1970s Marijuana Paraphernalia: Reason For Failure of Decriminalization?


Why the 1970s Effort to Decriminalize Marijuana Failed

By Emily Dufton American Historical Association/Smithsonian.com

I remember the first time I saw them. I was in the Library of Congress, looking through old issues of High Times magazine. The advertisements for certain products—like the BuzzBee Frisbee (with a special pipe so you could literally “puff, puff, pass”), “You’re the Dealer!” board game, and pictures of clowns hawking rolling papers—seemed both charmingly representative of the mid-1970s as well as pretty blatant in their appeal to kids. The ads also spoke to the enormous paraphernalia market that had risen as a result of a dozen states decriminalizing the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana between 1973 and 1978. The numerous ads that lined the pages of High Times (as well as the existence of the magazine itself) give some insight into just how vast the marketplace, and its clientele, was at the time.

That booming paraphernalia market, however, would also prove to be decriminalization’s undoing. By 1978, rates of adolescent marijuana use had skyrocketed, with 1 in 9 high school seniors smoking pot every day and children as young as 13 reporting that the drug was “easy to get.” This angered a growing number of parents, who saw kid-oriented paraphernalia as a “gateway” to drug use.

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  1. Georg Carlin’s comment on that era (he was in school at the time). “We went from making zip guns to hash pipes in one semester!”

  2. Building my own paraphernalia was part of the fun.
    Mt first pipe was a leather wrapped Ripple wine bottle with a .3006 brass mouthpiece. It took 3 bootles to get that hole drilled.
    An ink pen brass tube brazed to the steel cap from Mom’s hair spray made for a real party load.
    The Ripple was also obviously marketed to we baby boomers.

    • Funny, true, story; back in the late 80’s I worked at a private psych hospital in Ellicott City, Md. Long-term adolescents, very likable kids, but cooped up on a psych ward they were bored to tears. We took them outside before dinner on the 3 to 11 shift to run them around, (the boys). And you had to practically kill someone to get banned from recess. I literally took kids out of 4 point restraints to get them outside. The nurse would ask me and I’d remind her that he went into restaints for hitting a wall after being told he had another month as an in patient. Oh well, the story… One of the Art Therapists told me about the best session ever. I asked her what happened, she said the kids all elected, on their own to make and fire whistles out of clay. I asked one of the kids, “i heard you made hash pipes in AT today!” Never did tell AT that one.

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