This past weekend, medicinal marijuana patients, business folk, and “potrepreneurs” converged at the New West Summit, San Francisco’s business conference related to all things marijuana.
But there was something unusual about the event.
I didn’t hear one person say the word “pot.”
Or weed. Grass. Dope. Herb. Mary Jane. Ganja. 420.
Richard Branson cracked during his keynote address that entrepreneurs in the space “like to get stoned occasionally” and he would enjoy a “spliff” after his talk — maybe the only time marijuana slang was used on stage during the weekend.
The marijuana industry is growing up in front of our eyes. As drug transactions move from back alleys and clubs to legal dispensaries, the culture around pot changes. In an effort to be taken more seriously, industry insiders find more sophisticated language to describe their trade.
Slang no longer has a place in the industry vernacular. Entrepreneurs tell me they much prefer the scientific name for the plant, cannabis.
In the exhibit hall, purveyors showed their wares: high-tech vaporizers from companies like Firefly and Pax Labs, a marijuana-infused health products line from Fleurish Farms, and reports from business intelligence platform Headset. I spotted few companies with names that reveal the industry they operate in, and plenty advertising health and wellbeing.
A recent investigation by the Marijuana Business Daily underlines this trend.
In an analysis of over 3,000 state-licensed marijuana companies, the publication found that companies use wellness-oriented words, such as “organic” and “herbal,” in their names far more often than slang. The Marijuana Business Daily did not include businesses in California and Michigan, which do not issue licenses at the state level.
“Farm,” “green,” “leaf,” “bud,” “garden,” and “organic” are among the most popular words used in company names.
As Marijuana Business Daily writer Eli McVey points out, this hasn’t always been the case. In the mid-2000s, before Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational weed in 2012, words like “ganja” and “dank” popped up more frequently.
But as the national conversation around marijuana turned to issues around public health, rather than criminalization, the industry adopted a new vernacular around wellness and healing people.
Five states will vote to legalize recreational marijuana this November, while medical marijuana is up for consideration in four more states.