Since cannabis has been deemed federally illegal for upwards of 80 years, the majority of information about how to smoke properly has historically been passed unofficially from enthusiast to enthusiast. This word-of-mouth mythology has led to tall tales about toking permeating throughout pot culture, including rumors like how smoking weed can trigger LSD flashbacks, or how adding tobacco to your joint will increase the high.
Now that the U.S. is slowly creeping out of prohibition, we’re finally seeing legit research about the ins and outs of all things herb. From FDA-funded research on the efficacy of using medical marijuana to treat PTSD, to peer-refereed articles in academic journals confirming that cannabis consumption can curb opioid addiction, these modern studies tend to focus on the medical applications of the plant, as well as debunking the talking points of legalization opponents.
Similarly, when it comes to smoking safety, researchers and drug reform advocates have honed in on big-picture issues, such as debunking rumors that cannabis damages brain structure or disproving that legalization leads to increased teenage use. Understandably, then, urban legends and dorm room arguments about best practices for commonplace consumption have fallen by the wayside.
Thankfully, you’ve got MERRY JANE to fill in the ganja gaps. We’ve put together a guide of 5 essential tips for safe smoking — applicable for first-time users and veterans alike. These suggestions won’t prevent you from doing dumb things while you’re high, but they’ll at least keep your body healthy and happily heightened.
Avoid Aluminium Grinders
Despite articles like this one that say they’re safe, using an aluminum grinder to crush up your weed can be seriously detrimental to your health. Aluminum is a soft metal, meaning the grinders chip easily with regular use, and shards can end up in your bowl with no real way of knowing they’re there. If the shards are in a consistently hot place (such as a cherried bowl), they can release toxic fumes and carcinogens known to cause cancer. Also worth noting is that in consistently-hot environments, aluminum can bind to chemicals in your herb to form other compounds, some of which can and will be toxic. Using an aluminum grinder once or twice won’t kill you, but if you want a staple in your stash, spend the extra money and opt for a steel grinder instead.
Pick Up a Glass Pipe
Just like you’re not supposed to keep a plastic bottle of water in a hot car for too long because it releases carcinogens, a hot plastic bong will do the same thing. There are three types of plastic you should make a point to avoid in particular: BPA, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), and Polystyrene. These are considered the absolute most toxic to humans — and unfortunately, they’re frequently what plastic pieces are made out of. Often, you’re not privy to the ingredients in your smoking utensils, so it’s better to err on the side of caution. Glass pipes are your best bet.
However, Don’t Just Pick Up Any Old One
This may be a difficult thing to do if the only place you can snag a pipe in your area is a corner store, but when you’re looking for a nice piece, it’s important to avoid Chinese-made glass. Typically, American glassblowers use Borosilicate glass, also known as “boro.” Boro is safe as far as smoking weed is concerned, and it’s fairly sturdy. However, Chinese manufacturers often use soft glass, which breaks (and chips internally) easily, but doesn’t have to be hand-blown.
Also, Chinese mass producers regularly don’t anneal their glass, which means that the parts of the glass that have been sealed together aren’t quite as sealed as they should be. On top of that, to replicate the patterns so beloved by smokers, Chinese manufacturers also sometimes paint the inside of their pipes, causing the smoker to inhale toxic fumes or paint when the bowl is lit.
American glass is the safer option, and there are plenty of places to get it for cheap both in stores and online. If the idea of copping a glass pipe utterly freaks you out — some look like meth pipes, after all — picking up a ceramic one from a place like stonedware or Tetra is also a good option. Avoid aluminum ones for the same reason as you would grinders.
Don’t Put Ice in Your Bong
This is a tip that flies under the radar for even the most experienced of smokers, but it makes sense if you think about it for more than a few seconds. Putting ice in your bong can cause some serious health problems, including pneumonia. First off, you’re inhaling frozen water vapor — the stuff that comes out of the freezer when you first open it — which can put a serious strain on your lungs. When this vapor is inhaled into your lungs, it’s still frozen, and human bodies aren’t built to inhale tiny ice crystals. Less intuitively, putting ice in your bong can also lower your core body temperature. Results of this include vasoconstriction and suppressed immune response, therefore making the body more susceptible to infections that may already be present. Although it makes for a smoother hit, if you’re smoking with any regularity, it’s best to keep ice out of the equation.
Know Your Rolling Papers
Did you know that there’s a market for fake rolling papers? Just like Kylie Jenner Lip Kits or iPhones, mass producers have gotten wind of a desire for trendy papes, such as ones that are colored or flavored. Hell, there’s even an underground market for rare blunt wrap flavors, so it should come as no surprise that there are bootleg manufacturers flooding the market with suspicious stock. Naturally, many of these products aren’t FDA-approved, and therefore don’t adhere to the standards of safety for human consumption. Often, these producers use chemicals to make your joint taste or look more appealing, but what are those chemicals doing to your innards? Nobody knows exactly what’s in them, but presumably it’s not good.
However, even if you’re using legit rolling papers, it’s best to do your research. Every smoker has an opinion as to which kind of paper is best and why, but again, science suggests it’s safest to avoid rolling papers that have been bleached and/or contain flavor. Pure hemp brands like RAW are a safe bet, as they don’t contain any toxic additives. There are plenty of other brands out there that won’t harsh your health, too. Just make sure to get the real thing; it’s pretty easy to tell apart a pack of RAW papers from a pack of RAWRs.
By: Carolyn Hanson, Merry Jane