Even more than the pipe, chillum or bong, the joint equal cannabis.  (Puff, puff, pass) is perhaps the best-known expression related to cannabis; what do you think they pull and spin? A joint, of course. Blunts should not be forgotten either, but they only appeared in the 1980s, whereas joints have been around much longer. Let’s take a moment to go over their history, and discuss the details of what makes a joint.

It all started with the world of rolling papers  

Before discussing joints, we must first examine where the concept of rolling plant matter into a leaf and smoking it comes from. Let’s go back to the 1600s when the tobacco trade was flourishing in Europe. Spanish aristocrats regularly smoked big cigars and threw away the ends when they had had enough. Peasants, wanting to indulge themselves, began to pick up the corks, decompose them and roll them up again with pieces of newspaper. That’s how the first cigarette was born. From then on, seeing the demand, the papermakers of Alcoy, Spain, began to produce white, clean rolling papers. Being a much more pleasant alternative to newspapers, these rolling papers quickly gained popularity.

Nowadays, whether Zig Zag, RAW, OCB or another brand, rolling papers come in different types and sizes. Many companies have produced longer and larger varieties to appeal to smokers. At the same time, the classic, shorter variety is not uncommon.

The rise of the joint

More than 200 years after the appearance of rolling sheets, the joint is finally born. like with its ancestors, it all started with the working class. In the 1850s, while observing farmworkers in Mexico, a pharmacist at the University of Guadalajara noticed them rolling cannabis mixed with tobacco for their cigarettes. This meant that the first “known” joint was technically a spliff, but we will discuss these details later.

A few decades later, America saw the first joints marketed: Grimault Indian Cigarettes. They were touted as a way to relieve respiratory problems, being mixed with belladonna and potassium nitrate. Fortunately, these ingredients were not found in the type of joints that were widespread during Prohibition (1920-1933). Rather than relieving nausea, these joints were just for fun, becoming very popular among jazz musicians who were looking for effects without getting too bored. The joint became illegal soon after the end of alcohol prohibition, but that didn’t bury it at all. With the advent of the 1960s, it gained new popularity as a symbol of counter-culture and peaceful protest against the system. Some would say that it still represents those values today.

The difference between a joint and a spliff  

Now that we’ve talked about the history, you may be wondering why we differentiated between joints and spliffs earlier. For American readers (and some Europeans), the term “spliff” simply refers to a joint that contains both tobacco and cannabis. In the U.S., a joint that does not contain tobacco will be referred to as a joint. For those in the Caribbean where the term originated, as well as for those in most European countries, “spliff” is simply another term for a joint, with or without tobacco. If you wish to avoid tobacco, or if you are specifically looking for it, it will be important to keep these distinctions in mind.

The Cornerstone of modern cannabis

Being probably the most popular and accessible method of smoking, we would be remiss if we didn’t celebrate the joint. From the workers of the 19ᵉ century who rolled them in the fields to the modern companies who rolled them out in advance to buy them in dispensaries, the joint has had a long way to go to get to where it is today. Although vaporization has gained popularity recently, the price barrier is undeniable. Until companies can make safe and inexpensive vaporizers (and even then), joints will be part of the landscape. That said, the market can move anywhere in the next few decades. Nobody can predict which social or economic situations would arise.  Keeping this in mind, we can’t really predict which methods of consumption will triumph or be phased out.

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