Throughout the long dark ages of cannabis prohibition, there was always a business in cultivating, distributing, and retailing the plant. It just wasn’t what you could properly call an industry.
Even under cannabis prohibition, there were always a few legal ways for scrappy entrepreneurs to make money.
Don’t get me wrong, many “industrious” people plied their trade as growers, smugglers and dealers back in the day—and still do in states like Idaho and North Dakota—but it wasn’t something you could put on your resume, never mind casually brag about in the annual family holiday newsletter.
This year both children made the honor roll at school and our OG Kush plants tested out at over 30% THC. We can’t decide who made us prouder!
But seriously folks, just think of all the incredible business people that were forced to remain in the shadows due to senseless laws against a beneficial plant. Ironically, the underground thus thrived on the otherwise untapped talents of those already marginalized from other career paths by race, class, or previous cannabis arrests. Though we also missed out on the talents of anyone who loved cannabis but not enough to risk going to jail for it.
Which brings up the fact that even under prohibition, there were always a few legal ways for scrappy entrepreneurs to make money. You could go the business-to-business route, and provide “picks and shovels” to growers—selling everything from hydroponic equipment to trim scissors. Or you could be “consumer-facing,” and address the needs of John Q. Stoner—selling everything from roach clips to rolling papers.
As a longtime editor at High Times, I met many trailblazing, job-creating, cannabis-enhancing visionaries of both varieties, who at the time had few if any effective means of marketing their products beyond advertising in the magazine’s pages or setting up a booth at the company’s annual Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. And I can happily report that, almost universally, they came up with their game-changing inventions while high.
Mainstream retailers overlooked these problems, such as millions of people needing to grind up their cannabis on a daily or multi-daily basis—and so necessity becomes the mother of invention. The classic example of this dynamic being the creation of the double-wide rolling paper, the first of our game-changing cannabis paraphernalia innovations.
EZ-Wide Rolling Papers
Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, demand for cannabis suddenly spiked, as the practice spread from jazz musicians and beatniks to a much wider demographic. This led to a lot of good times, but also put a serious strain on the nation’s already shaky cannabis supply. California’s first generation of “homegrown” cannabis cultivators were just getting started at the time, and still putting out a product only arguably preferable to ditch weed. Meanwhile, the imported high-grade produce of places like Colombia and Hawaii was legendarily difficult to acquire.
This meant most people had to get by with a quality of cannabis far below what we’ve all grown accustomed to enjoying nowadays. How do I know that cannabis of the early 1970s was indeed a lot less potent (and a lot less expensive)? It used to be common practice among habitual joint smokers to take two separate rolling papers and glue them together in order to roll up a “bomber” of sufficient size as to actually get a few people stoned. The only problem was that this method produced a rather fragile vessel for rolling—a community-wide problem that in 1972 led metals trader and cannabis…