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?
7 Ways To Boost The Intensity Of Your High
Cannabis delivers a powerful psychoactive high. But sometimes, this effect can become diminished or not feel as potent. Here are our 7 tips for boosting the intensity of your high.
You had everything prepared so well. You got your weed, you had your favourite snacks and fresh water standing by. You had your comfy clothes in your comfy place to sit, ready to revisit your favourite music, movie, or YouTube channel. But when you light up, you don’t feel the high you were hoping for. Maybe it creeps up on you. No. This is more mellow and diminished than you expected. This is a frustrating problem to encounter. Whether the quality of your stash is subpar or your tolerance is through the roof, here are 7 ways to boost the intensity of your high.
1. CHOOSE STRAINS WISELY
Hopefully, you really do have a good source for your weed. This will of course be easier if it’s legal through a dispensary or cannabis club where you live. If you live somewhere where your choices are limited, it may still be possible to at least know the name of the strain you’re offered.
This is enough for you to research the cultivar on our site for some general advice. Here, you can also learn about the unique effects of each strain caused by its unique phytochemical profile, including dominant cannabinoids and terpenes. Varying ratios of these molecules induce anything from light and airy highs to deep body stones. You can even get figures on what THC levels to expect. Of course, these traits will vary depending on who grew the strain, and from which seeds. The best thing to do is to experiment until you find the strain that provides the sensations you desire.
2. STORE WEED WELL
When you get your weed home, where do you store it? If you use a plastic container or the baggy you got the weed in, this may spoil the herb’s potency. Plastic can conduct an electric charge, which will fry the THC-rich trichomes on your flowers. Avoid this with a good glass or steel jar.
There are ones with humidity controls built in, as well as ones with removable humidity packs. If you lack these, a simple solution for curing is to leave a peel of orange, lemon, or lime sealed in with your weed for 2 or 3 hours. This will stop your supply from becoming dry, crumbly, and less potent as a result. A dark, cool place is recommended for preserving the quality of your stash.
3. CHANGE UP YOUR ROUTINE
Maybe you’ve got a good stash and you’re taking care of it. So why is there still a sense of diminishing returns from your weed? By definition, taking anything in excess is bad. If you’re smoking too much cannabis, that can spoil the treat of it. As your body adjusts to having more cannabinoids in its system, your cannabis tolerance improves.
Consider how you can change things up in terms of your cannabis use. Are you in the habit of smoking first thing in the morning? Try abstaining until evening, or at least 4:20pm. Smoke earlier in the day if you smoke too much at night. Don’t smoke with every meal. Observe when you’re smoking and see how you might catch your brain off-guard by changing up the schedule a bit.
4. CHANGE UP YOUR METHODS
Another thing you can adjust is the method by which you’re getting high. Some people like to smoke, but will experience a different sensation when trying different methods. You may prefer the feeling of a high from vaping or a bong hit. This may also be something you dislike. It depends on the individual constitution of each person.
Avoid using your lungs altogether by experimenting with edibles. In general, edibles and dabs are considered two of the most high-potency cannabis products. Proceed with caution.
5. EAT THE RIGHT FOODS
There are a number of pleasant accompaniments to marijuana that will boost its potent impact. A simple cup of black or green tea contains catechin, an antioxidant that binds with your brain’s CB1 receptors. This will help the soothing effects of cannabinoids come on much more efficiently.
Dark chocolate has a similar effect when containing 72% or more cacao. This will not only act as an antioxidant, it will slow down the breakdown of anandamide, the brain chemical named after the Sanskrit word for “bliss”. This will sustain the length of your high.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids will also efficiently synthesise endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. Also, look out for foods with terpenes in them, like THC-boosting myrcene or high-enhancing pinene. Pinene can be found in sage, thyme, and other herbs, while myrcene can be found in mangoes, broccoli, and nuts. If all else fails, a multivitamin is good for you anyway, and improves cellular absorption and the flow of the circulatory system. That will be very helpful for the flow of THC.
You should be looking at how healthy your habits are in general. Your diet can be tweaked to improve the quality of your high. Body fat is where a lot of THC is absorbed and stored. Sometimes this can be slow to release, diminishing the quality of your high. So, a diet and exercise routine that reduces your overall amount of body fat is advisable.
It may mean switching from ice cream to aforementioned dark chocolate. The exercise component is also highly relevant. Not only is exercise good for your overall health, studies suggest it impacts the brain in similar ways to cannabis. It doesn’t just elevate mood, it can actually trigger the release of THC from stored body fat. A 2013 study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that a cardio session raises blood-THC levels by 15%.
7. TAKE A TOLERANCE BREAK
If you have tried all of this and you’re still not getting high, we feel for you. You’ve optimised your circumstances for intensifying that high and it’s still not happening for you. You should start to consider why you’re chasing the high. Cannabis can enhance our lives in many ways, but it won’t resolve a deep-seated emotional issue. Be honest with yourself about your consumption levels. If you have been over-indulging, maybe over-exposure to cannabis is creating diminishing returns.
It is okay to decide to take a tolerance break from cannabis. See if you can last a month, or several, without any cannabis. The longer you leave it, the stronger your next high will hit you. It is estimated that a month is needed for cannabinoids to completely leave your system. If a tolerance break sounds unpleasant, you can find supports to get you through it. See what your life is like without cannabis. If there’s still a responsible place for it in your life, get back in and feel a more powerful high than before.
Users desiring the most potent psychoactive high from cannabis can follow our 7-step guide to making your high more intense.