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Worldwide Cannabis Part II: Smoking Pure Cannabis
The most common way to use cannabis is through combustion, by smoking it, but cannabis can also be vaporized, or ingested, or even applied through the skin.
Last month I analyzed the ways in which cannabis is consumed without combustion, and how these ways relate to different areas of the planet. But most of the cannabis consumed is actually burned, so this month I move on to the different ways to smoke pure cannabis, a practice diffused mostly in North America and Australia. In the next months I will cover smoking cannabis mixed with tobacco, a more Euro-Asian-African-South American practice.
History of pure cannabis smoking
The first documented smoking of pure cannabis happened in Asia, in the period between 6000 and 4000 ago. Different civilizations left traces of cannabis use in their tombs and artifacts, but the first historically documented cannabis smoking in Asia was done by the Scythians. They used to burn cannabis on a fire while standing around in a circle to inhale the smoke. In India, around 2000 BC, the dried flowers of the cannabis plant were crushed and burned on coals (fumigation) or smoked pure in straight pipes called â€œchillumâ€, which are still very popular today to smoke hashish mixed with tobacco. Back then, the chillum was used to smoke pure herb, or hashish mixed with herb. In the Andes of South America local tribes were smoking several mind-altering herbs as early as 5000 BC in their shamanic rituals; they were using rudimentary pipes, but it is not sure exactly when they started smoking cannabis. In the Middle East, before the introduction of tobacco around the year 1500, marijuana and hashish were smoked in a waterpipe called â€œhookahâ€ and they had a very important social role. Hookahs had several pipes stemming from a central chamber. With these devices many people could smoke together while socializing and relaxing. The Arabs also introduced cannabis smoking into Africa starting in the 11th century, and by the 13th century it was a consolidated tradition; soon the Ethiopians started spreading the use of a different type of pipe, the â€œcalabashâ€, a terracotta smoking bowl. In the rest of Africa most pipes were carved in wood or stone.
In North America smoking pure cannabis is a tradition inherited from the native tribes, who did appreciate the properties of the cannabis plant long before colonization begun. Cannabis smokers in North America always wanted to keep the herb separate from the tobacco, seen as one of the commercial reasons for cannabis prohibition. To this day most cannabis smokers in North America smoke their cannabis pure. In Australia this is also the case.
Pipes for smoking pure cannabis are usually made of glass, but many other materials have been used including bones, stone, marble, metal and wood. They can be used to smoke pure weed or pure hashish. The problem with smoking cannabis in a pipe is the relatively high temperature of the smoke entering the lungs, so the best pipes are those that allow the smoke to cool off a bit during its travel from the combustion chamber to the mouth, creating a smoother hit. Hot smoke can be very annoying because it makes people cough, and it is bad because it damages the lungs and the throat very rapidly. The main advantage of smoking from pipes is that there is no paper combustion, only smoke from cannabis is inhaled and nothing else. Pipes for cannabis smoking must be easy to clean because resin oils and residues can make the taste awful.
In Asia, Africa the Caribbean and Latin America the use of traditional pipes is still very common.
The pipe has evolved into the waterpipe, or bong, because smokers like to cool down the smoke as much as possible, allowing larger hits and increasing their intake possibilities. In a waterpipe the smoke travels from the combustion chamber through water then through a tube, and cools down considerably. But at the same time smoke becomes humid while traveling through water, something that can have a negative effect on the lungs in the long term.
Bongs have been very popular in North America and Australia since the 1960s, and in the 1990s their popularity grew to worldwide scale.
The word joint normally refers to a pure marijuana cigarette, the most common way to smoke in North America and Australia (while the word spliff indicates a mixed tobacco-marijuana cigarette, more common elsewhere). There are hundreds of different ways to roll a joint, according to oneâ€™s personal taste and background. Until the 1990s there were only three types of paper to roll joints: hemp paper and rice paper. Nowadays there are many flavored alternatives (grape, banana, strawberry, melon, chocolate, cognac, and many more), but they are not popular because they alter the taste of the cannabis too much. Some smokers like to roll joints using a filter or a carton-tip, but most of the times the paper is just rolled with cannabis inside and closed tighter and smaller at the mouth side, and wider at the end to be lit. During cannabis-based events joint-rolling contests are very popular, and there are many books available on how to roll joints in different exotic shapes. Very large joints are usually rolled and shared at large pro-legalization gatherings around the globe.
Most of the hashish consumed worldwide is miked with tobacco in cigarettes or pipes. But in north America and Australia people that smoke hashish, usually do not like to smoke tobacco. In a cannabis-smoking culture that does not want to mix cannabis with tobacco, smoking hashish is tricky, because of its form. The most practical way to smoke hashish is then in a small glass pipe. But since the 1990s more and more smokers prefer to roll their hashish in a small ball or stick and burn it the same way incense burns; as the flame extinguish, the smoke is available to inhale directly. This technique is popular in India, and it is easier to perform using oily hashish types (Indian, Nepalese, Pakistani, Afghan).
to be continued...
Franco â€“ Green House Seed Co.
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