A brief look at the term, Marihuana, this Cinco de Mayo.

Posted by Kyle Kisner on 5/5/21 6:07 PM

While Cinco de Mayo is often referred to as, "Mexican Independence Day", in truth it is a minor, Mexican holiday. The date is meant to commemorate the victory of Mexican troops over Napolean III of France in 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. It is for this reason it is more commonly referred to in Mexico as, "Battle of Puebla Day". There is an actual, Mexican Independence Day but it takes place on September 16th and commemorates victory over Spain in the 11 year, war for independence which took place decades before the Battle of Puebla. 

     The U.S. tradition of celebrating Cinco de Mayo began in 1863 in California and by the early 20th century had come to be synonymous with a day for recognizing one's Mexican heritage(if they have such heritage) and for spreading cultural awareness throughout the country. When talking about cannabis with the general public, it is not uncommon for people to be confused by use of the term as they are more familiar with the word, "marijuana", Often it comes as new information to them that this word was actually coined by English speaking policy makers who were unhinged by the influx of Mexican immigration during the 1910s and 1920s. 

     As often happens, the habits of those being disparaged, through heavy association, become something worth disparaging in their own right. "Marihuana/Marijuana" was the term coined and blasted across sensationalized stories aimed at whipping up anti-immigration fervor amongst likely voters. This was a blatant tactic used to rise politically: Make likely voters fear a segment of the population, then promise to be the only one capable of protecting them from that segment. This was aimed at making cannabis, itself, sound as if it were a foreign invader which needed to be stamped out, along with all who dabbled in this devil's lettuce.

     By the 1930s, marijuana had become the colloquial for cannabis thanks to the efforts of America's first Drug Czar, Harry J. Anslinger. Recognizing the utility of these blatant fear tactics(likely because they have been used to successfully pass the first state level prohibition policies), Anslinger compiled a collection of sensationalized stories, bordering outright fiction, about how, "Marijuana imbues Mexicans with superhuman strength and a psychotic lust for white blood!" On the strength of such testimony, passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was secured. 

      This rhetoric also saw the removal of cannabis from the American Pharmacopeia's list of essential medicines, starting with the 1940's. As time has dragged on, we continue to see African-Americans as well as Hispanic American's disproportionately targeted by law enforcement, just as these policies were originally intended. With all this in mind, we here at EA hope that we can all reflect on the importance of dismantling archaic, racist policies and increasing access to medicine that is life changing, if not life saving, for so many!

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