The Austin Chronicle

Dear Texas Lawmakers, Stop Spelling Marijuana With an "H"

Or how about you just call it cannabis?

By Kevin Curtin, May 3, 2019, News

A promotional poster for the 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness, in which smoking joints causes people to play raucous piano and then become murderers, describes two lead characters as "Youthful marihuana victims." The goofy tagline is likely the only instance in which anyone under the age of 90 has seen the spelling M-A-R-I-H-U-A-N-A – unless, that is, they've read Texas' lawbooks. The state statutes concerning marijuana repeatedly spell the flowering top of the cannabis plant with an "H" instead of a "J."

The word "marijuana" holds an obscure etymology, alternatively posited as originating from a Chinese term for hemp flowers, "ma ren hua"; a Spanish spelling of the herb marjoram, "mejorana"; or an old Chilean word, "mariguanza," related to shamanism, among others. Calling buds "marihuana" certainly had its day in the United States between 1874, its earliest recorded use, and 1937, when the federal government passed the Marihuana Tax Act that precipitated its prohibition. In the time since, only those completely out of touch would spell it with the phonetic "H" — perfect for a state with draconian cannabis laws.

Leading up to this session, Rep. Terry Meza, D-Irving, a former lawyer and teacher, introduced HB 1196, calling to change the current wording not to "marijuana" but to the more proper terminology of "cannabis." That bill sits in committee as of press time.

Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.