In 1971, some stoners at San Rafael High School made plans to gather outside the school at 4:20 p.m. to begin searching for a nearby plot of abandoned weed. They never found the grow, but the meet time became the group’s code word for smoking marijuana. It would eventually spread, becoming the ubiquitous symbol for cannabis that it is today.
When weed giant Aurora Cannabis Inc. needed a name for its flagship pot brand last year, San Rafael ‘71 was a lock. There’s just one problem: apparently no one ever told the company's Canadian-based executives how to pronounce the name of the Marin County town.
“Whenever I pick up the phone, you can always tell a telemarketer, because they say ‘San Raf-aye-el,’” Joanne Webster, chief executive of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce, told MarketWatch.
That’s right. The Spanish pronunciation of San Rafael is not how the locals say it. It’s pronounced “San Rah-fell,” a memo Aurora’s executives seem to have missed. The company keeps pronouncing it with three syllables.
“I kind of wish [San Rafael] was taken up organically by a local [brand] — but the cannabis companies here are trying to get away from the stigma of pot smoking behind the bleachers,” Webster laments. “They want to get out of the dark and come out from underground.”
“Canada is appropriating all things California for the ‘cool’ factor that it brings,” Corey Herscu, the founder of cannabis PR firm Rnmkr Agency, explained. “Cannabis marketers understand, unequivocally, that people buy on positive emotion and nothing says ‘good weed’ like the thought of anything California — It quite literally set the North American standard for quality, regulations, and an adult-use rollout.”
We can’t blame them for trying to capitalize on California’s awesomeness. But they should learn how to pronounce the names of our towns first.