Have you ever noticed when you walk into a licensed and regulated cannabis dispensary, that all of the products are meticulously weighed and packaged into grams, 8ths, quarters, half ounces, and so on? As you can imagine, this is a relatively new phenomena. Historically, the cannabis plant carried much less stigma, and much less value, and people were far less concerned about weights, prices, strains, potency, and so on.
In the early days of Cannabis prohibition, long before the decriminalization and subsequent legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational use, there was a much more casual method of weighing out cannabis. At a time when an ounce of cannabis cost between $15-$50, squabbles between buyer and seller were few and far between. But fast forward to the high prices of Drug War Era cannabis, and buyers and sellers needed a more accurate way of ensuring that their hard earned money, and crop, was not being taken advantage of.
Until the mid to late 1970’s, a “lid” was a term commonly used to describe approximately one ounce of cannabis (formerly called “Marijuana”). But where did the saying originate? The term initially gained popularity in the 1950’s when dealers began using “lids” from various household products to measure out their product. Coffee cans, Hellmans Mayonnaise jars, Ovaltine cans, and Mason Jar lids were all commonly used “measuring devices” of early to mid-prohibition era Cannabis. As the plastics industry exploded in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and while Reagan’s War on Drugs ensued, the term “lid” further evolved to refer to the fold of a plastic sandwich bag.
Throughout the late 80’s and 90’s, the ravages of the War on Drugs tipped the scales of the cannabis market in favor of a small number of individuals willing to risk their freedom and livelihoods for the high profits of the cannabis trade. With high risk comes high reward, and the cost of an ounce of cannabis skyrocketed. No longer could expensive indoor cannabis grown in clandestine underground farms, or boutique outdoor cannabis grown in the remote reaches of Northern California be bought and sold for $15 per “scoop”. During the peak of Reagans Drug War, pounds of Northern California outdoor cannabis fetched prices as high as $6k-$7k. By this time, the term “lid” had almost completely disappeared from the cannabis consumers vocabulary. With the combined forces of higher prices and technological advances in accurate measuring techniques, both buyers and sellers became acutely aware of the cost per-gram of their high grade, and high priced commodity.
Today, although the term “lid” is no longer a part of our common Cannabis nomenclature, it is and will forever remain an integral part of our history, reminding us that there was a time, not long ago, when cannabis was an inexpensive commodity controlled by no-one other than the individuals who grew it, bought it, sold it, and used it. Someday, perhaps, the plant will once again outgrow it’s bureaucratic chains, but for at least the foreseeable future, strict regulations and fees will continue to “keep a lid” on the explosive growth of this newly emerging industry.