Head shop is a retail outlet specializing in paraphernalia used to consume cannabis and tobacco and cannabis goods and associated countercultures. They originated from the hippie counterculture in the late 1960s, and at that time many of them had strong ties to the anti-Vietnam War movement, as well as to organizations in the drug legalization movement such as LeMar, Amorphia, and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
The '60s were a drug-soaked moment, so it makes sense that the first headshops started to appear in major cities in the middle of the decade. In 1967, the Jefferson Airplane classic, "White Rabbit," was released, and there may be a hint in those lyrics. The song contains the line "feed your brain." This is believed to be a reference to expanding one 's mind through drug use. What else are you calling the mind? Yeah, sometimes you're going to call it the head.
People who take part in such drugs are also known by terms such as "pothead." So that's another way the word "head shop" may have been named. Out of context, naming a grocery store a "head shop" sounds odd and confusing, but it makes a lot more sense when you go back and look at what life was like in America in the 1960s.
It was 50 years ago, though. Drugs such as cannabis are becoming more commonly tolerated than ever. In fact, Americans overwhelmingly agree that consuming cannabis is less risky than using alcohol, opioids, and tobacco. However, the rules have not yet caught up with public opinion.
Headshops started out as shops specializing in the sale of drug paraphernalia. You could count on your local headshop to bring all kinds of goodies to keep your intoxication at its peak, from water pipes and rolling paper to psychedelic visual aids and incense. The drugs themselves, of course, were not part of the headshop 's inventory. In reality, federal and state laws have often found headshops skirting violations by pure ingenuity. In order to establish the appearance that the glass pipes and water pipes decorating the headshop shelves were certainly not intended for use with drugs, certain incriminating terms were forbidden from being used in the store. Using one of these suggestive terms will always buy you an immediate ejection from the headshop or, in serious cases, a lifetime ban. In states that have yet to legalize marijuana, this prohibition on terminology is also in full force. Headshops also became important points of counter-cultural support in the late 1960s, providing a safe haven for the dissemination of underground magazines that challenged authority or encouraged occult spiritual practices. This political poignancy has steadily been tempered down. By the '90s, the headshop aesthetics had been co-opted. You could walk into a shopping mall to buy your tie-dyed Bob Marley t-shirt, a smiley black light poster, and a Che Guevara glass shot. The revolution had been marketed for a long time, and the need for headshops was no longer so urgent.
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