Who Is Mary Jane?
When I started becoming aware of Cannabis, I was overwhelmed by all the slang words. There seemed to be dozens of them, and it felt like people were making them up on a weekly basis just to mess with me.
Nonetheless, I tried my best to keep track of them. But there was one that always stuck with me; the word ‘marijuana’. After hearing it numerous times over the years, my naive teenage self assumed this was the technical term for Cannabis and left it there for many years. So when I realised it wasn’t the professional wording for the plant, I wondered where the name marijuana came from.
It turns out that is related to one of those throwaway slang names I had dismissed as a teenager. That name is ‘Mary Jane’. Of course, on the surface, it made no sense to me as a teenager. It felt like someone picked the word out of a hat and said, “Here we go! Let’s call it that this weekend and see how many people will start calling it Mary Jane as well.”
So just in case you are curious to what the connection is about Mary Jane; I thought I’d do a post for you going through the history of Mary Jane and how the name came about:
So Where Does The Name Mary Jane Come From?
In a nutshell, Mary Jane is a North American slang for marijuana. It is derived from the rough translation of the word itself into English from Spanish:
‘Mari’ or ‘Maria’ is typically translated into ‘Mary’.
‘Juana’ would be translated into either ‘Jane’ or ‘Joan’.
Marijuana was given the nickname Mary Jane, which ended up sticking.
OK, But Why Does ‘Marijuana’ Sound Spanish Then? I Thought It Originated In South And Central Asia?
That’s true, as it was the Spanish that brought Cannabis to Mexico from Asia. Eventually, when it went north of the border to the US, the Americans would refer to it as either Cannabis (the intoxicating kind) or hemp (for industrial use) around the early 1900s.
Around 1920, the word marijuana started popping up around the United States more often. The origins are not definitive, but it was most likely a Mexican slang word among Mexican Americans who had emigrated around the time of the Mexican revolution from 1910-1920.
Sadly, this word seems to have racist connotations, as anti-pot advocates began using the term marijuana freely, trying to start a smear campaign in the 1920s and 30s against immigrants and minorities to use them as a sort of scapegoat for the great depression.
The good news is people have become far more educated since then and saw the apparent smear campaign for what it was. Even better, the general public has claimed the word ‘marijuana’ for themselves. It is now freely used to describe Cannabis in a positive light, both medicinally and recreationally.
The exact origins are unclear regarding how the name Mary Jane came about. But logically, it makes sense that Mary Jane is an Americanism for the Spanish word for marijuana.
In Other Words, Mary Jane And Marijuana Are The Same Things, Right?
Pretty much. Although marijuana is now more commonly used on a day to day basis. Mary Jane is the anglicised slang version of the word.