Who was the first person to smoke a blunt?
Blunts have been synonymous with cannabis for at least 25 or so years, most popularized by rap and hip-hop artists from decades past. But these extra-large, tobacco wrapped versions of a joint have a hazy history.
One of the most shareable ways to smoke, a blunt is formed from a pre-made wrapper, a broken-down cigar or whole-leaf tobacco, also known as fronto. Fronto is hugely popular in New York City, via the Caribbean where it is cultivated and used to roll cannabis, tobacco and cigars. It’s also sometimes crumbled and smoked in a pipe or a joint.
It’s this Caribbean connection that likely bore the blunt — and there is a strong correlation between immigration from Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Puerto Rico and the rise of this smoking method in New York City.
Since we don’t have a written or oral history of the first person to smoke a blunt, based on these cultural intersections it was likely imported from the Caribbean to New York City.
Why are blunts a big deal in New York City?
New York City’s love of blunts isn’t isn’t just an affinity for a particular brand of cigars like Backwoods and Swisher Sweets, the price hike has some cultural significance to the New York cannabis community.
As Desus Nice explained on his podcast the Bodega Boys on June 25, 2018 “Listen, I’m from the Bronx. You got to smoke a blunt.” And it’s not just because blunts provide the extra rush of tobacco from the cigar paper, or that the thicker composition of the paper burns weed at a slower rate, but has more to do with “the communal aspect of it.”
And much of that community comes from Caribbean descent. In the 1990s, the foreign-born population in New York City increased by 788,000, totalling 2.9 million. Data from the 2000 Census found that Caribbean foreign-born residents accounted for 20.8% of the city’s population. New York City’s community now included more Dominicans, Jamaicans, Haitians, and people of Trinidadian and Tobagonian descent than any other major city in the United States.
And the wave Caribbean immigrants brought pieces of their culture along with them, including their rich culture of cigar smoking.
Rap and hip hop culture were also on the rise in the 90s and early 2000s. New York rappers in particular were glamorizing the fine art of smoking a blunt the way aristocrats fetishized drinking a fine glass of wine:
“Growing up, we always heard rappers rapping about blunts, seeing them smoke them in music videos,” says Calvin Shepherd, a lifelong New Yorker. “It’s just a part of weed culture in the city.”
As the children of Caribbean immigrants came of age in the city, influenced by both their heritage and pop culture, blunts became not just the preferred method of cannabis consumption, but a communal aspect of staying in touch with your roots, identity, and community.
The infamous NYC/Backwoods price increase of 2018
Every so often, an economic injustice brings a community together to protect a cultural way of life. This was one of those moments — as New York city found itself in the midst of a weed disaster — the price of Backwoods cigars had risen to $16.99 a pack.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio signed a series of aggressive anti-tobacco bills in August 2017, all with the intention of reducing the city’s tobacco use. The legislative proposals intended to reduce the number of smokers in NYC by 160,000 and generate revenue for public housing. One of those bills, 1544-B, called for a minimum pricing in cigar structure, raising the price of individual cigars to at least $8.00, and increased the taxes on little cigars, smokeless tobacco, suns, shisha and loose tobacco.
That included Backwoods cigars, a brand of flavored cigars readily available at most gas stations, liquor stores and bodegas. The local law went into effect in June 2018, raising the tax on all tobacco products other than cigarettes.
The weed smokers of New York City had a meltdown on Twitter.
Anyone who regularly smokes weed in the form of a blunt can tell you that the tried and true tradition of blunt rolling involves purchasing cigars, cutting them open, removing the tobacco — often referred to as the “guts” — filling with dried cannabis flower, resealing, and smoking.
This is the reason the blunt smokers of New York City collectively cried when the price of their beloved Backwoods spiked. Smoking weed had gotten three times more expensive.
Desus Nice of Viceland’s late night show “Desus & Mero” was among the first to take to the virtual mean streets of Twitter and lament about the price increase:
backwoods is $16 dollars now? yo @NYCMayor u gotta square up b
backwoods 16 dollars every where in nyc lol shit dead
The tax hike had some New York weed smokers considering alternatives, but others felt daunted by the thought of giving up blunts by switching to rolling papers.
Really hard to just smoke papers when everyone around you smokes backwoods and blunts 🤦🏿♂️
Others — incorrectly — blamed and lashed out at the manufacturer.
I’m going to be the first to sue backwoods if they keep selling these weak packs 😂
While some New Yorkers took the opportunity to show their true colors.
Backwoods overrated. I said it
When asked how Shepherd, as a native New Yorker ingrained in the city’s weed culture, personally felt about the new tobacco policy, he called the bill “a bunch of bullshit” that was meant to make people uncomfortable as recreational and commercial cannabis legalization looms.
Ok, but who smoked the first blunt?
One of the first tales of the blunt in the current cultural lexicon comes from weed saint Snoop Dogg. In an interview with YouTuber Nardwuar he dished, “Bushwick Bill was the first person to smoke a blunt with me, we had never seen that before.”
Bushwick Bill hailed from Bushwick, a neighborhood in Brooklyn with a large Black and Latinx population, some from the Caribbean, others from all over Central and South America. Blunt culture is very prevalent in Brooklyn, there isn’t a bodega for all of Bushwick’s four and a half mile stretch that doesn’t have some type of blunt wrap, cigar or fronto on offer.
We can only hope that as cannabis completes its mainstream takeover that we can finally collect the stories of the past 40 years of culture, not just the past near-decade since Colorado legalized it for adult use.
This gap in knowledge lets people think that cannabis culture or history isn’t important, but if alcohol’s time under widespread bans is any clue, it will continue to ascend into the dominant exchange whether prohibitionists like it or not. We can’t pinpoint the first person who decided to use tobacco’s fragrant leaf to wrap ground up flowers of cannabis, but it was pretty brilliant nonetheless.Looking at how the rise of rap and hip hop and Caribbean culture led to the blunt.
Is It Better To Take Big Or Small Hits When Smoking Weed?
There are still plenty of cannabis smokers who believe that gigantic hits from a bong or blunt are a one-way ticket to getting higher than high. But is it true that more smoke means more THC? Let’s take a look at what separates the huge hits from the small.
It’s likely that you’ve heard the old myth about how you’re supposed to smoke weed the “right” way. How exactly is that done? Well, some say that you must take extra-large hits and hold them in the lungs for as long as possible to achieve maximum effects. If you’re in this camp, we hate to break it to you, but this is not doing what you think it is. Here’s why you don’t need to take huge hits to enjoy your weed.
WHY YOU DON’T NEED TO TAKE BIG HITS
To get a better perspective on things, let’s take a look at how our lungs function. When we breathe, we are actually not very efficient at absorbing oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. Although our lungs can hold about 6 litres of air with one large breath, we’re expelling a good portion of that oxygen when we exhale. If our lungs absorbed oxygen super-efficiently, we could potentially take in these 6 litres in one go and wouldn’t need another breath for a while. Instead, we breathe more often and with shorter breaths.
The fact is, your lungs can only absorb 5–6ml of oxygen per minute, and the same principle is true when you smoke weed. Or said differently, it’s not possible for you to force more THC into your system when you’re holding smoke in your lungs.
“TAKING BIG HITS MAKES ME HIGHER!”
You may indeed “feel higher” when taking larger hits and holding them in, but this is because you’re depriving your brain of oxygen. The lightheadedness or dizziness that you feel will be compounded further by carbon monoxide in the smoke. Simply by inhaling a larger hit of smoke, it may trick you into feeling as though the quantity of THC being received is also higher. Point blank, this is not the case.
OUR BODY ABSORBS THC INSTANTLY
Our lungs transfer oxygen from the air (or THC from smoke) almost instantly. As soon as you have taken a hit, almost all the THC from your weed (95%) has already entered your body. This means there is no point in holding your smoke for an extended period, or at all for that matter.
HOLDING IN YOUR SMOKE IS UNHEALTHY
The active compounds in cannabis (THC, CBD, terpenes, flavonoids) only comprise a small portion of what is contained in weed smoke. The rest of its contents is made up different substances, many of which are harmful. The longer you hold the smoke in, the more toxic byproducts settle in your body. If you think this sounds unhealthy, you’re spot on.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET AS HIGH AS POSSIBLE?
Simple answer here: smoke more. Or, if you think that your current weed might not cut it for your desired effect, consider stronger strains. You can also consider dabbing concentrates or taking edibles, both of which result in much more potent experiences.
Now that you realise taking smaller hits is healthier, it might make sense to try vaping. Vaporizers don’t combust the pant material or concentrates, but simply heat them to the desired range for cannabinoids to become active. This results in a healthier consumption experience that some people believe is more intense. The smooth draws should also make your lungs feel better after becoming acquainted with your vape.
OTHER BENEFITS OF SMALLER DOSES OF CANNABIS
Not everyone who smokes weed does so because they want to get as high as possible. Different folks have different reasons, and that’s okay. Microdosing has recently become quite popular among medicinal users, and it’s even gaining traction amongst recreational consumers.
WHAT IS MICRODOSING?
Microdosing involves taking a small, “sub-perceptual” dose of a substance (in this case THC), so you can experience its benefits without feeling high. A normal THC microdose is around 2–3mg. So, rather than smoking your entire joint or bowl, you’d just take a small puff or two. Some users microdose this way throughout the day to enjoy cannabis without the negative side effects that come with high doses of THC.
KEEP IT EASY AND HEALTHY
Fortunately, smoking cannabis isn’t some type of competition where you need to strain your body to get the most out of it. However you choose to do it, keep it easy with small puffs. If you smoke a lot, look into switching to a vaporizer instead. A decent vape can last a while and reduce harm to your lungs. It’s a win-win!We dispel the old myth that you need to take huge hits to get higher. Learn why smaller hits hits of cannabis are smarter. ]]>