Tee Shirts from the Collection: The Tees of Mystery

Lemon Tree 1

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

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 old surfer dudes and Peter Pans who are still “twenties” in their mind, either.

This particular store prints its own tees and hoodies, with designs and messages aimed at locals and their interests.   Mostly, I get the messages, or just understand that skulls and tentacles and fangs are “in” this year

What I didn’t understand:  a whole  wall of t-shirts printed with cartoons of leering, humanoid lemons.  And the worlds “Lemon Tree,” or “Lemon Life.”

Lemon Life

I stared at them for a few minutes.  Enlightenment didn’t come.

I’m a card-carrying introvert, so I didn’t even think of asking the clerk.  I went home and hit the Internet instead.  But it didn’t help.

I 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 being pushed. There were boasts that the Lemon Lifestyle was taking America by storm.

They just didn’t say what “Lemon Tree” or the “Lemon Lifestyle” actually was.

Defeated, I returned to the store. The clerk said one word


Recreational marijuana is lately legal to all in California. All sorts of new companies now breed and sell one strain of cannabis or another: 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.

Lemon Tree 2

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 explained that “Lemon Life” is just a clothing line that the Lemon Tree’s developers launched along with their cannabis products.  (I found out later that the clothing store prints the tees for them.)

He also said that tie-in businesses are pretty common in the cannabis trade.  One entrepreneur even uses his cannabis business to promote his career as a rapper.

It made sense. If people will buy a t-shirt with the name of their favorite beer, why shouldn’t they buy one bearing 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 tees always display the word “brewery” or “beer” or “ale,” even if the beer 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 is always something vaguely edible.  For example, Golden State Banana:

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.  Oh well, everybody’s got pretensions.

Both Lemon Life and Golden State Banana tees are the work of Jimbo Phillips, the Santa Cruz commercial artist whose work I admire. Both companies are local: probably.  Cannabis entrepreneurs don’t put their contact information on the web, and frankly I wouldn’t either.

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

Korova 3 Eyed Cow Marijuana Tee

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.”  They used to make something called the Black Bar, a candy bar loaded with 1000 milligrams of THC, and another called the 5150 with “only” 500 milligrams.

That much THC in one sitting is basically unthinkable. Massive overkill. A Black Bar was meant to be eaten a little bit at a time, and labelled as such. But not everybody reads labels.  “It’s just a candy bar — right?”

If you were a newbie, and didn’t pay attention, 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 market there. And they seriously screwed up 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.” Korova’s motto is now merely “Unrivaled.”

But Korova will still sell you a bag of ten cannabis laced cookies — each with 100 milligrams of THC.  And 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. Smear a little marijuana butter on your toast, and lax out.

And check out some more marijuana-related tees.

Roswell NM Alien with Marijuana Tee

Roswell NM Tourist Tee with Pothead Alien

Seedles Clothing Marijuana Tee

Seedless is a California-based clothing company that sells marijuana-themed tees and provides marketing services to marijuana-based events and projects.


Emerald Goddess Marijuana Hydroponics Tee

Emerald Goddess, and other Emerald Harvest products, don’t on the face of it claim to be anything but general-purpose plant foods and fertilizers. But their website emphasizes marijuana cultivation. The tee’s illustration hardly seems aimed at the backyard gardener. Unless that gardener is growing his or her allowed six marijuana plants under California law.

Greenway Santa Cruz Marijuana Dispensary 1

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. Even after legalization, dispensaries cultivate a public image of responsibility. Local control of licensing laws means that dispensaries must maintain good relationships with the community if they want to stay in business.


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