Roach (smoking)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A roach is the remains of a joint, blunt or roll up cigarette after most of it has been smoked.[1] Most roaches are disposed of immediately after smoking a joint; however, some users will retain the roach for use at a later date. Some users maintain that smoking the roach again has a more intense high due to a high concentration of resin that gathers at the tip of the filter.[2]

Small metal clips to facilitate the smoking of a "roach" are called roach clips.[3] Roach clips cover a wide variety of paraphernalia including alligator clips, forceps, needle nose pliers, ceramic pieces with holes through them, and tweezers.[4]

In Europe, the United Kingdom and most Commonwealth nations, "roach" can also refer to a bit of rolled thin cardboard in one end to serve as a mouthpiece - called a "Roach Tip", "Smoking Tip", "crutch" or "filter" in North America. When this is employed, a joint can still be held securely after it has burnt down to a short length; thus, the entire length of the joint may be smoked without the aid of a roach clip.[5]

Several burnt roaches and a joint


In Spanish, tabaco de cucaracha ("roach tobacco") refers to powdery, low-quality tobacco.[6]

La Cucaracha[edit]

Alt text
A portrait of Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution

According to Callier the term roach was inspired by the Latin American folk song “La Cucaracha".[7] While the exact origins of the song remain unknown the version that is thought to have referenced the roach is the commonly cited version that ridicules Mexican Revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. The revolutionary version was reportedly sung by Villa’s troops during battle. Callier has suggested that in cannabis culture the roach represents the end of a joint and that the song is about "running out of cannabis and not being able to get high, just like the roach is unable to walk because it's missing a leg".[7]

Excerpt [7]
La cucaracha, la cucaracha

Ya no puede caminar

Porque no tiene

porque le falta

Marihuana que fumar

The cockroach, the cockroach

Cannot walk anymore

Because it hasn’t

because it lacks

marijuana to smoke

Mexican immigration into the United States[edit]

Callier argues that the term 'roach' entered into American Cannabis culture through a wave of Mexican immigration after the Mexican Revolution in 1910.[7] The Mexican Revolution of 1910 led to a wave of Mexican immigration into the United States in particular through the American Southwest bringing with them cannabis. Schlosser suggests that "the prejudices and fears that greeted these peasant immigrants also extended to their traditional means of intoxication; smoking marijuana".[8]

Due to the relatively inexpensive cost of cannabis it became popular with impoverished and marginalised groups throughout North America. However due to perceived social harms it became the subject of an intense campaign by the newly formed Federal Bureau of Investigation. In places such as New Orleans newspapers linked cannabis with marginalised groups such as “African-Americans, jazz musicians, prostitutes, and underworld whites”.[8] Police officers in Texas claimed that marijuana incited violent crimes, aroused a "lust for blood", and gave its users "superhuman strength".[8]

Jazz origins[edit]

Alt text
Louis Armstrong performing at an unknown club in 1932

One of the first documented mainstream appearances of the term “roach” in the Western media is found in a The New Yorker feature article in 1938 writing about marijuana or "viper" culture in Harlem during the 1930s. The article "Tea for a Viper" was written by investigative journalist Meyer Berger as he encounters a series of African American jazz musicians smoking cannabis. In the article Berger describes a roach as "a pinched off smoke, or stub is a roach".

During the Jazz Age marijuana culture flourished in North America and is largely credited with forming the "stoner" culture. Terminology such as munchies, cotton mouth and greening out is referenced in the works of African American Jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Stuff Smith and Lucille Bogan. A "viper" was known as someone who consumes marijuana.[9]

In 1943, Time published its first article on the 'weed'. The article describes the 'roach' as the remains of a smoked down joint, suggesting that it was a desirable meant to be reused.[10] The article recalls that a "the viper [drug user] may then quietly "blast the weed" (smoke). Two or three long puffs usually suffice after a while to produce a light jag. The smoker is then said to be "high" or "floating". When he has smoked a reefer [cannabis] down to a half-inch butt, he carefully conserves it in an empty match box. In this condition it is known, in Mexican, as a chicharra, or in English, as a "roach".[10]

The term roach is mentioned by Armstrong when recounting an arrest for drug possession in a biography by Max Jones and John Chilton, The Louis Armstrong Story: 1900-1971 shortly:

"The trumpeter was playing at the Cotton Club in Culver City, CA, near Hollywood, in a band that featured his favourite drummer, Vic Berton. The two were sharing a joint outside in the parking lot between sets. Unbeknownst to them, a rival club owner had summoned two detectives who saddled up to the pair and said, "We'll take the roach, boys.""[11]


Users will often smoke the roach due to the high concentration of resin that gathers in the tip while the joint is smoked. Smoking the roach tends to produce a more intense smoke that can cause irritation to the lungs when inhaled.[12]

Tobacco related illnesses[edit]

In many European countries it is common to add tobacco into a joint, as a means of preserving cannabis.[13] There are several risks associated with this practice due to the increased exposure to toxic carcinogenic materials versus alternative methods of cannabis consumption such as edibles and vaporizing. It is estimated that a single joint could cause as much damage as 2.5–5 cigarettes.[14] The consumption of combusted properties of a substance will often form toxic and carcinogenic compounds. Researchers have noted that for cannabis “this include brain changes that are thought to impair cognitive functioning, particularly in adolescents”.[13]


In the most recent Global Drug survey it was found that in Europe that 90% of users smoke cannabis with tobacco. Researchers have suggested that smoking a roach with cannabis and tobacco can lead to a more “than eightfold increase in the odds of later initiation of tobacco use”.[15]

For many Europeans, cannabis is considered a gateway drug to tobacco. For many Europeans the first exposure to tobacco occurs when they smoke their first Joint (cannabis).[15] This occurrence is referred to as the reverse gateway effect. The reverse gateway suggests that a heightened risk of nicotine dependence is the “most important health consequence of early frequent cannabis use” [12]

United States[edit]

According to the Global Drug Survey only 8% of Americans use tobacco with cannabis while smoking joints.[16]

In popular culture[edit]


The term roach appears in Buck Washington 1944 song ‘Save the Roach for me’.[17] Washington sings about a man seeking to get high by smoking the 'roach':

Alt text
An image of a 'roach'

“Folks say that I’m lonesome/ Say I’m blue as I can be/ But if you’re smoking that jive when I pass by/ Then save the roach for me.”

Common misconceptions[edit]

Depending on the nation in which a joint is being consumed, the 'roach' could either refer to a filter or the burnt end of a joint.[18] Traditionally in the United States the roach refers to the burnt or smoked end of a joint. The appearance of the 'roach' is usually characterised by black or golden hues.[18] While in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth of Nations such as Australia and New Zealand the roach refers to the thinly rolled piece of cardboard that creates the filter.[18]


  1. ^ "Roach". Retrieved 9 April 2018 – via The Free Dictionary.
  2. ^ "The marijuana slang term \"roaches\" explained". 2019-12-17. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  3. ^ "The Free Dictionary". Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Roach Clip".
  5. ^ Arooka. James Bong's Ultimate SpyGuide to Marijuana. Free World Press Ltd. pp. 178–. ISBN 978-0-9738928-0-2.
  6. ^ Real Academia Española. Diccionario Usual.
  7. ^ a b c d Callier, N (2016). "The Version of 'La Cucaracha' Referencing Marijuana". Leafly. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Schlosser, E (1994). "Reefer Madness". The Atlantic. The Atlantic. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  9. ^ Carney, Courtney (2003-01-01). "Jazz and the cultural transformation of America in the 1920s". LSU Doctoral Dissertations. doi:10.31390/gradschool_dissertations.176. S2CID 164757103.
  10. ^ a b "Here's What People Called Pot in the 1940s". Time. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  11. ^ Jones, M (1971). The Louis Armstrong Story. Boston: Little Brown.
  12. ^ a b "Cannabis Resin Uses: The Complete Guide". Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  13. ^ a b Winstock, Adam; Hamilton, Ian (24 May 2017). "Cannabis isn't the health problem – the tobacco people mix with it is". The Conversation. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  14. ^ Aldington, S.; Williams, M.; Nowitz, M.; Weatherall, M.; Pritchard, A.; McNaughton, A.; Robinson, G.; Beasley, R. (2007-12-01). "Effects of cannabis on pulmonary structure, function and symptoms". Thorax. 62 (12): 1058–1063. doi:10.1136/thx.2006.077081. ISSN 0040-6376. PMC 2094297. PMID 17666437.
  15. ^ a b Patton, George C.; Coffey, Carolyn; Carlin, John B.; Sawyer, Susan M.; Lynskey, Michael (October 2005). "Reverse gateways? Frequent cannabis use as a predictor of tobacco initiation and nicotine dependence". Addiction. 100 (10): 1518–1525. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.01220.x. PMID 16185213.
  16. ^ "GDS Key Finding 2019". Issuu. 15 May 2019. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  17. ^ "Buck Washington - Save The Roach For Me (1944) - YouTube". Archived from the original on 2021-12-19. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  18. ^ a b c "Learn How To Roll A Roach To Maximize Your Joints". Retrieved 2020-11-21.

See also[edit]