Just a scant few years after the demise of video stores, a new business began to inhabit our wavering strip malls and high streets. Head Shops are stores that sell weed paraphernalia and other items related to cannabis subculture, and have become an increasingly ubiquitous feature of any city that practices legalization.
While first coming to rise as part of the hippie counterculture in the late sixties, the rise of head shop was soon after abated by a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined that local communities had a first amendment right to define what would be considered obscene, which of course included drugs and anything to do with the related subculture. Within a couple of years the sale of drug paraphernalia was banned almost everywhere, with laws severe enough to send Tommy Chong to jail.
While we seem to be in the throws of a generational shift in outlook and laws relating to marijuana, at present day weed are still illegal in most countries and states, and in most of those places, the related paraphernalia is also banned by people who don’t realize that determined teenagers can basically make a pipe out of anything.
As an effort get get around such prohibitive restrictions, a loophole is observed whereby these products are advertised as being “for tobacco use only”, which is a bit like how some stores use the term “personal back massager” to describe what is obviously a vibrator. In many of these places, even using the term “bong” to describe a pipe is in itself a prosecutable offense. While these limitations seemingly do little to curb drug consumption, they did provide a key plot point in the first season finale of “The Facts of Life”, where Tootie and Natalie accidently buy bongs from a record store, with Tootie intending to use her to store jelly beans. It can hardly be considered a spoiler to reveal that Mrs. Garrett had a few choice words for the owner of that record store.
Indeed, some shops get around these prohibitive laws and restrictions by positioning head shops as purveyors of music instead of drug counterculture, aware that the lines between these cultures can sometimes be blurry. These confluence of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll became especially convenient in the eighties, when hard rock subculture involved a uniform comprised of band t-shirts, studded wristbands and belts, and multipurpose bandanas. Within this inventory usually lurked a selection of pipes, roach clips, and posters of Samantha Fox.
At present day, head shops have expanded to include equipment and literature about growing marijuana, as well as information about cannabis related products like CBD pills. Perhaps the biggest evolution has been the inclusion of e-cigarettes and the flavored liquids used with these devices. Still a new concept for many people, the ability to get some consultation before purchasing such products can be most helpful. Whether or not more head shops will eventually revert to carrying Twisted Sister tour shirts and studded wristbands is at this point unknown.