CULTURE
Why Do We Refer to Weed as "Mary Jane" and Where Did the Nickname Come From?
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Marijuana goes by a lot of names, but one of the most elegant may refer to our favorite flower as a sacred woman. Or maybe not. The history of the term “Mary Jane” is hazy, and that’s fitting when discussing cannabis.
Published on April 13, 2020

Here at MERRY JANE, one of our favorite terms for cannabis is, well, “Mary Jane.” 

While “MERRY JANE,” spelled with an E and two Rs, comes from the 2007 feel-good weed anthem by Snoop Dogg, Redman, and the late, great Nate Dogg, the moniker that the rap track plays off of is much older. However, the history behind the Mary Jane name has maintained an air of mystery around it over the past century.

How weed got nicknamed Mary Jane isn’t just a question stoners ask among themselves while passing around a doob, either. Prestigious, prize-winning publications such as NPR, TIME Magazine, the New York Times, and the UK’s Independent have all pondered the murky origins of one of marijuana’s most elegant, feminine labels. Where and how was Mary Jane born, and was she a real person? Let’s dive in below.

But What If Weed Actually Came From China?

While the Spanish-Mexican origin for “marijuana” remains the common narrative, there’s some evidence that the word could have actually come from the other side of the planet: China. In China, hemp is called ma ren hua, which means “hemp seed flower,” NPR’s CodeSwitch reported. The Chinese-origin theory posits that when Chinese traders brought hemp to the Americas, ma ren hua became marijuana in Latin America, and the rest is history. Supposedly. We’re not entirely sure, remember?

A Name Known Around the World

So, whether “Mary Jane” or “marijuana” came first is basically the cannabis community’s “chicken and egg” argument. Regardless of where either word came from, “marijuana” is a universal term for weed in most countries. And “Mary Jane” is, too. For instance, some Spanish smokers refer to the herb simply as “Maria,” while the French sometimes call it “Marie Jeanne.” 

While etymology nerds may obsess over this puzzle until their final breaths, the rest of us are content just knowing this: We love you, Mary Jane

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Randy Robinson
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Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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