There are more ways to consume cannabis today than ever before. While the time-tested smoking methods that use pipes, bongs, and joints are still in practice, alternative means provide a different type of experience and are healthier for regular cannabis consumers.
Many of the new consumption methods are particularly relevant to those who enjoy cannabis concentrates. Concentrates are particularly favored by the younger demographic of users who, whether consciously or not, desire something beyond what their parents used when their age. Besides the standard hash and hash oil that have been around for generations, an array of new products provides a potent experience to those who use them. In this article, we’ll discuss the various options that today’s marijuana consumer has at his or her disposal when partaking in their favorite plant. Some of these methods are old—but many are quite new.
Whether you call it a bong, water pipe, hookah, or bubbler, all of these names refer to very similar products, most of which have been around for decades, if not centuries. Bongs are still extremely popular today because they are one of the best ways to enjoy a potent cannabis experience. Bongs come in a wide assortment of sizes, designs, and colors, but all of them rely on two constant things to work: water and dried cannabis flowers. The materials used to make a bong can range widely, from plastic to ceramic to glass.
Using a bong is simple. The owner fills the bong with water until it reaches an appropriate level. Many bongs have a design that makes it easy to add the appropriate amount of water, because the bong has a chamber for water and a chamber for smoke. Once filled with water, the bong’s bowl is ready to load with ground flower. Many bongs have small one-hit bowls, because users like a fresh single hit with each draw from the bong. This eliminates the unpleasant possibility of inhaling stale smoke. With a single-hit bowl, all of the people using the bong will have an equally good terpene experience, and it’s the flavors of various strains that are a huge part of a stellar cannabis experience.
All true bongs have a carburetor, which is one of the main things that separates them from some water pipes and bubblers. The purpose of the carburetor is to rapidly clear smoke from the smoke chamber. The most common carb design is a single hole incorporated into the bong’s design above the water line. The other type of carburetor is the slide design, which allows the smoker to slide the bowl off of the bong to achieve the desired effect, rapidly clearing the smoke chamber.
When the person using the bong activates the carb, water-cooled and filtered smoke shoots into his or her lungs, which expands in the lungs once inhaled. This often results in coughing once the smoke is exhaled. A bong provides a more profound cannabis high than if the same strain was smoked using a pipe. One or two hits is often all the user desires. Because the water filters and cools the smoke, replacing the water often is a wise decision. Changing it immediately before or after each use is a good standard practice. Stale bong water is nasty stuff, so avoid spilling it at all costs. The reek of bong water in a plush carpet is anything but good. And there is little doubt that more than one college fraternity pledge has been forced to drink bong water as part of the initiation process into the brotherhood.
A blunt is really nothing more than a joint, but on a grander scale. Simply stated, a blunt is a cigar with the tobacco removed and replaced with ground cannabis bud. This results in a king-sized joint that’s especially useful and appropriate in a group setting. For a size comparison, cigars are to cigarettes what blunts are to joints.
The flavor of a blunt differs somewhat from that of a joint because of the tobacco content. But it’s the cannabis flavor that shines through the most. Because of the aversion many people have for tobacco products, some remain faithful to the old-fashioned joint or a larger joint rolled with extra-large papers. Regardless of this, when a person breaks out a fat blunt, no one is likely to complain—definitely not those who enjoy cigars and cannabis. Many people who enjoy blunts like to use flavored wraps to enhance the overall taste of the blunt.
To make a blunt, many people merely empty a cigar of their liking and replace the contents with ground flower, rolling it tight like a joint to ensure the blunt is filled firmly and consistently. Just like a poorly rolled joint, a poorly constructed blunt is prone to uneven burning, including “side burns” that burn down one side of the blunt rather than evenly down its entire length. Many people have a preferred brand—like Swisher Sweets or Backwoods—from which they construct their blunts. You can also purchase empty wraps to create blunts, and they are widely available.
Compared to bongs and blunts, vaporizers are somewhat new to the cannabis world. There are valid reasons why many people consider them to be a superior method of enjoying cannabis. Vaporizers produce vapor, not smoke, and vapor is thought to be less harmful to the lungs than smoke.
Vaporizers also provide a superior terpene experience. They allow the user to enjoy all of the terpenes in a richer, more flavorful cannabis experience. The superior flavor extends to several draws from the vaporizer, so more than one person can enjoy the same high-quality flavor. When smoking, the first person to light the cannabis enjoys the best flavor, which is why many people “corner” the bowl when consuming with friends. Vaporizers definitely extend the flavor.
There are two varieties of vaporizers. Some are designed to vaporize ground flower, and some are intended for use with cannabis concentrates. There also are portable vaporizers that vaporize both flower and concentrates, but these usually require alternating between two separate chambers, because the flower and concentrate chambers are designed differently. It pays to shop wisely when purchasing a vaporizer, because many of them are imported from China and are not very high quality.
Vaporizers come in tabletop and portable designs. Tabletop versions include highly regarded models like the Volcano, which is intended for use with ground flower. Volcanos are especially useful in a group setting with several people, and the quality of vapor produced is very good. In the portable vaporizer category, brands like PAX consistently receive high marks for design, vapor quality, and durability. The PAX 3 is useful for both flower and concentrates. The interchangeable concentrates chamber works quite well, and if it breaks after extended use, replacement chambers are available. The PAX Era is a sleeker design and is intended only for use with pre-filled concentrate cartridges that are sold separately at designated dealer locations.
Vaporizer pens, including the PAX Era, are extremely popular. There are varieties sold for ground flower, but the concentrate pens are the main draw in the vaporizer pen department. The reason for their popularity is immediately apparent once you use one. Not only are they compact and small in size, but they also are potent and discreet. Some pens are “auto draw,” meaning that vapor releases whenever the user draws from the mouthpiece. Other varieties require the user to turn them on and use them once they’ve heated up. These pens come in a wide variety of colors and slip easily into a small purse or pocket. Vaporizer pens come in two parts: the battery and the oil cartridge. The battery is the main section of the pen shaft, and it’s rechargeable for repeated use—although some disposable pens do exist. The cartridges made for vaporizer pens come in a standard size that fits a wide variety of pens. Some cartridges are not compatible with auto-draw pens, so it pays to ask dispensary personnel about compatibility issue when purchasing either pens or cartridges. Vaporizer pen cartridges (referred to as “pen carts” to some cannabis enthusiasts, particularly those in the cannabis industry) come filled with hash oil in either 250 mg or 500 mg sizes. Many of these cartridges contain strain-specific oil, so buyers have a choice of purchasing sativa, indica, or hybrid oil cartridges.
For a full-power cannabinoid experience, dab rigs are extremely popular. Although there are a variety of ways to consume dab concentrates, the classic version is a tabletop design that holds water and operates in a similar manner to bongs, but vaporizes concentrates, while bongs produce smoke from cannabis.
Dab rigs are for use with specific concentrates like oil, shatter, wax, and crumble. Hash is not a good choice for dab rigs and is better smoked on its own or as a bowl topper. To use a dab rig, a butane torch is necessary to heat the dab nail to a high temperature. Then, usually using a dab tool, a small portion of concentrate is put on the nail to produce thick vapor, which the dab rig user inhales through a mouthpiece.
Using a dab rig results in an extremely strong cannabis experience, and often only one draw from a rig is necessary for the desired effect, even among seasoned cannabis consumers. This equals several draws from other types of cannabis devices.
The options available for consuming cannabis are vast, with new designs emerging and entering the market regularly. Whether you’re an old-school baby-boomer who enjoys smoking a bong or blunts, or a millennial who only uses a vaporizer or dab rig, there is a method or device out there to please everyone. Simply select your cannabis or concentrate wisely and enjoy!