Head shop

A head shop is a shop that specializes in the sale of articles and accessories related to the consumption of cannabis and tobacco.

These stores are not to be confused with smart shops or grow shops. Although there is often an overlap in practice, there are three different shop types. Due to the legal framework, there are country-specific differences!

Products and accessories

Depending on the country and its legal situation, the range includes dosing and weighing items, storage solutions, and smoking accessories. Many head shops also sell apparel and music printed to match. The following goods are offered more specifically:

  • Hookah and tobacco pipes
  • Vaporizers
  • Bongs
  • Smoking accessories
    • Grinder
    • Ashtray
    • Lighters & Torches
    • Trays
    • for rolling & stuffing
    • Long papers
  • Filters & Strainers
    • Filter tips
    • Activated carbon filter
  • Accessories for processing
    • for extraction
    • for pressing
  • Packing & Storage
    • Digital scales
    • Boxes, cans, bags
    • Odor neutralization
  • Accessories for cleaning
    • Brushes
    • Cleaning supplies
  • Decoration
    • Psychedelic-looking posters
    • Psychedelic art
  • Relevant books and journals
  • Reggae music
  • Printed clothing


The beginnings of head shops supposedly go back to the hippie culture in San Francisco in the 1960s. Many businesses evolved from independently run poster or candle shops, especially in cities with a high concentration of students. American shops at St. Mark’s Place in New York City’s East Village, West Los Angeles, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, and Chicago’s Old Town are notable for the spread of head shops worldwide.

Sources speak of a psychedelic shop on Haight Street in San Francisco as the first head shop in the USA. Ron Thelin, a US Army veteran, opened it in early January 1966 with his younger brother. Four months later, Jeff Glick founded the “Head Shop” in the eastern United States, on East Ninth Street in New York City. These businesses soon spread across the United States. In the years between 1968 and 1975, this store was an essential outlet for underground newspapers, especially in the United States. In May 1968, Paul-Gerhard Hübsch founded the Heidi-loves-you-shop in Frankfurt am Main and was considered the first in Germany. After a raid, however, the shop was closed again just a few months after it opened.

The popularity eventually waned as this generation aged, and they banned the sale of drug paraphernalia in many places in the mid-1970s. The underground comics and magazines distribution network also dried up to a large extent. The discovery and appropriation of certain niche head shop products by the retail mainstream has led to a significant decline in head shops, particularly in the US.

Legal situation

Head shops are legal in Germany and Austria as long as the drugs themselves are not sold there. In some other European countries, however, this is also prohibited. For example, it is forbidden to offer precision scales or articles with a hemp leaf imprint in France.

In 2016, the number of head and grow shops in Germany was estimated at 313. In Austria, there were 73, and in Switzerland, 33.

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