The price of Backwoods rose to $16.99 a pack. NYC Twitter had a meltdown.

Every so often, an economic injustice brings a community together to protect a cultural way of life. This could be one of those moments — as New York city finds itself in the midst of a weed disaster — the price of Backwoods cigars has risen to $16.99 a pack.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio signed a series of aggressive anti-tobacco bills in August 2017, all with the intention of reducing the city’s tobacco use. One of those bills, 1544-B, called for a minimum pricing in cigar structure, raising the price of individual cigars to at least $8.00, and increases the taxes on little cigars, smokeless tobacco, suns, shisha and loose tobacco.

That includes Backwoods cigars, a brand of flavored cigars readily available at most gas stations, liquor stores and bodegas.

The weed smokers of New York City had a meltdown on Twitter.

Anyone who regularly smokes weed in the form of a blunt can tell you that the tried and true tradition of blunt rolling involves purchasing cigars, cutting them open, removing the tobacco — often referred to as the “guts” — filling with dried cannabis flower, resealing, and smoking.

This is the reason the blunt smokers of New York City collectively cried when the price of their beloved Backwoods spiked. Smoking weed just got three times more expensive. Desus Nice of Viceland’s late night show “Desus & Mero” was among the first to take to the virtual mean streets of Twitter and lament about the price increase:

The rest of NYC Twitter quickly followed suit.

The tax hike had some New York weed smokers considering alternatives, but others felt daunted by the thought of giving up blunts by switching to rolling papers.

Others — incorrectly — blamed and lashed out at the manufacturer.  

While some New Yorkers took the opportunity to show their true colors.

Why are blunts a big deal in New York City?

For weed smokers outside of New York, its natural to wonder why raising the price of cheap cigars is causing such a commotion. Switch to rolling papers to make a joint and move on with your life, right?

But it isn’t just an affinity for a particular brand of cigars, the price hike has some cultural significance to the New York cannabis community.

As Nice explained on his podcast the Bodega Boys on June 25, “Listen, I’m from the Bronx. You got to smoke a blunt.” And it’s not just because blunts provide the extra rush of tobacco from the cigar paper, or that the thicker composition of the paper burns weed at a slower rate, but has more to do with “the communal aspect of it.”

And much of that community comes from Caribbean descent. In the 1990s, the foreign-born population increased by 788,000, totaling 2.9 million. Data from the 2000 Census found that Caribbean foreign-born residents accounted for 20.8 perfect of New York City’s population. New York City’s community now included more Dominicans, Jamaicans, Haitians, and people of Trinidadian and Tobagonian descent than any other major city in the United States.

And the wave Caribbean immigrants brought pieces of their culture along with them, including their rich culture of cigar smoking.

Rap and hip-hop culture were also on the rise in the 90s and early 2000s. New York rappers in particular were glamorizing the fine art of smoking a blunt the way aristocrats fetishized drinking a fine glass of wine:

“Growing up, we always heard rappers rapping about blunts, seeing them smoke them in music videos,” says Calvin Shepherd, a lifelong New Yorker. “It’s just a part of weed culture in the city.”

As the children of Caribbean immigrants came of age in the city, influenced by both their heritage and pop culture, blunts became not just the preferred method of cannabis consumption, but a communal aspect of staying in touch with your roots, identity, and community.

When asked how he, as a native New Yorker ingrained in the city’s weed culture,  personally felt about the new tobacco policy, he called the bill “a bunch of bullshit” that is meant to make people uncomfortable as recreational and commercial cannabis legalization looms.

As New York’s trajectory towards legal recreational cannabis moves forward, the question of how the city’s culture will stay in tact still needs to be determined. But it doesn’t seem like NYC Twitter plans on taking any of this lightly.


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