The Many Ways People Use Cannabis
Did you ever see Mel Brooks’s History of the World, and there was that scene toward the end where they rolled a mighty joint? Did you know you can buy an empty cone that’s almost that size right now? It can hold 2.5 ounces of cannabis in one joint. When it comes to the many different ways you can smoke weed, the only limit is your imagination. And physics. Don’t forget physics.
We want you to be informed, so we’re going to break down the options you can choose from to make your own decision on how to have a good time. If there’s one thing all of us here at Pot Mates want you to do, it’s have a good time.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re combusting it or cooking with it, cannabis works the same way—heating the psychoactive oils and compounds to a warm enough temperature that they decarboxylate. “Decarboxylation” is a fancy scientific word that means they become active. With smoking or vaping, you’re performing this decarboxylation (wow, you’re going to be so good at Scrabble!) during consumption. In the case of a prepared edible or an infused ointment, the decarboxylation has already been done for you. Nice!
If this is your first time with cannabis, check out our tips on how to stay safe when you enjoy cannabis first.
Just like the ancient Romans, it’s easy enough to roll up a joint (or a blunt, where the rolling paper is replaced with tobacco leaf from a cigar) and smoke it. This is a tried and true method. All you need is dried cannabis flowers and some rolling papers. Rolling technique can be a little tricky to get the hang of at first, but with practice, you’ll be a regular Cheech Marin. (Ask your parents if you don’t know about Cheech & Chong.) You can also buy joints pre-rolled, and we can bring some to you. We are pretty dang good at it, it’s our job.
The two primary benefits of smoking a joint are convenience and discretion. One joint can get several people high—or dozens, if you get that “Challenge” cone from the first paragraph‚—and its remains are usually bio-degradable, leaving little waste or accessories to be worried about. As for downsides, well, it’s not the most efficient way to consume cannabis. Most of the terpenes combust, and you lose cannabinoids whenever the joint is burning without anyone smoking it, and that is just a tiny bit sad. Plus, any time you inhale burning plant matter, you are subjecting your lungs to harmful carcinogens that have been linked to certain cancers. There is still a lot of research to be done about this, but it’s important to remember that lighting anything on fire and inhaling it carries some risk.
Another popular way to smoke cannabis is with a pipe or bong. You can find them made of wood, clay, silicone, metal, or glass, in more shapes and sizes than you would have thought possible, or even practical! Some are small enough to fit in your pocket while others require two or more people to operate. Smoking cannabis with a pipe makes it easier to control your dosage while conserving your product. After you apply flame to a small portion of the bowl and take your hit, snuff it out so you don’t waste any while you pass it to your left (or right if you are in the Southern Hemisphere).
Inhaling hot smoke can be pretty unpleasant, so some people like to make the experience more comfortable with a water pipe like a bong or a bubbler. Bubblers are the more portable option, they’re just pipes with one or more water chambers, but bongs are large enough that their water chambers can hold ice cubes to cool the smoke even further on its way to your throat.
Bongs are also pretty versatile. By switching out a single attachment, you can convert a bong from smoking flower to vaporizing concentrate. Concentrates are extracted from the raw plant matter to give you the full benefit of all the cannabinoids and terpenes without those nasty carcinogens associated with combustion. Using a butane torch, the “nail”—a specialized bowl—is heated to white-hot temperatures so that the concentrate evaporates on contact. That’s where a bong comes in handy to cool all that super-heated smoke.
Of course, dabbing is only the latest development in the movement toward vaporizing cannabis. There are a huge variety of vaporizers, everything from desktop apparatuses that plug into the wall to compact portable vaporizers that fit in your hand and run on rechargeable batteries. Vaporizers fall into two categories: flower vapes and concentrates.
Flower vaporizers, like the Volcano, Pax, and Magic Flight Launch Box, let you grind up any cannabis flower and vaporize it. This is the best way to get a feel for a strain, since you won’t need to buy a lot of flower, your risk of inhaling carcinogens is low, and you’ll get a chance to enjoy the full spectrum of the flavor. Once you have a sense of your preferences, you could invest in a cartridge.
Concentrate capes come in several variations of the cartridge + battery design. The cartridge contains both the concentrate and the vaporizing mechanism while the battery may be rechargeable, allowing you to keep using the same one over the course of multiple interchangeable cartridges. Some batteries have temperature controls to dial in the perfect level of heat. Be sure to check compatibility before you make a purchase, however all of our cartridges work with any 510 thread vaporizer battery.
Using vape cartridges is one of the safest alternatives to smoking, as it uses no open flames and doesn’t put you at the same risk for inhaling carcinogens. On the other hand, if you buy a cartridge that you end up not liking, you could be stuck smoking that expensive mistake for weeks. Definitely know what you want before buying a cartridge system.
Remember all that talk about decarboxylation? Decarboxylated cannabinoids and terpenoids can bond to fat molecules in foods like butter (yum), milk, or coconut oil. In India, weed has been traditionally mixed with prepared milk, sugar, and ghee to make a warm beverage appropriately named, “bhang”. This versatility means that any recipe calling for butter or milk can be made psychoactive with the infusion of canna-butter or other extracts. In America, people might bake cookies or brownies with cannabis-infused butter, and the effect of slowly digesting the cannabis over time produces a remarkably different experience than from inhaling it.
Edibles require your body to break down the cannabinoids during digestion, which means it can take longer to feel their effects—anywhere from one to three hours. Edibles can keep you high for up to six hours, even if it’s just a couple of gummy bears! Whether you’re trying cannabis cookies, tea, canna-cola, chocolate, ice cream, or syrup, follow the recommended dose on the packaging, at least for the first time. Maybe even take half of it. Check out our guide to What First Time Users Should Know About Cannabis if this is your first time with edibles.
You can also make your own edibles—it’s as easy as boiling water. Well, butter. Boiling butter, not buttering water. Be advised: this is a stinky process and your entire cooking/living space will smell like weed before you’re done. Melt a pound of butter over medium low heat (around 200 degrees) and stir in an ounce of dried, ground cannabis flowers. Let the mixture simmer for at least thirty minutes (stirring occasionally) then strain it into a glass jar. Now you have some highly potent canna-butter that can replace the butter in any given recipe to make your own psychedelic concoction! Just make sure to clearly identify its cannabis contents to anyone who might get into the butter or anything you make with it, and keep them away from children and pets. Consent matters.
Cannabis tinctures are another form of edibles where the active cannabinoids have been extracted and concentrated into a small amount of very potent liquid, usually through a chemical extraction process rather than decarboxylation. This can be taken either sublingually, by holding it under your tongue, or by adding it to a beverage or dish of your choice, like a smoothie or a bowl of ramen. Once again, follow the recommended dosage on the label and keep it away from kids and pets.
Once activated, cannabinoids can be absorbed transdermally? That’s right, through your skin! Topical applications of cannabis like lotions, massage oils, balms, and salves can provide localized pain relief due to CB2 receptors located throughout your body. For people who are looking to manage chronic pain without all the fuzzy mental side effects, topical cannabis can provide unparalleled relief and comfort. Topicals high in THCA and CBD have great anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling.
Trying It Out
Since everyone’s endocannabinoid system is unique, the best judge of these consumption methods will be you. Start small, take notes on what you like and dislike, and have open conversations with your friends about the nuances of your experiences until you find out what works best for you. Then kick back, relax, and have a good time!
Now you just need to choose the cannabis strain you want.