“Reefer” is a colloquial term with a rich history, primarily associated with cannabis culture dating back to the 1930s. It originated as a coded language within jazz circles, where musicians discreetly referred to cannabis in their songs using this term. However, “reefer” gained notoriety due to the 1936 propaganda film, “Reefer Madness,” which portrayed exaggerated and sensationalized consequences of cannabis use, particularly among young people.

The etymology of “reefer” is shrouded in uncertainty, with various theories regarding its origins. One speculation suggests a connection to sailing ships, where the sailors responsible for rolling the sails were called “reefers,” and the folded sails resembled a rolled joint. Another theory proposes a Spanish influence, with “grifo” being negative slang for a marijuana user.

The term “reefer” was first documented in print in 1931, in Time Magazine, which mentioned the practice of drying marijuana leaves, grinding them, and rolling them into a “reefer cigarette.” These cigarettes were often referred to as “muggles,” “reefer,” or “Mary Warners.”

Nevertheless, it was the film “Reefer Madness” that significantly popularized the term, albeit in a derogatory manner, by demonizing cannabis consumers and advocating for the criminalization of the plant. In the 1970s, as cannabis culture intertwined with the hippie movement, the film took on a satirical tone and is now frequently invoked in a self-deprecating context.