Meet Dr Marijuana Pepsi: the woman who refused to change her name

Facebook / Marijuana Vandyck
Facebook / Marijuana Vandyck 

 A 46-year-old US woman given the name Marijuana Pepsi has just graduated with a doctorate, earning her the right to say, "That's Doctor Marijuana Pepsi, to you".

Despite being teased by schoolmates, questioned by teachers and urged by bosses and co-workers to legally change her name, Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck of Pecatonica, Illinois, decided to embrace her strange moniker, "as a symbol of her struggle to succeed and to help other children overcome obstacle,"

According to a profile of Ms Vandyck in the The Milwaukee Journal Sentinelit was her mother, Maggie Johnson, who chose the unusual name. But while her dad registered his objections, he was overruled.

"She said that she knew when I was born that you could take this name and go around the world with it," Ms Vandyck said.

Curiously however, her siblings received far more traditional names.

"At the time as a child, I'm thinking yeah, right. You named my older sister Kimberly. You named my younger sister Robin," she said, explaining to TODAY that she's grown into her name "because I am a strong woman. I've had to be,".

Ms Vandyck still wonders what on earth inspired her mother's unusual choice.

"I want to know, what was it about me that made her go, 'You just look like a Marijuana Pepsi,' " she said.


While her early school years were tough, by high school, the name had earned a little more street-cred with her peers.

"They were like, 'Oh yeah. Man, I wish I had your name. I love that."

But when it comes to Marijuana Pepsi, it's certainly not a case of nominative determinism - she's never tried the drug and she doesn't like Pepsi.

The mother-of-one, whose doctorate was entitled, "Black names in white classrooms: Teacher behaviours and student perceptions," chose a far more common name for her son - Isaac.  And she doesn't recommend bestowing her name on others. In response to the oft-uttered, " I'm going to name my kid after you," Ms Vandyck said, "I hear that so much and I go, Lord, please don't do that to that child."

Over on Baby Centre, Marijuana is actually listed as a girls name, with data suggesting it came in at number 16,457 in 2015. Like Marijuana? The site suggests Why not try: Ava-LynnMarielleAmariaBella-MarieMariellRubyMarianaBella-MariAva-MariAngelica-MarieEcstasyEllie-Marie.

Yep, ecstasy.

Not sold on Marijuana but still want a dope name? Here's a list of names for weed-friendly parents, which includes Sativa and Indica for girls and Herb and Blaze for boys.

Charlotte, one of the most popular baby names in Australia also makes an appearance. Why? "After the famous strain of marijuana known as "Charlotte's Web" that has been used to successfully treat seizures in children."

So there you go.

But while Marijauna Pepsi's name hasn't held her back, can a child's moniker really have an impact on their future?  Science tends to say yes.

Back in 1948, researchers from Harvard University looked at the names of 3300 recent graduates of the university to determine whether or not their names had any impact on their academic performance. The study, published in the Journal of Social Psychology  found that men with more unusual monikers were more likely to have dropped out or to have shown signs of "psychological neurosis" than the Johns or Mikes in their cohort.

Another study from Marquette University, published in the Journal of Managerial Psychologyfound that those with unusual names were least likely to be hired for a job. "The name an individual carries has a significant impact on how he or she is viewed, and conceivably, whether or not the individual is hired for a job," the authors wrote at the time.

"Our findings suggest that when selecting, parents may want to reconsider choosing something distinctive."

A 2009 study also found a link between uncommon names and juvenile delinquency.  "Adolescents with unpopular names may be more prone to crime because they are treated differently by their peers, making it more difficult for them to form relationships," the researchers wrote at the time. "Juveniles with unpopular names may also act out because they consciously or unconsciously dislike their names."

Celebrity parents of the world - take note.