Is There a Safer Way to Smoke Cannabis? How the Methods Stack Up
If you’re looking for the healthiest way to smoke cannabis, keep in mind that there’s no totally safe way to do so — even with the purest, most pesticide-free bud. Cannabis smoke contains most of the same toxins and carcinogens that make tobacco smoke harmful to your health.
There are, however, methods that may be slightly less harmful than others. Here’s a look at how different methods compare, plus some smoke-free alternatives to consider.
The dangers of smoke inhalation are well known, so it’s not surprising that a lot of folks assume vaping is the healthier alternative to smoking. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
There’s mounting evidence that vaping can have serious health effects. Much of the concern comes from inhaling vitamin E acetate, a chemical additive found in many vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
However, this risk seems to apply only to vaping concentrates, not flower. A 2006 study suggests that vaping actual cannabis, not concentrate, is less harmful to your respiratory system than smoking. Still, research on vaping cannabis is pretty limited.
Lung health aside, there’s also a matter of potency. People who vape cannabis report experiencing stronger effects — regardless of the amount of THC in the product — than they do when smoking. This means a higher chance of overdoing it, or greening out, when vaping.
Maybe a teeny, tiny bit, but nowhere near enough to make a difference.
Bongs offer a smoother toke because you don’t get the dry heat from smoking cannabis rolled in paper. Though it feels less harsh when you inhale, your lungs don’t know the difference.
Well, both still involve inhaling smoke, so there’s that. But if you had to choose the lesser of two evils, joints are probably the better option. This is because blunts are made with hollowed-out cigars, and cigars and their wrappers are highly toxic.
Even after removing all the tobacco from a cigar, cancer-causing toxins, such as nitrosamines, can remain. Plus, cigar wrappers are more porous than rolling papers, so the burning is less complete. This results in smoke with high concentrations of toxins.
Then there’s the matter of size. Blunts are a lot bigger than joints, and they hold way more pot. Smoking an entire blunt is like smoking roughly six joints.
Dabbing is supposed to give you a “cleaner” high, but what does that actually mean? Not much.
Budder — another name for dabs or marijuana concentrate — delivers a lot more THC than other weed products, often as much as 80 percent more.
Dabbing is still pretty new, so experts still don’t know the full impact.
There’s evidence that exposure to high THC may lead to long-term mental health effects, like psychosis. The risk of misuse and addiction is also higher when using high-THC products, especially for young people.
Plus, unless you have high-tech lab equipment and are trained in extraction, your dabs may be far from pure. Research shows that dabs can contain contaminants and residual solvents that can to neurotoxicity and cardiotoxicity.
Dabbing also has respiratory effects, even though you’re not technically “smoking.” There have been cases of people developing lung damage from dabbing.
The bad news? There’s no safe way to smoke cannabis. The good news? There are plenty of other ways to consume it.
Here are your main options:
- Edibles. Unlike smoking and vaping, ingesting cannabis won’t harm your lung health. The downside for some is that edibles take longer to kick in because they need to clear your digestive system before getting into your bloodstream. The upside is that the effects also hang around longer. You also have an endless variety to choose from, with everything from gummies to baked goods to cannabutter.
- Sublinguals. These are usually lumped together with edibles, but they’re not quite the same. Unlike edibles, you don’t actually swallow sublingual forms of cannabis, which include things like tinctures, films, and dissolvable tablets. Sublingual cannabis is placed under the tongue for absorption, and is absorbed through your mouth’s mucus membranes, so the effects are felt faster.
- Tinctures. Tinctures are made of alcohol-based cannabis extracts that come in bottles with droppers. You can add tinctures to drinks, but you can also get the effects faster by placing a few drops — depending on your desired dose — under your tongue.
- Topicals. Cannabis topicals are for people looking for the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the cerebral effects. Creams, balms, and patches can be applied to the skin to relieve inflammation and pain. There’s also cannabis lubricant made for, well, sexy time.
- Suppositories. The idea of shoving cannabis up your butt (or vagina, depending on the product) may make you clench, but it’s definitely a thing. Most of the suppositories on the market are CBD-infused and used for therapeutic reasons, like pain or nausea relief, but some brands have upped their THC content for added effects.
If you’d still rather smoke your weed despite the risks, consider these harm-reduction tips to help make it a little safer:
- Don’t hold the inhale. Inhaling deeply and holding it in exposes your lungs to more tar per breath. Don’t be greedy; exhaling faster is better for you.
- Use rolling papers approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Rolling papers may seem like NBD, but some contain chemicals and flavorings that can be toxic.
- Stick to glass bongs and pipes. Plastic bongs can contain chemicals like BPA and phthalates, which have been linked to serious health effects, including cancer.
- Keep your stuff clean. Keep your bongs and pipes clean, and don’t roll your weed on dirty surfaces.
- Don’t share mouthpieces or pass joints. Sharing your stash is fine, but not your pipes, bongs, or joints. When you share these, you’re basically swapping spit with that person and putting yourself at risk for infections.
No matter how you dice it, there’s really no safe way to smoke cannabis, whether you prefer to roll one up or are partial to bongs. As cannabis becomes more popular, so do products that allow you to indulge without the smoke.
That said, if you’re partial to puffing and passing, a vaporizer that allows you to use flower, not concentrates, may be a less harmful option.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddleboard.
You can smoke cannabis in a variety of ways, but is one safer or healthier than others?
How to Smoke a Joint
Monday December 2, 2019
S moking a joint with friends is practically a rite of passage for cannabis consumers. But with this shared rite comes some rules of the road. As it turns out, over the 5,000 plus years of humans consuming the herb, cannabis has evolved and today claims its own unique slang, language, humor, literature, music, art, and etiquette. And nowhere is that etiquette more pronounced than when it comes to rolling, smoking and sharing a joint.
So, whether you’re partaking by yourself or with friends, here are some pro tips on how to smoke a joint.
How to Smoke a Joint by Yourself
Whether you’ve rolled your own joint or opted for a pre-roll, the first step in lighting up is to “roast” your joint. Unlike a cigarette, where you light and inhale at the same time, joints should be roasted before inhaling by holding the flame to the end of the joint. Then rotate the joint to make sure it’s evenly lit all the way around. Roasting the joint first also helps to prevent canoeing (AKA running) or an uneven burn.
You may also want to consider adding a homemade filter or tip, also known as a crutch, which holds the end of the joint open, keeps plant matter out of your mouth, and protects your fingers and mouth from getting burned as you work your way down the roach. A crutch is really simple to construct and can be made with just about any kind of stiff paper (think about the thickness of a business card).
Now that you’re ready to start puffing, take a steady hit, then exhale slowly. If you are new to smoking, you’ll most likely cough, which is really normal. Drink some water between hits to soothe your throat and remember, smoking a joint is not like smoking a cigarette, where you smoke the whole thing down. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, and take a break if needed.
Smoking Joints with Friends
Smoking joints with friends is where the rules of joint etiquette really apply. One of the first rules of smoking with friends is that the person who rolls the joint sparks it. However, the roller is, of course, allowed to pass the privilege to another.
After lighting up, the most important tip for smoking with friends: Puff, puff, pass.
Take two reasonably-long puffs without hogging the joint, and pass to your left, unless house rules specify otherwise. When you exhale, make sure that you don’t blow your smoke into someone else’s face, which is, at the very least, inconsiderate. And before you pass, ash your hit. This way, ashes won’t fall on your friends’ floor, furniture, clothing or skin (not cool, and ouch).
Speaking of hogging the joint, don’t hold onto it during your turn, also called “babysitting,” or “bogarting.” This usually happens when the holder is sharing a story, but regardless of how enthralling that tale might be, people don’t want to wait and watch the roach burn down while you hold court.
There are a few other tips to help you unlock Emily Post status in your smoking circle. An important thing to remember is that sharing a joint with friends is a communal activity, where laughs, stories, and yes – germs are shared. So do your best to not to slobber all over the joint (the person to your left will thank you), and if you are sick, be respectful of the group and let them know (and maybe bring your own piece). And last but not least, don’t peer-pressure a friend if they choose not to participate. It’s important to be respectful of both consumers and non-consumers.
So, here are the rules of the road to help you smoke a joint like a pro:
Tips for Smoking a Joint Properly:
- Whoever rolls it, sparks it
- Roast your joint
- Take slow, steady hits
- Puff, puff, pass
- Ash before you pass
- Don’t babysit the joint
- Don’t exhale in anybody’s face
- Try not to slobber on the joint
- Respect house rules
These tips work well for both novice and experienced consumers, so give them a try at your next sesh. Happy smoking!
Do you have any tips for how to smoke a joint properly? Share them in the comments below!
Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work – which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor – covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.
Smoking a joint rolled with cannabis is an age old practice for marijuana enthusiasts. But smoking a joint can be just as difficult as rolling one for some. Lear how to properly smoke a joint with our helpful tips.