Eating, Vaping, & Smoking – Methods of Consuming Cannabis

Let’s face it – cannabis is coming to the forefront of society. Gone are the days of treating it as taboo. Depending on where in the country you live, it may be perfectly normal for you to see someone walking down the street smoking a joint or dragging on a vape pen. With more and more people opting to consume cannabis regularly – or at least more people willing to be open about their consumption – it makes sense, as a blog focused on weed education, to profile how weed is consumed.

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Many people I talk to regarding pot aren’t against the use of pot itself, but they are against the act of smoking. Fear not, Poopypants! In this article we will discuss the industry’s preferred method’s of consuming pot, and the equipment needed to do so. I WILL NOT be discussing any manufacturing processes (home-based or otherwise) in this article (stay tuned for that one). No beating around the bush today. Let’s get to it!

Smoking

Let’s start with the time tested method EVERYONE knows – smoking. Smoking is different than vaporizing. The process of smoking involves setting the plant matter on fire (combustion), and inhaling the smoke created. Pretty simple. While the concept itself is in fact fairly simple, there is a whole industry dedicated to creating products that make smoking weed possible. Let’s take a look at some of those shall we?

  • Rolling Papers have to be one of the simplest and probably one of the older methods of consuming weed. Rolling papers come in packs and are small, rectangular sheets of very thin paper, similar to the tissue paper you would stuff into gift bags or boxes, or bible paper. Because of the delicate nature of the papers, learning to roll consistently proper joints takes time and practice.
  • Blunt-wraps are the tobacco leaves wrapped around cigarillos (White Owl, Swisher Sweet, etc.). Often, a straight-line cut is made down the length of the wrap with a knife or razor. The roller then opens the wrap and dumps some or all of the tobacco out. At this point the user refills the wrap with ground or broken up weed. This is called a blunt. Some prefer to mix the course tobacco left-over with their weed and re-roll the wrap. This is called a spliff. I recommend that even if you don’t like to smoke from rolled sources, you learn how to roll. This is a skill almost always needed at parties/get-togethers and can score you some free tokes/bud in the process (roller gets greens, yo).
  • Glass Blunts can be useful tools for those who prefer not to roll. It will usually consists of two nested glass pipes (think of a slide whistle) with the outer pipe holding the cannabis being smoked. The inner pipe acts as a mouthpiece to draw smoke from, slides back to create room for the broken-down weed , and as a push-rod to eject the ash from the end of the blunt. If all that seems confusing, check out the picture below. It’s effectively a permanent glass blunt wrap.

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  • Pipes (dry) are probably the most common smoking apparatus on the market. They vary in size, shape, color, and material. Some are very ornate and expensive. Others are very generic and cheap. All of them do the same thing – let you smoke weed/tobacco. Think of your grandpa’s old corn-cob or tobacco pipe. Exactly the same concept – a bowl piece connected to an outlet pipe. Often, you will see a small hole on the side of the bowl piece. This is called a carb hole, and is there to allow the introduction of fresh air to clear the smoke from the outlet portion of the pipe. As you smoke, you cover the hole with a finger. This allows smoke to collect in the pipe without being rapidly cleared. When you are ready to inhale the smoke-load, you remove your finger and inhale rapidly. Voi-la!weed-bowl-6
  • Wet Pipes, water pipes, bubblers, bongs, yada, yada, yada… all use water to filter the smoke created before inhalation. This is done because many of the toxins created through combustion are water-soluble. The thinking here is that by drawing the smoke through a pool of water you will effectively both cool and filter out a lot of the “bad stuff” created by the combustion of plant matter, creating a smoother, cleaner rip on the back end. Manufacturers also add other physical methods of filtration as well (such as percolators), but we won’t go into that here. From a structural standpoint, bongs usually consist of a water chamber connected to a long neck that acts as a mouthpiece. The chamber is typically breached from the outside by a bowl connected to a down-stem. As you light the weed in the bowl and draw through the mouthpiece, smoke is carried through the down-stem to the water chamber, where it bubbles up through the water, into the neck piece and then to your mouth. Hits from a bong are typically smoother than that of one from a dry pipe, and thus easier to hold. Great for having around the house, but not nearly as convenient for on the go use as a dry pipe or some other methods would be.airflowDiagramBong

Vaporizing

Traditional vaporizing, or “vaping”, as the kids these days say, uses an electronic element to heat air, which is then pulled through and around ground cannabis. The hot air vaporizes the THC on the outside of the plant matter and carries it to the user through a whip (long clear plastic tube with a mouth piece). This is called convective heating, and is probably the healthiest way to consume THC given that there is no combustion and is 100% calorie free.

Newer products out on the market use a torch to heat a glass or metal “nail” to super hot temperatures. Once red-hot (literally), cannabis concentrate is dropped or pressed onto the nail. The resultant “cloud” is inhaled. This is called conductive heating, and while technically “healthier” than outright smoking, the oil/extract can still be burnt, and thus carcinogens can still be created and inhaled.

Regardless of heating method, vaporizing is often looked at as a healthier alternative to smoking. It also tends to create smoother, better tasting hits, as you aren’t setting anything on fire. With that said, read on for different vaporizing methods.

  • Vaporizer pens are effectively e-cigs, but instead of filling the cartridge with tobacco, it is filled with cannabis oils/extracts. This is then vaporized through either conductive or convective heating and inhaled. There are single use pens as well as reusable rigs that only require a cartridge change and occasional battery charge. This is hands down the most convenient and discreet way to consume while out and about. The pens are easily mistaken for tobacco products and the exhaled vapor has little, if any odor associated with it.
  • Vaporizer Boxes / Volcanoes are machines that use convective heating (the first type). The cannabis is placed into a small holding chamber where hot air is pulled or blown through. The resultant vapor is then either inhaled directly from the whip, or certain special machines can pump that hot air into a bag, which is then inhaled by the user. This is, again, considered the safest method of consuming THC.
  • Dab Rigs use the second type of heating we talked about earlier (conductive). These pieces are typically very similar to a water pipe, but instead of filling a bowl connected to a down-stem with loose plant matter, a glass or metal “nail” sits inside the down-stem. This nail is super-heated with a torch and the oil/extract is pressed onto the top of the nail as the user inhales through the mouth piece. There are rigs that use specialized glass bowls that can be super-heated. This tends to keep the “vapor” more contained then a nail would without an accompanying glass dome (see photo – glass bowl on the left, nail with accompanying glass dome on the right).


Digesting

Perhaps one might argue that all the apparatuses presented above are quite unnecessary. “Why not just eat it?” – he might say. Good question, Chad. You could just eat the plant, but it would do very little, if anything, in terms of giving you a high. THC, in its raw form, is not metabolized the same as when it’s been chemically “activated” (decarboxylation). To do so, it simply has to be heated to a certain temperature, and dissolved into a chemical carrier that can help it get into the body and survive metabolism. The two most common carriers used are fats (oils) and any high percentage alcohol and are used to make either butter or tinctures.

  • Butter is typically the fat of choice for cooks or bakers. To make it, loose leaf trim or buds are activated in the oven, and then steeped in melted butter for a certain amount of time. After the prescribed amount of time, the butter is ran through a filter into a container and cooled back to solid. Once solid it can be used for anything regular butter is normally used for, with the added effects of THC and other cannabinoids for one’s pleasure and health.

*Please note, when going the edibles route, that it takes considerably longer to feel the effects of marijuana. It’s like taking medicine by mouth, so don’t expect anything in less than 30 minutes. This also means don’t keep consuming the edible(s) until you feel something. This will result in you catapulting over your intended target and likely making you sick or paranoid…or both. Do yourself a favor and start small, wait 45-60 minutes, and if not satisfied, repeat. Modern edibles are often manufactured to control the exact dosage you are getting, which allows you to understand how THC affects you on a micro-scale (milligrams).*

  • Tinctures are effectively alcohol based cannabis extracts. Once the tincture has been created, it can be consumed by itself, or by mixing it into other drinks. It goes through much of the same process (first decarboxylation, then dissolving), and can take a bit longer to infuse than butter, but in the end offers a bit more variation and freedom in terms of mixing and consuming.

So there we have it – your most common and readily available methods of consuming cannabis. I hope with this information in hand you are better informed and thus more prepared to make preferential decisions surrounding your consumption of marijuana, and as always, Happy highs 🙂 !!!!

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