Green’s Dictionary of Slang

stem n.

also the stem

1. [late 19C+] (US, orig. tramp) a street; usu. as main stem n.

2. in drug uses.

(a) [1900s–1950s] an opium pipe.

(b) [1970s] in pl., marijuana stems, as unsmokeable debris.

(c) [1970s+] a marijuana/hashish pipe.

(d) [1980s+] a crack cocaine pipe (laboratory pipette).

3. [1910s–40s] (US Und.) a drill, used in safebreaking.

4. [1920s] the area where tramps beg.

5. [1920s–30s] (US tramp) an act of begging.

6. [1930s+] (US black) the world of the street, as a generic.

In compounds

stem story (n.) (also stem spiel)

[late 19C] (US) a fantasy.

In phrases

hit the stem (v.)

1. [1920s–50s] (US tramp) to beg on the main street; thus stem hitter n., a street beggar.

2. [1930s–40s] (US drugs) to smoke opium.

on the stem

[1990s+] smoking crack cocaine.

up against the stem

[1900s] (US drugs) smoking opium.