A Toker’s Guide to Excellence
By Maelstrom Wordsley
For more information and up-to-date news on marijuana, cannabis law reform, bismuth and M. Wordsley’s publishing adventures,
Introduction: The First Toke
You’ve no doubt noticed that the United States, and the world, is making a pretty big change. Marijuana legalization, or at least semi-legalization, is on the march and coming to a jurisdiction near you.
You can already smoke weed semi-legally (as of this writing) in several place states. So if you live in Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, DC or Washington state, congratulations, you’ve got a headstart on the rest of us.
If you haven't smoked weed, you probably don't know how -- it's not like alcohol, which anyone with a working digestive system can drink. You need to learn how to use marijuana paraphernalia, and even if you don't intend to use it, you'll want to behave in a polite and appropriate manner when hanging around people who do use it.
The marijuana enthusiast subculture, also known as the Stoner subculture, is like any other, subject to its own internal mores and taboos. Run afoul of them, and you may find yourself ostracized, criticized or ignored. But since marijuana has been illegal for a long time, the unwritten rules of etiquette can vary widely from place to place, and are often hard to find out about.
Without research beforehand, you might accidentally pass a one-hitter, to the right (quelle horreur!), or find that your pipe got so clogged with resin you can’t use it, or be mystified when a friend wants to blow smoke right down your throat. If you don’t know how to behave around marijuana, you just might make a crucial mistake.
What does this mean for you? Are you expected to smoke weed? How do you do so? How do you act politely at a weed party? These are all questions you may be asking yourself, and this Guide to Excellence is for you.
But let’s first start with some basics.
Marijuana is the dried buds of a plant, most commonly Cannabis sativa, an herbaceous flowering plant found in much of the world. The Cannabis genus includes three species, with a variety of uses both industrial and recreational. They can be distinguished from similar looking plants by a peculiar variation that Wikipedia describes with grace and aplomb:
As is common in serrated leaves, each serration has a central vein extending to its tip. However, the serration vein originates from lower down the central vein of the leaflet, typically opposite to the position of, not the first notch down, but the next notch. This means that on its way from the midrib of the leaflet to the point of the serration, the vein serving the tip of the serration passes close by the intervening notch. Sometimes the vein will actually pass tangent to the notch, but often it will pass by at a small distance, and when that happens a spur vein (occasionally a pair of such spur veins) branches off and joins the leaf margin at the deepest point of the notch. (CC-licensed text from http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis)
If you were a botanist, you would find that riveting. If you’re not a botanist, you skipped ahead to this paragraph instead. Good job, you’re thinking like a stoner. You didn’t miss anything important.
The marijuana leaf has a distinctive shape, with seven leaflets, two of which are much smaller than the rest. You’ll see that on posters, t-shirts and the like, but you probably won’t ever buy it in that form. What you buy instead are the dried buds of the plant, with some leaf and other matter mixed in. Note that, for various technical reasons beyond this guide, even if you accurately identify wild Cannabis sativa, smoking it will not get you high. This information on identifying characteristics is provided for educational value only.
Now let’s narrow our focus a bit on the species that produces marijuana, Cannabis sativa. That’s a psychoactive plant, used for millennia for recreational and religious purposes.
The substance in Cannabis that causes its psychoactive effects is tetrahydrocannabinol, one of a class of substances we call cannabinoids. These substances are produced naturally by the human brain and also by a variety of other plants; only marijuana produces a useful amount of an intoxicating cannabinoid.
There are, however, fauxuana, a term I just made up for various marijuana substitutes. They are sold in small packets in convenience stores and liquor stores, and they usually call themselves an “herbal supplement” or something along those lines, though the packaging makes the target market clear. Their brand names include Spice and more.
These are synthetic marijuana substitutes, designed in a lab for the purpose of being close enough to THC to get you high but distant enough to not be illegal. Depending on your jurisdiction, it is likely that these are now illegal or so regulated as to be effectively illegal. Even if you can find them, they are less enjoyable than marijuana, more dangerous and less effective. They should be ignored.
The real stuff is called marijuana, weed, cannabis or pot, most commonly, though there are hundreds of more slang terms that vary widely from place to place. There are a few important different strains, types, or categories, and we’ll go over them here. No matter where you are, you’ll encounter the following forms of marijuana:
Schwag: This is the most basic form of weed. This is not high quality. It is usually also brick weed, and it contains stems and seeds, often in great numbers; these should be carefully removed.
Kind Bud: (Also called KB) This is a general category encompassing all higher-quality weed. This stuff is usually lighter and fluffier, more colorful (often with orange or purple threads), more fragrant, a lighter shade of green and possessing few or no seeds. Some stems are unavoidable, but there should be fewer than in schwag, and in any case, they are more smokable.
These two terms, schwag and kind bud (or KB) are the most important words to remember. All weed is either schwag or KB. In states where it’s legal, it’s basically all KB.
Brick Weed: This is weed that has been transported by being pressed into dense bricks. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it’s usually not very good schwag, and it’s always very dense. It won’t burn unless it’s substantially broken up, which can be time-consuming and annoying. Remember weed needs oxygen, so if it’s in a tight little ball, most of the weed won’t be touching much air, and therefore won’t burn.
Shake: This is not exactly a type of weed; it simply refers to the marijuana dust left behind when you break up weed. Marijuana leaves behind this residue, especially high-quality kind bud. It is often nearly invisible. But it contains a great deal of THC. Try to get as much as you can into your bowl.
Stems and Seeds : This is not really a form of weed, per se. Like all flowering plants, cannabis produces both stems and seeds. The seeds taste terrible when smoked, and they never have THC in significant quantities, so you should always remove them. Stems are also generally useless to smoke, though you simply can't remove all of them -- just get rid of the big, woody pieces, don't worry about every little scrap of stem. Stems do contain THC, but not a whole lot; in higher-quality weed, you should only remove the biggest and woodiest stems; in lower-quality weed, you'll want to be more thorough, as the stems taste worse and have no THC at all. Some people chew on stems, which have an oddly pleasant vegetal quality; this does not get you stoned, it's just fun.
Maui-Wowie, Blueberry Haze: These are two common strains, or types of weed. They are cultivated just like different strains of potatoes or wheat, with minor differences potentially greatly changing the end result. They are generally very good, but don't assume that any weed with a neat name is high-quality, however, as your dealer can slap a name on anything. Connoisseurs savor these strains just like wine lovers -- also just like wine-lovers, most of what they say is bullshit. Don't buy into their claims that this batch tastes of oak, and that batch has a fresh, buzzy high or whatever; it's just marketing and hipsterism. Find some weed that you like at a reasonable price, don't go looking for exotic stuff, as it will rarely be worth the time or effort, just like with fine wine, artisanal beer or anything of that sort.
Skunk-Weed: This is a special strain of kind bud. It’s special because it smells like skunk spray, that’s it. Some people will tell you that it’s great kind bud, and that’s often true, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve had crappy weed that smells like skunk spray too (no, it wasn’t just weed a skunk sprayed, this smell is distinctive, skunk-like but without the acrid pungency of a real skunk). Generally it will be good, but you can’t be certain of that.
Hashish: Also just called hash, this is the purified remains of weed. There’s a complicated process to make it, but it’s basically refined THC. It’s a sticky black paste you can smoke just like weed. It gets you high very efficiently. It’s not that common in the US, but it can be found in Canada, Europe and elsewhere.
You can more or less judge the quality of weed by the smell. The stronger the smell, the better the weed. Higher-quality weed will also have lighter and more floral attributes than lower-quality weed. Unscrupulous dealers will sometimes use lemon juice to make low-quality weed smell fresher and lighter, not to mention making the weed heavier (when you pay by the gram, heavier weed is better for the dealer). So if it smells strongly of lemons, beware -- a lemony scent is normal and can be a sign of quality, but only when it is one note among a potent bouquet of odors; if it smells of lemon juice, you're buying schwag that's been tarted up like a common whore.
What happens if you use marijuana? You get high! The term stoned is also used. Both terms have only relatively recently come to refer exclusively to the effects of marijuana; back in the early twentieth century, you could get high or stoned on alcohol, cocaine or opium.
The main effect is described in medical literature as “euphoria”. That’s an understatement though. It has a lot of effects on the mind (we’ll get to physical effects later), so let’s go through them one by one.
First off, we have happiness, giddiness or general pleasantness. Weed makes everything feel warm and cozy, and gives users a feeling of laidback tolerance. This is what’s responsible for the “kindly stoner " stereotype. It's rare to be angry or cruel when stoned (though not impossible -- a real jerk will not become a better person when stoned, just perhaps a lazier and less effective jerk).
This is the main desired effect of weed; this is what it means to be “stoned”. When people talk about how they have fun getting stoned, this is the effect they are enjoying. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen the first time, or possibly even the first couple times: that’s normal.
Why do people need to smoke a few times before they get really stoned? It’s because marijuana has an unusual property called reverse tolerance. That means you actually get stoned more easily the more you smoke, in contrast to alcohol and most other intoxicants, which require you to consume more and more to achieve the same effect. It doesn’t always seem this way because the more you smoke, the better you are at functioning under the effect of marijuana. So it might feel as though you are less stoned, but you aren’t.
It is also important to remember that stonedness comes on slowly. If you have been smoking for awhile and don't feel like you're getting high, stop smoking for awhile -- you might find you get more stoned after stopping. It's easy to keep on smoking waiting to get high, then finally give up and discover you're so high it's unpleasant, and you smoked all your weed so there's none left.
Aside from the stonedness, marijuana has some other mental effects as well. Perhaps the most important is memory loss. A lot of times on TV you may have seen forgetful stoners failing to remember things like their own birthday. This is highly inaccurate.
Marijuana use does cause memory loss, but it's not a general, across-the-board reduction in functioning. It specifically applies only to encoding items in short-term memory. This is why one stereotype of stoners is that they forget conversations, sometimes bringing up the same subject several times in the same conversation -- their brain has failed to encode the conversation in short-term memory.
What isn’t effected by this phenomenon? Anything that isn’t the encoding of information into short-term memory. You won’t forget something you remembered before you smoked (of course, you could forget something, that just isn't caused by the marijuana) because that was already encoded in your memory. You won't fail to retrieve memories from long-term memory due to marijuana because marijuana simply doesn't affect that -- hence, you won't forget your birthday; you might forget that your friend just wished you a happy birthday, however, if it happened while you were stoned.
That means if there’s something you need to remember to do while you’re stoned, or if something comes up while you’re stoned and you need to remember it later when you’re sober, write it down! Leave yourself a note, or you will not remember it! Yes, you might find that once you write it, you remember it -- the act of writing forces your brain to encode the information in long-term memory, rather than short-term, so you become less likely to forget it; if you don't write it down, however, it will remain in short-term memory and very likely be forgotten.
Next we come up to the lack of motivation. Stoners are often portrayed as slackers who have no desire to do anything; this phenomenon has been referred to as amotivational syndrome. One memorable anti-drug commercial suggested that a girl who started smoking marijuana turned into a two-dimensional cutout that laid on the couch watching TV all the time, never accomplishing anything.
Is this for real? It's hard to know -- maybe people who lack motivation deal with their tedious boredom by smoking marijuana. There are definitely highly motivated people who smoke marijuana -- your loyal and faithful author, for example, has been smoking daily for almost twenty years and still manages to publish multiple books every month, writes thousands of words a day and works, as a self-employed person, seven days a week. But there is substantial evidence of a causal link in the other direction: the more you smoke, and the earlier you smoke, the less intrinsic motivation you will have.
Luckily, there seems to be no evidence that the effect is permanent. If you think it becomes a problem, you can always quit or set rules for yourself (e.g. I won’t smoke until I finish everything I wanted to do for the day). If you find that your marijuana use is making it hard for you to do other things, you may have a problem, for which you should consult your doctor or another trusted professional.
Don’t let anyone tell you marijuana is not addictive -- it is at least as addictive as shopping, gambling or stealing, all things that people get addicted to every single day. It may also be advisable to take an occasional weed-vacation, which most stoners do from time to time -- going just a few days without smoking can revitalize your mind and make smoking more enjoyable when you get back to it. While smokers often make jokes about marijuana's lack of addictiveness, this is only accurate in comparison to highly addictive substances like cocaine and nicotine -- if your marijuana use is an issue for you, that is a real problem that you need to try to solve; don't let others' jokes and snickering stop you from improving your life and feeling better about yourself.
Another oft-reported effect of marijuana use is a distorted sense of time . It is commonplace for people to get stoned and stay up much later than they meant to or otherwise lose track of time. In a modern age of smartphones and whatnot, you probably have a timer or alarm you can set easily enough -- just remember that this is a potential issue, so set the alarm if you need to.
Another issue is problem-solving skills. Marijuana use seems to cause a reduction in one’s ability to come up with solutions to problems. Specifically, being stoned reduces your solution innovation , meaning you are likely to keep trying the same solution to a problem even after it is obvious that it won't work. You can combat this, simply by forcing yourself to try something new -- even if it obviously not a workable solution, it will push your mind to consider other options. Don't try to solve serious, difficult problems when you are stoned.
What about driving? It is, under no circumstances, acceptable to drive while you are stoned. It is dangerous to both yourself and other people on the road.
A lot of marijuana smokers will dispute this fact, and claim that marijuana doesn't inhibit driving. The most common reason cited is that stoned people typically drive slower, more carefully and more defensively, in comparison to their sober driving. In truth, there is strong evidence that marijuana intoxication doesn't inhibit driving anywhere's near as much as alcohol -- or even mild sleepiness, which isn't illegal. However, smoking under the influence of marijuana remains illegal, and there is a solid experimental base supporting the idea that it does reduce the ability to drive safely. Don't do it. Nothing in this ebook should be construed as supporting driving under the influence of marijuana.
Finally we come to psychosis . That's the scariest effect marijuana has, but don't worry, it is not usually a big deal. First off, you need to understand that "psychosis" is not necessarily serious -- it simply means that a person is either hallucinating or delusional.
Hallucination: Perceiving something that isn’t there, such as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling people or objects that aren’t real.
Delusion: An unreal belief, like the idea that others can implant thoughts in your mind or that you might secretly be God.
Marijuana is a hallucinogenic drug, which means it causes changes in perception -- when colors seem more vibrant, or music seems more harmonic, that's because you are hallucinating. Those are obviously more minor hallucinations than, say, a team of CIA agents trying to kill you. But they are hallucinations just the same.
It is often said that marijuana is harmful because it causes psychosis, and that is, in a sense, true. Like all hallucinogens, marijuana does cause psychotic episodes. They are, however, usually benign hallucinations like seeing colors as more vibrant than they really are.
However, marijuana can trigger more severe psychotic episodes in people who are prone to them. Marijuana use is common in the days or hours before people with schizophrenia have their first psychotic episode, and that has often been used to malign the drug as causing schizophrenia. However, more modern research suggests that schizophrenia goes back to the womb, and that people often use marijuana to cope with strange or confusing feelings that they don’t yet realize is the onset of schizophrenia. There is no evidence that marijuana use causes schizophrenia or any other psychotic disorder.
If you are prone to psychotic episodes due to schizophrenia or other mental illnesses, you may find that marijuana stimulates hallucinations. Even small amounts can make your illness worse, so you will want to stay away.
There are, however, those with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia who report that marijuana helps them deal with their symptoms. This may reflect a difference between types of hallucinations -- perhaps people with frightening or offputting hallucinations are best off avoiding marijuana, while people with distracting or pleasurable hallucinations benefit from being able to control the timing of their psychosis. In any case, it's not clear who, if anyone, truly benefits, and if you think something that causes hallucinations will make your mental illness worse, you're probably right. Don't use marijuana if it harms your mental health.
Etiquette, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Pass the Bong
Let’s say you are not a weed smoker, and you stumble into a weed-focused situation at a party. What do you do?
First off, relax. Marijuana is fun!
Second, decide whether you want to smoke. What you probably see is a circle of people passing around a joint or smoking implement (more on them later). If you’re in the circle, you’ll get passed the weed soon enough. If you’re not in the circle, it won’t be passed to you in all likelihood.
If you’d like to be in the circle and smoking weed, you’re going to have to ask if it’s alright. Marijuana can be very expensive, especially if it’s high quality and/or purchased in a state where it’s still illegal. Don’t just barge in and push your way into the circle.
Joining in on a marijuana circle is the equivalent of taking someone’s beer. At a party, it’s probably acceptable but you should ask to be polite. Just like if someone pays for their own six-pack of fancy gluten-free beer, they’d be pissed if you drank one without asking, you should refrain from just barging your way into a circle and smoking someone else’s weed.
Luckily, most smokers are very polite and accommodating. It's rare to be outright told no -- if smokers want to keep others away, they will probably find a hidden spot to do it in, rather than have to actually tell people no. However, there are those who claim that "head count" has an effect on stonedness. In other words, if four people pass around a joint, they will get very stoned; if eight people pass around a joint that's twice as big, they will get less stoned than if they had split into two four-person groups and smoked a normal sized joint each.
Is this a real effect? It seems dubious on a strictly physiological level -- THC is THC; your blood doesn't know how many people are in the circle, so it shouldn't matter. On the other hand, marijuana's effects are psychological, so psychology matters. It's entirely plausible that worrying about social interaction inhibits the euphoria associated with marijuana use, which would mean that the more people around, the more likely you are to feel worried and less likely to focus on the euphoria.
It is self-evidently true that smoking in larger groups means you will get less stoned for the obvious reason -- a joint split eight ways will mean less weed for everyone than the same joint split four ways. It seems more likely to me that this is the sole cause of the "head count" effect, and those who have generalized it are either misinterpreting their own emotions or using it as an excuse to deliberately exclude people they don't like.
What about at a concert? There, things are a little different. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of people, and more than a handful probably have weed -- even at Christian concerts, adult contemporary and smooth jazz shows, you'll find weed. Probably the only concerts where that doesn't happen regularly are shows by "straight edge" punk groups, who are resolutely opposed to all intoxicating drugs.
It is normal at a concert to pass a joint around, even among strangers. It frequently moves down the line and doesn’t necessarily go back to the person who brought and lit it. This can be frustrating. On the other hand, so many other people are usually smoking that there’s a significant amount of weed fumes in the air, and you’ll get a substantial contact high from that. So in this scenario, the “head count” issue is not usually perceived as a problem, even if the head count extends into the thousands.
Should you smoke weed passed to you by a stranger at a concert? Or anywhere, really? It’s definitely not the safest thing to do, but it’s unlikely to be a problem. Other smokeable drugs are usually not passed around and/or are obviously not marijuana (i.e. crack is a rock, so don’t smoke anything that looks like a rock; also don’t smoke powders or anything powder-like), and are not typically smoked through marijuana pipes. There are those who add drugs like PCP to marijuana, but these people usually don’t want to share with strangers. PCP also can’t be used as a roofie-replacement, so there’s no reason to slip you any against your knowledge. With that said, there are those who will do terrible things just for fun, so you have to exercise some discretion. If you wouldn’t accept a drink from a person, don’t accept a joint from him either.
Alright, so let’s assume you do get invited into a circle. What do you do when the joint comes to you? Smoke it! Just put it up to your lips and inhale.
A home-rolled joint does require a different smoking method than the standard cigarette. Most often you’ll need to squeeze the non-burning end of the joint between your thumb and forefinger. This will help keep it tight and in the proper position for you to inhale. If you hold it between two fingers like you might a normal cigarette, you will often find that it falls apart or you are pushing the paper together too tightly for any smoke to escape.
In a typical circle, you’ll be given a joint which you’re expected to inhale off of two times before passing it. This is called the Puff, Puff, Pass rule (because you should puff one hit, then another, then pass it -- for this reason, to puff is often used as a synonym for to smoke weed; puff can also be a synonym for marijuana itself). For a pipe or bong or vaporizer, just one hit is considered polite. There are also "one-hitters", which are straight pipes (see the next chapter) that hold a fairly small amount of marijuana. Each person is expected to finish the marijuana in the one-hitter, so it is repacked for each individual -- the most common one-hitter is metal and is made to look like a cigarette (this often comes with a wooden carrying box, and is called either a dugout or chillum). If you aren’t sure, you can always ask: is this a one-hitter? or are these personals? One-hitters usually do, despite the name, take two or three hits to fully clear.
You should normally receive the joint from your right, and pass it to your left. The one exception to this rule is in a car. The person in the driver’s seat should receive the joint from the person in the passenger seat rather than behind him. This makes it easier to complete the pass since the person in the driver’s seat can see it being handed to him or her. This rule is provided for your information and entertainment, and for use only in parked cars when legal for you to do so; you should not be smoking while you drive.
You may be passed a lighter, or you may be expected to bring your own. If a lighter is being passed around with the weed, please make an effort to give it back to its owner -- often whoever supplies the lighter finds that it disappears into someone's pocket; this isn't deliberate stealing (usually), but just a habit and a sign of marijuana's trademark reduction in short-term memory encoding: smokers simply forget that someone gave them that lighter, so they pocket it.
You’ll want to use a normal Bic lighter. I wouldn’t normally recommend a specific brand like that, but nothing else is as useful in my opinion. Those cheaper flat lighters don’t burn as evenly, and have a variable flame length that can be problematic. Zippo and similar butane lighters are ineffective. The nicely-curved Bics burn evenly and consistently, and their curved shape makes them useful for “capping” the bowl when you’re done.
What is capping? It's simply putting the weed out when you finish your hit. If you don't cap the bowl, it will keep burning for a bit -- you'll see smoke and embers. That's all usable smoke that you're wasting. Now, a little waste is impossible to avoid, just like when cooking, you're always going to leave a few food scraps left in the pan. But it is polite to cap the bowl by placing the lighter (or a flat stone) on top of the bowl, cutting off its oxygen. You may need to actually push down with a corner to stop the burning. Some people do not like using their lighter for this purpose, because bits of resin can get stuck to it, which can be messy, stinky and legally troublesome; that's why you may be given a flat stone to use to cap the bowl.
For the same reason, you may be hurried when smoking a joint or blunt. These smoking methods continue burning even when no one is inhaling, so if you hold the joint in your hand while telling a story, you are wasting weed. Generally the joint will go out on its own pretty quickly, or will burn slowly enough you don't lose much weed, so you don't have to worry too much about it. But some stoners have a tendency to let it burn out, then light it and take a hit, let it burn out, then light it again, and so on -- this is very wasteful. You're better off smoking the whole thing at once, relatively quickly.
If you’re having trouble getting a hit off a bowl or bong, there might be blockage. A straightened paper clip can be used to poke around in the bowl. Sometimes a piece of resin, unburnt stem or dense weed has fallen over the hole, preventing smoke from getting through.
Blockage occurs in a joint or blunt too. This usually happens when the end you smoke off gets clogged with resin, or when someone holds on too tightly, resulting in the sides of the blunt getting plastered together. You can get rid of this blockage by gently rolling the tip between your fingers. If your joint has enough extra paper at the smoking end, you may also be able to simply clip the tip off.
Bowls and Bongs: A Big Bad Bundle of Bother
There are a million ways to smoke marijuana. It can be very confusing, and you may be handed any of a variety of paraphernalia to smoke. These can come in bizarre shapes and colors, made out of a variety of substances and with varying degrees of efficiency. People come up with all kinds of bizarre nomenclature, and it can all be very confusing.
Luckily, the vast majority of paraphernalia can be divided into three categories: Joints are made by rolling weed up in paper or something paper-like. Bowls are any kind of water-less pipe, whereas bongs are pipes that use water in one form or another. Vaporizers, shotguns and edibles are other means of getting high.
One rule that remains nearly universal is that weed should be passed to the left. Regardless of the means of smoking (with a few exceptions outlined elsewhere), you should inhale and then pass to the person to your left.
Let’s examine them one by one.
Joints and blunts
The most primitive means of smoking weed is the lowly joint. This is simply a bunch of weed rolled up in smokable paper -- it's just called "rolling papers", and you can buy them at most gas station (you probably have to ask for them at the counter, they're usually stored along with the cigarettes).
A more advanced type of joint is called a blunt, which is rolled up in the remains of a cigar. Any cheap cigar-like tobacco-smoking item from a gas station is fine, just empty the tobacco from it and use the paper. Don’t use a real cigar; aside from the waste of the expense, it simply won’t work. Note that the paper in blunts is made from tobacco, and thus contains nicotine. If you used to smoke cigarettes or are worried you might get addicted to the nicotine, you should skip the blunts. They are also substantially harsher on your lungs than any other method of smoking.
I’m not going to describe how to roll a joint (or blunt) here, both because I’m not very good at it myself, and because it’s the kind of thing that sounds impossibly complicated to describe in words; you need to watch someone do it. Luckily, that’s why God invented YouTube. on rolling joints, and .
When the joint or blunt gets too small to easily pass between smokers, it has become a roach . There may be very little weed left -- if it was well-rolled, there should be essentially none -- but the rolling paper is saturated with resin and leftover shake. You shouldn't waste this. You can either throw the whole roach in a bong or bowl, or you can simply swallow it. Many people don't even bother waiting for the roach to stop burning, they just swallow it lit (at this point, it is usually burning so slowly that it doesn't really hurt)-- this is not recommended, obviously, and it doesn't get you any more stoned than swallowing it once it stops burning. People mainly do this because Eminem rapped about it once, and everyone remembers that. Your best bet is to save your roaches and smoke them one rainy day.
A bowl is a type of pipe, made most often of glass or sometimes metal or ceramic or even wood. The most common shape includes a shaft or stem, which is perhaps flared, and then a bowl-shaped depression in which the weed can be placed. A hole in the bottom of the bowl leads to the hollow interior and out the stem. Lighting the weed while inhaling pulls the smoke through the pipe and into your lungs. In glass bowls, as you light the weed, you’ll need to place one finger over a hole (called a shotgun) on the side of the bowl, then let go when you are done to clear the pipe. Metal and wooden pipes don’t have shotguns, so you simply inhale until you are done.
When choosing a bowl pipe in the store, be sure to refer to it as a pipe (which is a rule that applies to all kinds of paraphernalia, at least in those states where they are still illegal). Don’t call it a bowl , as that is assumed to refer to marijuana, not tobacco (the erstwhile legal purpose of smoking pipes). Glass is the best material because it is tasteless -- wooden and metal pipes are easy to use but give a foul taste to weed. The metal constantly tastes bad in my opinion, while wooden bowls start off nice but once the top layer of treated wood burns off, you're smoking a stick every time you inhale.
Be sure to hold a pipe in your hand before you buy it; heavier is better, as lighter ones are easy to break. If you have especially small or large hands, you'll want to pay special attention to how the pipe fits in your hand -- it should be easy to hold with one hand that you can position with a finger over the shotgun.
Pipes can be very cheap, but there is a wide range of styles available. There’s no good reason to buy the more expensive pipes. They’re colorful and come in cool shapes like a dragon or a toadstool. That’s fine and fun to pull out on occasion, but the weirder the shape, the more likely it is to be difficult to hit, and the more likely some piece will break off. For everyday use, it’s best to pick a nice heavy glass bowl that you can easily hold in your hand. It’s nice to get one with a flattened bottom so you can rest it on a table easily without it rolling over.
Straight Pipes and Dugouts
Straight pipes are simply cylindrical tubes, made of metal, glass or ceramic. The inside is largely hollow but is usually tapered towards the middle, so that when you inhale on one end, only the smoke is pulled through. They do make straight pipes that are simply hollow tubes, but inhaling tends to result in a mouth full of weed dust and ash, so you’ll have to inhale lightly.
Straight pipes can be packed at one end, but be careful! It is easy to accidentally pack the wrong end, which can be difficult to undo without a straightened paper clip handy. (Paper clips are vital tools in marijuana smoking; get some) Straight pipes are cheap and small, making them convenient, and the glass ones taste and feel just like smoking out of a nice bowl.
Straight pipes are sometimes shaped and painted to look like cigarettes, in which case they may come with a little wooden container and be called a dugout, one-hitter or chillum . The wooden container can be filled with weed, so that the one-hitter can simply be pushed in and will fill up easily -- this is the only simple way to pack a one-hitter. As was described in the previous chapter, "one-hitters" are meant to be packed for one person at a time rather than passed around a circle, though they typically require more than one hit to fully clear. When they are fully cleared, you can simply blow on your end; the ash will come out easily. If the ash does not come out, there is either more weed inside or it is blocked by something (likely resin, these one-hitters get clogged easily; see the next section for more on maintenance).
Water Pipes and Gravity/Water Bongs
A water pipe is another kind of pipe usually treated as a distinct method of smoking. It's called a bong when used for marijuana, and it consists of a bowl attached to a cylinder -- rather like a standard glass pipe that has been inserted into a container of water, open at the top end. Inhaling on that end while lighting the weed pulls smoke through the water into your lungs. An ingeniously simple device that's fun and easy to smoke, with the water cooling the smoke and making it smoother.
There are two basic forms to the water pipe, or bong. These are Stem Bongs or Shotgun Bongs. In stem bongs, the stem refers to the bowl in which you place the weed, and the cylinder attached to it, which goes into the bong (through a hole which is confusingly called a shotgun, but is not the same as the shotgun in the Shotgun Bong). When you smoke, you will inhale the smoke for as long as you like, then pull the stem out of its hole. Once the stem is out, you will “clear” the bong by inhaling all the smoke left in it, then replace the stem for the next smoker.
In a Shotgun Bong, the stem is attached to the pipe so it can't be easily removed. Instead, you place a finger on a hole that's (usually) on the rear of the bong (i.e. on the side facing you) and inhale the smoke until you have had enough. When you let go of the hole -- which is called a shotgun -- you can inhale the remaining smoke in the bong, then pass it off to the next person.
Which one is better? I personally prefer Stem Pipes, simply because the stem is easier to remove to clean. When you clean the Shotgun Pipe’s stem, you’ll have to remove it, which can be difficult, and then reattach it just as tightly as it was originally, which is sometimes impossible. This is the same problem I have with those simple metal pipes that can be taken apart easily. They seem nice and easy to clean, but as soon as their grooves become slightly worn, they no longer form an airtight seal and you get a drastically weaker hit. In contrast, the stem in Stem Pipes are made to be removed, so it is easy to clean and doesn’t become less usable over time.
There are a few alternatives to the standard water pipe. One is to fill the pipe with ice (and enough water to at least cover the stem), which makes for an icy cool hit. If you do use ice, remember that it will melt and eventually overflow out of your stem or shotgun. Some smokers use vodka or other liquor -- this is more for the novelty than for any real purpose; it's biting and acerbic when you inhale, and doesn't get you any more stoned. If you drink it, it will taste like vomit-flavored garbage, and it will not get you any more drunk than drinking plain vodka. There are those who claim that drinking bong water/vodka will get you stoned -- that there is residual THC in it -- but I have not seen proof of this, and I suspect it is mostly placebo. You will not get significantly stoned from it, and even if you did, it tastes so bad you won't enjoy it.
Bong water is gross. Once it's been used a few times, it smells stale and disgusting, and will stink up any room it is spilled in. Be careful with it, and change the water frequently. Some people change the water every time they smoke, which seems like overkill to me -- I prefer to do it every four or five bowl-fulls.
Also note that when you change the bong water, you’ll turn the bong over and dump it into a sink or drain; if you are using a Stem Bong, the stem is not attached to the bong. It will fall out and shatter on the sink. This is probably the single most common way people break a part of their bong, so remember it. Take the stem out before taking the bong to the bathroom to dump it! Don’t trust yourself to remember in the time it takes you to walk to the sink; remember, you’re probably already stoned, so your short-term memory is faulty. Just take it out first so you don’t have to worry about remembering.
One variation on the standard water bong is a hookah. This is basically just a multi-person bong. Several tubes are attached to the bong, so multiple people can inhale off it at the same time, while one person lights the weed in the bowl. Hookahs were originally invented for tobacco, and are still often used for that purpose; they are a fun way to get high as well.
Now it’s time for a really exotic variation, one that you don’t see very much of anymore. There used to be a gravity bong in every college dorm in America, but they are a dying tradition nowadays. The gravity bong uses water and suction to pull smoke out of the burning weed, so the water effectively replaces your lungs.
Gravity bongs are not sold, as far as I know, you have to make one. They’re very simple. Just get a plastic bottle; any size is okay, but two-liter bottles work best. Now cut off the very bottom, using a sharp knife or pair of scissors to make a very clean and straight cut. Then construct a “bowl” (i.e. the place you put the weed when you are ready to smoke) using a small bowl-shaped piece of aluminum foil with a few pinpricks in the bottom. Push the bowl into the opening at the top of the bottle. You may want a few layers of foil, as it can tear easily.
That’s it, you have a gravity bong. What you need now is a bathtub or bucket full of water, and some weed. Put the weed in the bowl. Now the next part is kind of tricky, you might mess up the first couple times, and it is easier with two people. You’ll need to hold the flame of your lighter onto the bowl of weed while slowly lifting the bottle out of the water. Since you cut the bottom out of the bottle, the water level inside the bottle will lower as you raise the bottle higher. The lower water level creates pressure pulling air into the bottle to fill the space left by the receding water line; since the only opening for air to enter is through the holes you pricked in the bowl, it will force air through the weed. Hold your lighter there as you lift the bottle, but don’t lift the bottle all the way out of the water; this is where a very straight cut is helpful.
At this point, you have a bottle full of smoke. There's a couple ways to get to it. If you simply lift the bottle out of the water swiftly, you can bring it to your face before much of the smoke escapes -- remember hot air rises, so if you keep it vertical and put your face underneath it, you should be able to get to it. You can also make it so the bowl is easily removable, so you can inhale off the top; you'll need to tightly fold the foil and make it sturdy enough to pick up and put down over and over, which can be difficult because foil tears. Regardless, the foil will need to be changed often, as it becomes clogged with resin easily and can not be cleaned.
Now we can get even a bit more complicated. That type of gravity bong is called bucket bong, because it is usually made in a bucket. You can do something similar called a waterfall bong with just one plastic bottle. You simple poke a hole in the bottle (filled with water) but plug it with a finger; let go of the hole as you light the weed, so the water drains and the resultant air pressure inside the bottle pulls on the smoke.
So that’s the gravity bong, an elaborate exercise in overly complicated smoking. But I do enjoy McGyvering one up from time to time.
Packing It Up
Most smoking methods (excepting only the blunt/joint option) require you to pack something up. There’s no real secret technique here, but new people are sometimes hesitant, so here you go.
It’s best to store your weed in a rectangular container. People often use glass jars (see below), which is fine for storage but not usually the easiest way to pack a bowl up. I strongly recommend something rectangular, like a plastic tupperware container. If it has a square corner, you can easily turn the container on its side and pour weed out the corner into a bowl. If you have to use your fingers to pick the weed up, you’re wasting weed (the shake (see glossary) is sticking to your skin).
Pour the weed directly into the bowl, but angle it slightly, like you're pouring a beer, so the weed lands on the sides of the bowl. If you drop it straight in the middle of the bowl, some of it will slip down the hole or stem -- while some waste of this sort is inescapable, pouring weed onto the sides will prevent most of it. If you pour it into the middle of the bowl, the lightest bits of weed will fall first; they are the smallest and lightest-weight, so they will more easily tumble in into the hole or stem, resulting in waste. If you pour on the side, most of those light bits will land and stay there, while the heavier chunks will fall down to the hole, blocking it enough that little weed will be wasted.
Don’t pack in as much as possible. If the weed in the bowl is too dense, it will not be able to get any oxygen, resulting in a poor light and a weak hit.
You will get better at distinguishing between tastes the more you smoke. When the weed begins to taste ashy, you'll want to dump the bowl -- be gentle, just tip it over and let the loose ash fall. If there's still smokeable weed, it will usually stick to the bowl, so as long as you don't really shake it hard, you'll only remove the ash. If you feel anything solid in the ash, put that back in the bowl.
Aside from ash, you may also taste stems or seeds. Stems taste like wood-smoke, because that's basically what it is, a tiny piece of wood that got burnt. You should try to remove it from the bowl if you can, but it is often more trouble than its worth -- if you separated out the stems appropriately, only a tiny piece may be left in the weed, so by the time you taste the smoke, it's probably all burnt up anyway.
Seeds are different; the taste is more noxious and hard-to-describe, but it's acrid and reminiscent of melting plastic. They also take longer to smoke, so if you taste it, you can probably still remove the seed. Another good reason to remove the seed is that it contains water, and if you light it long enough, it will pop, rather like popcorn but resulting in nasty-tasting seed char covering your weed (some of which might be spilled as a result). You may taste phantom bits of seed, which you can do nothing about -- this is more subtle but noticeable when you're experienced, and it comes from little bits of seeds that got chopped up and mixed into the weed. It can't be effectively removed. This normally only happens in low-quality schwag (or better stuff if you are not thorough about removing the seeds before putting it through a grinder). There is an urban legend that smoking marijuana seeds causes infertility, impotence or other medical problems; I am aware of no scientific evidence that this is true. They merely taste bad, but I have been unable to find any proof they are harmful (full disclosure: I also have not found any proof they are not harmful; they seem to be pretty much entirely unstudied in this context).
As mentioned in the Bongs section, the word shotgun has an anatomical meaning in reference to smoking devices. But there is also another practice known as shotgunning.
To do a shotgun, you simply take a hit and then blow the smoke, usually through either a cardboard tube or a kiss (depending on the relationship between both people). You can also link fingers together to make a tube out of your hands.
Shotguns are a traditional practice between close friends and intimate partners. It’s not sexual, but it is very friendly, and isn’t typically done with strangers. It has been called “gay” (in an insulting way, obviously only when done between two men) because it seems so intimate; despite that, it most commonly seen between lovers (especially when only one partner is a heavy smoker) or between highly macho types, especially rednecks, thugs, gangbangers and frat boys.
Hotboxing is not exactly a form of smoking, but it is a way to smoke weed. You simply smoke it in a confined space, like a closet or a (parked) car. You can do it any bathroom with a towel under the door, tape over the doorframe and plastic taped over the vents. You’ll inhale all the smoke multiple times, getting you very stoned very quickly.
Here's a neat fact: mango gets you high(er)! Mango on its own has no effect on your mind, but there is a compound in mango that seems to make people get stoned more quickly, more intensely and for a more sustained period of time than people who don't eat mango. You have to eat it substantially before you smoke -- aim for about an hour.
This phenomenon is not well-studied, but it seems to only occur when eating fresh mango. Mango-flavored stuff, or frozen bits of mango, do not work. You have to actually buy a mango and eat that.
Marijuana has a culinary use as well. High-quality marijuana has a pungent florality that is usually appealing but doesn’t exactly smell tasty. There is high-quality weed called “skunk” that smells, as you might expect, quite bad and indeed a bit skunkish (doesn’t taste that way though, just the smell before it’s burnt). Obviously that type, skunk, is not used in cooking, but other marijuana makes a good ingredient in many dishes. Despite the appealing aroma, the flavor is less successful when used in real food.
It must be heated for the THC to be released in a way that you will get easily stoned. So baked goods are a common way to hide the unattractive part of the taste.
Foods containing marijuana are called edibles, and they are a popular way to get high. Presumably healthier than smoking (though obviously it depends on what you’re eating and how much of it), edibles are a great way to get high if you’d rather not puff.
Keep in mind that your high will take longer to come on and will last longer, because it is being digested by your body over a longer period of time (compared to smoking, where you immediately exhale whatever is not absorbed). It is also anecdotally more intense, and often less pleasant; many people’s “bad trip” on marijuana came from eating it rather than smoking it. For this reason, a lot of connoisseurs don’t like eating it.
You can probably avoid these consequences by practicing discretion and remembering that you will not get stoned until your body digests the food; this takes much, much longer than smoking it. If you continue eating marijuana brownies until you feel stoned, you will continue getting more and more stoned until it's all digested; by that time, you will likely regretting eating as much as you did. Also don't forget that non-marijuana food has an effect -- if you eat a big meal with your pot brownie, the brownie will take longer to be digested, meaning it will take longer for you to feel stoned. Of course your results may vary, and if you keep in mind the risks, edibles can be a good way to go, especially if you are sensitive to lung damage.
Next we come to the most high-tech means of smoking marijuana: a vaporizer. This is essentially the same process as “vaping” cigarettes, in which the material to be burnt is placed in a chamber, then electrically vaporized. It is highly efficient in that all of the marijuana is turned to smoke and can be inhaled. Some users report that smoking through a vaporizer means for a dull and medicinal-feeling of stonedness. This is probably psychosomatic, but it you prefer other means, go right ahead. It is often said that vaporizers are safest for your health, especially your lungs, but it is not clear that there is scientific evidence to back that up.
This is a different way of smoking, uncommon in the United States. Like most Americans, I learned about it by watching Ricky on Trailer Park Boys and Super Hans on Peep Show, both of whom call it a hot knife. It is also very common in New Zealand, where it is known as spotting. You simply burn the weed (or hash) between two very hot knives, heated up on an electric stovetop and inhale the smoke directly or through a spottle (which is a modified bottle or other funnel-shaped device that corrals the smoke towards you).
It's essentially unheard of in America. I tried it just for the purpose of writing this segment, and I can't say I am convinced it is a good addition to the arsenal. It's clumsy and awkward -- admittedly I have all the grace and dexterity of a dead dog, so your loyal author may not be the best judge on that point. It's not very efficient and Wikipedia suggests it is especially harmful to the lungs. I guess it's cheaper than any other method, assuming you use the same two blades over and over. But it's still barely cheaper than a cheap bowl. Maybe it's like the metric system, Americans just don't get it.
But if you’re a hipster looking for a weed-related gimmick, and you can’t find a steam-powered bong, this is a good way to go.
These are little mesh screens, made of either brass or steel. You can put them in the bowl of your pipe or bong. This prevents weed or resin from falling through and clogging the pipe. My experience suggests these do more harm than good. They do prevent the pipe from getting clogged, but they just move the problem from the pipe to the screen, which has to be replaced often as it gets clogged with resin. They also make the weed taste worse, and they sometimes get stuck to your lighter when capping the bowl. They are useful if you are usually smoking somewhere you can't easily clean your pipe, because you can use the screen and just throw it away if it gets clogged, then replace it or use the pipe without a screen. But if you typically smoke at home, you can give your pipe a quick scrape when you need to, and that barely takes more time than replacing the screen -- of course, using screens takes time too, to buy them, store them, replace them and throw them away, and they won't obviate the need to occasionally scrape your pipe, so that's why I keep a few around but rarely use them.
But wait, there’s more! You don’t have to buy a piece or rolling papers at all! You can make a pipe out of nothing more than good old-fashioned grit, determination and knowhow.
And stuff. Specifically, you'll need a bowl and a chamber. Whether you're making a pipe or a bong, you'll need a bowl -- that's the part you put their weed in -- and a chamber, which is the part that holds the smoke as you pull it through.
In a simple straight pipe (e.g. a dugout), the bowl is the end you put the weed in, and the chamber is the part you inhale through. In a bong, the bowl is the bowl (or hitter) and the chamber is the tube in which the water sits.
The simplest device to create is probably the aluminum foil pipe. You just need a mess of aluminum foil. Shape it into a roughly pipe-like shape. That's it, you're basically done -- told ya it was simple. You'll need a bowl-shaped end that attaches to a tubular area through which you will inhale. If you want, you can use popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners or other objects to provide some structure, but you don't need to, and if you're going to put that much work into it, you might as well make something better. The aluminum pipe has a lot of downsides -- it's impossible to clean, it tastes terrible, and you will inhale a lung-full of ash sooner or later. But it does work, and if you have nothing but weed and aluminum foil, you can still get high.
The next simplest option is to use a toilet paper or paper towel tube. Just take off all the paper product, so you have a bare tube. Then cut a small hole near one edge of the tube, and use aluminum foil to make a bowl. Poke a few holes in the bottom of the bowl. Simply fill the bowl with weed and inhale off it -- use the open end of the tube as a shotgun, so you'll cap it with one hand as you inhale and then let go when you are done, in order to clear the chamber. This will taste marginally better than a bowl made entirely of aluminum foil, but it will still not taste good; the bowl can't be cleaned, and again, you'll inhale ash sooner or later.
Now we come to the more advanced improvised smoking devices. One exciting opportunity is fruit -- you can simple bore out two holes in an apple, put a hitter from your favorite bong in one of them, and use it just like a water-less bong. With something more substantial like a cantaloupe, you can even add water and make a true bong.
Once you get the hang of it, you can make a smoking device out of basically anything hollow, or anything that can be made hollow. It can be a fun and interesting way to get high.
Ultimately though, all improvised smoking devices are less satisfactory than store-bought ones. They will not last long, and wouldn’t last long even if you could clean them, which you almost invariably can’t.
Grinders and Glass Jars
Here’s two more accessories a lot of people use, though neither are required. Many people like using various kinds of glass jars to store their weed. Some people make claims about freshness and maintaining quality, but that is suspect to say the least. There’s no proof that glass jars will do better than plastic bags or tupperware-type containers, especially since you will probably not store any weed for very long. I recommend a square or rectangular shape, as that makes it easier to pour weed out through a corner.
Grinders are definitely useful. These are little steel circles made up of a few layers of grinding pieces; each layer can be separated from the others. When you put your weed in the grinder -- making sure to remove bigger stems and all seeds first -- it will fall through the layers of steel grinding pieces, and get torn into smaller and smaller bits. This is especially important for brick-weed, because it is too dense to smoke, but you can do it for kind bud too. Another benefit is that smaller stems will get turned to powder and can be smoked along with the rest of your weed -- without the grinder, those stems might be big enough to taste bad, and can be too tedious to remove by hand. One major benefit is that the last layer is a tray that catches all the shake (the little powdery bits that fall off the buds), which won't be large in volume but will get you very stoned. Grinders are thus a very efficient way to prepare weed for smoking.
Nobody likes cleaning, but for every activity, someone has to clean up after it. You might be able to get your mom to scrape your bong when she does your laundry, but she is probably not that cool.
So you’ll have to do it yourself.
Don’t worry, paraphernalia maintenance is simple, and potentially intoxicating. The issue is resin, an inky black tarry substance left behind when cannabis is smoked. It sticks to everything and clogs up any pipe that isn’t cleaned regularly.
The old-fashioned way to clean a pipe is by scraping it. You'll need some paper towels and a straightened paperclip -- the longer the better. Don't straighten it all the way if you can, it will be easier to hold on to if there's still a paperclip-like section you can grip.
There's no magic technique to scraping. A lot of people claim they aren't good at it, and try to get their friends to do it by complimenting their skills -- this is nonsense. They're only "bad at it" because they are impatient. All you're doing is sticking the paperclip into every corner of your pipe. Unless your friends are missing fingers or hands, they are capable of doing that; they're asking you to do it instead because they are lazy.
As you poke around with that paperclip, you will pick up bits of resin. This is highly concentrated weed, and it will get you stoned. Save it. When you have a resinated pipe and you don't clean it, you will have trouble taking a hit -- that's simply because the resin has clogged up the pipe. But even if you do get a hit, you won't get as stoned as you would smoking out of a cleaner pipe. It's not clear to me why this is; obviously some of the smoke may be absorbed by the resin, but that does not appear to be a large effect based on my informal experiments. In my opinion, THC itself is what seems to stick to the resin -- so you still get all the smoke, but some of the THC is in the resin. The more resin there is to begin with, the more THC sticks to it. Regardless of the cause, you'll want to keep your pipes clean by taking the resin out; my general rule is to clean the pipe as soon as you can see some definite chunks of resin (as opposed to little smears and dots).
Saving resin can, however, be difficult. It's so sticky that if you aren't careful, it will end up all over your hands and clothes, and none will be left for you to smoke. If you have a lot of pipes to clean (or maybe just one very dirty one), one trick is to acquire a pile of ash, like from a cigarette ashtray or campfire; when you dip the resinated paperclip in the ash, it will get coated, making it much drier and less sticky. On the downside, your resin will get slightly ashy, but it's already the remains of smoking, so it was ashy to begin with. I recommend buying a small pipe to use mainly for resin -- when you get some resin out, just scrape it right on the edge of the bowl. When you have a lot, smoke it.
It is best to smoke resin with a little bit of weed. Most smokers find that resin will get you very stoned, but not if you smoke it by itself -- it is also so dense (and moist if it is fresh) that it doesn't burn well on its own. You will need to poke into it to break up the resin chunks as you smoke it. Adding a little bit of weed can help mitigate this problem.
You need to smoke all your resin at once. If you fill up a bowl with resin, smoke some and then walk away, it will continue burning. It burns even at a relatively low temperature and slow speed, so you may not see any embers or smoke; that doesn’t mean it’s truly out. You may find that the resin slowly disappears over the next few hours, and the smell of resin will linger (it has a distinctive weed-like scent that can be very cloying and strong). So don’t start smoking your resin unless you’re going to finish it.
If you don’t care about saving your resin, you can move on to more high-tech means of cleaning your paraphernalia. First, there’s boiling. Simply immerse your glass or metal pipe in boiling water. Let it go for a long time, at least fifteen minutes. The resin will turn liquid enough that it mixes with the water.
The downsides to boiling are that it takes time, generates a strong marijuana-like smell and leaves your resin all over the inside of whatever cooking device you used to boil the water. Your pipe will also be sticky all over because the resinated water covers it; you can wipe this off with a wet-nap.
The last option is also the most effective, and the most expensive. You can buy stuff, often called "gunk remover" or "glass cleaner", meant to remove marijuana resin -- the manufacturers can't directly say that's what it's for, but there are ways to find it easily enough. Examples include [+ Randy’s Black Label+] and [+ Formula 710+].
This is simply a liquid that will force all the resin to detach from the pipe's surfaces. It is essentially 100% effective. It's even reusable -- when you're done, just pour the liquid through a coffee filter. The resin will be left behind, the cleaning gunk will remain and can be used over and over.
The downside to the cleaning gunk is that, no matter how careful you are, it gets everywhere. You will spill it, guaranteed.
So what do I recommend? Keep some paperclips around for minor cleaning. Every couple of bowl-fulls, simply clean out the resin you can easily get with the paperclip. Then every month or two, use the resin-gunk to really clean it out right.
Tune In, Light Up and Get High: An Intro to Stoner Culture
Stoner culture is an important part of smoking. You don’t have to be a stoner, per se, in order to appreciate it, just like you don’t have to be a metalhead to enjoy heavy metal. There’s no real rule on what qualifies as “stoner” music or movies, but there are some commonalities.
There's a couple genres of "stoner music", depending on the context you find yourself in. Perhaps the most classic or stereotyped is the hippie music crowd. These people listen to folk and psychedelic bands from the sixties, not only the popular ones like the Beatles, but often some of the lesser-known bands like Jefferson Airplane and Blue Cheer. The Grateful Dead arose in this tradition and perhaps exemplified stoner culture better than anyone else for decades afterwards -- though the Grateful Dead are also known for LSD and other stronger hallucinogens, not just marijuana. They were the first jam band, a type of musical act that has become more common since then, and remains closely associated with stoner culture.
Jam bands are most typically a rock group strongly influenced by folk, country or bluegrass; some are harder-edged and more influenced by techno, house or metal. They are characterized by a focus on live shows and long “jams”, or usually instrumental and dance-eable segments that can stretch for ten minutes or longer, especially when performed live. Lyrics are often nonsensical or minimal, but may be more profound or inspired in some songs. The band Phish is easily the most famous group of the modern, post-Grateful Dead jam band era.
Funk was perhaps the next genre of “stoner music”. It arose in the late sixties and became more and more associated with the counterculture, and marijuana, in the early seventies. The bands Parliament and Funkadelic (i.e. George Clinton’s P-Funk collective) had a lot to do with the association with marijuana, as well as LSD and stronger hallucinogens. Funk remains a strong element of stoner music in other genres, but is rarely found on its own any more; many stoners love classic p-funk, however.
There is a genre called stoner rock, or stoner metal, which is a fusion of heavy metal, psychedelic rock and other styles. As the name implies, it was strongly associated with stoner culture when the genre developed in the nineties. Metal-loving stoners are likely to listen to other styles as well, however, and it is not clear that “stoner metal” is necessarily associated with stoner culture anymore.
Hip hop is closely associated with stoner culture as well. While there are exceptions, most rappers (not to mention DJs) smoke weed. No particular genre is especially stoner-oriented, however. Certain artists are more known for it than others, for example, Snoop Dogg, but any hip hop could be considered “stoner music”, with perhaps the sole exception of Christian hip hop. Maybe the most well-known rapper who doesn’t use marijuana is Andre 3000, of Outkast, which is ironically a group especially beloved by stoners.
Another iconic genre of stoner music is reggae, and various offshoots and derivatives from it. Reggae arose in early 1970s Jamaica, and was associated with the Rastafari religion, in which weed, or ganja, is a holy sacrament. Note that there is a lot more to Rastafarians than ganja; please do not call yourself Rastafarian because you start smoking weed and/or listening to reggae.
Stoner films are a little easier to identify. Virtually every genre of music has been associated with marijuana at some point in the past, but movies are more obviously stoner-oriented or not. Most typically stoner films are comedies in which marijuana plays a major role, but there are exceptions.
[+ Reefer Madness+] and other anti-weed propaganda movies: Reefer Madness is the most famous of the early twentieth century propaganda films, created in order to scare people away from trying marijuana. They are hilariously overwrought, and stoners nowadays often watch them for a cheap laugh.
[+ Cheech and Chong+]: Perhaps the original stoner duo, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong are actors who starred in a series of marijuana-centric movies. These are pretty funny in an idiotic and superficial way; Cheech and Chong themselves are great, and both are now successful actors.
[+ Dazed and Confused:+] This is a Richard Linklater film, starring a young Matthew McConnaughey, Ben Affleck and more. It is probably the best movie on this list. It is exciting, funny, moving, dramatic, serious and smart. It’s the story of high schoolers on the verge of graduation, confronting their fears about the future while drinking, smoking weed and hazing the freshmen.
[+ The Stoned Age+]: This an older movie, one that revolves around two friends trying to get stoned; it prominently features the music of Blue Öyster Cult, a major early American heavy metal band. It is famous mainly for being an early stoner film, not for being a good movie, but it does have its moments. Also, Blue Öyster Cult is a fantastic band.
[+ Fast Times at Ridgemont High+]: One of the more popular movies in the stoner film canon, this is a screwball comedy that is often played on TV (with the nudity and more risqué bits cut). It’s about a bunch of high schoolers and their various misadventures, with a young Sean Penn as the stoner-surfer character, Spicolli, who is famous enough he is sometimes used as a synecdoche for stoners in general. (Synecdoche: A type of metaphor in which one part or attribute of something is used as a stand-in for the entire thing – for example, “the White House” or “Washington DC” are sometimes used as stand-ins for the federal government, the president and/or the US as a whole; similarly, people talk about “all the Spicollis over there”, meaning “people smoking weed”)
[+ Clerks+] series: The Kevin Smith View Askew series began with Clerks, a homemade movie about a guy who wasn’t supposed to work today. It was followed by Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma and Clerks II , all of which are part of the stoner films-canon -- the original Clerks and Mallrats are perhaps the most stonerish of the series. They are all great movies.
[+ The Big Lebowski+]: A modern classic of the genre, this cult favorite has only grown more and more popular since its release. It’s a satire of film noir, with the lead character being The Dude, a bowler and stoner who falls into a web of lies and mysteries, featuring a memorable and oft-quoted performance by John Goodman as The Dude’s confidante and bowling partner.
[+ Friday+] series: Another modern series, this began with Friday, followed by Next Friday, both of which were good movies. Friday is the story of two friends in the ghetto, one of whom is a major stoner, as they try to survive and thrive. The first one is considered a classic of the genre; the second less-so, though your faithful author loves it. The series did continue with at least a third movie, but it went rapidly downhill at that point.
the Buffalo Roam+]*]_]: These are movies about the famous writer and drug-user Hunter S. Thompson. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, starring Johnny Depp, is better-known (though it came later). Both great movies, they are unusual (for this list) in that they feature a great deal of non-marijuana drug use. These movies feature everything from cocaine and LSD to ether and mescaline.
[+ Half Baked+]: This is a silly comedy starring Dave Chappelle as a stoner whose buddy is arrested for killing a police horse. As the hapless heroes raise money for bail, they are pushed into a series of misadventures that end with a conclusion that angers many stoners. This is not a great movie, but it is an iconic stoner film.
[+ Super Troopers+]: This one is unusual for a stoner film in that the heroes don’t smoke a lot of marijuana in the movie. It’s about cops in rural Vermont. It’s a hilarious movie that makes for great stoned watching.
[+ Harold and Kumar+] series: This series began with Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. It’s about a pair of stoners who try to get to White Castle (a restaurant) while being very stoned; the sequels follow in much the same vein. These are not awesome movies, but they are good for a cheap, stoned laugh.
I Fought the Law, and the Law Won
The legality of pot can be confusing, so let’s go over what it means for you.
In the US, laws can be enforced on a federal level, on a state level or through a locality, such as a town, county or Indian reservation.
Federal laws are passed by Congress, which you might recall from elementary school or ironically binge-watching Schoolhouse Rock, is made up of two parts, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Marijuana is prohibited by Congress through the Controlled Substances Act, which set up several tiers of drug regulation. Each tier is called a Schedule, and the strictest, Schedule One, includes marijuana, heroin, LSD and mescaline.
Each state can, and has, prohibited marijuana as well. Some have since relegalized it. That means the state can not punish you for possessing or using marijuana.
Now let’s be clear, what does that really mean for you? Can the state police arrest you for possessing marijuana in a state where that is illegal? Yes, they can. There may be rules or regulations discouraging it, but an officer can detain you in order for the federal government to arrest you under their enforcement ability. This will not generally happen for several reasons: most importantly, the federal government doesn’t normally arrest people for possession of small amounts of marijuana. They pursue big-time dealers and traffickers, and will normally only arrest people for small amounts pursuant to a larger investigation or to hassle people they don’t like.
It is important to note that the federal government can and will continue to arrest people who work in legal marijuana dispensaries. This is because it remains a federal crime even in states that have legalized. The federal government therefore has the authority to arrest people.
This is a Toker’s Guide to Excellence, and not a political tract. But it is important to note that the federal government, and federal agents thereof, are under no legal obligation to arrest people for marijuana use or distribution under any circumstances. They often make the claim that they are merely enforcing the law and have no choice but to do so, but that’s not true at all. Plenty of laws are not enforced, either by direct order or simply because federal agents have lost interest in enforcing them, or they apply to situations that rarely occur anymore. Federal agents enforce laws against state-legal marijuana use because they are dicks, plain and simple.
Okay, not plain and simple. “They are dicks” is shorthand for the usual suspects: political expediency, bureaucratic inertia, resistance to change, etc. But on the other hand, it really is plain and simple: there is no requirement to enforce any particular law in any or all circumstances. Courts have repeatedly upheld individual discretion on the part of agents, not to mention executive orders and other bureaucratic rule-making that lessen or eliminate enforcement. They choose not to for various reasons that boil down to being dicks.
Now back to explaining the legal situation in the United States. There’s more than just two categories, legal and non-legal, including decriminalization and medical marijuana statutes. Let’s look at those next.
Decriminalization means that a state has set minor penalties for possession and maybe distribution, usually a small fine. It is still technically illegal in these states, but can’t be punished with jail time. It is the legal equivalent of littering or smoking cigarettes in non-designated areas.
Medical marijuana can occur in a wide range of regulatory conditions. Some states, like California, allow for virtually anyone to get a prescription for marijuana with ease. Other states, like Maryland, technically have medical marijuana laws on the book but have kept them so strict that very few people (or possibly no one) can use them. You’ll have to look into the rules for your state on your own.
Let’s assume you’re in the United States, and you’re located somewhere marijuana remains highly illegal. How does it work here?
Well, first you'll need to make contact with a dealer. You should do this through a friend if at all possible. Your friend's dealer might not want to know you, however -- from that dealer's perspective, every person he has contact with means more risk of getting caught, so they often choose to sell only to a few people. Depending on how things work and escalate over time, these few people buying weed for friends from a dealer who only sells to them might become de facto dealers themselves. This can get you in a lot of legal trouble, even if you don't think of yourself as a dealer or make a profit.
But your friend probably will want to make some money. From his perspective, he's got to get cash from you, which he will then take to a risky transaction. He's got to pay for gas or other means to get there; he's got to get enough cash from you to handle the dealer's supply, which might be in different quantities or prices than you expected. He's got to deal with the risk of getting caught by the police or ripped off by the dealer. So in all likelihood, your friend will be charging you more than he pays -- that's entirely reasonable, after all, even if only to cover gas. But it's easy to get in a situation where your friend gives the money to another friend, who gives the money to another friend, who finally buys the weed; with each middleman taking a cut, it can get very expensive. Often the biggest markup occurs in these last few transactions before it finally is purchased by whoever will smoke it.
But let's assume you don't know anybody. How can you get weed? First off, don't get desperate. You'll end up making a stupid mistake and buying from a cop. Second of all, buy a small amount at first, and make a plan to buy a lot more later -- you can drop that plan, but tell your dealer that you will be buying more, maybe an ounce, in a week or two, or that your friend will be visiting soon and he'll be buying an ounce every a week. If your dealer is planning on ripping you off or arresting you, you'll be promising him a bigger catch in the future; obviously that won't happen if he rips you off or arrests you for a small bag. So this can help you get a good deal.
The best way to find a dealer is to look like a normal person who smokes weed. Cops can dress like stoners and hang out in college towns, so dealers may be wary of anyone obviously looking for weed. My preferred method is to go to somewhere like a college campus, and hang out in a conspicuous location, wearing a nice professional outfit; do this for a day or two, and try to strike up a conversation with a stoners or other who look like they might know a dealer. Don't bring up weed at first, just be casual. The next day, dress more informally with a marijuana-themed necklace or something along those lines prominent. Once your new stoner friend sees the stoner-paraphernalia (such as a marijuana necklace), he might chat about it, and you can ask if he knows a dealer. Don't be pushy about it, or you might come across as a cop. But dressing like a white-collar professional is a good way to seem trustworthy -- an undercover cop would have shown up on day one dressed as a stoner.
You don’t need to worry too much about buying from a cop and getting arrested. It is possible, of course, as cops do pose as dealers and sell sometimes. But this is rare; they are more interested in posing as buyers and arresting the dealer. So it’s more important that you don’t seem like a cop, so that a dealer will sell to you, rather than you focusing on finding a dealer who is not a cop.
The bigger risk in finding a dealer is that you will get ripped off. This can take a few forms:
1: You give him money, and he promises to give you weed, but you have to pay him first. He will probably say he just has to go into that house/apartment over there, and he’ll be back in a minute. He’ll never be back.
2: You give him money, and he promises to give you a certain amount of weed, then gives you much less (or bulks it up with stems and seeds). This is common in one-time streetside interactions, when you are unable to measure the weed. Dealers will generally prefer to have you as a regular customer, so this is most common in tourist traps, college towns and other areas with a transient population.
3: You give him money, and he gives you a bag of what turns out to be parsley or something else. Again this is most common in a streetside transaction because you can’t inspect it. Usually if you’re over eighteen or so, they won’t try this. No ordinary herb looks like weed, so if you have any idea what you’re doing, you won’t fall for this.
4: You can get beaten up and robbed. This is rare -- your dealer can rob you through trickery (one of the above methods) with virtually no risk, and you probably only have whatever cash you meant to give your dealer anyway. Still, do not wear expensive jewelry to a drug deal if you don't trust your dealer.
When you do find a dealer, never discuss weed on the phone or on Facebook or any other digital means, no text messages, no poking or tweeting or reddit PMs. Just call him and ask if you can come over. If you need to specify a number or amount, use a number in an unrelated context -- e.g. "I wanted to ask about our plans on the eighth.”
In states where weed is legal, you’ll buy it in clearly marked packages. Where it’s illegal, you may buy it in the following amounts:
Dubs: This is a small bag of twenty dollars worth of weed. How much weed that is can vary a lot, but should be at least a gram (for good weed) or as much as three or four grams (for crappy weed).
Eighths, quarters or halves: These are fractions of an ounce, and are the most common units for black-market weed sales. Though sold in fractions of an ounce, they are measured in grams. An eighth is 3.5 grams; a quarter is 7 grams and a half is 14 grams.
O: An “O” is an ounce.
Nickel-bag or dime-bag: These aren’t really things anymore. People used to buy marijuana in $5 or $10 amounts called nickels or dimes. No one sells it like this these days.
Words! Words! Words! (And a Number!)
Note: This glossary attempts to include the most common words you are likely to encounter. There are many additional varieties and preparations of cannabis, and these more ordinary terms vary widely from place to place, so don’t be surprised to find some variation.
April 20: An unofficial holiday for marijuana, due to its association with the number 420 -- See Four-Twenty for more. You should know that this day is also celebrated by others for less savory reasons; it is both Hitler’s birthday and the anniversary of the Columbine massacre. It’s also the date Apollo 16 landed on the moon, Billie Holiday recorded “Strange Fruit” and Wisconsin Territory was inaugurated, in case you ever want some more pleasant factoids.
Blunt: A joint rolled from the emptied remains of a cheap cigar
Bong, bucket: A type of gravity bong in which a bottle with the bottom removed is lifted from a tub of water as the weed on top of the bottle is lit, resulting in air pressure inside the bottle pulling the smoke out of the hitter.
Bong, gravity: A smoking device that uses a receding water line, and the resultant air pressure, to pull smoke through the bowl. There are two types, a bucket bong and a waterfall bong.
Bong, water: Usually just called a bong, this is a common smoking device, in which water filters the smoke before it is inhaled.
Bong, waterfall: This is a type of gravity bong in which water is drained from a bottle as the weed (attached to the bottle via a hitter) is lit, so the resultant air pressure inside the bottle pulls on the smoke.
Brick weed: Marijuana that has been compressed into a brick for transportation. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but it is usually low-quality schwag. You’ll always need to break it up considerably to smoke it.
Bucket bong: See bong, bucket.
Cannabis: The Latin name for the genus that includes marijuana. Cannabis is used as a general word for marijuana, most common in European countries.
Cap: To place a lighter (or a flat stone, also called a cap) over a bowl after smoking it, in order to stop weed from burning by cutting off its oxygen.
Carb or carburetor: This is used synonymously with shotgun in the senses of the hole in the bottom part of a bong. These terms are very geographically oriented in the United States -- usually people in a given area call it either a carb or a shotgun, and they may have never even heard of the other option.
Chillum: This is the combination of a dugout with the wooden container it is stored in, along with the weed. You should use the chillum to fill up your dugout.
Dugout: This is a type of one-hitter, usually made of metal and constructed to look like a cigarette. Usually packed out of (and stored within) a chillum.
Four-Twenty (420): 420 is a number associated with weed for no verifiable reason. Many urban legends exist around it, but none are proven. There’s no secret around this, it’s just a number associated with weed. It’s considered traditional to get high at 4:20 in the afternoon (or even morning, if you’re awake then), and on April 20th (which is 4/20 when abbreviated in the American fashion).
Fronto leaf: A fronto leaf is a single large tobacco leaf, sold to use in rolling up a blunt. These are typically only available in New York City.
Ganja: Another word for marijuana, especially important as a sacrament in the Rastafari religion
Gravity bong: See bong, gravity
Green dragon: This is a tincture, a solution of alcohol in which marijuana (often the stems and seeds) are soaked. THC is alcohol-soluble, so it will leak out into the liquor, which can then be drunk. It is best to use Everclear or other very pure alcohol for this (and then obviously dilute it to drink it).
Grinder: A round metal device with several layers of grinding pieces, used to turn chunks of weed into easily-smoked marijuana.
Hash/Hashish: This is a refined form of cannabis, made from the trichomes (which is a part of a plant, if you are botanically inclined). It is purified into hashish, which can be wet and black or dry and brown or gray, or sometimes more pasty and red. It can vary a lot, but it does get you very high. It’s not that common in the US.
Hash oil: A substance made by using solvents to get the THC out of cannabis. It results in a resinous substance that is typically smoked through vaporizing -- this is called dabbing.
Hemp: This is a word for a type of plant, most commonly referring to the same species (or group of species) used to get high, but specifically those varieties grown for various industrial purposes, such as making rope. Hemp is very useful. The THC content is minimal, so you can’t get high off it.
Hitter: Also called a stem, this is the part of the bong the weed is placed in.
Hookah: This is a type of water bong that is meant for multiple smokers to use at the same time.
Hot knives: See spotting.
Hotboxing: The practice of smoking in a confined area like a closet or car, so that you inhale secondhand smoke over and over; this gets you very stoned very quickly
Joint: A piece of rolling paper filled with weed and then smoked
Kind Bud (KB): This is high-quality weed, with few or no stems and seeds, and a powerful and (usually) floral scent.
Marijuana: This is a very common name for smokeable cannabis. A more old-fashioned spelling is marihuana.
One-hitter: This is any marijuana device meant to be used by one person at a time (i.e. You smoke it until it’s empty, then refill it for the next person). Despite the name, you are not necessarily expected to empty it in one hit.
Pipe: A general term for any smoking device. They are usually called bowls when used for weed, except when being purchased (because it’s illegal to purchase them for weed).
Pot: A common name for smokeable cannabis.
Rastafari: Rastafari is a religion that sees marijuana (or ganja) as a holy sacrament. Note that while most Rastafarians you’re ever likely to meet are probably very nice people, there is a significant militant and extremist wing, who are often anti-gay, anti-white and/or anti-American. In the developed world, most people who call themselves Rastafarians have a minimal connection to the religion, and these people are probably fine (if annoying). However, you would probably not enjoy smoking ganja at an actual Rasta ritual outside of the touristy areas in Jamaica.
Roach: This is the last part of a joint or blunt, the part that is too small to be smoked
Rolling papers: These are small rectangular papers meant to be used to roll a joint.
Schwag: This is low-quality weed, usually with a significant amount of stems and seeds, and a dull, weak scent.
Seeds: The seeds of the cannabis plant must be removed before smoking it. Note: The urban legends that marijuana seeds cause infertility or other health problems are unverified rumor.
Shake: Shake is the powdery bits left over when breaking up weed. Shake gets you very stoned, so try not to waste it.
Shotgun: This word has several meanings, not all of which are necessarily marijuana-related. You may encounter any of these meanings around smokers, and they are all provided for your knowledge and amusement:
1: The hole on a Shotgun Bong or almost all glass bowls, which must be plugged (with a finger) in order to inhale.
2: The hole on a Stem Bong through which the stem is inserted. (Note: this meaning is really the same as the first one, it’s a hole in the bong; I include it separately because the same word is confusingly used for both types of bongs’ distinguishing features).
3: A smoking method in which one person exhales smoke down another person’s throat.
4: If you “shotgun” a beer, you poke a hole in the bottom so that the beer pours out and you have to chug it all at once, or spill it all over yourself.
5: If you call “shotgun!” before getting in a car with your friends, that means you have claimed the front seat of the car. The front seat is sometimes called the shotgun seat. The exact rules of the Shotgun Game vary widely, but generally everyone who will be in the car must be outside and in sight of the car before anyone is allowed to call shotgun. The driver decides all disputes.
Skunk: This is a type of weed (usually high-quality) that smells like skunk spray. High-quality weed can smell like virtually anything, this particular scent is noted here only because it might otherwise seem seem strange or wrong to newcomers.
Spotting: Also called hot knives, this is a means of smoking practiced mainly in New Zealand and elsewhere in the non-US English-speaking world. Weed, or hash, is simply pressed between two very hot knife blades, and the smoke is inhaled directly or through a spottle.
Spottle: A funnel-like device used to corral the smoke when spotting. Some people make fancy spottles, but they are typically just a bottle with the bottom cut out.
Stem: This is the part of the bong the weed is placed in. In one type of bong, the stem must be removed when you finish a hit; in the other, there is a hole (shotgun or carb) which you plug with a finger until you finish the hit.
Stems: The stems of the cannabis plant should be removed before smoking. The thicker and woodier the stem, the more important it is to remove it. Smaller, pliable bits of stem are impossible to thoroughly remove and aren’t bad.
Stoner: Someone who smokes weed a lot and/or someone who is often stoned and/or someone whose marijuana use unduly interferes with mental functioning
Straight pipe: This is a type of pipe that is a hollow cylinder it is the simplest kind of pipe. Examples include dugouts and small glass pieces.
Thai stick: This was originally a type of potent cannabis grown in Thailand. It is no longer grown there, but it was packaged by tying the buds to a stem, and sometimes dipping it into hashish oil (see hashish). Nowadays, any weed dipped into hashish oil is called Thai stick, and it is traditionally always tied to a stem, though it doesn’t have to be; the important part is dipping it in hashish oil.
Trees: A very common slang term for marijuana
Water bong: See bong, water.
Waterfall bong: See bong, waterfall.
Weed: A common name for smokeable cannabis
420: See Four-Twenty.
Legal (or semi-legal) cannabis is coming soon to a jurisdiction near you! Will you know how to act in this brave new world of marijuana tolerance? There are a host of unspoken rules and guidelines around marijuana use, and if you don't know what they are, you just might find yourself left out! If that sounds like you, this Toker's Guide to Excellence is exactly what you need! Inside you'll find a quick and easy read about weed, its use and the social mores surrounding it; you'll learn about etiquette, common taboos and proper behavior, how to buy marijuana, how to use it and how to sound like you know what you're talking about!