April 22 • 02:23 AM

Spelling, like substance, is debatable

March 24, 2010
I confuse a few people last week in the medical marijuana story on the front page.

"How, exactly, is marijuana spelled?" comes the query. "With an 'h' or a 'j'?"

Good question, considering it appears both ways in the story.

When I refer to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, I'm spelling marijuana the way it's spelled in the act, on the state's books. The reason the state made this rather weird move? Beats me. I do know that back in 1937 when the feds passed a 'stamp tax act,' requiring anyone who used cannabis in any way to pay taxes on it, they called it the 'Marihuana Tax Stamp Act.'

Here's what Wikipedia says about it:

"The Act did not itself criminalize the possession or usage of hemp, marijuana, or cannabis, but levied a tax equaling roughly one dollar on anyone who dealt commercially in cannabis, hemp, or marijuana. The Act did include penalty provisions and elaborate rules of enforcement to which marijuana, cannabis, or hemp handlers were subject. Violation of these procedures could result in a fine of up to $2,000 and five years' imprisonment. The net effect was to increase the risk for anyone dealing in the substance—at least until World War II required the United States Department of Agriculture to make its 1942 movie 'Hemp for Victory.' The film encouraged and taught farmers to grow variants of hemp suitable as raw material for hawsers used by the U.S. Navy and the Merchant Marine, prior to the adoption of Nylon rope. The hemp was also used as a substitute for other fibrous materials that were blocked by Japan."

The 'Marihuana Tax Stamp Act' is the only link I can find to the state's choice of old fashioned spelling—which confuses a lot of people. I should have put an editor's note on the story and for not doing so I apologize. But hopefully no one thinks that it's a typo or proofreading error. Yes, we make those, too, but in this case I call the 'Michigan Medical Marihuana Act' what it is.

Regardless, I found the story among the most interesting and intriguing I've done in a while. A great deal of why the plant is so controversial in the United States to this day can be linked to a man named Harry J. Anslinger. I strongly suggest anyone interested in getting the full picture google his name. He was the first director of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930.

Anslinger lumped cannabis into the same category as opium and coca and produced lots of propaganda about it. He said the 'loco weed' "caused people to commit violent crimes, act irrational, and act overly sexual."

He planted a lot of seeds—no pun intended—which have obviously been proven difficult to uproot.

This is likely why discussion of the subject often occurs in the dark.

Today I get an anonymous mailing that includes a piece from United Press International regarding a federal study that concluded that "the main ingredient in marijuana does not cause cancer...and that it may even protect against malignancies."

Parts of the article are highlighted in yellow. The article appeared under the 'Nation & World' banner in the Detroit Sunday Journal,' the weekly that was published from 1995-1999 by striking Detroit News and Free Press workers. There is no discernible date on it, but I surmise from an unrelated photo on the same page it was published in 1997. The sender also includes pages 104-110 of 'Military Medicine-February, 1969.' The chapter is called 'Marijuana: The Drug and the Problem' and is written by LCDR Leonard M. Zunin, MC, USNR. It includes dozens of references.

Written 41 years ago, it reads as if it was penned yesterday. Here are some of the highlighted excerpts:

"Marijuana is not considered to be addicting in the sense that the opiates and their derivatives are addicting. Perhaps the dependence is even less than the dependence on cigarettes.

"Although the initial legislation in the late thirties against the use of marijuana was to a significant degree stimulated by fear that marijuana would lead to opiate use, this is not currently considered to be a s ignificant problem. In fact, several of the studies indicate that the previous statistics have been misleading and exaggerated."

It is a most interesting article from a unique source...

...Guess it just illustrates that no matter how you spell it, the debate continues.

Email Catherine at

Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.
Castle Creek
04 - 22 - 19
Site Search


Thanks for visiting Tri City Times