It's the month of 420, that wonderful celebration of all things weed that has become a regular fixture on cannabis movement’s calendar. The origin of the term 420, like so many weed and cannabis slang words, has been hotly debated but it is generally agreed that it started life as an after school smoking club for a gang known as 'The Waldos' in California in the 1970s.
420: Cannabis Slang Goes Mainstream
How cool to be an old school Waldo now? Every April you can whisper the immortal words, "I invented that phrase" and watch the world lighting up at 4.20pm! So in this spirit, we are going to take a look at how some other weed and cannabis names have blazed a trail through popular culture.
Time Magazine estimates that there are over 1200 slang names for Mary Jane, ganja, bang, marijuana, cannabis, or whatever the hell you like to call it! Some of these are known worldwide, some of them are unique to a time and place (for instance the Hawaiian term 'da kine').
Here's our round up of some of the better known weed and cannabis slang names:
Popular Cannabis Slang Through History
It is believed that this weed slang has its roots in the 1930s and originated from the Mexican Spanish word grifa, although the word 'reefer' was first printed in Time magazine in 1931. As any self respecting cannabist knows, this word became synonymous with Reefer Madness, a moralist public information (ie propaganda) film made in 1936 that was rediscovered in the 1970s as a cult classic. It has been laughed at ever since and justified by many as a good reason to start smoking the demon reefer...
Best line: "Just a young boy. Under the influence of the drug, he killed his entire family with an axe".
The word 'spliff' originates from the Caribbean and was first recorded in the 1930s. In the history of weed and cannabis slang there is no other word that is as synonymous with the Reggae scene which helped to spread the cannabis habit around the world. This was mostly thanks to the efforts of Bob Marley, who took a small island sound, heavy with drugs references, and turned it into a globally accepted form of music listened to by spliff heads and straight heads alike!
Best line: "Excuse me while I light my spliff" (Bob Marley).
This was the moment that weed met Hip Hop in popular culture and the age of chronic brought a new era of cannabis popular culture. Apparently it was the high profile major hip hop (and now high profile cannabis star) Snoop Dogg who put the phrase 'chronic' on the map when he misheard hydroponic as hydrochronic - or so he claims anyway. The result was a new name for the 90s generation to describe quality weed which was immortalized in the Dr Dre album of the same name.
Best line: "Later on that day, my ehomie Dr. Dre came through with a gang of Tanqueray and a fat ass J of some bubonic chronic".
The 1930s was a very productive time for weed and cannabis slang words and ‘pot’ is another to add to this list. It is said to come from the Spanish word for a type of wine/brandy, potaguaya, in which weed buds were soaked. The word was used by the hippies in the 1960s and 1970s. Nobody uses it now, except for old hippies, teachers and people who don't smoke pot...
Best line: "I've bought a lot of pot. Now I'm selling some back" (Willie Nelson, owner of Willie's Reserve)
In recent years it's been all about the 'dank'. The origin is Swedish and your English teacher will tell you this means a smelly, nasty, damp place, like a moldy cellar or a swamp. However in the best tradition of opposites, dank now means potent and pungent in a good way (much the same as ‘bad’ or ‘sick’ means good).
Best line: "Hold you in the holding tank for smoking dank" (Dizzy Wright).