The Pot Smoker's Guide to Marijuana Delivery Systems
From papers to pipes, bongs to bowls, filter tips to vaporizers, what are the latest in smoking accessories?
Undoubtedly the most iconic way to consume marijuana is by smoking a marijuana cigarette. But no one ever says that. They say, "smoking a joint." Or a blunt. Or a fatty. Or, when pot is scarce, a toothpick.
Smoking joints has come under a cloud in the last few years, for some of the same reasons smoking un-funny cigarettes has plummeted in popularity: the smoke, tar, ashes and assorted poisons can irritate the lungs and throat.
Yet for most people, joints are the way they started smoking pot, and they remain the easiest way to smoke today. All that's required is the weed, the paper — and a match, lighter, Bunsen burner or stove for a light.
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A wide selection of papers today includes the tried-and-true ZigZag man, see-throughs, Bambus, big Bambus and even rice paper. With the wide, cheap availability of papers and no shortage of experienced joint rollers, it's no surprise that rolling contests are all the rage at hemp expos around the country.
Practice makes perfect with joint rolling, whether by hand or with one of the little machines available for those with no pride. First, of course, grind the herb and remove any stray seeds or sticks from the mix. Not only will this provide a smoother smoke but it cuts down on the scourge of "canoeing." As many a disappointed smoker knows, canoeing may be fun on a lake, but it's no fun when one side of the joint unevenly burns while the other doesn't, leaving a canoe-like silhouette and lots of unsmoked weed.
If a joint is a marijuana cigarette, a blunt is a marijuana cigar. Blunt "wraps" are rolling papers constructed with tobacco. Crafted from tobacco leaves, these Zag wraps, swishers, white owls or Dutch Masters (as the song goes, "pass the Dutchie on the left hand side") allow you to create large cigars and cigarellos.
Such big smokes are good for friendly group smoking and are a potent sign of the plentitude of pot currently available. Blunt wraps also burn more slowly than joints, letting your pals savor your pot.
Blunt wraps come in sealed packages to preserve their freshness. While much of the advertising refers to rolling "tobacco" (anyone want to join the Roll Your Own Cigar Association?), we know what most people are rolling. Wraps often are flavored, with tastes like strawberry, cherry-vanilla, chocolate, blueberry, apple martini and even gin-and-juice.
While blunts are great in social situations or to display your wealth (load up with pot and light with a $20 bill) they may pose health problems or cause tobacco addiction. Smoke them often enough and they've got the potential to cause the kind of health problems associated with smoking tobacco, such as cancers of the lungs and mouth, heart disease, emphysema and circulatory problems.
Pot pipes probably come a close second to rolling papers in terms of widespread use. If you have one you like, you've probably kept it for years, lovingly replacing the screen and scraping out the black "hash," or tar, that congeals on the inside for later use.
Glass pipes are colorful and easy to use. They're great for individuals and small groups. But they also break easily, and you'll need to keep packing the bowl.
Metal pipes are convenient and easy to pocket and clean, although they can get hot and burn your hand — or even your lips. Although some swear by them, others eschew wood pipes due to possibly smoking the burning wood.
One interesting evolution of the pipe is the product line from 7 Pipe. Not only do these pipes have built-in storage for your "tobacco" but they also have a built-in lighter. No more trying to bum matches or buy lighters from suspicious liquor store clerks.
As the founders say on their website, 7pipe.com, "Being minimalists, we only wanted to carry a wallet, keys, phone and pipe. This pipe needed to have a built-in lighter. It needed to have storage. But most important, the bowl and stem had to be made from glass because, yes, we're glass snobs."
Another development is "stealth pipes," or pipes that don't look like weapons of mass intoxication. Foldable pipes, made of flat pieces of metal or wood, either unhinge, slide or fold together to create a working pipe with a bowl.
The classic "one-hitter" may be shaped like a fake cigarette for use in public, complete with a glowing tint at the end crafted to look like a lit cigarette.
Still, the innovative minds of pot smokers can't be stopped. Mad geniuses have designed pot pipes that look like tiny Maglite flashlights, pens, lipstick cases, lighters, even highlighters.
Marijuana smokers show ingenuity in desperate situations — such as, if there's pot but no readily usable pipe. One way, of course, is the "apple pipe." They're simple to build. Simply twist off the stem of an apple, dig out the top of the fruit and put aluminum foil in to hold the weed. Then use a pen to penetrate the side of the apple.
Make sure there's a clear path for the smoke from the core through the hole on the side. Light it up and suck it down. You can watch a bewitching tutorial online.
For an apple bong, run plastic tubes through and share with your friends. Just don't reuse — or eat — the apple.
A hollow piece of bamboo or a toilet paper roller also makes a great emergency pipe, as long as you have a pipe or bong bowl to stick into the long tube.
Pot pipes have been made from vegetables, socket wrenches, hamster water bottles and, of course, soda cans and bottles.
However, making a pipe from a plastic bottle may melt the plastic, leading to toxic plastic fumes. There's also a chance that smoking through aluminum objects, like soda cans or aluminum foil, may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease down the road. Scientists are unsure of the actual risk, and research continues on the possible linkage between aluminum and Alzheimer's.
Bongs, bongs, bongs
You should get a pot-smoker merit bag for the first acrylic bong you build as a young stoner. You're filtering some of the smoke through the bong water. However, you end up breathing some plastic, and even the glue used to make the bong, when you smoke. Also, the big acrylic bongs still have tiny bowls, so you'll be using more weed faster.
Ceramic bongs look great but have a nasty habit of breaking easily. Similarly, hookahs rule visually. They're great socially, because multiple people can smoke at once, but have huge bowls designed for tobacco. That makes them an inefficient and expensive way to smoke.
While many bong designs stick to the original, tall, stand-up form, bong innards have evolved significantly. While most still use water to cut the harshness of the smoke, bong types now include bubblers, percolators and even gravity vortexes.
For many, the king of classic bongs is the glass bong, many of which boast that slick, labware look. These bongs can be pricy: An 18-inch-high glass bong with a pyramid percolator can set you back $200, plus shipping from places like bongoutlet.ca. But just imagine how impressed your friends will be.
Another impressive evolution of the bong is the Vortex Cold Fusion waterpipe. It's based on a 2-foot-long glass coil, which you can even freeze, and which carries the smoke from the chamber to the mouthpiece. Use ice water in the chamber for a cool hit, as seen on the late, lamented Weeds.
The Vortex, like many bongs, can be a bit tricky to get shipped to your address. Many online distributors are not located in the United States, and even in the current climate of semi-legalization, many patients are understandably leery of giving out their mailing addresses.
This may be the residual effect of the feds' Operation Pipe Dreams nearly 10 years ago. The sting arrested about 55 people for selling "drug paraphernalia," including comedian Tommy Chong. Chong eventually did nine months in federal prison for distributing thousands of bongs and marijuana pipes online through his California company, Nice Dreams Enterprises.
So if you're in the market for a new bong or other smoking implement, you might just want to wander over to your local head shop and buy in person.
Going Smokeless: Vaporizers
Everyone vaporizes their pot, in the sense that they consume it. But over the last few years, dedicated devices known as vaporizers have become the Lexus of the marijuana world.
A vaporizer is an alternative to burning the weed, which avoids the inhalation of irritating toxic, even carcinogenic by-products. The cannabis oil on the weed is effectively vaporized, creating little smoke, very small amounts of tar and lower concentrations of noxious gases. The THC is extracted through various chambers and the vapor collected in a storage mechanism. The idea is that you breathe vapor, not smoke.
Perhaps the most famous is the Volcano, a handsome, triangular, brushed stainless steel cone that resembles nothing so much as an Apollo space capsule. Built using German technology by Storz and Bickel, the Volcano system isn't quite as complex as an Apollo launch.
It includes Volcano Vaporizer, an extra-sharp mill for grinding your herb, o-rings (shades of the space program) and, of course, balloons. Two models are available ‚ an analog version and one with a digital readout on the "capsule." The lower-priced analog model starts at $420 at sites like vapeworld.com.
Others, like the popular Arizer Solo portable vaporizer or the Silver Surfer from 7th Floor, who will customize your glass for you, are also available.
There are a lot of great ways to smoke out this 420, not to mention edibles. But whatever way you choose to get high on your own supply this 420, be kind to others. Smoking and driving don't mix. And second-hand smoke may or may not be a contact high, but it's no good for children and small creatures.