In So Many Words

Info-Comics by Larry Paros

What You Need to Know About Marijuana

Many consider dope to be the nation's number one public health menace. They, in fact, allege that because of marijuana, a.k.a. hash or pot, our country is going to pot. It is, after all, a shortening of potaguaya, a contraction of potacion de guaya, wine or brandy in which marijuana buds were steeped, literally creating a "drink of grief." Woe is us!

Hash is another matter altogether — simply the compacted resin of the cannabis plant often mixed with molasses, an abbreviation of hashash from the Arabic for "dry vegetation." No evil doing here. Look instead to 11th century Persia and a fanatical religious sect known as the Ismaeli. Sworn to murder all crusaders, they were often incited to acts of mayhem by partaking of hashash; hence the name under which they were most frequently known, hashashin, "eaters of hashish," from which we got our assassins.

Could that be the criminal link for which we are searching? Unfortunately, no. The country may be going to pot, but that's one rap we can't pin on marijuana. It speaks instead to a deterioration or going to pieces as when we cut meat into small chunks, literally making hash of something (18thC.). The results are akin to the disastrous foul-up at the battle of Michmash recorded by King Saul in I Samuel 13-14, creating a real mishmash, as befits our current thinking on the topic.