Why a "lid"

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Why a "lid"

Post by incarnatus est » Thu Jan 29, 2009 5:04 am

A "lid" of marijuana is a one-ounce portion, according to the Urban Dictionary.

But why a "lid"?

How did "lid" get to be a unit of measure, and is it a measure of anything other than marijuana?

Thanks, Hugh Gilmore
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Jan 29, 2009 6:01 am

It is also a standardized measure of a soldier's cranial capacity.
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by trolley » Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:35 am

I'm not sure where the term lid came from, but I'm surprised to see that most info on the web indicates that a lid was an ounce. In the late sixties, on the west coast of Canada they were two different measurements. An ounce (OhZee) was 20 bucks and weighed 28 grams. A "lid" was was 15 bucks and weighed 20 grams. A that time, most of the pot was coming from Mexico and was in metric units. A kilo (key) could be broken down into 50 lids. Nice easy math. Most of our Mexican pot was coming up through the States and at some point (around 1970) we started getting it by the pound rather than by the kilo. I think the shipments were being converted by the American dealers because pounds and ounces were something that the average US/Canadian consumer could understand better. By about 1975 the "lid" was unknown and you just had ounces, halves (dime bags), and quarters (nickel bags). Of course, this is all just stuff that I heard, man.
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by Shelley » Thu Jan 29, 2009 10:34 pm

Comin' into Los Angeles
Bringin' in a couple o' keys
Don't touch my bags, if you please,
Mister Customs Man . . .
-- Arlo Guthrie
Yeah, y'know -- I never thought a lid was an ounce, either. It was definitely smaller than an ounce. Can't really remember what a lid cost where I lived. I never bought the stuff, y'understand!
Isn't it called a lid because it's how much pot would fit in an average large mayonnaise jar lid?

Ok, I did a little google on this topic, and did not turn up very much. Disappointing to see that many dictionaries define a “lid” as an ounce of marijuana. I really don’t think that is true. The following are not very authoritative, but maybe there's a bud of truth in them:

From WikiAnswers --
The term 'lid' of marijuana goes back to the 60's. Back then you could buy a 'lid' or a 'can' of pot. The can was aproximatley [sic] 1 oz, the lid was1/8 oz. The term came from the practice of breaking up a brick (a kilo or later a key) of tightly packed marjijuana and storing and selling it in Price Albert tobacco cans. A can held aproximatley [sic] one ounce. the lid would hold aproximatley [sic] 1/8 oz. No one weighed it really, it was all done by eye . . .
And "Tiki Punch" from the Urban Dictionary offers the following --
Contrary to popular belief a Lid is not an ounce of weed. The coffee cans had a key like a sardine can and the Lid would be wound off the can. The Lid used to measure usually contained about 4 fingers of pot. People at that time didn't have a triple scale to weight pot. Maryjane sold me a Lid of Acapulco Gold and it's one finger short of a full bag.
The coffee can lid story seems to ring a bell with me . . . I know Ken hates it when we perpetuate ungrounded mythology from other websites here -- sorry Ken. I'll try to find some evidence to back up the coffee can theory.

At another site, someone writes that his(?) dad told him a lid was a sandwich bag with about 4 fingers of pot in it.

At another site, it is theorized that the reason lids existed was to avoid the jail sentence for possessing an ounce or more of marijuana. Possession of less than an ounce was only a misdemeanor and one was not likely to face serious consequences.
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Jan 30, 2009 9:09 am

John [a.k.a. Trolley]], You’re certainly a good listener with great self-restraint. And your information looks good.

Shelley, The WikiAnswers looks pretty good if one takes 3/4 of an ounce to be ‘approximately’ an ounce – but, really, what’s a 1/4 ounce among friends! As far as the Urban Dictionary goes, I’d say that explanation appears to be bullshit ( see below):


LID noun [1960s and still in use] (drugs): A quantity of marijuana, about 22g (3/4 OZ) or 40 cigarettes’ worth and often considered the equivalent of 1 oz (28g). [the quantity of the drug that fills the lid of a tin of Prince Albert, a popular brand of tobacco]

o.z. noun (also oh-zee, OZ) [1930s and still in use] (drugs): 1 oz (28g) of a drug. [1 oz; pronunciation of the abbreviation of Standard English ounce)

KEY noun (also KEE, KEYE, KI) [1960s and still in use]: A kilo of marijuana, hashish or any other drug [Standard English kilo-, a thousand]

CAN noun (drugs) [1950s and still in use]: Approximately 1 oz (28 g) of marijuana. [a (notational) can into which the drug is measured out]

MATCHBOX noun (also MATCH) [1940s and still in use] (U.S. drugs): 1) $10 worth of marijuana, originally an actual matchbox full, by 1999s more like a thimble full. 2) Approximately a ½ oz (14 g) of marijuana.

I was also surprised at how many dictionaries said that a LID is an ounce of marijuana (e.g. American Heritage Dictionary, Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Online, and even the OED). And there are early examples of that (see first 1968 and 1971 quotes below). But should they have been saying approximately an ounce? Well, at first I thought that the language descriptivists must be right – if enough people say something that’s wrong long enough, it becomes right. Or was it that maybe the stuffy guys working for these august dictionaries spent too much time in the stacks and never actually went out and bought some weed? But, I do trust the savvy Jonathon Green on this one, with his view being confirmed by the 1980 quote below which says that the meaning of LID depends on time and place.

THE NEW PARTRIDGE DICTIONARY OF SLANG, for whom I have considerable general disdain, here seemed to demonstrate their skill at hedging their bets:

LID noun [U.S., 1966]: An approximate measure (variously twenty-two grams, or one or two ounces of loose, uncleaned marijuana [[Hm! What’s with the ‘uncleaned.’ First I’ve heard of that. So you buy a ‘lid’ and clean it yourself, or smoke it dirty!’]]. Derived from the lid of a tobacco tin, a convenient measure of sufficient marijuana to roll about 40 cigarettes. [[Hopefully, after cleansing]]

The following quotes are from the Oxford English Dictionary, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, and The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English:

<1964-66 “I’m just looking to score a lid.”—Hall of Mirrors by R. Stone, page 161>

<1967 “The high price of ‘commercial’ marijuana ($10 to $15 for a ‘lid’ from which some 40 cigarettes can be rolled).”— Time Magazine, 8 September, page 18>

<1968 “The kilos of marihuana are broken down at the street-pushing stage into ounces called ‘lids’ which are sold for $10-$15.”—The College Drug Scene by J. Carey, page 35> [[ounces on the button or whole and mixed number multiples of ounces?]]

<1968 “We had almost two lids of Acapulco Gold.”—Pale Gray for Guilt (1969, U.K.) by J. D. MacDonald, xii. page 152>

<1968 “The fact that I make more money than the cat who sells one lid of grass a week – now, that’s his choice and this is my choice.”—Voices from the Love Generation by Leonard Wolfe (editor), page 187>

<1969 “We've got this guy from Sand City we just caught with a lid.”—Rolling Stone, 17 May, page 6/3>

<1969 “The undercover man said, ‘Do you have any lids?’ referring to marijuana.”—Cop: A Closeup of Violence and Tragedy by Whittemore, III. page 289>

<1969 “See, it costs about fifty cents a joint, a stick, and you can get a matchbox for $3.50; $7.50 for a can, $10 for a bag, people refer to it as a lid; a can for $15, and then you go into your half a pound.”—Watts; the Aftermath: An Inside View of the Ghetto by P. Bullock, page 158> [[I don’t know why, but I think I prefer the can for $7.50 over the one for $15]]

<1965-70 “A lid of dynamite grass I was about to deal.”—in Paris Review, J. Carroll, No. 50, page 103>

<1970 “He would be selling grass, meth, acid, lid, match boxes, . . . or mescaline.”—The Pushbutton Butterfly (1971, U.K.) by K. Platt, iv. page 43>

<1971 “Lid, one ounce of marijuana, a quantity by which it is sold.”—Underground Dictionary by E. G. Landy, page 120> [[an ounce ± ? and is it washed?]]

<1977 “He sold mediocre grass for ten dollars a lid, coke for $50 a gram . . . and a hit of windowpane acid for two bucks.”—Union Dues by Sayles, page 287> [[windowpane, pane, window glass from the 1970s and still in use is a variety of LSD – a small square of gellatine impregnated with LSD]]

<1980 “A ‘lid is a measurement of marijuana, either an ounce, or slightly less, depending on the year and the city.”—High Culture: Marijuana in the Lives of Americans by W.Novak, xxiii>

<1981 “Probably Tuna Can Tommy smoked a couple of lids a week.”—Glitter Dome by J. Wambaugh, page 147>

<1986 “He . . . hangs out in the student union buying and selling lids and tabs.”—Zombie Jamboree by R. Merkin, page 130> [[In the 1950s ‘tabs’ were tablets, especially ones containing a hallucinogenic drug. In the 1980s it was a dose of LSD in non-tablet form]]

<1986 “The kidnappings were nothing fancy: a young surfer at the Pompano Pier, lured into a waiting Cadillac with a lid of fresh Colombian red . . .”—Tourist Season by C. Hiaasen, page 178>

<1997 “The $10 lid was fading into the '60s, to be replaced by Bud and Thai stick.”—Retrohell: Life in the '70s and '80S, from Afros to Zotz by Editors of Ben is Dead Magazine, page 60>

My name is Ken Greenwald and I approve / approve of this posting (all I know about the above subject matter is what I've read in the papers).

Ken – January 29, 2009
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by Shelley » Sat Jan 31, 2009 12:25 am

Ken Greenwald wrote: . . . (all I know about the above subject matter is what I've read in the papers).
The funny papers, you mean! Once again, Ken, your research is just, well, far out, man. With regard to your seeming unfamiliarity with the difference between a cleaned ounce and an uncleaned one, allow me to provide the following: (no, it has nothing to do with tref and kosher) ;^)
No stems, no seeds that you don’t need
Acapulco Gold is . . . Bad Ass Weed.
-- The Firesign Theatre
Ken, the cleaning process was an enjoyable, necessary ritual associated with smoking marijuana. It involved the following tools: a cafeteria tray (ideal) or record album cover (less ideal, but more aesthetically pleasing); a book of cigarette rolling papers, a matchbook or a student ID card; a film canister or other small container for the final, cleaned product.
Cleaning was necessary, because the dried stems and seeds produced headaches when smoked. More importantly, the seeds had a tendency to explode when heated up, sending sparks all over the place and igniting your best Indian print bedspread/wall-hanging.
I’d rather not get into the particulars of the process. Suffice it to say that, by applying the simple law of gravity, it effectively separated the wheat from the chaff. Also, like freshly grinding your own coffee beans, it was better to clean only the amount you expected to use at the moment.

Of course, I know this only by having, in the distant past, observed acquaintances perform this ritual (at parties into which I'd been smuggled after having been kidnapped) -- uh, perform this ritual upon a substance I never purchased, nor inhaled (although, according to our new President, that's sort of the point, isn't it?) except when the smoke got so thick that, well, I mean -- I couldn't just stop breathing, could I?

Are you sure you didn't already know this?
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by BRAMHOJU » Fri Feb 28, 2014 2:16 pm

When I was growing up, during the '60's and early '70's, a lid was as much marijuana as could be put into a matchbox. The cost was $5. If anyone can remember the wooden stick, strike anywhere matches, they will know what I am talking about.

The term also evolved to mean a different measurement of pot. Weed wasn't weighed, it was sold by fingers. A plastic baggie one horizontal finger's height, yes a literal flesh and blood human finger, was $5. 2 fingers $10, 3 fingers $15, 4 fingers $20 and when a dealer made the baggie so full that the "lid" of the baggie could barely fold over to contain the weed....that was a lid. The price was still $20.

1983 and Ronald Reagan's Greenpeace legislation designed to combat the growing of pot by seizing all assets of the grower...car, house, land...etc. ya' get the picture. A person could take the government to court to recover those assets. Few could afford the legal fees. The government had deep pockets.

What was designed to stop the growing of pot actually backfired. Growers moved their operations indoors. By cloning and the control of the environment, the potency of marijuana increased drastically. With cloning, you could obtain a plant that was literally all buds and was many years old. Not just the one year, save the seeds for planting next year mindset.

Now all plants were cloned, by taking cuttings from a mother plant. Female cuttings grew into female plants and yielded a very potent product.

The environment was controlled with artificial light, carbon dioxide, watering, soil and ph levels, nutrition....etc.

In the '60's and '70's, if the pot was green it was viewed as inferior (homegrown) to imported weed from Colombia, Mexico or Jamaica. Colombian Gold, Acapulco Gold or Red and Jamaican Red usually sold for $35 to $40.
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:42 pm

Power is an even greater stimulant.

Just look at Sauron.

The lidless high.
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Mar 01, 2014 6:55 am


Pretty cute, Edwin.
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by Krymsun » Wed Mar 26, 2014 6:12 pm

Back then you could buy a 'lid' or a 'can' of pot. The can held approximately 1 oz, the lid, about 1/8 oz. The term came from the practice of breaking up a brick (a kilo or later a 'key') of tightly packed marijuana and storing and selling it in Price Albert tobacco cans. A can held approximately one ounce, the lid would hold approximately/8 oz. No one weighed it really, it was all done by eye. By the time I was in high school in the early 70's the term 'can' had gone away and the term lid referred to an ounce. The term 'lid' died off as the product quality changed.
per http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Where_did_the ... e?#slide=5
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Mar 26, 2014 8:07 pm

Welcome Krymsun,

Before posting, read through what has already been said. Your WikiAnswers comment was previously posted by Shelley in the fourth posting from the top.

Forum Moderator – March 26, 2014
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by 60'sjim » Sat May 31, 2014 5:58 am

To clarify and provide a little more information on the subject of the purchase of marijuana in the 1960's; a lid in Pasadena CA cost $10 and weighed 1 oz. We used to weigh the sandwich bags to insure they weighed a full oz and were not short.

If we wished to purchase in a more economical form we purchased a kilo of marijuana ( 2.2 lbs) for $100 to $150 per brick (that would be the kilo amount). It would be tightly wrapped in colored cellophane, and the big issue was if it was wet, which increased the total weight. The other issue was how many large stems and seeds it contained - those normally would be cleaned out and discarded. No-one smoked seeds or stems in the 1960's in my area. From a practical point the seeds would pop and your joint or pipe full would scatter.

I purchased my first pipe in a pipe shop in Pasadena CA without telling the owner the purpose of the pipe. When he asked why I was purchasing such a small wooden tobacco pipe, I quickly responded that I was introducing my girlfriend to smoking a pipe and he was completely jazzed and took $10 off the price of the pipe. He also gave me several small packages of pipe tobacco that he thought my girlfriend would enjoy, which of course were never smoked.

Jerry Dunfee was on a major network TV channel out of LA and every night railed against anyone who smoked marijuana. He believed that it caused all types of criminal and sexual perversions to include child molestation, homosexuality, and other heinous criminal acts. People who smoked marijuana were without any values or morals of any kind and the most degenerate behaviour could be expected from anyone who smoked marijuana. It was during one of these Jerry Dunfee news programs that my girlfriends mother told her daughter that is she ever suspected marijuana was being smoked in her residence that the Pasadena Police would be notified immediately to insure that her daughter would not become a degenerate criminal.

It was at this point that my girlfriend's stepfather asked his wife (her mother) if he had ever been sexually perverse or a degenerate criminal in the decades they had been married. She looked startled and responded by saying "of course not". He then told us all that if he had a dollar for all the cans of marijuana that he had smoked in Pasadena and LA in the 1920 - 30's, he would have enough money to retire early. He explained that at that time in LA that an empty metal Prince Albert chewing tobacco can filled with marijuana cost 25 cents. That pretty much ended the conversation in total silence, but my girlfriend's stepfather told me some weeks later that his wife felt completely violated and did not hardly say a word to him or have sex with him for at least six weeks following the confession to all of us.

At the same time, we used to love getting Thai sticks which looked like some real resinous hemp wrapped around something that looked like a broom straw. The heavy resin content acted as a glue to hold the strands of weed material wrapped around the broom straw stick. I can't remember how much these cost. The other desirable item was hash. It was purchased in pea-sized quantities and was judged by the darkness of the material. The lighter the color, the poorer the quality. Price, of course would have been based upon the color of the hash pea and the price escapes me also.

We used to have a newspaper "Doonesbury" taped to the refrigerator door that showed the sequence of the events of the arrest of a marijuana dealer in New Mexico. The State Police had just stopped a hippie hitchhiker and were going through his backpack. The first scene shows one officer saying to his partner "I found a seed!". The second scene progressed to finding a couple more seeds, and the third scene had the officer saying to his partner "I found 7 seeds, I think we just got us a dealer!" That was pretty much the sentiment in those days.

Boy, have times changed.
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by cloudthewolf » Sun Nov 15, 2015 6:03 am

After reading these definitions of "lid" and I wonder if anyone is over 30. A "lid" was the amount of weed that the lid of a gov peanut butter can could hold, it was always over an ounce. That's why the phrases "5 finger bag" or "4 finger bag", you would put your fingers up and measure. WE DIDNT USE SCALES, for the small stuff
For the keys, kilo or 2.2 pounds we did use scales. I've been smoking since 8-16-1962, it was a birthday present from my brother and his friends. You see my family is native and we still use cannabis as our elders did. You didn't think it was called a peace pipe for nothing, did you?
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by BonnieL » Sun Nov 15, 2015 7:59 pm

Way over 30 here! Maybe it was because we were poor, but my friends & I never saw anything bigger than a dime bag. Funny, now that it's legal, I have no urge to try it again. :)
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Re: Why a "lid"

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Nov 18, 2015 12:59 pm

I am well over 30, but have absolutely no idea what a "gov peanut butter can" is, or what it looks like. Not everyone lives on the left-hand side of the Pond. I am Native Welsh for instance.

As for marijuana itself... my son now has mental health problems directly traceable to the use of this "harmless" product. One day a few years ago he walked to a high bridge quite a distance from where he lived because he knew that he could fly home. Thankfully a couple of policemen got him into their car and took him to a hospital where his medication was balanced so that his schizophrenia and psychosis are controlled, providing of course that he keeps taking the tablets. Please don't talk to me about the innocence of the foul stuff.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

End of topic.
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