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Joint Roach

To Roach or Nor To Joint Roach? That’s the Cannabis Question!

The Brazilians and the Jamaicans don’t do it, while the Australians Dutch, British and the rest of Europe do… except in Spain where they tend to do it with a twist. And as for the Americans, they are talking about another part altogether… What the hell are we discussing?! Welcome to the world of the joint roach!

One of the wonderful thing about the cannabis world is just how different and diverse its culture is. What is perfectly normal and acceptable in one country’s cannabis culture – like mixing weed with tobacco in the mix – is alien and rather quite strange in another country’s culture. The topic of roaching fits into this picture, so join our grand debate as we ask the question: do you or don’t you roach your spliff?

Why don’t the Jamaicans.

This essential piece of rolling equipment is almost universally known as a roach or a filter (although a rolled up tube of thin cardboard has minimal filtration properties!) or a crutch. Traditionally the rolling paper packet itself provided the source of the roach,  although the roach’s rebranding for the modern cannabis age has seen it now incorporated as a rolling papers accessory. Business cards have also met the same fate over the years (along with a sense of stoner disgust at being presented with a wax coated ‘quality’ card!).

It has been suggested that the term roach comes from the golden era of ‘reefer madness’ when cannabis and depravity were wrapped up in a coating of establishmentarian racism; marijuana was synonymous with supply by Mexican immigrants dealing weed and pernicious jazz performers (the majority of whom were black) who were perceived to be corrupting America’s middle class youths and turning them into cannabis users.  The first mention of the term ‘roach’ has been attributed to in a 1938 New Yorker magazine article.

Roach culture

Yes, we consume alcohol in different ways, but essentially glass + alcohol + swallow is the basic formula for most! The culture of alcohol consumption lacks the nuances we find in cannabis culture and much of this has to do with the emergence of different cannabis cultural scenes (around the world) within the shadows of national prohibitions.

The humble roach is one of those cannabis rituals that helps to define a national cannabis culture and how cannabis users interact with it. In Brazil for example, where weed has traditionally landed tokers in hot water with the police, the roach is said to be omitted because it provides clear evidence of breaking the law (a tossed joint can be recovered by the cops and easily identified by its cardboard tip). Meanwhile in the USA, the roach refers to the burning end of the joint (and not a filter). This is why back in the days before legalization and the free flow of weed, a specialist roach clip was used to smoke that spliff to its full potential.      

In Europe, having the cops bust you for identifying a joint by its roach wasn’t such an issue because  the Europeans have a tradition of smoking loose tobacco – sometimes with a cardboard filter. However, as smoking in general becomes less culturally acceptable, these days a policeman is just as likely to fine you for dropping a normal cigarette on the floor! In Spain, the roach is often taken to a new level with the use of a cigarette and filter. Sometimes the filter is removed from the paper and split in half to make it less fat, or the filter foam is removed and replaced with cardboard.    

Of course the dawning of the Instagram/Reddit age has taken a rather mundane smoking accessory and elevated it to an art form. We have, for example, Ninja star shaped roaches, hollow and X shaped roaches  and taking it to the next level,  filter Rick from Rick and Morty! If you have a few stoned moments to spare, then it’s definitely worth taking some tips on how to roll some bad ass roaches to impress your friends at the next smoke session! Which brings us neatly to an amazing artist whose weathered/distressed portraits have been created using nothing but discarded roaches (in the US sense of the word) – check out the artwork of Cliff Maynard!

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