Head Shop History: Why Do We Call It a Head Shop?
Head shops have become an established part of American counterculture. They sell items related to tobacco and cannabis, as well as other things like music and clothes. But the term “head shop” gets stranger the more you look at it. Let’s take a closer look at how head shops got their name, as well as how they operate.
Head Shop Origins
The ’60s were a drug-soaked time, so it makes sense that the first head shops began appearing in major cities in the middle of that decade. 1967 brought the release of the Jefferson Airplane classic, “White Rabbit,” and a clue might be in those lyrics. The song includes the line “feed your head.” That’s believed to be a reference to expanding one’s mind through drug use. What else do you call the mind? Well, sometimes you call it the head.
People who partake of certain substances are also known by names such as “pothead.” So that’s another way the term “head shop” could have gotten the name. Out of context, calling a retail store a “head shop” sounds weird and confusing, but it makes a lot more sense once you go back and examine what life was like in 1960s America.
That was 50 years ago, though. Nowadays, drugs such as cannabis are more accepted than ever. In fact, Americans overwhelmingly believe that using cannabis is less dangerous than using alcohol, opiates, and tobacco. The laws haven’t quite caught up with public opinion, though.
How Head Shops Operate
In 2015, the news agency Reuters reported that “As states and cities across the country have lowered the penalties for possession, a patchwork of federal, state and local laws means little has changed at the head shops.” That means there are still quite a few places where you can walk into a retail head shop and browse the merchandise, but if you’re going to use the accessories to help you smoke marijuana, you better not say that out loud. Think it all you want, but if you say it, store owners feel legally bound to refuse service to you.
Philadelphia is a good example of how this works. It’s one of a few Pennsylvania cities to decriminalize marijuana possession. If you’re caught with 30 grams or less of the substance, you’re looking at a citation and a fine of $25. That means customers are free to stroll into a head shop in Philadelphia without worrying that the cops are going to come after them. But once you walk into that shop, don’t be surprised if the signs inside reference smoking tobacco instead of cannabis. Don’t try to get anyone who works there to say the magic word, either. You’re not being funny; you’re just being weird and kind of a jerk if you do that. The employees know better than you do what words and phrases they can or can’t say.
It may sound paranoid to be that worried about getting arrested for drug paraphernalia, and experts say such raids are uncommon. But they’re not unheard of. Look at Operation Pipe Dreams in 2003. The Drug Enforcement Administration arrested 55 people on drug paraphernalia-related charges. The public at large wasn’t exactly clamoring for the feds to go out and arrest people like actor and comedian Tommy Chong, but it happened anyway. Chong was the only person who served any jail time, and critics called Operation Pipe Dreams a politically motivated stunt. It’s a reminder that while head shops provide a unique and useful service, they must be careful about exactly how they provide that service.
Head shops have become an established part of American counterculture. They sell items related to tobacco and cannabis, as well as other things like music and
What is a Head Shop?
What is a head shop? It’s not what you think. Yes, you’re not wrong in saying that a head shop is just a store—this is a magical store unlike any other. This type of store specializes mostly in selling drug-related paraphernalia. The term – head shop – has its origins in the 1910s. Back then, just as is the case today, head shop was used in reference to shops that sell cannabis-related stuff or accessories.
Supplies Available at Early Head Shops
Some of the supplies you can buy from any head shop include:
- Water pipes
- Rolling papers
- Psychedelic visual aids
From the early days, customers could never find or buy cannabis or tobacco at the head shops. The reason for this is cannabis and tobacco were never part of the inventory. However, many owners would find ingenious ways of selling hash or weed to anybody who needed them. The popularity of head shops has soared, dropped, and soared again over the years. Today, you can locate them in some of the hippest regions of the United States.
Head Shops as a Part of Hippy Culture
Head shops are smoking shops. They are part of what has become known as the hippy culture. They are the go-to shops for anybody interested in accessories for smoking hash or weed. Users are likely to find exotic smoking supplies from these shops too. These types of shops are common in most cities in Britain and the US. The shops are even in cities where cannabis is considered illegal.
Although head shops should not sell drugs, you’re likely to find some using ingenious means to sell what you need. Some owners creatively formulate drugs to avoid breaching drug-related laws. It’s important for customers to know what to say when inside any head shop to avoid giving the fact that it sells drugs away. If you mention the wrong word, the owner or staff may expel you from the shop either temporarily or permanently.
It pays to know the jargon when asking ‘what is a head shop.’ Some of the words used include:
- dry piece
- glass blunt
Using the right terms determines whether you get what you came to the head shop to buy or not.
What to Consider When Opening a Head Shop
Opening a head shop depends on several factors. For example, the right location determines whether the head shop will attract more customers or not. People want products fairly quickly, hence the rise in pop-up head shops, online head shop, and people searching for “head shops near me.” It’s important for the owner to know what the zoning and legal requirements are before choosing the appropriate location. Also, the owner has to understand what the local laws say about selling drug-related supplies in head shops. Finding the best suppliers, especially those selling or making glass blowers is crucial too.
Are Online Head Shops Better Than Brick and Mortar Head Shops?
What is a head shop? Now that you know what it is, you should place your orders at online head shops. Online head shops are better than actual head shops as they save you from worrying about wronging the owners or fellow customers with your choice of words. Online shops protect your identity—and they have quick and discreet delivery. Online shops reduce the likelihood of being arrested, which can occur when you go to a head shop located in a rough area where you may just be “in the wrong place, at the wrong time.”
Whether you shop in-store or online, a head shop should be able to teach you things like how to use a one hitter, how to choose the best bong for you, and knowing the difference between a bubbler and a bong.
A head shop is a magical store unlike any other. This type of store specializes in selling cannabis-related stuff or accessories.