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?
Weed Wise: Non-Smokables to Keep Those Lungs Healthy
Let’s face it: Even in the best of times, it’s a good idea to give your lungs a break from time to time. And though we hate to say it, it’s doubly true in the midst of the COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic. You don’t want to give a respiratory virus any excuse to settle into tired and harshed-out lungs.
Fortunately, there are tons of ways to get high without smoking, from flavorful extracts to potent tinctures to all kinds of yummy edibles. So next time you come by the dispensary—we’re offering easy curbside pickup to help maintain those important social-distancing regulations—why don’t you try something new? You just may be blown away by all the ways to get high without smoking!
Get High Without Smoking: Tinctures
Like extracts, these infusions offer a potent dose of cannabis in a discreet, easy-to-use format. Suspended in either neutral alcohol or a glycerine base, tinctures can either be added to your favorite foods or drinks, or just dropped under the tongue for a faster action (typically 15 to 45 minutes). They’re great for making fun cannabis-infused cocktails, fruit smoothies, desserts, or literally any other kind of food you can imagine! Here are a couple of our current favorites.
Stay Lifted Tincture, Yummi Karma
A unique and fun confection, this tincture combines a lot of things we love: Potent THC, guarana and green tea for a natural uplift, a splash of bright orange cream for flavor, and vitamin B-12 for a metabolic boost. It’s a great way to gently supercharge your day with creativity and inspiration.
THC Rich Tincture, Proof
Formulated for strong psychoactivity, this tincture delivers the goods with a soft, smooth and delicious intake. You should feel a well-balanced, euphoric high underscored with a relaxing body buzz. If you can’t tell, we’re big fans!
Get High Without Smoking: Edibles
These cannabis-infused treats probably don’t need any introduction. From gummies to mints to coffees to cookies and more, one thing is clear: The only limit to what you can infuse with cannabis is your imagination! As with extracts, the effects typically take up to 2 hours to come on. Here are some of our favorites.
Brown Butter Sage Marshmallow, Mellows
Combining the nutty toastiness of brown butter with a surprising touch of sage, these marshmallows are a unique and unforgettable treat. Crafted for flavor over potency, they deliver a very manageable 5mg of THC extracted from Red Congolese hash. They’re so good that the only real problem is restricting yourself to just one (or possibly two!).
Red Velvet Cookies, Dr. Norms
Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, these vibrant red treats deliver a healthy 10mg of THC per cookie. The white chocolate chips don’t hurt, either! Another winner from one of our favorite “elevated” bakeshops.
Get High Without Smoking: Extracts
These flavorful and potent cannabis concentrates are similar to those you’d find in a vape pen. But they’re just as good—or better—when they’re swallowed! They take longer to come on (be forewarned, sometimes it’s as long as 2 hours) but because the extracts are metabolized through the stomach and liver, the effect is more powerful and longer lasting, sometimes up to six hours! Pro tip: Put a drop under your tongue for a faster high. Here’s one of our favorites.
Mango Brulee, Sessions Supply Co.
This powerful indica-dominant hybrid is great for relaxing the heck out. And the creamy and sweet mango flavor lingers on, and on, and on….
You can find these products and more at our Sherman Oaks dispensary. Browse our online menu now to place your order.
Especially with a respiratory virus on the loose, it’s smart to let give your lungs a break now and again. Here are some ways to get high without smoking!