Dama. Sacred Grass. Cannabis. Marijuana. Our words for ‘weed’ have evolved into a never-ending list of terms. But no matter what slang you’re using—Flower, Purps, Fire, Weed, Meds—the meaning remains the same: it’s time to partake in our favorite plant!
Slang terms, used more often in speech than in writing, generally ‘reefer’ (see what I did there?) to language used in place of phrases or concepts considered illegal, impolite, socially unacceptable, exclusive or part of a subculture. And with slang terms being so commonplace, it’s no wonder we use over 1,200 of them to describe that sweet Mary Jane.
Pot In Translation…
Brush up on what we’re putting down. Never fear, the stoner dictionary is here!
Fire: High-quality cannabis. “Yo, this Bubba Kush is Fire!”
Shwag: Low-quality cannabis. “I don’t want no shwag, bro!”
420 friendly: An indicator that someone uses cannabis. “Are you 420 friendly?”
Kine bud: From a Hawaiian placeholder word for ‘whatsit,’ often confused with ‘kind.’ “How much will that ‘kine’ bud run me?”
Indo: Indoor-grown weed. As Snoop sang,“Rollin’ down the street, smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin and juice.”
Recorded in Virginia as early as 1619, hemp crops were adopted from Native American tribes and cultivated by farmers in the pioneer days of North America, becoming one of the main exports throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Of course, the practice of smoking the leaf was widely unknown to Americans until the early decades of the 20th century. Introduced by immigrants flooding into the country after the Mexican Revolution, the now trendy ‘Reefer’ or ‘Marijuana’ was quickly popularized by musicians and America’s youth culture. However, in a xenophobic effort to regulate both people and profits, the government passed the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, followed by the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, effectively outlawing all forms of cannabis and driving it completely underground. 1936 also saw the release of the propaganda film Reefer Madness, further adding to the fear of ‘Evil Weed.’
Now illegal and socially unacceptable, a need to coin new terms for ‘Grass’ was on the rise. The next few decades would be filled with milestones and mythos, giving birth to hundreds of illusive words, funky phrases and creative jargon contrived by the cannabis counterculture, specifically that of the ‘60s and ‘70s, including Shwag, Sugar Leaf, Wacky Tabacky, The Devil’s Lettuce and, of course, Dope.
One such origin story takes place in San Rafael, California, in the Fall of 1971. Five friends called The Waldos gathered every day after school at 4:20 p.m. to find an untended crop of ‘Ganja’ in the hills nearby. Despite never finding the illusive crop, the group unknowingly adopted the slang ‘420’ as a versatile, all-encompassing phrase for their cannabis adventures. Coincidentally, the friends had ties to the Grateful Dead, who they shared several sessions with. And although no one specifically recalls the moment it happened, a term was born that would spawn more than just a creative way to describe weed—it would evolve into a daily (and yearly!) celebration dedicated to pot culture.
Pot Slang Through the Decades
Stumbled into a time machine? No problem. Blend in with these antiquated cannabis terms.
The ‘30s: Muggles, Mezz, Jive, Viper, Marijuana
The ‘40s and ‘50s: Gage, Giggle Smoke, Reefers, Tea Pad
The ‘60s and ‘70s: Pot, Maryjane, Doobie, Ace, Bomb, Deadhead, Dope, Weed
The ‘80s and ‘90s: Bean, Blaze, Shwag, Baked
The 2000s and beyond: Dank, Hydro, Fire, Flower, Purps, Meds
Of course, every cannabis-related word doesn’t have such a legendary backstory. Many phrases developed from a variety of different influences regarding cannabis quality, appearance, location, potency, likeability and even users’ music taste. These words connected consumers to an underground culture and reflected elements of an individual’s identity: Herb, Regs, Dro, Dank, Green, Trees, Cheese, Indo, Endo, Sticky Icky, The Good Shit, Cheeba, Buddha, Chronic and more.
Today, with medical and recreational legalization in effect, contemporary pot slang has taken on a more therapeutic tone. ‘Flower’ and ‘Meds’ showcase the leap from counterculture to medical industry, replacing miseducation and negative stigmas with professional knowledge and scientific terminology. Naturally, the elegance of the cannabis vocabulary will continue to evolve in new directions as the community progresses, but the essence of the vernacular will stay the same, because this dank-as-hell skunky cheese I’m chiefin’ is some bomb-ass dope fire that has me straight up lifted higher than the ceiling, brah!