The Surprising Story of How Cannabis Got its Name - Las Vegas ReLeaf Dispensary

We all know that a bud by any name is sweet, but do you know the history of the plant we call cannabis?  Although marijuana’s over 10,000-year relationship with mankind began before 8,000 BCE, it wasn’t until 440 BCE that the ancient Greek word kannabis was discovered in reference to the plant that we all know and love.

Cannabis: Its Ancient History

Prior to the discovery of the word kannabis, use of the plant has been documented across the corners of the globe. Not only was the plant was cultivated for use in textiles and food ancient China, India, and Persia but the Chinese also recorded the first use of medical marijuana in 2727 BCE.

Exploring the hemp plant’s Grecian roots

The initial European naming of the hemp plant came by way of the ancient Grecian philosopher and anthropologist Herodotus who came across the use kannabis for a variety of purposes in his travels. In “The Histories,” which is considered to be one of the founding works of recorded Western History, Herodotus wrote of a group of warrior communities who collectively called themselves Scythians.

Although they were considered a savage race, one of their unique customs involved smoking cannabis—to get clean. Herodotus wrote of how Scythians took “kannabis steam baths” in  which they threw hemp seeds on hot coals to hot-box their felt tents. Interestingly enough, the introduction of cannabis into etymology in the ancient Greece also heralded the recorded use of recreational marijuana.

Welcome to European etymology

The word appeared again in England, in the mid-1500s in one of the earliest versions of the Oxford Dictionary. By this point, hemp—and it’s many uses—had found its way around much of the world, so the first definition of cannabis actually included the common hemp plant, used for textile or agricultural purposes. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the definition of cannabis came to include parts of the plant that could be “smoked, chewed, or drunk for their intoxicating or hallucinogenic properties.”

Interestingly, this shift in the etymology of the word in the Western world was also timed to coincide with Marx and Engel’s publication of the Communist Manifesto. Thus, with its new meaning shaped by the context of one of the greatest political upheavals in Europe, cannabis was the most common name for the hemp plant until the first revolution of the 20th century: the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

Introducing: Mexican marijuana

Because the cannabis plant had literally swept through the globe by the 20th century, Europe and Asia were not the only societies who had developed a relationship with the hemp plant. When almost a million Mexican refugees emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century, they not only brought their cannabis, they also brought a new namesake for the plant: marijuana.

No Matter What You Call it, Las Vegas ReLeaf Has the Relief You Need

Weed, ganja, herbs, Mary Jane—the names and colloquialisms for cannabis are endless. At Las Vegas ReLeaf, our budtenders are educated on more than just the names of your flowers We’re trained to listen to your symptoms and give you the medicinal marijuana that will provide the ReLeaf you need. Stop by our shop on the Strip today!