought about the substance for decades.

What About Other Cannabis-Related Terms?

While access to both recreational and medical marijuana use has grown as more states legalize the substance, the years of its qualifications as an illegal drug means cannabis still has many nicknames. Some of the common terms used to refer to cannabis include:

  • Weed
  • Pot
  • Grass
  • Herb
  • Mary Jane
  • Ganja
  • Trees
  • Broccoli

While these are all slang terms for cannabis, hemp serves a different meaning. As previously mentioned, hemp refers to a cannabis plant with less THC, offering a number of uses and health benefits without causing the high that a higher THC strain will.

Why Choose “Cannabis” Over Other Terms?

Why Choose "Cannabis" Over Other Terms?

Ultimately, cannabis is the proper scientific term for the plant. In addition, it’s a term that doesn’t carry the same historical connotation rooted in racism and the war on drugs that other terms have. For this reason, experts across the United States are pushing for cannabis to replace the term marijuana in their laws and regulations.

However, some Latino communities are reclaiming the term marijuana as it is only associated with racism and other negative connotations in the U.S. and not in Mexico or other Latin American countries.

In addition, some activists in the space believe we shouldn’t completely erase the term marijuana, acknowledging the history associated with it and the significance for certain racial and ethnic groups.

Discover the Finest Cannabis both Medical and Recreational at Windy City Cannabis Dispensary Today!

Whether you refer to it as cannabis, marijuana, or weed, the difference between cannabis and marijuana is solely in the name itself. And as legal access to the drug becomes increasingly prevalent across the U.S., we can expect to see more of the term cannabis as a proper, scientific reference to the substance.

Offering both medical and recreational cannabis, Windy City Cannabis is proud to offer a range of strains to suit your needs. To learn more about cannabis and get more insight on what is the difference between cannabis and marijuana, contact our team today or visit a dispensary near you.

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