Ask Old Hippie: How Have Words About Marijuana Changed Since The Sixties?

Old Hippie Kenobi

We never heard of “smoking out” or “smoking up” anyone. It was “getting high with”, “turning on”, “smoking grass with”. We called it “grass” among ourselves; “pot” was something parents or news media said. Nobody ever said “marijuana” unless they were talking to an authority figure or were being cute. “Turn on”, of course, was part of the phrase that Timothy Leary made famous, and it was instantly used for everything from LSD to weed (which is another word we never used back then) to sex (“You Turn Me On“) to hobbies (“I turned my friend on to playing guitar”).

We never had this generation’s terrifically descriptive word “hotboxing” (if we even had a word for that, I forget), or “nugs” or “buds”…because they didn’t exist then (see last week’s column).

Here’s another big one: nobody used the word “sober” to describe “not being high”. I literally never heard that until last year. It was always “straight”. And nobody confused that with “straight” as opposed to “gay”…we had context (and gay people) back then too!

In the Sixties, even though the word “pot” itself was uncool, the word “pothead” was pretty quickly made universal, but it was often used to put people down, like “stoner” is today. So we called each other “heads”, to show we were too cool to say “pot”. If I remember correctly, the Monkees, a “plastic” (i.e. manufactured) pop band came out with an album called “Head”, which suddenly made them seem controversial and edgy.

There was a lot of hand-wringing about drug references in music back then. Songs were often banned from radio, especially in more conservative areas, if people heard anything they didn’t want their kids to hear. The hit “Eight Miles High” by the Byrds is a good example of this hysteria; many stations refused to play it, even though it’s clearly about a trip…in an airplane. Even more ridiculous, “The Pusher” by Steppenwolf was banned in many places because it was about drugs…even though it’s clearly against drugs!

While I’m talking about songs, I just remembered a very obscure bit of hipsterism. For about 6 months, the word “number” was very hot slang for a joint (it was in use for about two years total IIRC). Just at its peak, the Doors song “Five To One” came out with a line that was suddenly quite double ENTendre: “They got the guns, but we got the numbers.”

Jim Morrison was always tuned in and turned on. RIP Jim (died just over 40 years ago).

Old Hippie is a MMJ patient living somewhere in the wilds of California whose only link with the real world is a 420 MHz radio. He blogs on and vapes on Sour Diesel.

Got a question for Old Hippie? Comment on this article, or submit it here.

Old Hippie is a father of two boys and thankfully living in California where all this kind of thing is legal. He started smoking marijuana in 1967 in high school, experimented with mind-expanding drugs of all kinds, and then straightened out 15 or so years later to become an airplane pilot. After being diagnosed with depression in 2000, he lost his job and most of the following decade to prescription medications (such as antidepressants) which sapped his energy and will. Finally, a chance conversation with a friend led to a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana (MMJ). This changed his entire life, health, and outlook for the better. is his continuing story. It’s also his way to provide experienced advice on using medical marijuana effectively and responsibly, as well as advocacy, activism, and support for others. Old Hippie teaches about safe use of cannabis edibles, Canna Caps, vaporizers, dosing, and even microdosing.


Just goes to show you the differences that can exsist in a 3,000 mile space (between the west coast and the east. While not all of the pot we came across was buds and there was some times a lot of shake in the bag, we saw plenty of good buds here in Massachusetts. The straights of our days were usually “greasers”, or “Jocks” (either into cars or sports). The “heads” where all of the stoners, and we never knew it to infere that we were too cool to say pot, We did indeed use the term here. F.Y.I., “Pusher” was positive about the “dealer” who sold you a “Nickle” as aposed to the “Pusher” who sold addictive drugs, most likely meaning heroin at that time. I’m sure old hippie is telling it like it was there and then for him, but without the internet there were probably wider differences between the coasts then there are now.

Nice column, Old Hippie, but to be fair, I’ve interviewed David Crosby several times (I’m a journalist who helped assemble his box set Voyage), and the Byrds were well aware that “Eight Miles High” was a double entendre, even if they denied it at the time.

Double ENTendre perhaps, but the ban-brains were still attacking lyrics about flying. Small minds like theirs will never know what they’re really missing. Nugs and hugs!

Found a newspaper from 1937.It had an unusual term that might be slang for pot I dont know. It said . In early life I smoked cigarettes and used long green and apple jack but had surrendered all of them since his conversion. Please reply .

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