Fun Weed Slang to Know

Medically reviewed by Alexander Tabibi, MD
December 20, 2022
Weed Slang: Cannabis, Ganja, 4:20, grass, mj, pot
Weed Slang: Cannabis, Ganja, 4:20, grass, mj, pot

Slang terms for drugs are nothing new – they have been around a lot longer than you may realize, in fact. Slang for drugs is so prevalent that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) publishes their list of “Drug Slang Code Words” to keep law enforcement in the know. The list features an exhaustive collection of street terms for everything from cocaine (which you may know as “oyster stew”), heroin (also known as “chocolate balls”), amphetamines (you know, “Blue Bell ice cream”) to steroids (never accept “gym candy” from a stranger).

However, the most robust compendium of street code belongs to marijuana. The list features old classics like “weed”, “pot”, “grass”, and “Mary Jane,” as well as plenty of not-as-common monikers like “burritos verdes”, “joy smoke”, “big pillows”, and the mellifluous “bambalacha”.

Why Did the Slang for Weed Appear?

So, where did this funny slang for weed come from, and what do they even mean? Well, sometimes slang terms come out of a place of creativity, and other times they are born out of necessity. Slang is a way to distinguish specific areas of vernacular to make them our own. Take slang terms used for neighborhoods in New York City, which help residents separate the tourists from their own kind. Or slang that is used by musicians, which is used by certain artists to show that they are “in the know.”

For industries and activities that have a long history of criminalization, slang serves a much more important purpose, which is to get around the authorities without inhibiting communication. Historically, law enforcement officers’ ears perk up when they hear someone say “marijuana,” and so slang terms have come and gone over the years to make it possible for people to talk about weed without worrying about raising someone’s eyebrows. That is until law enforcement gets wise to these new terms, and so new ones must be developed, and the cycle goes on and on. 

That being said, let’s go over some of the more infamous slang terms that have been used throughout the ages.

Mary Jane

“Mary Jane” is still widely used in circulation, but its origins date back a lot farther than a lot of us may realize. The term’s exact origin is unclear, but it is likely to date back to sometime in the 1930s before cannabis was dealt its first big legalization blow in 1937 with the Marihuana Taxation Act. The term “marijuana” is believed to have originated from Mexicans transporting cannabis across the US border, as the term in Spanish means “the weed that intoxicates”. “Mary Jane” probably originated as a result of Americans being unable to pronounce the word “marijuana” at the time, since it was so new to their vernacular.

Burritos Verdes

Now, here is where things get a little weird. The DEA published this term in 2007, and it translates it as “green burritos,” with the word “burrito” as “little donkey.” So, according to the DEA, there is a slang term floating around that refers to weed as “little green donkeys.” If you are scratching your head, so are we – we have never heard this phrase uttered in real life, either.

Big Pillows

Another phrase for weed on the DEA’s list of drug slang is “big pillows” – again, this one is new to us, and that is about all there is to say about that.


The DEA insists that “bambalacha” is another euphemism for cannabis, but again, this one is a complete mystery to us. Although, some claims, since the name first appeared on the DEA list, that it was at one time used in the early days of the marijuana industry, perhaps sometime in the 1940s. Still, we are pretty certain that no one is using this phrase today. 

Other Famous Nicknames for Weed

Now that we have gotten the more amusing terms out of the way, check out this quick list containing some of the other nicknames that are a little less common than the ones we mostly use today.

  • Ganja: The term “ganja” comes from the Ganges River in India, where cannabis may have originated.
  • Reefer: A common slang term used in the 1930s, “reefer” has conflicting origin stories, but originated before the famous mid-1930s anti-weed propaganda film “Reefer Madness” was first released. In fact, bandleader Cab Calloway’s hit song “Reefer Man” came out in 1932, and while he never explicitly mentions marijuana in the song’s lyrics, it’s pretty clear what he’s talking about..
  • Tree: The term “trees” has been in circulation for ages, and comes from the fact that cannabis buds look like miniature trees..
  • Treefer: A combination of two popular slang words in the world of cannabis that are simply combined into one: “tree” and “reefer”.
  • Jazz cigarette: The term “jazz cigarette” was used widely in the 1920s, when marijuana use was out in the open in the jazz scene that was taking over major cities at the time.
  • Wacky tobacky: This comical term was first used in 1943 but became more commonplace in the 1980s during the famously anti-marijuana Bush years.
  • Hash: Originates from the term “hashish,” which is a specific type of weed product made by pressing the plant’s resinous trichomes into a brick, allowing for an extremely potent and fragrant concentrate of the plant’s desirable compounds.  Hashish has been circulating in the Middle East since at least the 12th century, but around the 18th century when marijuana began making its way into European daily life, some adopted the term “hash” to refer to all marijuana products. The terms “hash” and “weed” continue to be used interchangeably to this day, despite the fact that the two are actually different products.
  • Grass: Slang terms, as we know, come and go, and a person who refers to weed as “grass” is aging themselves. This term was particularly popular in the 60s and 70s, and has generally fallen out of favor.
  • Herb: Continues to be a slang term of choice by a lot of weed users, and the term is pretty self-explanatory. Marijuana fits the technical definition of an herb, and so while the phrase is used as slang, it’s also literally accurate.
  • Nugs: Usually referring to the individual buds of the marijuana plant. We don’t really know where and when the phrase started being used, but we can say that it’s short for “nuggets.”  “Nugget” traditionally refers to a nugget of gold or some other precious metal, and so it makes sense that cannabis enthusiasts would equate marijuana buds to gold.
  • Skunk: A pet name for weed, “skunk” obviously refers to the skunky aroma that weed can have – with some strains having more of that pungent fragrance note than others. The smell is particularly strong when a person is smoking weed, and so the idea is that if you smell like a skunk is in the vicinity, it may be a person getting high close by.
  • Dope: “This is an interesting term, both in terms of its origins and the fact that its associations have changed over the years to reflect different substances. Nowadays, we don’t really think of weed when we hear the word, but instead heroin. However, there was a time during the 20th century when “dope” almost exclusively referred to cannabis. Dope likely comes from the Dutch word “doop,” which means a thick sauce. In America, the word has evolved into “dip,” at least when referred to food. But, over time, “doop” began referring to any kind of complex mixture of ingredients, and eventually became associated with narcotics. This evolved into “dope” which essentially translates to a slang word for any drug.
  • Kind: Another phrase with generally unknown origins is “kind,” although it likely comes from the West Coast. This refers to premium buds – in other words, the top-shelf flower you get at a high-end dispensary or the like. If you have kind bud, you have some special weed in your possession.
  • Dank: While most people use “dank” as a descriptive term, some people also refer to cannabis as “dank” – in other words, a noun. Dank is a positive term used to describe weed that’s particularly pungent in aroma – in other words, weed that has a bit of a funk to it, which reflects a high terpene count that means that it’s extremely high in quality. Basically, the stronger weed smells, the fresher and more potent it is, so dankness is considered a good trait.
  • Doobie: A doobie technically refers to a joint, but the term is so iconic that we had to include it on the list. While the origins are debated somewhat, the legend is that it comes from the Doobie Brothers, who were legendary stoners who reportedly shared their joints with many musical icons of their day.
  • Shawg: Marijuana of poor quality often in the form of shake including seeds and/or stems.
  • Blazed: A nice cannabis high, as that high itself varies depending on the strain, but it’s generally positive and pleasurable.
  • Burnout: A term referring to both the feeling of being burnt and a person who regularly consumes so much cannabis, they are in a perpetual state of unfocused dullness.
  • Ripped: Used to describe the action of smoking, or more commonly ripping from a bong or simply to describe an intense and almost massive high.

Grow Your Cannabis Vocab with These Funny Slang Terms for Weed

Yes, throughout the ages there has been plenty of funny slang for smoking weed, and that list continues to widen even today as people of all generations come up with new ways to describe their favorite hobby. Some terms from history are obsolete, but as you can see, many of them remain alive and well to this day.