Marijuana Tees from Santa Cruz (and Beyond)

Not long ago I found myself in a t-shirt shop that calls itself a men’s clothing store.

Here in Santa Cruz, that’s not reaching.  Hoodies and tees imprinted with bold designs are big with the teen-through-twenties crowd.  We’ve no shortage of older locals who are still “twenties in their mind,” either. Eyeballs and fangs are in this year, I’ll tell ya. Here in Boardsports Heaven, they always are. I understand that.

But I didn’t understand the whole wall of t-shirts bearing leering, humanoid lemons.  And the worlds “Lemon Tree,” or “Lemon Life.” (If you know, keep in mind that I’m old.)

I stared at them for a few minutes.  The clerk was busy, so I surfed around a little: found a website or two for “Lemon Tree” and the “ever-more-popular Lemon Lifestyle.”

There’d been an outdoor Lemon Lifestyle Concert.  Lemon Life tees were on the market. There were boasts that the Lemon Lifestyle was “taking America by storm.” But none of these sites straight-out said what the “Lemon Tree” (or the “Lemon Lifestyle”) actually was.

But the clerk knew, when he had time to help me: “Marijuana.”

Recreational marijuana is lately legal to all in California. New companies breed and sell designer strains of cannabis : as herb, in candy bars, in  cookies, in any form that you want.  Just head to your local dispensary.  No prescription required, but bring your ID. And lots of money.

For the fastidious pothead, cannabis strains are now reviewed in much the same way as wine, right down to the jargon. From an industry website:

“Lemon Tree cannabis strain is an award-winning evenly balanced hybrid with a THC level that can reach a whopping 25 percent. It is known for its sharp diesel scent and similarly sour flavor, accented by subtle notes of lemon and citrus.”

More bluntly: Lemon Tree makes you pucker while it puts you under the table.  That’s just what consumers of haute cannabis want to know.  Along with exactly where under the table you’ll end up, and how you’ll feel when you land there.

The clerk also told me that “Lemon Life” is a clothing line that the Lemon Tree’s developers launched along with their cannabis products.  Tie-in businesses are pretty common in the cannabis trade.

It made sense. If people will buy a t-shirt with the name of their favorite beer, why shouldn’t they buy one with the name of their favorite cannabis strain?  With suitable cool illustration? It’s what Americans do.

Since then, I’ve learned to identify cannabis tees, though they’re more difficult to ID than, say, wacky craft beer tees.Craft beer tee designs always include the word “brewery” or “beer” or “ale,” even if the tipple in question is Icthyosaurus Pale Ale (“Gimme an Icky!”) or Moose Drool.

Cannabis tees rarely display the word “cannabis” or even “marijuana.” What you get is a funky cannabis strain name that nobody but a user would understand. And a funny graphic.  It’s a lot like a death metal tee, except that the name tends to be vaguely food-like.  For example, Golden State Banana:

Say the experts: “Golden State Banana is a fruity indica cross of Ghost OG and Banana Kush. This semi-sedative strain fills the consumer’s mind with euphoria while wrapping the limbs in a warm, relaxing sensation. The aroma is a mixture of Ghost OG’s pungent, citrus terpenes and Banana Kush’s tropical scents, creating a rich bouquet with bright floral sweetness.”

A refined statement, though a stark counterpoint to the implied YEE HAW from the t-shirt’s banana-waving, dancing ape. 

These Lemon Life and Golden State Banana tees are both the work of Jimbo Phillips, a Santa Cruz commercial artist whose work I admire. Both companies are in or near Santa Cruz: probably.  Cannabis entrepreneurs don’t put their contact information on the web, but I think so.

My favorite cannabis tee, however, features a three-eyed cow in a bowler hat. And it has a story.

Korovoa Edibles is a long-time player in cannabis-laced candies and baked goods for the California market: first for the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries. And now for the completely legalized California cannabis industry.

The name “Korova” means “cow” in Russian.  In the movie “A Clockwork Orange,” the droogs visit the Korova Milk Bar to quaff milk packed with powerful drugs. In the movie, Malcom McDowell wears a black bowler hat.  As for the third eye, you’re on your own.  But you get the general idea.

Back when marijuana could only be sold by medical prescription, Korova’s motto was “unrivaled potency.” In those days they made a cannabi-laced confection called the Black Bar: a candy bar loaded with 1000 milligrams of THC.

A thousand milligrams of THC in one sitting is massive, massive overkill. A Black Bar was meant to be eaten a little bit at a time; its wrapper bore careful instructions. But not everybody reads wrappers.  “It’s just a candy bar — right?” And very few people can eat just 1/10 of a candy bar.

If you were a newbie, or just underestimated its strength, a Korova bar wouldn’t just put you under the table; it’d dig a ten-foot hole under that table and drop you down it.
When Colorado legalized marijuana, Korova-strength bars went on the general market there. Their potency unpleasantly surprised some naive new users. 

So when California legalized,  the THC in one discrete edible was limited to 100 milligrams.  That was the end of the Black Bar, and “unrivaled potency.” Now the Korova t-shirts just say “unrivaled.” But Korova found a way to legally sell you too much cannabis in one small package.

Instead of the 1000 milligram black bar, Korova will now sell you a bag of ten cannabis-laced cookies — each bearing 100 milligrams of THC.  Do the math. Korovo’s got its 1000 milligrams of THC back in one pack again — but in ten pieces. In that form, it’s legal.

Just don’t get the munchies.

To close, I just want to say that marijuana is fast becoming part of mainstream above-ground America, and I’ve got the t-shirts to prove it.  From tees for the local dispensaries, to tees for marijuana-themed clothing lines, and even tourism tees.

It’s here, it’s everywhere, it’ll never go away. But it could get cheaper. Anyway, smear a little marijuana butter on your toast, and lax out.

And check out some more marijuana-related tees. Like this Roswell NM tourist tee, complete with pothead green alien.

Here’s another tourist shirt from Weed, California” “I’m High on Weed!” Weed is no marijuana capital; but it is “high:” at 3500 feet elevation, with titanic Mount Shasta crowding its horizon. I actually did know a guy who grew weed in Weed. It didn’t work out.

The green-housewife tee below is from Seedless, California-based clothing company that sells marijuana-themed tees. This tee was the winning entry in a marijuana art contest that Seedless sponsored.

Emerald Goddess, and other Emerald Harvest products, claim to be nothing but general-purpose plant foods. Too bad most of the tutorials and customer testimonials feature cannabis growers.

Santa Cruz Greenway was a first-generation marijuana dispensary, from the time when marijuana was available only for medical reasons and by prescription. The dispensary has changed hands and is now known as Kindpeoples.

The dispensary now has two locations: one is on Ocean Street, a main traffic artery, in a big, modern, clean-looking building that tens of thousands of eyes pass over every day. Cannabis may be legal, but local dispensaries work to maintain an aura of respectability and responsibility. Because the city can still pass ordinances that make their business difficult.

And cannabis is indeed now a nationwide community (and big business, too). Below is a t-shirt for the Cannabis Cup: a “best bud” competition put on by High Times magazine for many years, complete with convention schedule, seminars, dealer’s rooms, parties, and all. Sounds like an old-school science fiction convention to me. But there has to be a place for the tribes to gather.

Note George Washington, symbol of all that’s “all-American” (as cannabis is now) and a grower of hemp at his Mount Rushmore estate. George’s hemp, it must be said, would have made good fishing nets and cloth but would never, ever get you high.

Just one more: people know Santa Cruz as a place where the locals surf a lot and smoke a lot. So this official “Santa Cruz” tee from NHS, the “Santa Cruz” skateboard people, acknowledges that image.

The tee shows a dope-smiling lion of Rasta wearing the NHS “Santa Cruz” logo inside a Star of David: a Rasta symbol. Surf, skateparks, reggae, and ganga: they’re the Santa Cruz sacraments. Maybe not so much reggae anymore, but a few years back…

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