Washington State is banning the use of the word "marijuana" in state law, citing its historically racist connotations.
"The term 'marijuana' itself is pejorative and racist," Democratic state representative Melanie Morgan said after the bill was introduced in January 2021. "As recreational marijuana use became more popular, it was negatively associated with Mexican immigrants." She, along with other Washington Democrats and drug legalization activists, has blamed marijuana criminalization for creating the negative association, alleging the word "was used as a racist terminology to lock up black and brown people," according to KIRO 7 News, a CBS affiliate.
House Bill 1210, which passed the state House and Senate in February, will replace the term with the word "cannabis" throughout Washington's legal code. Gov. Jay Inslee (D.) signed the bill into law in March, but it won't take effect until June.
The news comes as states have pushed marijuana decriminalization measures and record expungement for past crimes involving the drug. In 2012, Washington became one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana use. More than 40 U.S. states have passed laws to clear criminal records for offenses involving cannabis.
Washington has the fourth-highest number of cannabis cultivation licenses in the United States, according to Statista. In 2020, the state formed a task force for "social equity in cannabis," promising to diversify the industry with grants and financial assistance for minority marijuana purveyors.