Potency and safety analysis of hemp-derived delta-9 products: The hemp vs. cannabis demarcation problem

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The word ganja written in graffiti in Seville, Spain

Ganja (/ˈɡænə/, US: /ˈɡɑːnə/; Hindi pronunciation: [ɡaːɲd͡ʒaː]) is one of the oldest and most commonly used synonyms for marijuana. Its usage in English dates to before 1689.[1]


Ganja is borrowed from Hindi gāñjā (Hindi: गांजा, IPA: [ɡaːɲd͡ʒaː]), a name for cannabis in the Indo-Aryan language that descended from an early form of Vedic Sanskrit. The Sanskrit gañjā refers to a "powerful preparation from Cannabis sativa".[2][3][4][5][6] But the word only refers to a certain product derived from cannabis plants. Gāñjā is the title given to the flowers, whereas “charas” refers to the resin, and “bhang” the seeds and leaves.[7]

The word ganja reached the Western world through victims of slavery. Victims of the Atlantic slave trade were brought from Africa to Jamaica in 1513. In 1845, the British Empire started to traffic enslaved Indians to the Caribbean to strengthen the workforce on sugar plantations. They brought with them elements of their culture, including ganja.[8]

One academic source places the date of introduction of ganja in Jamaica at 1845.[9] The term came with 19th century workers whose descendants are now known as Indo-Jamaicans.[10]

The word was used in Europe as early as 1856, when the British enacted a tax on the "ganja" trade.[11]

In 1913, Jamaica banned cannabis with the Ganja Law.[12]

Contemporary use of the term ganja

English use

Ganja is the most common term for marijuana in West Indies.[10][13]

In popular culture

Cultural figureheads such as Bob Marley popularized Rastafari and ganja through reggae music. In 1976, Peter Tosh defended the use of ganja in the song "Legalize It".[14] The hip hop group Cypress Hill revived the term in the United States in 2004 in a song titled "Ganja Bus", followed by other artists, including rapper Eminem, in the 2009 song "Must Be the Ganja".[11][15]

In other languages

Derivatives of the term are used as generic words for marijuana in several languages, such as Indonesian/Malay (ganja), Khmer (កញ្ឆា, kanhchhea), Lao (ກັນຊາ, kan sa), Thai (กัญชา, gancha), Tiwi (kanja),[16] and Vietnamese (cần sa).


  1. ^ "10 Words From Hindi & Urdu". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on 15 April 2019. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Martin (2008). "Iranian L, and Some Persian and Zaza Etymologies". Iran & the Caucasus. 12 (2): 281–287. doi:10.1163/157338408X406056. JSTOR 25597374.
  3. ^ McGregor, R. S. (Ronald Stuart) (29 November 1993). "The Oxford Hindi-English dictionary". dsal.uchicago.edu.
  4. ^ Torkelson, Anthony R. (1996). The Cross Name Index to Medicinal Plants, Vol. IV: Plants in Indian medicine, p. 1674, ISBN 9780849326356, OCLC 34038712. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780849326356. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  5. ^ Kranzler, Henry R.; Korsmeyer, Pamela (2009). Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol & Additive Behaviour. Gale. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-02866-064-6.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (20 April 2017). "420 Day: Why There Are So Many Different Names for Weed". Time. Archived from the original on 12 August 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  7. ^ "Origins and Modern Use of Ganja - RQS Blog". Royal Queen Seeds. Retrieved 26 April 2024.
  8. ^ Ren, Guangpeng; Zhang, Xu; Li, Ying; Ridout, Kate; Serrano-Serrano, Martha L.; Yang, Yongzhi; Liu, Ai; Ravikanth, Gudasalamani; Nawaz, Muhammad Ali; Mumtaz, Abdul Samad; Salamin, Nicolas; Fumagalli, Luca (16 July 2021). "Large-scale whole-genome resequencing unravels the domestication history of Cannabis sativa". Science Advances. 7 (29). Bibcode:2021SciA....7.2286R. doi:10.1126/sciadv.abg2286. ISSN 2375-2548. PMC 8284894. PMID 34272249.
  9. ^ Mansingh, Laxmi; Mansingh, Ajai (1999). Home Away from Home: 150 Years of Indian Presence in Jamaica, 1845-1995. I. Randle Publishers. p. 127. ISBN 9768123397.
  10. ^ a b Lisa Rough (14 May 2015). "Jamaica's Cannabis Roots: The History of Ganja on the Island". Leafly. Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  11. ^ a b Linder, Courtney (19 April 2015). "Pot patois: A comprehensive etymology of marijuana". The Pitt News. Archived from the original on 3 April 2019. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  12. ^ "The ganja law of 1913: 100 years of oppressive injustice - Columns". JamaicaObserver.com. 2 December 2013. Archived from the original on 25 July 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  13. ^ Courtwright, David T. (2009). Forces of Habit. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674029-90-3.
  14. ^ Pieter Coertzen; M Christiaan Green; Len Hansen, eds. (2015). Law and Religion in Africa: The quest for the common good in pluralistic societies. African Sun Media. p. 186. ISBN 978-1-919985-63-3.
  15. ^ Rafael Pérez-Torres (2006). Mestizaje: Critical Uses of Race in Chicano Culture. U of Minnesota Press. pp. 97–. ISBN 978-0-8166-4595-4.
  16. ^ Dictionary AuSIL Archived 3 March 2023 at the Wayback Machine