All photos by Zach Sokol
Noah Rubin is pretty much the big brother I never had. A little over five years ago, he hired me as an editor at Merry Jane. We quickly discovered that we were coincidentally from the same rural town in Massachusetts, as well as some of the only jews hailing from the small community. We went to the same college (though at different times; Noah is 13 years my senior), we both cut our teeth professionally at record labels and print magazines, and — most importantly — we both really like weed. Yes, it was kush kismet that the guy became one of my closest pals and regular collaborators.
While Noah and I have both moved on from Merry Jane, he’s kept his THC ties fully ablaze and just dropped a marijuana magnum opus. His book How We Roll: The Art and Culture of Joints, Blunts, and Spliffs, out now via Chronicle Books, is required reading for seasoned tokers and the cannabis curious alike. It may very well be the first in-depth text that explores one of the most foundational aspects of weed culture (CONSUMPTION methods!), and it elegantly mixes tutorials and history alongside interviews, epic stories from iconic smokers like Snoop and Tommy Chong, do’s and don’ts, illustrated guides, and much, much more.
I’m proud of my boy, and not surprised that the text is flying off shelves and making waves in the world of printed matter. Noah is also promoting How We Roll in a nuanced way by offering rolling tutorials at music festivals across the country, on top of pop-ups and activations at weed-friendly establishments that aren’t distinctly plant-touching. Places like Morgenstern’s Ice Cream in New York, where he’ll be celebrating the book on November 4th, 5th, and 6th. Come say hey and smoke one if you’re in town!
To ring in this milestone for my bud, we thought it was time to give Noah the Cash Only treatment — and man did he come correct. Below, we discuss squirreling homegrown weed from Cantor Bob, some of the more exotic locales where Noah has sparked one up, and why it’s time to finally get Joe Biden high.
Much love and big ups, Noah! See you at the trippy tree.
What was your first time smoking weed like? Were you in Sherborn, our hometown?
Noah Rubin: So it’s funny that you ask about Sherborn, because that’s definitely where my first memories of smoking weed are from. As you know, being a Jew in semi-rural Massachusetts is a bit of a rarity, but one of my best friend’s growing up, Ori, and her family were deeply involved in the Jewish community out there. Her father Bob was actually a cantor in the temple a few towns away. For the uninitiated, a cantor is almost on the level of the rabbi; he sings all the prayers in the temple etcetera. So I would go to their house for sabbath dinner on occasion and we would notice that after knocking out the prayers, Cantor Bob would disappear for a bit. He’d come back with bloodshot eyes, smelling kind of funny, and in an extra good mood. As we got older, we started to put one and one together, and realized that Cantor Bob was actually a stoner on the low.
Once we realized that, we started sniffing around until one day Ori came to school and let us know that she was in her mom’s garden and noticed that there was a plant that looked an awful lot like a weed plant. That, of course, got us plotting how we could get some. We sort of started whispering about that, and I think the parents overheard us. Before we knew it, the plant disappeared from the garden.
It was a smart defensive move on the adults’ part, but it tipped us off that Cantor Bob had harvested it and stashed it somewhere in the house. It didn’t take Ori too long to figure out where the stash was — and that became the first time we had access to a steady supply of weed.
And the weed was honestly amazing. Cantor Bob also brewed his own beer at that time, which was always fermenting in the basement and there was more of it than he could drink. Needless to say, my parents were wondering why I was so interested in going over to their house for sabbath dinner all the time. Even though Ori’s mom was an incredible chef, it definitely was Cantor Bob’s beer and bud combo that kept us coming back for more. We’d eat an amazing dinner, then steal our party favors and chill on the couch on the second floor of their garage. I remember those as some sacred evenings on multiple levels.
Your book opens with a great anecdote about scoring nug in mainland China. What are some other foreign locales you’ve lit one up in? Any memorable weed/travel stories that didn’t make it into the book?
Definitely. My parents were actually quite chill when I was a kid, so I didn’t have a lot of rules. So when I asked if I could go on a solo trip to Europe at the age of 15 with a friend of mine who was a couple years older, they said yes without much hesitation. And you’ve got to remember this was before cell phones or anything, so they were basically letting me go to Europe alone for three weeks at the age of 15 with the understanding that they weren’t going to hear from me for that entire time.
Of course, me and my buddy Geoff who I went with immediately routed the trip through Amsterdam. We got there after a couple days in Germany and the first thing we did was hit up a coffee shop where it was a weed cornucopia like nothing I had ever seen. I remember we bought this really amazing black Nepalese hash and proceeded to roll it up in a spliff and get really blazed. I think we also bought some “space cakes,” which was more than we should have taken all at once. The next thing I remember, I was sitting cross-legged on the floor in the Salvador Dali Museum, looking at a painting from like six inches away. I was so high off my ass that I literally didn’t know where I was.
Fortunately, after a couple hours, I got my head straight and had something to eat and we started drinking beers in the red light district. I spent the rest of the night chit-chatting with ladies of the night, probably annoying them as a weird 15-year-old kid who had never really experienced anything before.
While working on How We Roll, did you discover anything surprising about your own relationship with weed? For example, did you realize you were better or more knowledgeable about X than you previously thought? Did you find any gaps in your cannabis education or consumption skill sets that you had to bone up on?
Working on How We Roll definitely reminded me of all the amazing people in my life that I have smoked weed with from around the world. I never even thought about that before, but all of these relationships that I’ve had for many years and cherished had some component of smoking weed as a recurring theme. I was really happy that the book pushed me to examine that part of my own personal relationships, as well as just read up on as much material as I could find about rolling and weed history.
Not only did I brush up my general knowledge, I also had to roll a ton of joints. I forced myself to roll every joint I wrote about in the book until it was really good. That gave me a good basic vocabulary of different things to roll and I am pretty grateful for that in hindsight.
Do you have a favorite quote, tip, or particular illustration from the book?
I would just say overall that I’m super happy with how the illustrations came out. I’m extremely grateful to my illustrator Tasia Prince for hitting such a home run with the artwork. Tasia and I go back as collaborators to when she was an intern at Mass Appeal and I was editor-in-chief of the mag over there. She would always show me these dope little drawings she was working on and I was always impressed. Now she’s a big-time tech executive, but her art skills are super on point, so collaborating with her on this project was an extension of this relationship that has meant a lot to me over the years.
In terms of my favorite quote, I think that the story that Tommy Chong told about being in the room with a stinky ass joint alongside John Lennon and Rod Stewart still slaps, even though I’ve heard it several times before. And speaking of quotes, I got to say I’m really appreciative to the Anthony Bourdain estate for letting me clear his iconic quote about wiping your ass and omelettes and the importance of rolling a joint — shout out to my boy Nick Morgenstern for connecting the dots on that one.
If you could get the book into any living person’s hands, who would you want to read it?
I guess now that President Biden is trying to be down with the weed, I think someone on his team should put him on to my book so he can get a basic grasp of where a lot of this shit comes from and the culture behind it. If anyone out there can make it happen, please holler at me.
Do you have a current favorite weed strain? How do you like to consume it? (Bong, joint, etc.)
My old friend Luca at Biscotti just hit me with his line of flower, and it’s pretty fire. Even though Biscotti really made a name for themselves with premium hash, they’re definitely coming correct with this new product. I smoked the Sugar Biscuits strain the other night in a big fat joint then crushed some Thai food at Ruen Pair in LA. I gotta say it was an amazing combo.
Also, just for the record, even though I’m the guy that just wrote a book about joints, I am a big fan of bongs in general, as well. I always keep my handy bong, Mr. Pink, on deck when I need a late night rip.
Do you have any favorite weed products — any particular papers, grinders, or whatever?
The beautiful thing about being a California resident is that we have a lot of amazing product innovations here… like shit, I would never have dreamed of as a young weed smoker. One product I want to shout out in particular is the Pure Beauty “menthol cannabis cigarettes.” Definitely not a product for the purists out there, but an amazing overall experience for someone like myself who wants to have a menthol ciggy on the low once in a while. Definitely scratches that itch like none other. I also want to give a shout-out to Krush grinders cause I think they make a really beautifully-engineered product. And then in the world of edibles, I think Harmony’s Malus infused cider is top notch. Super dry and delicious with a good THC kick.
Lately, what activity do you like to do after you’ve gotten stoned?
I’ve been a big fan of smoking weed and doing outdoor activities for a long time. Back in the day, I would roll with a crew of folks all over New York City on our bikes. We would pick destinations 10 or 15 miles from Manhattan and ride out there and smoke a few big blunts and then find something amazing to eat, like L&B Spumoni Gardens. That kind of defined an era for me and we had a lot of great times together. Now that I’m in LA, if I have the opportunity to smoke a joint and go hiking in Griffith Park or basically anywhere else, I will definitely do that.
Can you recommend something to watch while baked?
Since you’re a cat guy, I’m guessing you might be up on this video game called Stray — it’s a super chill and interesting video game. Basically Stray imagines a post-apocalyptic world in which you’re a cat adventuring through an abandoned city. The music is amazing and even though there are some hectic moments in the game, it’s a super zen and exploratory experience overall. I highly recommend checking it out.
Currently, what do you like to listen to after smoking?
The Jamaican artist Protoje just dropped his new album called Third Time’s the Charm. It’s a great example of an artist taking classic roots ideas and updating them in an interesting way, while still staying true to a core reggae aesthetic.
Also gotta give some props to my man Ev Bird who just dropped his debut EP Puff Piece on Royal Mountain Records. He’s a young indie artist with a genius instinct for writing chill tunes. I connected him with Boldy James for a song called “The Ring,” which has been doing well. Definitely check that one out, too.
Can you recommend something to read after smoking besides your own book?
Sex Magazine, duh.
Who’s in your dream blunt rotation? Dead or alive.
I honestly feel so blessed by the amazing people I have had the opportunity to smoke weed with. It’s kind of crazy when I think about it. In terms of people I haven’t smoked with that might be in my dream rotation, I guess I got to go back to politics, cause I think it’s time we get Joe Biden high. And maybe let’s invite Obama, ‘cause I bet he’s got some solid rolling skills. And I’m even down to get some maverick Republicans in the rotation, too. We all gotta start smoking weed together cause this is an amazing country that needs to do more in leading the world to be a better place than it is right now.
You’ve been doing some nuanced promotion for the book release, including events and classes you’re teaching at music festivals, as well as pop-ups at stores that have nothing to do with weed. Can you tell me about this approach to getting the word out and what else is on the horizon?
I like bringing some of the message to people in non-conventional ways — food, music, and art are things that I’ve always closely associated with my love of weed.
On that note, I’m looking forward to the upcoming How We Roll event with Morgenstern‘s Ice Cream in NYC. It’s going to be a three-day event — November 4th, 5th, and 6th — celebrating rolling culture alongside one of my favorite things besides weed: ice cream. Nick Morgenstern, the brains behind the operation, collaborated with me to develop an incredible variety of sundaes that people will be able to experience. It’s a whole different way to help bring to life some of the regional vibes that I explore in my book.