The word ganja written in graffiti

Ganja is a Hindi name for hemp, derived from the word ganjha, from the Sanskrit gañjā, referring to a "powerful preparation from cannabis sativa".[1][2][3] The term ganja, one of the oldest and most commonly used synonyms for marijuana in the English language, dates to before 1689.[4]

History of the term ganja[edit]

The word was used in Europe as early as 1856, when the British enacted a tax on the "ganja" trade.[5]

One academic source places the date of introduction of ganja in Jamaica at 1845.[6] The term came with 19th century workers whose descendants are now known as Indo-Jamaicans.[7]

Contemporary use of the term ganja[edit]

English use[edit]

Ganja is the most common term for marijuana in Jamaica.[7][8]

Use of the term ganja in popular culture[edit]

In 1975, Peter Tosh defended the use of ganja in the song "Legalize It".[9] 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".[5][10]


  1. ^ Torkelson, Anthony R. (1996). "The Cross Name Index to Medicinal Plants, Vol. IV: Plants in Indian medicine, p. 1674, ISBN 9780849326356, OCLC 34038712". CRC Press.
  2. ^ Kranzler, Henry R.; Korsmeyer, Pamela (2009). Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol & Additive Behaviour. Gale. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-02866-064-6.
  3. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (April 20, 2017). "420 Day: Why There Are So Many Different Names for Weed". TIME. Archived from the original on August 12, 2018. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  4. ^ "10 Words From Hindi & Urdu". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on 2019-04-15. Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  5. ^ a b Linder, Courtney (April 19, 2015). "Pot patois: A comprehensive etymology of marijuana". The Pitt News. Archived from the original on April 3, 2019. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ a b Lisa Rough (May 14, 2015). "Jamaica's Cannabis Roots: The History of Ganja on the Island". Leafly. Archived from the original on April 11, 2019. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  8. ^ Courtwright, David T. (2009). Forces of Habit. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674029-90-3.
  9. ^ Pieter Coertzen, M Christiaan Green, Len Hansen (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.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Rafael Pérez-Torres (2006). Mestizaje: Critical Uses of Race in Chicano Culture. U of Minnesota Press. pp. 97–. ISBN 978-0-8166-4595-4.