For today’s 420 #content (#pottent? #cannatent?), let’s consider the humble one-hitter. The simple devices made for taking sneaky hits of marijuana in public or boosting your high score while on the go used to be a don’t-leave-the-house-without-it utility belt staple of the urban stoner. Usually you get one disguised as a cigarette so you can nab a puff in the backyard of the bar or on the sidewalk without sending up a big HEY LOOK OVER HERE cloud. They’re cheap, available at lots of bodegas and hide easily in a small pocket, cigarette pack or down your bra. Yet in recent years — as weed becomes destigmatized, decriminalized and increasingly Apple-ified — they’ve become less prevalent in public in New York City and seem to be declining in popularity. Is it possible the one-hitter is going out of style?
One hitters definitely feel like an inelegant relic of a less sophisticated age, a churlish blaster compared to the lightsabers of new vaping technology. They conjure images of something rattling around at the bottom of the pot box under the bulbous tie dye bowl you got in college, or something hanging in the living room drawer of your dude friend with a ponytail and moe. T shirt.
This is of course based on anecdotal evidence, but we live in Brooklyn in 2016 so the sample size is about the same as the amount of people who own hats. It does make sense that the crude one hitter, with its easily chipped cigarette-colored paint, tiny carrying capacity and inevitable buildup of gunk resin that sticks to your hands like a skunky weed skidmark every time you try to clean it, would fall out of favor at this moment in history.
Weed is becoming more accepted in the world, because it turns out it’s not a big deal after all and never has been. And with the growing up comes a bit of weed snobbery. Colorado made it legal and now it’s a literal billion dollar industry, with old heads booking weed tours like they used to book vineyard trips (yeah, even the Times does #pottent). New York now has medical marijuana (sort of), and getting caught with pot in the open is basically down to a traffic ticket at worst (if you’re white).
The industry is budding (pun intended) locally so quickly that artisanal paraphernalia makers are popping up and, seeing the green of money, Wall Street is getting involved too, according to some jerk at the NY Post. The idea of having to worry about a drug test at a job in Manhattan seems as unlikely as your boss bursting in your local bar on Friday night asking to smell your breath.
As the industry has grown up, so have the devices — especially the ones for getting high on the go. The Pax vaporizer (a favorite of the Broad City gals) is pricy, but it’s the iPhone of vapes. You can prepack it before you leave the house, so there’s no fumbling under the table with your little one hitter and the medicine bottle you put your product in, doesn’t require a lighter and emits a thin wisp of vapor, an eau de herb that lingers for a second before catching a ride with a wind gust. Lots of similar brands do the same thing. On top of that you have the oil-based vaporizers that maybe your friend in California could send you, slender and sleek contraptions that would disappear in a pile of pens.
Vaporizers are better for your lungs: putting flame to anything will pull ash and harsh stuff into your body, while a vaporizer heats but doesn’t burn. But more than the technology, it’s the social status: why go with a tiny one-hitter, which at best contains two hits, making refilling and sharing a lugubrious process, when you can use other more efficient methods in public?
I asked a few weed-educated friends how often they see or use a one-hitter in public lately:
“Like never. But I did totally see a dude smoking weed oil out of a vape on Sixth Ave last week,” one female friend in Bushwick said.
“I rarely see anyone hitting one. Though I did see a guy puffing on a blunt in Midtown. Confidently in the middle of the day,” a guy friend in Crown Heights said.
A lady friend in Crown Height offered: “I don’t really see them because I don’t look at people’s faces on the street as a rule, but I smell weed at least twice a day. I still use mine but I’m gonna probably switch to a vape sooner than later.”
And a bro in Bed-Stuy noted: “I used to use one pretty reliably until I lost it, or maybe it was that it got too clogged and then I stopped and then I lost it. Can’t quite remember. I guess I’ve seen more vapes than one hitters recently.”
That smattering of observations basically encapsulates why they’re losing popularity in the city. Smoking weed is becoming a way of life: the fear of smoking pot in public is disappearing (again, mostly if you’re white), and with it the need to hide your smoke by using an unquestionably inferior delivery system. I have in recent months seen people smoking bowls, blunts and joints in the back or front of bars without any staff member even cocking their head curiously in that direction. I’ve caught more than one friend vaping inside a bar (one next to an open window, one not). I’d rather throw out a one hitter for good than try to clean its oily, thick gunk.
The process of slyly packing and hitting your one hitter seems unnecessary and crude, like taking a secret swig of your dirty flask when you’re at an open bar. Maybe we’ve entered an age where status symbols and refinement are coming to NYC’s weed smokers, and they’re choosing more widely from their quiver of paraphernalia.
Or maybe we’re just getting old.
How often do YOU see someone using a one hitter? Let us know in the comments!
Follow Tim for more discussion of high concepts: @timdonnelly.