Canadian Councilor Says the Word ‘Marijuana’ Is Racist Against Mexicans

ashley.rae | October 26, 2017
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A city councilor in Halifax, Canada is arguing against using the word “marijuana," saying it's a “racist” term Americans gave to associate the drug with Mexicans.

Halifax Today reports councilor Shawn Cleary, who serves on the committee to implement marijuana legalization in Nova Scotia, condemned the word “marijuana” in a post on Twitter.

On Tuesday, Cleary tweeted that the “scientific name” for marijuana is, in fact, “cannabis” and that the word “marijuana” was used to “demonize Mexicans.” Cleary also took a jab at President Trump by claiming the current political climate in the United States similarly perpetuates “racism” against Mexicans:

Halifax Today claims that during a recent council meeting, Cleary was told heard the term “marijuana” was used to portray Mexicans negatively in the 1900s.

“It was intentional to demonize the marginalized folks they didn't like very much to make white people feel good about banning this drug,” he explained.

"If there is a racist origin to the word, we should know about that and be aware of it when we use it,” he continued.

Vice News notes that Cleary is “one of many” who have called the word “marijuana” problematic because of its alleged roots in racism against Mexicans:

Shantal Arroyo, the co-owner of a cannabis clinic in Montreal, previously told Daily VICE why people shouldn't use the word. "Marijuana, it's a racist term used since the 20s [in connection with] undocumented Mexican workers in the United States," she said. "It's a Spanish term, and why it is touching me is because I am Mexican—and I am not a marijuana."

What Arroyo is referring to is the origins of the use of the "M-word" in the US. The early 1900s was a time when the United States experienced a wave of migrants from Mexico sparked by the Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910. By the 20s, the term had become commonly connected with Mexican immigrants in the US and a stereotype of them being associated with cannabis.

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