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Halifax councillor to stop using word 'marijuana,' saying term perpetuates racism

'Marijuana was used to demonize Mexicans,' says Shawn Cleary
Councillor Shawn Cleary (

A Halifax councillor says a well-known term for a soon-to-be-legalized product is actually racist.

Shawn Cleary plans to avoid saying 'marijuana' after learning of the word's origin. 

Cleary is the chair of a committee of Nova Scotia municipalities looking at the implementation of cannabis legalization in the province.

He said in a recent meeting, it was brought to his attention that the word 'marijuana' was used to negatively portray use of the drug by Mexicans in the United States in the early 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," Cleary explained.

He said prior to that, many prominent Americans widely used the product.

Cleary mentioned this issue on Twitter Tuesday morning, saying we should avoid perpetuating racism wherever possible. 

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

Cleary said we should be using the plant's botanical name 'cannabis,' however if someone chooses  to use the term 'marijuana,' that's up to them.

Mark Hodgins

About the Author: Mark Hodgins

Mark Hodgins is an Ontario-born Haligonian. A graduate of the Loyalist College journalism program, he’s been with NEWS 95.7 since 2016. Mark is a lover of sports, politics and video games.
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