The Current Situation for BC's Cannabis Smoking Lounges (1)

Pipe or Joint? A Generational Cannabis Debate

It’s long. It’s hard. It has a round tip, and it’s not what you’re thinking of. I am talking about the Sebsi, a traditional Cannabis pipe used in Morocco. Are you a pipe or joint person? The pipe, grounded in history, is favoured by older smokers while joints are more popular among youngsters. Why? Let’s explore these two philosophies and the generational divide between pipes and joints.

Sebsi’s anatomy

The Sebsi is made of a narrow hardwood stem (40 to 50 cm), a small clay bowl, and a thin metal grid used to hold cannabis inside the bowl. Sebsi smokers light up Kif — dried chopped cannabis — and inhale on the other end of the stem. The Sebsi provides a small and low-temperature serving of herb. Because of its long shape, Moroccans refer to smoking the Sebsi as playing golf. And like golf, it is a discipline preferred by elders. In my time in Morocco, I investigated why.

Every time I smoked the Sebsi, it felt like industrial and tedious work. First comes the assembly. The user screws two sticks together to form the narrow stem (the air passage). Once attached, the smoker stuffs the bowl with a small quantity of Kif (25 mg) and embeds it on one end of the stem. Then, they must hold the pipe at an angle and ignite the bowl while inhaling for proper combustion. It takes two to three puffs for the Kif to burn. After that comes the cleaning of the grid. All this precise coordination for one, short-lived, mind high.

Sebsi pipe.
Illustration by OriginalSebsi

Why do people like this pipe?

Too many steps and too short of a high. It did not seem worthwhile to me. Yet, the Sebsi has been used for centuries and it kept its popularity through time. I asked cannabis smokers why they preferred the Sebsi over joints. These were the most common answers:

  • “My father and grandfather smoked the Sebsi. It’s a family tradition.”
  • “It’s natural. Herbs only, no toxic shit.”
  • “The Sebsi requires discipline. I like that.”
  • “It’s much cheaper.”
  • “I can get back to work right after.”

Okay, that made more sense. As opposed to hash, Kif is not cannabis resin but dried male plants chopped in a powder. Male plants contain more CBD and less THC than female plants, thus the short high. Mohamed, the cannabis farmer from the Rif mountains had the same reasoning. He smoked the Sebsi during the day and saved joints for the end-day reward.

The Kif, a cultural commodity

In Morocco, Kif is a lot cheaper than hash ($0.01/g v.s $1/g). Besides, there are no recurring expenses like tobacco, filters, or rolling paper. The Sebsi is a one-time investment and Kif is a commodity. The cost of smoking cannabis with a Sebsi is unimportant compared to that of a joint, both in terms of money and effects.

Man smoking the Sebsi

The price and short high explain the Sebsi’s popularity. Among all the reasons I heard, one caught my attention. “The Sebsi is noble”, said Mohamed. “When you finish a joint, you toss it away, but when you finish smoking the Sebsi, you clean it, dismantle it, and preserve it in leather. Also, you don’t bring it to your lips like a vulgar cigarette. No, you hold it right, light it, and bow.”

An ancient ritual

There was a unique philosophy behind Mohamed’s words. Smoking the Sebsi is an ancestral tradition in North Africa. A tradition observed mainly by artists, craftspeople, and farmers. The act creates a power shift between the artist and their art, between pleasure and respect, between humanity and nature. The fact that you need two hands, a strict process, and a royal reverence gives the Sebsi its artifact status. Perhaps that’s why the elders favour it.

Pipe or joint, I see them as a means to an end. To create, relax, or laugh, the end is the smoker’s choice and privilege. Cannabis smokers like their habits and what can we say, old habits die hard.

I choose joint over pipe and efficiency over tradition. Where do you stand in the pipe vs joint divide? Let us know in the comments!