Different Ways of Smoking Cannabis
This ancient custom is the method most commonly associated with cannabis, and there are many different ways for consumers to smoke. Advances in vaporization technology, however, have offered smokers an alternative method with fewer health concerns. The effects associated with smoking are widely debated, but health professionals are in agreement that smoke-free methods pose less risk and are medically preferred.
Cannabis smokers have a wide array of devices at their disposal, including hand pipes, water pipes, rolling papers, hookahs, and homemade one-time use devices. Each of these provides different experiences and influence the grade of smoke inhaled.
These are probably the most common smoking device in circulation today and generally favored for their convenience: they are small, portable, and simple to use. Hand pipes have grown into an artistic expression and are available in countless creative forms and styles, both for decoration and functionality (such as disguise pipes that imitate everyday objects). Hand pipes operate by trapping the smoke produced from burning cannabis, which is then inhaled by the user.
Water pipes come in slightly different variations, including but not limited to bongs and bubblers. Like hand pipes, these come in a variety of styles and designs but increase in sophistication by incorporating water. The health benefits associated with the addition of water are up for debate: water cools the smoke, but it’s uncertain whether it acts as an effective filter for harmful constituents.
Generally, these are used to smoke joints or blunts. Joints are cannabis rolled in a paper, the composition of which varies across an assortment of plants including but not limited to hemp, bamboo, and rice. Blunts are cannabis rolled in cigar paper made from the tobacco plant and contain nicotine. Blunt consumers often prefer the flavor and combined effects of the nicotine and cannabis; however, the medical risks linked to nicotine deter most health-conscious cannabis consumers.
This is one of the less common methods of smoking cannabis and is generally associated with smoking shisha, the American term for wet tobacco. Cannabis is rarely smoked alone in a hookah because its low water content causes the plant to burn faster than it can be inhaled, producing an acrid taste and wasting the herb. For economically-conscious smokers, this is likely the prominent concern as large quantities of cannabis are needed to yield the same results as other smoking methods.
To resolve this, cannabis is sandwiched between tobacco, introducing the same health concerns associated with blunts. However, the hookah does allow multiple people to smoke at the same time, significantly changing the smoking experience.
Homemade One-Time Use Devices
This method may allow for the greatest creativity and includes all disposable cannabis smoking devices. The most common homemade device is a pipe due to its simplicity, but skilled crafters have taken on water pipe designs as well. Health effects associated with this method are equally variable depending on the material and method used for assembly.
Vaporizers are the logical choice for moderate to experienced and/or health-conscious cannabis consumers. A vaporizer steadily heats herbs to a temperature that is high enough to extract THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids, but the temperatures are too low for the potentially harmful toxins that are released during combustion. Essentially, vaporization minimizes the health risks associated with smoking. This improvement comes with an equally significant reduction in odor, which is generally the first acknowledgement of first-time vaporizer users. There is a diverse landscape of vaporizer models and the market is only expanding as the technology improves.
There are multiple elements that distinguish vaporizer designs, markedly portability and product. As the market grows, so does the efficiency and quality of portable models, which generally fall short to fixed models (requiring an outlet power source) in durability and robustness. The form of cannabis product is the other primary component: many vaporizers take cannabis concentrates which come in a variety of forms, including oil and wax. These can be added manually or using cartridges, depending on the design. The prevalence of concentrate vapes is due to mechanical simplicity; fewer vaporizers take flower, which require a heating element to accomplish vaporization, and thus a more sophisticated design.
A younger delivery method that is a point of contention amongst the cannabis community and attentive policy makers is dabbing. Dabbing is a form of vaporization in which potent cannabis concentrates are dropped on a heated nail, creating vapor that is trapped in a glass globe and inhaled. Although there are obvious health benefits associated with clean concentrates over combustible flower, concerns arise from dabbing’s image and the intense effects of high-THC extracts.