Devil’s lettuce is an expression for cannabis, also known as marijuana which was introduced to the English language after the plant and its consumption became illegal in Western countries.
The term was initially used for a different plant though; Amsinckia tesselata, native to the dry areas of western North America.
Origin of the term
The first documented case of the expression comes from the 1943 book of Willis Linn Jepson, A Flora of California.
Here the phrase is applied as an alternative name for the plant Amsinckia tesselata, also known as bristly fiddleneck.
The association of “devil’s lettuce” with cannabis can be connected to the expression jazz cabbage, and the 1942 anti-drug film Devil’s Harvest.
The phrase appears online, associated to marijuana in the 1990’s.
Spread of the term
Since the start of the new millennium, the expression started to be commonly associated with cannabis and appearing in various contexts.
It was first defined on Urban Dictionary in 2003, further advancing the prevalence and active use of the phrase, especially among the youth.
Recent advances of the legalization movement resulted in more and more news platforms and media sites to address the expression and question its suitability to refer to the plant objectively.
- The New York Times – Marijuana, Reefer, Weed: Language and the Devil’s Lettuce