OK, bear with us for a second…
Did you ever see Mel Brooks’s History of the World, Part I, and there was that scene toward the end where they rolled a huge two-foot-long joint? Did you know you can buy an empty cone that size right now? It holds 2.5 ounces of cannabis in one joint. Basically, what we’re trying to say is that when it comes to the ways you can consume cannabis, the only limit is your imagination. And physics. Don’t forget physics.
We’re going to break down the options so you can make an informed decision and 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.
Whether you’re combusting it or cooking with it, cannabis works by heating the psychoactive oils and compounds to a warm enough temperature that they decarboxylate, meaning they become active. With smoking or vaping, you’re performing this decarboxylation at the time of consumption. If you’re eating a prepared edible or applying an infused ointment, the decarboxylation has already been done for you. Nice!
If you are exploring cannabis for the first time, check out our tips on how to stay safe when you enjoy cannabis.
One of the easiest ways to consume cannabis is to just roll up a joint (or a blunt, where the rolling paper is replaced with tobacco leaf from a cigar) and smoke it. This method is tried and true, 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 there are tons of videos on YouTube to teach you how. With practice you’ll be a regular Cheech Marin. 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 benefits of smoking a joint are convenience and discretion. One joint can get several people high, and its remains are usually bio-degradable, leaving little waste or accessories to be worried about. As for downsides, 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. Also, 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 might have some risk.
Another way to smoke cannabis is out of a pipe or bong. You can find them made of glass, wood, metal, clay, and silicone, in more shapes and sizes than you would have thought possible, or even practical! Some are designed 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, you can 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 is unpleasant for anybody, so some people like to make the experience more comfortable with a water pipe,—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 assist with cooling the smoke on its way to your throat.
One thing people like about bongs is their versatility. 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 of the cannabinoids and terpenes. Using a butane torch, the “nail”—a specialized bowl—is heated to white hot temperatures so that the concentrate evaporates on contact. Be forewarned, you definitely want to use a water pipe for these dabs.
Dabbing is only the latest development in the movement toward vaporizing cannabis. A huge variety of vaporizers has emerged, everything from desktop apparatuses that plug into the wall (ask your friends what a Volcano is) to compact portable vaporizers that fit in your hand and run on rechargeable batteries. Vaporizers fall into two categories: flower vapes and concentrates.
Concentrates 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. Not all cartridges fit with all batteries, and some have additional features like activation buttons or adjustable temperature dials. be sure to check compatibility before you make a purchase. (All of our cartridges work with the same battery pack.)
This form of vaporizing 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.
Flower vaporizers, like the Volcano, Pax, and Magic Flight Launch Box, let you grind up any cannabis flower and vaporize it. This is probably the best way to get a feel for a strain, since you don’t have to buy a lot, your risk of inhaling carcinogens is low, and the reusable design will cut down on the amount of waste you’re producing. Once you have a sense of your preferences, you could invest in a cartridge.
Remember all that talk about decarboxylation? All those cannabinoids that have just been activated by the appropriate application of heat can bond to fat molecules in foods like butter (yum), coconut oil, and milk. In India, it 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 have traditionally baked cookies or brownies with cannabis-infused butter, and the effect of slowly digesting the cannabis over time creates 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—up to three hours. The experience itself will also last a lot longer. 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. This would be a good time to read up on our guide to What First Time Users Should Know About Cannabis if you are trying edibles for the first time.
If you want to make your own edibles, it’s as easy as boiling water. Well, butter. 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 can replace the butter in any given recipe with activated cannabis butter! Just make sure to clearly identify its cannabis contents to anyone who might get into them, 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. 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 dosage on the label and keep it away from kids and pets.
Did you know that, once activated, cannabinoids can be absorbed transdermally? That’s right, through your skin! Topical applications of cannabis like lotions, massage oils, balms, and salves actually do 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
Everybody’s endocannabinoid system is unique, so the best judge of any of these methods of consumption 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 figure out how to choose the cannabis strain you want.