Of all the names your average toker uses to describe weed, “Manhattan silver” definitely isn’t common. It doesn’t even sound like pot, more like the name of a bad strip club near the Hudson River.

Marijuana LeavesBut Manhattan silver is, indeed, one of hundreds of slang terms used over the years to refer to cannabis. It dates at least as far back as the 1970s, and there’s a story behind it so unbelievable it couldn’t possibly be true. And isn’t. Still, it’s a great legend, and a reason to bring this dated term back into use.

The story goes something like this: One day many years ago, no one seems to know exactly when, a small batch of marijuana seeds was flushed down a toilet, swept into a storm drain, or otherwise lost in the dark, dank sewers of Manhattan.

Weed grows in many environments. It’s native to the tropics, specifically Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, but with the right care it can be cultivated almost anywhere north or south of polar tundra. It needs good soil, naturally, a steady supply of water from the ground, nutrients (usually in the form of fertilizer), and bright summer light.

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Lack of direct sunlight

Sewers have some of these things, but not others. Water, yes. Fertilizer, obviously, and plenty of it. Soil would be hard to find, but not impossible. But bright light? Not so much.

Legends are less concerned with reality than with narrative, though. And weed growing down the sewer is a great story. Not great enough that most people know it, but great enough to make you look moderately cool in front of your stoner friends.

The tale of Manhattan silver explains that the marijuana seeds took root somewhere in the city’s underground network of sewage tunnels and pipes. And then it started growing. Somehow, against all odds, full plants grew – marvelous plants with some of the best pot known to man.

Frosted silver leaves

New York City Manhattan SewerWhat’s more, the bud and leaves of these plants took on a white-silver hue, presumably due to the lack of sunlight. And that, of course, is where the legend goes off the rails. Cannabis simply can’t grow without sufficient light, and while it’s possible the Manhattan silver found a shaft of light or an open manhole cover or a pipe leading to the surface, that definitely wouldn’t provide enough sunlight to grow weed – especially super-potent weed.

Granted, there aren’t many people who believe this myth. At least we hope not. Pot does a lot of things, but it will never make you truly stupid. If you buy into this kind of thing, that’s on you.

Still, it makes for great storytelling, at least among the kind of people who like to talk about marijuana. The term is also just wonderful on its own. It’s like a secret code: Only nerdy potheads would know what it means. Nerdy potheads such as you.

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