When dealing with the government, as you do, certainly the words “marijuana” and “cannabis” are the words the political and medical communities understand and respond to. Altweeklies like this one, though, do use “weed” and “pot” and “medi-pot” —  not to negate medical marijuana, but in order to use the words its readers and community are familiar with. And regardless of what publication or media outlet you’re referring to, how does one know it’s “medicinal” unless a “medical” or “patient” or a “medi” prefix is added? Again, context comes into play. If a magazine like High Times uses the phrase “medical pot,” does that impact the quality of the discussion? Or do readers simply relate and value it as medicinal?

Slang and the stereotypes aside, twenty states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws now, two states have legalized marijuana, and jurisdictions and states across the country — including Rhode Island — have decriminalized various amounts of it. According to the most recent polls, more than 50 percent of Americans want marijuana legalized recreationally.

Medical marijuana advocates might cringe at the terms “weed” and “pot” and “nugs,” just as I’ve seen many a gay man cringe at gay pride parades. All the different manifestations of a culture don’t need to be embraced by everyone — and just because you cringe doesn’t mean you want your cousins to be prosecuted for letting their weed flags fly.

After all, no one should go to jail or be otherwise punished, sick or not, for what’s at the root of every one of those slang words: a plant.

Got a Burning Question about marijuana, drugs, or the drug war? Tweet it to @asktheduchess or e-mail it to theduchess@valerievandepanne.com.

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