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HEAD SHOP & CANNABIS CULTURE: A BRIEF HISTORY

head shop

Defining a good head shop is actually kind of tricky because each to their own carries different categories of products and types of paraphernalia. You might think oh, I just need a new carb cap or titanium nail for my dab rig, but getting those pieces becomes more complicated when searching for quality. For example, if you type head shop into Google, you’ll get a variety of choices that are probably not what you’re looking for because it’s not always synonymous with “smoke shop.”

AN UNTOLD STORY OF THE HEAD SHOP

Head shops are generally categorized for selling all equipment related to cannabis (or tobacco) and became popular psychedelic storefronts in the late ’60s during the anti-Vietnam counterculture movement. They were originally poster stores and candle shops that acted as the transition place for new ideas to form about marijuana law and its reform, which would eventually evolve into smoke shops. While a lot of the work done in this time period surrounding the legalization of cannabis was unsuccessful, the result is a strong cultural identity rooted in trippy art forms, tye dye shirts, weed posters, relevant music, imaginative books, and other innovative products only found here, in head shops.

Head shop art like Victor Moscoso

Victor Moscoso

But where the hell does “head shop” come from? I mean, it doesn’t really make sense. Why would weed paraphernalia shops coin a term so unrelated… Well, as the story’s told, the first psychedelic shop was opened by a United States Army Veteran and his younger brother in San Francisco, January 3rd, 1966. It became clear that anyone interested in these stores was heavy smokers, “pot-heads” or “weed heads.” As a result, the connection was formed. Now we’re not saying this is absolute truth cuz there are many theories about where it originated, but this one sticks.

Another popular belief permeating in the consciousness of stoner historians everywhere comes from the ambition to “fill your head” with knowledge and existential truth. As I mentioned above, there was plenty of political ideology shared between different groups of people across America at the time. It might be said that these storefronts where a safe place for people to meet and say whatup to each other without the pressure of political correctness interfering with morality. But like anything stretched across long periods of time, especially in the realm of cannabis, the documented herald is a little hazy.

At around the same time, acid was a wildly popular psychedelic experience and method to learn more about oneself. It was a lifestyle, much of which today has been sensationalized and labelled as hippie culture. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Shaggy pants, long hair, loose shirts, VW vans, hitchhiking backpackers… The thought is overwhelmingly nostalgic and equally synonymous with stoner culture. But some seem to think head actually stands for “he eats acid daily.” Might be true, might be a stretch, but at the end of the day everyone seems to collectively concur the same thing; they helped people feed their heads with knowledge of the time; a communal spot to enlighten and expose certain truths only exposed by drug-induced clarity.

But at a more functional level, they helped the spread of information through the distribution of newspaper networks and relevant cartoonists such as Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton. In a sense, these established underground connections spread the seeds of cannabis culture.

HEAD SHOP POLITICAL REFORM

Unfortunately, in the mid-1970s, everything got shut down. In the United States, the sale of drug paraphernalia was outlawed and you could serve 20 years in prison for holding or selling weed. As a result, the web and stream of networks between head shops ran dry. Only in the last 10 years have they resurfaced and permeated mainstream culture.

Head Shop in the 70s

Robert Altman

PRESENT TENSE

Now they are everywhere. Most don’t really serve the same purpose they did in the ’60s and ’70s. That whole cultural experience has died off. Online shops and retail shops are optimized not to create culture or share ideas, but to sell a product. At Primo, we don’t want to only sell you things. We’re looking for community members to be a part of our take on the culture. We celebrate the established underground and roots of history that have spread 30, 40 years later, and head shops are a perfect example of the legacy we promise to continue.