A fascinating new book is out entitled Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs by Isaac Campos. In it, he traces the history of cannabis in Mexico as the Spanish Conquistadors brought the useful fiber crop to the New World in the 16th century. East Bay Express reviews the book and touches on a subject I’ve written about – the word “marijuana”:
But let’s start with the word “marijuana.” Marijuana came to the New World as “cannabis,” whose strong fibers held together the Spanish Armada in the form of ropes and sails. The Spanish crown ordered that the pivotal commodity be farmed in the New World. Conquistadors didn’t particularly excel at farming it in Mexico, but the psychoactive weed found a home in the kits of indigenous doctors, who were world-class herbalists.
Much like the Spanish, the natives of Mexico assumed religion and medicine were one and the same. Theology was biology, and the natives named powerful healing plants after the gods they worshiped. When new plants and new gods showed up, Campos’ theory is that they kept doing what they always did.
Cannabis became “mari-huana,” uniting the name of Mary, the mother of Jesus, with an indigenous word for “property” or “stuff” — huana. The Spanish’s cannabis became the natives’ “Mary’s stuff,” or “Mary’s weed,” Campos theorizes, but no one truly knows.
From the Old World Jews first naming of the plant as kaneh bosm to the New World Christians renaming it mari huana, you’d think this allegedly Judeo-Christian nation would promote and revere cannabis, huh?