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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?

11 Weed Hacks For The Resourceful Stoner

As fun as smoking weed can be, every frequent stoner knows that getting high isn’t always as simple as we would like it to be. Grinders go missing, pipes break, cotton mouth will always try to wreck your make-out sessions, and lighters that were accounted for while you were grinding, packing, and/or rolling always seem to vanish the second you’re ready to take that first puff.

Fortunately, though, despite the numerous stereotypes that would suggest otherwise, stoners can be pretty dang resourceful, (especially about their bud) so there are a lot of cool weed hacks that can make your whole high experience much simpler and even more enjoyable.

If you’re a marijuana enthusiast, then you already know there’s a vast wealth of weed wisdom out there to aid you with even the most ridiculous of pot-related problems. But whether you’re a weed genius, a weed novice, or somewhere in between (like myself), there are certain pot hacks that are simple enough for any smoker to take advantage of.

1. Use A Bobby Pin To Clean Ash Out Of Your Bowl & De-Clog Your Pipe

I can’t even count how many times I’ve used one of my bobby pins to clean the ash out of a bowl, or de-clog a pipe or a one-hitter. It’s perfect, because I pretty much always have a bobby pin handy. The only downside to this hack is, if I need to de-clog my actual pipe instead of just my bowl, I have to straighten out (and thus ruin) my bobby pin to do it — but bobby pins are super cheap and incredibly effective at clearing passageways.

2. Keep Lip Balm With Your Weed Paraphernalia

Weed can dry my whole mouth out fast, and not having access to lip balm when that happens (especially when trying to initiate a make-out session) can be pretty miserable. So I keep some lip balm wherever I keep all my weed stuff. I also try to remember to keep some in my handbag and/or pockets for when I’m smoking away from home. That way, when cotton mouth turns my lips to sandpaper, the sweet, soothing solution is always within my grasp.

Personally, I prefer a mint-flavored lip balm, because it helps with dry lips, as well as any unfortunate smoker’s breath I might develop, and also just because you won’t find a much tastier mixture than good bud and yummy mint.

3. . And Sunglasses Too

A chemical component in marijuana causes the blood vessels in eyeballs to dilate. So sunglasses are essential if I’ve been daytime smoking and then have to go out in public. It’s so much easier to relax and enjoy my high when I don’t have to worry about my eyes looking too red. Plus, UV rays are no joke. So, I keep a pair of shades in my handbag at all times.

4. Suck On Candy Or Mints While You Smoke

Personally, I’d give Jolly Ranchers a try — but pretty much any kind of candy or mint will work well, too. I just pop the treat into my mouth while I’m prepping my bowl/bong/joint/blunt/vape, suck on it until I can really taste all its sweet and/or sour-y goodness, and then keep it in my cheek while I puff. It’s indescribably delicious, and it also helps combat both cotton mouth and the munchies.

5. Use A Clean Penny & A Pill Bottle As A Makeshift Grinder

Losing and/or misplacing my grinder sucks. But if I have access to a penny and any kind of pill bottle, it doesn’t have to keep me from getting lifted. I clean the penny (or whatever coin) with rubbing alcohol first (because money is notoriously gross), then drop a nugget or two in an empty pill bottle with the clean penny, pop the bottle’s lid into place, and shake. Voila!

6. Smoke Before Meal Times

The munchies can be overpowering. But when I’m able to plan my highs around my meals (particularly if I just wait to smoke until I’m about to eat dinner), then I’m able to avoid the over-indulging that is often associated with smoking marijuana. The food also tastes even more delicious, and I’m actually likely to have a better sense of when I’m full when I eat with a spirit of high mindfulness.

7. Keep A Back-Up Stash Somewhere Safe

I’m by no means suggesting you should go all Ilana Wexler and hide weed in your body cavities. Also, running out of weed really isn’t that big of a deal, unless you’re using it to treat a medical condition.

That said, I still think it’s nice to have a back-up stash sometimes. Especially because, in true stoner fashion, I sometimes forget about it for a good while and then happen upon it at the most opportune time. Just don’t forget to store it well (mason jars are great) and keep it somewhere your pets and young relatives won’t find it.

8. Make Your Own Bong Out Of A Plastic Bottle

OK, so I’ve never actually made my own DIY bong — but it looks pretty easy. Plus, you know, reduce, reuse, and recycle.

9. Keep Lube Handy

While weed can actually make sex more enjoyable for many people, some report that it can also cause vaginal dryness — so in my experience, it’s a good idea to keep lube handy if you’re planning to bong and bang. Personally, I love lube, and would suggest using it whether you’re having sex while high or sober — but since vaginal dryness is just the worst, stay stocked up on lube if you and your partner like to smoke before having sex.

10. Create Your Own “Chill Out” Mantra For When You’re Feeling Paranoid

Smoking weed rarely makes me feel paranoid, but I have gotten high and then freaked out super hard a couple of times — and because of those experiences, I now have a mantra to calm myself down. What I like to tell myself is this: “everything is exactly the same as it was five minutes ago — you’re just high.” Feel free to repeat this to yourself if you’re ever feeling freaked out after getting high — or make up your own mantra.

11. Use A Drop Of Honey To Keep Joints From Burning Too Quickly

I’ve never tested this out myself (mostly because I can’t roll for sh*t). But I have heard that if you rub a drop of honey over the skin of a rolled joint, it helps prevent said doobie from burning too quickly. Also, it probably smells and tastes delicious.

As fun as smoking weed can be, every frequent stoner knows that getting high isn’t always as simple as we would like it to be. Grinders go missing, pipes break, cotton mouth will always try to wreck your make-out sessions, and lighters that were…