The word “innovation” gets thrown around a lot these days, often by politicians and investors anxious to hype something that isn’t actually innovative at all. The transportation industry is particularly prone to this, since some of the most efficient and effective ways to get around are still subways, buses with dedicated lanes, bicycles, and other “old” technologies. It is virtually a guarantee that if some transportation thing gets called “innovative” it is almost certainly not, and most truly innovative things, like advanced subway signaling, bus lanes physically separated from traffic, and electric bikes do not get the respect they deserve.
So I was hardly surprised to see no one recognize the brilliant innovation of Berlin’s new rice paper hemp oil-infused transit tickets, which double as a pass to a world-class transit system and also a nice little thing to nibble on.
The pass, which was reported by Reuters (under its “Commodities” desk), costs about $10 and is valid for 24 hours. According to Reuters, the company that runs Berlin’s transit system, BVG, “says its ticket contains no forbidden substances and is made of edible paper drizzled with hemp oil which comes from the seeds of the cannabis plant, and ‘is said to have a relaxing effect.’” The transit company also warns customers to refrain from nibbling or eating the tickets until after their journeys, as a transit ticket with a bite out of it is no longer valid.
It is easy to dismiss this as a marketing stunt, which BVG itself does, telling Reuters “this is all to be taken with a twinkle in your eye.” But I reject this. BVG has no idea what it’s hit on. With most every transit agency transitioning to digital tickets, BVG was brave enough to do what all great innovators do: Throw conventional wisdom out the window and re-imagine what the future looks like, what a better future looks like. And it hit on a glorious vision, one in which transit passengers lick drugged-soaked paper to calm the nerves of a world tearing itself asunder. We all need some Santa’s Little Helper in these turbulent times, and BVG is giving us that help in the form of a transit pass that makes you feel good.
Only a few thousand of these drug tickets have been made and they are only available for about a week. But I know a big idea when I see one. And I look forward to enjoying many hemp-infused tickets, menus, and receipts in the future.