The Marketing Riddle: Cannabis vs. Weed

Because it sounds more professional, many dispensaries want to use the phrase “cannabis.” However, “weed” is by far the most popular search term for dispensary-related terms on Google and other search engines.

This creates a difficulty for dispensaries in terms of marketing and branding. What’s the secret to resolving this conflict? IWe’ll look at the difficulties of marketing and performing search engine optimization (SEO) for a dispensary that wishes to utilize the term “cannabis,” but must compete for potential consumers looking for terms like “weed.”

Cannabis vs. Weed, a History

First, There Was Marijuana

The term “marijuana” first appeared in American periodicals in the 1890s via the transnational press, from Mexico.

In Mexico, the term “marihuana” has been used to refer to the plant since the 1840s. It began gaining popularity in the United States at the beginning of the century, when American periodicals began to feature material written in English from Mexico. Marijuana’s reputation in Mexico preceded its reputation in the United States by many years, owing to its association with “poor” Mexicans like soldiers or inmates.


The term “weed” has been used to describe cannabis in the United States since around the end of the 19th century, although it was also applied to detestable plants dating back to the 16th century.

It is derived from the Mexican plant species known as “locoweed,” which grows in southwest and northern Mexico. In the late nineteenth century, “weed” and marijuana were sometimes used interchangeably in Mexico, therefore when tales about marijuana began to reach the United States, the two plants became conflated.


The scientific name for hemp is Cannabis, from which marijuana is made. The name was given during the 1700s.

Many lawmakers were uncomfortable with the term “marijuana” in light of the plant’s controversial history and wanted to stick to the scientific name because of it, therefore several bills containing the term “cannabis” emerged across the country as marijuana legalization legislation for recreational and medical purposes began to appear. This has without a doubt had an impact on the terms growth in recent years.

Others, such as dispensaries and industry organizations, have also begun to use the term cannabis rather than weed, marijuana, or pot, likely in an attempt to emphasize the drug’s medical advantages and present the product in a more sophisticated light.

The Weed Stigma

Due to the term’s history and ties to “weed,” dispensaries would want to avoid using it in their branding and advertising. “Weed” has a negative connotation attached to it, as it is frequently sold in plastic baggies on the street.

Even as cannabis acceptance increases throughout the United States, this stigma may be tough to overcome. In fact, some research has suggested that labeling a product as “weed” may actually lower consumer perceptions of it.

Continued Popularity

Despite this, in the United States, “weed” is still the most common name for the plant. Although the majority of search queries have remained consistent, the number of people searching for “cannabis” has increased. From a keyword usage standpoint, it puts dispensaries in a bind.

The most popular method for dispensaries to tackle this is to include the word “cannabis” in prominent locations, such as titles and headings, then covertly replace “weed” with “cannabis” when it’s less likely to be noticed by customers but is still recognized by search engines. For most, this option is an inadequate compromise since Google and other search engines place a high premium on phrases that are in headers, but many dispensaries would rather not have the “weed” word on their website at all.


The good news is that this condition is unlikely to persist. As the term “cannabis” gains popularity, the word “weed” will gradually be abandoned. This is already happening, as evidenced by the rising number of people seeking for information about cannabis using that key phrase.

In the meantime, dispensaries and industry groups will have to use a variety of techniques to rank well in search engines for both phrases.