A Brit and an American walk into a smoker’s area… the American sparks up a joint — only containing cannabis — and the Brit yelps because they’re smoking in public.
There are a whole lot of cultural differences that Brits and Yanks slowly become aware of the more they hang out with each other.
We spoke to smokers from both sides of the Atlantic to compare slang, our smoking habits, and methods, the process of buying cannabis, and attempt to answer where these differences come from.
Naturally, one of the key areas in which the two cultures differ is down to our weed vernacular.
For example, in the UK weed can be called: skunk, draw, piff, or peng. While in the US, words like pot or mary jane are often be used. Weed, chro, and flower are also used in both cultures.
For Brits, a “roach” is a small piece of cardboard, sometimes torn from the back of rolling papers, which aids the smoker in holding the joint as well as filtering out any shooters — small pieces of weed/tobacco that could be inhaled. Be careful using that term in America, however, as for them “roach” is the burnt end of the joint!
Billy the Goat of Golden State Labs, is an avid smoker who has judged weed events in both countries said, “When someone [in the UK] first asked me for a roach, I’d look for a roach clip or hand them the end of a joint, all confused!”
Both Brits and Americans will “roll” a joint but a Brit could also “build” one. And that joint will definitely have tobacco (or a tobacco replacement) but for the American, that could just contain weed. In the UK, they may call a joint only containing cannabis: a blunt. For Americans, a blunt requires a blunt wrap.
Gravity bongs in the US are called buckets in the UK. And even our measurements are different, for Americans a “box” is 100lbs while in the UK a “box” is a kilo.
“It is just a plant after all and I don’t need to speak in code.” Matthew Clifton, CEO of Product Earth, said, “terms like bud, budder, badder, rosin, juice, live rosin, feco, rso, hash, shatter, oil, wax, pollen etc are common place on both sides of the pond (amongst the cannaseurs), it is more the absence of certain terms like skunk, spliff, doobie etc that I noticed in CA whereas the legacy consumer in the UK still can use those terms.”
Habits and methods
Smoking habits and methods are also wildly different on each side of the Atlantic.
As you may expect, everything is bigger in the US — supersize my joint, please! An American is more likely to smoke two or three big joints, while a Brit may opt for seven smaller joints. As previously mentioned, Brits love putting tobacco in their joints while that really isn’t common in the States.
Americans also love alternative ways of smoking like bongs, pipes, and vapes. Whereas a Brit will most likely opt for a good ol’ fashioned joint.
“Almost everyone [in the US] smokes out of pipes or bongs,” Patrick James Wong, an American who lived in the UK for two years, told leafie. “And also, puff puff pass isn’t really a thing in the UK. Where I grew up, that’s sacred. You take two hits then you pass it on.”
puff puff pass isn’t really a thing in the UK. Where I grew up, that’s sacred. You take two hits then you pass it on.
The lack of the puff puff pass rule in the UK could be a result of Brits’ smaller, more personal joints or because Americans often don’t use tobacco so the joint burns faster.
“I remember hanging out with these two or three guys, I took two hits and passed it to them. By the time I got it back, it was dead,” Patrick said. “The cool thing is you don’t have to rush with it. But at the same time, it depends on who you’re with. Some people will smoke half a joint then pass it, some people are a bit more considerate.”
With cannabis being legalized in 21 US states and decriminalised in a further 10, buying weed in the UK — where it is a Class B drug — is a lot different.
In the UK, you’ll often find dealers on the street, in rundown bars, or through friends of friends. While in a lot of America, you can pop down to your local dispensary or even deliver via an UberEats style app.
In the States, you can choose from a wide variety of cannabis strains. In Britain, it’s hard to find much more than the infamous Stardawg or the mythical “cali weed”.
It’s hard to define the picking-up process in Britain as it varies so heavily from area to area and dealer to dealer. Some dealers are professional, meeting you on time with a smooth transaction; unfortunately, most British dealers will arrive 30 minutes later than their two hour delivery time, leaving you braving the dreary weather on a random suburban corner.
Legalisation has stunted UK culture
Outside of slang and some of our smoking habits, it’s clear that British cannabis culture has been stunted by the government’s stubbornness on weed legalisation.
On the other side of the Atlantic, you’ll find weed competitions, a wider variety of strains, and communities being easily formed. While in the UK everything must go underground, competitions exist but aren’t able to attract the same crowds or media attention, legit choice of strains runs a high premium, and cannabis communities struggle to form with the threat of legal action.
“The community in the UK is something that I feel we should all take more ownership and pride over,” Matthew said. “We have an opportunity to build something incredible and where we see negativity, we should call it out. We are stronger when we stand together and support one another.”
British smokers are at risk of sounding like a broken record but legalization could really see the start of something special. Maybe then comparing the two cultures will be more easily done with strain quality comparisons and weed events being able to look at each other eye to eye.
Still in the UK, mainstream culture talks down on cannabis. Your Mum’s favourite morning talk show is spreading misinformation and fear-mongering and the Labour insists that the smell of cannabis is ruining his constituents’ lives.
The UK is not weed friendly and until it is, British weed culture will be stunted.