USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘marijuana’
Gestures
Humor
Initiations
Life cycle
Material
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Red Lady

Title: The Red Lady

Category: Folk Object

Informant: Julianna K. Keller

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: 325 West Adams Blvd./ Los Angeles, CA 90007

Date of Collection: 4/09/18

Description:

The “Red Lady” is a large red bong used by a select group of the theatre community at Trinity Valley High School in Fort Worth Texas. None of the students know the exact origin of the object, they believe that it was purchased by the school’s theatre department for use in one of their shows many years ago. The “Red Lady” has been passed down from senior to senior in the theatre department as the years have gone by. The “Red Lady” is given to a trusted member of the group and it’s their responsibility to care for and keep the secret of the object— While still maintaining its hiding place on school property.

Context/Significance:

Ms. Keller was fortunate enough to have earned the “Red Lady” her senior year of High School and was abel to share this story with me. She said she earned it because she was known for smoking marijuana and for being an excellent “chill” actress of her senior class. When it cam time for her to graduate, she then passed the bong down to a rising upperclassman.

 

Personal Thoughts:

We had something similar at my high school on the cheerleading team. The senior captain was in charge of the “spirit stick” all throughout the year and for maintaining the level of excellence that our team had achieved that previous year. I wound’t say a “sprit stick” and a bong are extremely similar, but they could be used as motifs to describe the same sort of seniority earned possession.

Customs
Folk speech
Gestures
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Cherries and Cherry Queens

My informant is a college junior studying cognitive science and creative writing. He is a casual pot smoker.

He heard this piece of folklore while working on a ranch near his Texas hometown, from an older man who taught him and his fellow ranch hands all about weed culture. He likes it and it means a lot to him because it reminds him of the time in his life when he was a ranch hand and of the people he worked and lived with at the time. He says he hopes to bring the same vibe of that group of people to his friends and smoking pals now.

This interview was performed in the informant’s bedroom.

“What’s a cherry?”

“A cherry is, um, when you light the bowl and then you smoke it and then after you’re done smoking it it’s still like, lit, like there’s still like a red glow in the bowl, so it’s called a cherry and you can pass it and then you say ‘oh it’s cherried!’ and then they quickly but without lighting it continue to just smoke it, and then if they can continue to pass it around the circle and it gets all the way back to you and it’s still lit, then it’s like super cool and like a very rare feat, and then you’re officially the cherry queen. Oh and cherry queen is like an automatic pass, like if you’re cherry queen, and you get cherried, no matter when it stops, it comes back to you and you get to light it again. So like if it goes all the way around the circle and then like two people down it’ll come back to you and reset at you.”

These kinds of very specific stoner traditions and stoner language prove to me that this subculture is very developed and widespread, which counters the notion of stoners as lazy and generally not serious. Within stoner communities or microcommunities, these traditions and lingo are very important and tend to distinguish experienced smokers from newbies.

general

White Lighter Superstition – Police

My informant is a college student, artist and avid pot smoker. He knows a lot of “stoner tricks” as he calls them, most of which he learned from friends in high school. These and other aspects of weed culture mean a lot to him because he sees pot as a way of bonding with peers and enhancing creativity. Uniquely, as far as I have heard, he also uses it as a form of self-medication; he has ADHD and takes Ritalin, but says that it makes him feel mentally cloudy and slow, and that weed, for him, clears things up and makes him able to focus more easily. Thus, pot is an integral part of his daily life, both socially and personally.

 

He learned about the white lighter superstition from his freshman roommate, who was also an avid smoker.

 

This interview was conducted in the informant’s bedroom, with another friend of his who had a different version of the superstition.

 

“So the legend of the white lighter… One version I’ve heard is that it’s bad luck because normally the… ok, this is more of an omen… whatever man. So what happens is the uh, ganja smokers will tap the lighter down on the pipe to push down the ash, and that makes it like stay on the bottom of it so you use dark lighters to conceal that but like, a white lighter, sometimes the police will look at the bottom of it, and if they see ash stains then they know that you’re using it for illegal activities. Well, depending on where you are.”

 

This is one of two versions of the white lighter superstition I collected, and has more to do with the illegality of pot and the luck component to getting caught or not getting caught. He learned about it within the context of smoking in a college dorm, where he was more worried about getting caught with pot because the risk and consequence was higher, and I assume that’s why he remembered this superstition.

Folk Beliefs

White Lighter Superstition – Musicians

My informant is a college sophomore, animator, and casual pot smoker. He sees weed as a way of bonding with peers and enhancing creativity, and while he knows quite a bit of stoner folklore by just participating in the culture, he’s not very attached to it and it doesn’t mean much to him outside of a social context.

He learned about the white lighter superstition from a friend in high school, who relayed to him this take on it.

This interview was conducted in the informant’s friend’s bedroom, with another friend of his who had a different version of the superstition.

“So what’s your version of the white lighter bad luck thing?”
“Well you see, since I’m actually pretty sure that all… all, all lighters have a white bottom, um, it’s more of a bad luck thing because peoples… people that, that yeah—“ (Stephen interrupts) “Not all of them do, bro” “Well, BIC lighters… buncha musicians that were like ‘I like white lighters!’ died when they were like 20.” “So that’s why it’s bad luck?” “Yeah, cause you don’t wanna like, die when you’re 20.” “Ok, ok, so two musicians used white lighters and they died at the same age so therefore white lighters are bad.” “Yeah! Yeah.”

This is one of two versions of the white lighter superstition I collected that day, and has more to do with celebrity culture and bad luck concerning the phenomenon of famous musicians dying young. This lends a dark twist to the superstition but distances the consequence a bit from the bearer, as opposed to the other version, which has more to do with the luck component of being caught with marijuana.

Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Homeopathic

Mangoes and Marijuana

My informant is a college student, rapper,  and avid pot smoker. He knows a lot of “stoner tricks” as he calls them, most of which he learned from friends in high school. These and other aspects of weed culture mean a lot to him because he sees pot as a way of bonding with peers and enhancing creativity. Uniquely, as far as I have heard, he also uses it as a form of self-medication; he has ADHD and takes Ritalin, but says that it makes him feel mentally cloudy and slow, and that weed, for him, clears things up and makes him able to focus more easily. Thus, pot is an integral part of his daily life, both socially and personally.

He heard about this method of enhancing a high from his best friend back home. Essentially if you eat a mango 30 minutes to an hour before smoking pot, the high is supposed to feel stronger.

He performed this piece of folklore—or rather told me about it—during a break in class, outside the classroom on a balcony.

“So what is this mango… thing?”

“Right! So, mangoes. Um, so there is a chemical in mangoes that is also in cannabis and I don’t know what that chemical is off the top of my head but it is essentially the chemical that opens up, it, it opens up to the, probably the receptors… I guess, are they technically enzymes? I don’t know. They open up the receptors in your brain and make them susceptible to receiving THC, so normally what would happen is you smoke the cannabis and you get all the different chemicals that are in the plant when it combusts, and some of those include the THC, some of those include those chemicals that are in the mangoes, and they would both kinda hit you at the same time so as the receptors are opening up THC is also filtering through so some of that THC is lost because it’s being filtered through before the receptors open up. So with the mango, what people do is you eat a mango like an hour before, and all your receptors are open so when you smoke, you don’t have to waste, like, it doesn’t have to take, your body doesn’t have to take time to open those receptors before, before the THC attaches to them, it just gets all of it at once. So you get a stronger high.”

“Mhm. So where’d you hear this?”

“My best friend Oliver told me. And then uh, and then there’s also like a timing element, too, cause if you do it like right before, it’ll just make the trip—not the trip, the high longer just because like, um, it’ll kind of open those receptors slowly as your brain continues to process the remaining THC that’s left over. But then like if you do it an hour before, then by the time you digest it it will have all kicked in, so then it’ll just make it stronger, it’ll hit you all at once. So there’s a timing element to that as well.”

“Cool. Have you tried this before?”

“I have! I have.”
“Does it work?”
“It does, but it doesn’t work to the point where it’s like, amazing. It’s just kind of like a little extra kick.”

“You don’t think that might be, like, a placebo effect?”
“Oh I’m sure there is somewhat of a placebo effect, but it’s a combination, like, part of it is placebo and part of it actually is that you’re getting higher. Because it does, it does do the work, I’ve fact-checked this and everything. It’s a legitimate thing, it’s not just a wives’ tale. I mean it started out as folklore, obviously, and it still is, but if you wanna look it up for yourself there is legitimate information on this.”

My informant is obviously very interested in having accurate information, and sets his stories apart from “wives’ tales” in stoner culture as truth and having been “fact-checked”. I found this interesting because upon asking him, most of what he thought was “wives’ tales” came from friends and most of what he thought was true he had fact-checked on online forums about weed. He uses scientific sounding words like enzyme and receptors to do this, which may all be true but certainly reinforces, at least in his mind, the fact that they are more true with scientific backup. His attachment to the truth reveals his attachment to being more “legitimate” within his identity as a stoner.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

420 Holiday/Metafolklore

My informant is a college student, artist and avid pot smoker. He knows a lot of “stoner tricks” as he calls them, most of which he learned from friends in high school. These and other aspects of weed culture mean a lot to him because he sees pot as a way of bonding with peers and enhancing creativity. Uniquely, as far as I have heard, he also uses it as a form of self-medication; he has ADHD and takes Ritalin, but says that it makes him feel mentally cloudy and slow, and that weed, for him, clears things up and makes him able to focus more easily. Thus, pot is an integral part of his daily life, both socially and personally.

He first heard about 420 in late middle school or early high school from friends, and first celebrated it three years ago. He has partaken in the festivities every year on April 20th since.

This interview was conducted during a break in class, outside the classroom on a balcony.

“What is 420?”

“Hold on I gotta look something up real quick, gotta fact-check for a second…”
“Naw man you’re not allowed to!”

“Aw really? Alright I’m not on my A game man, but I’ll tell you what I can remember… So the gist of it is that there was like a group of students once upon a time probably in the 60s that met afterschool everyday at 4:20 at a certain statue or a certain landmark on campus like right outside their school to go smoke, so that’s the reason, because it was at 4:20 in the afternoon. And there’s been rumors as to other reasons why, so like some people thought that it’s Hitler’s birthday and that’s why, but I don’t know why people would celebrate that so that’s kind of a dumb one but then another one is that there’s a law, some proposition in the police code that has to do with arresting people for marijuana that is 420 or something…”

“I heard it was police code, like ohh 420 alert, somebody’s smoking weed”

“Yeah that’s something I’ve heard before as well but that’s also not true. See some of these might have some truth to them so like for example I think Hitler’s birthday is actually on April 20th, but it’s just a coincidence like that’s not the actual reason. But back to the students, I mean I guess school let out at 4pm so they figured like hey, 20 minutes to get to the spot and they had like a smoke spot that I believe was behind a statue but I could be wrong about that, and, um, that just permeates into stoner culture, like everyone has their smoke spot, you know, cause it’s illegal in most places so you have to have a place you’re relatively sure is safe, so everyone has their spot that they’ve come up with… And we used to have a spot, you know back home…”

“Oh yeah? What was your spot?”
“Well there was this shortcut through the woods near my friend’s house that went to a public pool, and like we would just take that shortcut and like, go off into the woods, kind of off to the side, and smoke there, but they put some lights there so we like can’t do it this year cause unfortunately it’s well lit now, but RIP smoke spot… Anyway well the other thing is that now it’s like a holiday, right, so at 4:20am and 4:20pm and all day 4/20 [April 20th] people just smoke a lot of weed basically, and it’s turned into a cultural icon I guess.”

“How do you celebrate 4/20?”

“Well I mean I’ve only celebrated it three times… but uh, lemme think. Well, it’s the same as everyone, just get as high as many different ways as possible, like collect them all, like try to do every different method in one day, that’s one thing you could do that’s like kind of fun, I tried that once I think my second time.”

My informant is obviously very interested in having accurate information, and sets his stories apart from “wives’ tales” in stoner culture as truth and having been “fact-checked”. I found this interesting because upon asking him, most of what he thought was “wives’ tales” came from friends and most of what he thought was true he had fact-checked on online forums about weed. I also think that the context in which he heard this piece of folklore and the metafolklore surrounding it is interesting because it is in the early teenage years when people become introduced to the concept of drugs, especially pot, and when many people begin to try it. His attachment to the truth reveals his attachment to being a more “legitimate” person within his identity as a stoner.

 

Legends
Narrative

Ghost Story: Smoking in the Boiler Room

Informant: “Millard North High school in Omaha, Nebraska is haunted with the spirit of a kid who was smoking one day in the boiler room. Now, I didn’t even know we had a boiler room but apparently it’s over by the wood shop. Uh, in that hallway. So, this kid was smoking in the boiler room and um a custodian started to walk down the hallway and frightened the kid uh turned around and tried to run away tripped and stumbled down the stairs, hit is head a few too many times and now when you walk past that hallway or walk into the basement, which again I didn’t really know we had a basement, but you can hear the kid’s raspy voice telling you to beware.”

The informant, a Caucasian male, was born in Spokane,Washington and then moved to Omaha. He is currently a student at USC and studies computer science.

The informant heard the story from someone at his high school. He remembers this story because he feels that “ghost stories are always more fun when they have some sort of significance to you, like you have ties to that school, for example, or if it’s in your home town.” According to the informant, the story is not “too frequently passed around,” and he is not sure if anyone at the school truly believes it, or just repeats the story as a joke.

The informant does not believe in ghosts personally, he thinks the story is kind of silly. In fact, the informant stated, “honestly, I’m not even sure if we have a basement.” The informant said that some kids at the school “fall for all of the ghost stories,” but “in many schools there will be some kids who believe that sort of thing.” The informant referred to one friend in particular who believes in ghosts about whom the informant said “I mess with him a lot and he thinks I am entirely serious.” It is possible that this story is circulated as a joke and to “mess with” students who may believe it, but the informant does not think so.

The informant says that “the moral was no smoking in the basement,” and I agree with the informant. Although the story may be used to jest about the paranormal, it ultimately discusses the illegal consumption of marijuana at a school, and the result is death. The student who broke the law is now forced to haunt the hall and warn other students not to make the same mistake. Like other legends, this tale reflects social fears and concerns about the consequences of consuming illegal drugs, breaking the law, and breaking the law on school property.

Contagious
Customs

The Meaning of Greens

This piece of folklore is actually a custom among Marijuana smokers. This custom states that whenever it is someone’s first time smoking that they get to “greens.” Greens is basically a name for a custom where a person gets to light the marijuana first whether it be in a pipe or a rolled up joint. My informant states that he heard this through his friend who is a big fan of marijuana. He states that offering the person who either put the weed in the pipe or rolled a joint is a huge deal and demonstrates a large amount of respect for the person that did the tasks.

He states that greens is important to smokers as it demonstrates their kindness and also is a common courtesy for guests when the smoke for the first time or smoke with the group for the first time. He states that it is comparable to offering someone a drink of water when they enter your home. He also states that by explaining greens and passing it on, that everyone now is a part of it and keeps the cycle going.

I think this is a very interesting piece of folklore due to the stereotypes users of marijuana have in our culture. They are known as lazy and selfish people, yet this illustration demonstrates that friendship and courtesy that there is in smoking. It is also interesting that the drug culture always seem to have rituals or ways of order to not mess something up. It basically proves that among drug users that there is a personal courtesy or secrecy among them, thus users can decipher first timers from consistent users easily. For example if a first-timer did not offer greens or did not know what greens was.

Customs
general

Tradition – Hellertown, Pennsylvania

Jillian Yorston – The Wassergass Road

I was told this story of a road in the back country of the small rural town in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. There were not many attractions or places that the high school kids could go to that were nearby. So, on most occasions, “fun times” resorted to their own imaginations and wild antics to keep the inhabitants of Hellertown busy.

Although living in a small town, the kids of Hellertown were no different in the ways they amused themselves than kids of other places. They wanted to do adult things. It is in kids’ nature to want to be able to do adult or illegal things, and not have to take responsibility for their actions. This is basic human nature. Doing something you are not supposed to manufactures an immediate adrenaline rush. This rush makes anyone feel like they can do anything and not get caught. Luckily for Jillian, sometimes this is the case.

Jill told me stories of her adventures that she had with her friends in Hellertown. Hellertown’s high school population was notorious for smoking pot. Smoking pot was the normal thing to do on weekends, and sometimes even during the week. The kids would never get caught because the adults did not know of their smoking. And even if they had inklings to what was going on. They never realized how much smoking was actually being done. The kids would be very cautious on where they smoked and made sure to hide any remnants of the weed. Jill also told me a special name they gave to smoking in a car. Everyone I know has always called this act of smoking in a car, “Hotboxing.” Jill said that where she was from, it was called “Clambaking.” Closing all the windows, turning off the A/C, and lighting up made the experience much better than smoking in an open and ventilated room. “Clambaking,” was the preferred method to smoke weed for two reasons. The obvious “better high” they would experience and the fact that they would not get caught by their parents. “Clambaking,” allowed Jill and her friends to be free of their parents and just “chill.” Jill’s adventures did not only stop at “Clambaking,” but in reality only began there.

Since smoking weed in a parked car might get boring sometimes, Jill and her friends were known to drive around while smoking and make the experience much more exhilarating. While driving around seamlessly was fun at times, the best way was to go to “The Gass.” “The Gass,” short for the Wassergass Road was located in the back roads of Hellertown where there were not many drivers on the road. This was convenient so that there would be no accidents and also so there would be a less chance of someone getting hurt. Jill was adamant in telling me that “The Gass,” was the place to be while you were stoned and wanted to drive around. “The Gass,” consisted of several windy and long roads that all led back to Hellertown. So no matter how high the driver or passengers were, they could always find their way back home. “Being able to turn the music all the way up, dance in the car, and not have a care in the world for a few hours has been one of the most exhilarating things I have ever gotten the chance to do.” (Yorston) “The Gass,” is the most cherished road to the high school kids from Hellertown, and one where they have had many fun memories that will last forever.

Customs
general

Custom

Pot Smoking Custom

When smoking marijuana, the participants form a loose circle and the piece is always passed to the left with each person getting one hit.

The informant, DRH, reports that the smoking of marijuana is in a sense highly structured. He reports the participants, when ready to smoke form a loose circle and begin passing the smoking utensil to the left. He says each person takes one hit and passes it to their left until all the marijuana in the utensil has been smoked. DRH says that once the marijuana in the utensil has been smoked, the group generally decides by consensus whether another bowl is needed. If the group chooses to smoke more, the person who finished the previous bowl packs the next bowl and takes the first hit.

DRH doesn’t know exactly where he learned all of these customs. He says he has picked them up from various friends over the years. David believes the customs are necessary for a efficient smoking session. He says the circle ensures the participants smoke in an order and the one hit rule ensures that everyone gets a fair share. He says that a person must show knowledge of these customs to be accepted as a true smoker by the group.

In my opinion this is a custom that has arisen out of necessity. When under the influence it is hard to keep track of an order. The circle is a way to ensure the smoking order is maintained. The circle likely prevents a lot of bickering that would waste time. Similarly the one hit rule ensures that each smoker receives roughly the same share of the drug. It is not surprising that a hobby has a specific way it is performed, especially one that is illegal. The informant notes that one must be proficient in these customs to be considered a veteran smoker. The customs that pot smokers follow therefore serve as a way to differentiate experienced smokers from non-experienced smokers. Due to the illegal nature of the activity this proficiency test could serve as a sort of protection mechanism. The customs described in this article can be found in many popular movies that center on pot smokers and their adventures. Movies that contain these customs include “Half Baked” and “How High”. Although these movies contain the customs, the movies did not create the customs. According to the informant, the customs have been around longer than the movies.

[geolocation]