Smoking a joint is one of the most classic ways to consume cannabis, but it’s sometimes met with controversy when it comes to using cannabis medicinally. After all, inhaling hot, ashy cannabis smoke can cause irritation, coughing and inflammation of the tissues in your throat and lungs. Meanwhile, methods like vaping or using edibles tend to have fewer negative side effects. Still, some patients prefer joints to all other methods of consumption. In this article, part of a series for folks new to cannabis, we’ll look at why patients use joints and how to know if they’re the right option for you.
A joint is essentially a marijuana cigarette. It’s made by grinding up cannabis flower and then rolling the ground flower up in a piece of paper. The joint is then lit on one end, with the patient inhaling the cannabis smoke through the other end. Some joints are made with a crutch, which is a small piece of thick paper that’s folded and curled into a circle, and then rolled into the joint to hold open the end from which it would be inhaled. This keeps the passage of air flowing through the joint more effectively.
In lieu of a crutch, you can use filters like those intended for cigarettes, which both hold the tip of the joint open and filter out some of the particulates in the smoke. Joints are often similar in size to a tobacco cigarette, but of course can vary dramatically depending on the preferences of the person rolling them.
Joints are popular for a bunch of reasons. For one, they can offer quick relief because they begin to take effect within minutes of inhalation. They’re also one of the simplest and cheapest ways to use cannabis because they don’t require any expensive equipment or glassware like most methods of smoking or vaping.
Still, the most common reason I hear patients give for smoking joints is that it simply affects them differently than other methods do. In some cases, this can make all the difference with the cannabis effectively treating a condition.
I use cannabis for chronic nausea, for example, and while I’ve tried other methods of using cannabis—smoking from a pipe, vaping and using edibles, nothing seems to help with my nausea other than smoking joints. I’ve worked with others patients who report the same thing when it comes to nausea; they also tell me that they’re only able to ease their chronic pain, anxiety and depression by smoking joints.
This doesn’t mean that other methods of cannabis consumption may not work well in treating these types of symptoms and conditions. But if you’ve tried these other methods and found them lacking, you may want to consider smoking a joint.
While joints can be an easy and effective way to medicate, they do have their downsides. Joints produce smoke that can irritate the lungs, induce allergies and cause the symptoms of bronchitis, like chronic coughing and phlegm. If you have sensitive or compromised lungs, joints are probably not a good option for you. Even if you have a healthy respiratory system, if you’re able to use other methods effectively, you’re probably better off skipping joints, thereby avoiding its accompanying side effects.
Some folks worry that inhaling cannabis smoke could lead to increased risk of lung cancer, since cannabis smoke—like the smoke from tobacco—contains carcinogens. However, research suggests that cannabis smoke doesn’t actually lead to higher incidents of lung cancer. Other research suggests that cannabis smoke may actually decrease the likelihood of lung cancer developing.
That said, individuals who smoke more than a joint a day for over 20 years have a higher chance of developing certain lung problems, like difficulty with exhalation and inflammation of the lungs. While these side effects are relatively mild when compared to the effects of tobacco smoke, if you have effective, smoke-free options, they’re less likely to pose risks to your system in the long term.
If you find joints are the only effective way to medicate, you may want to learn how to roll a joint. A poorly rolled joint often doesn’t burn correctly—you may find the smoke won’t pull through, or that the joint burns unevenly. There are many styles of joint rolling, and if you want to learn to roll a joint by hand, one option is to find an experienced friend or budtender who will walk you through the process in person.
If you want to get started on your own, an easy method of joint rolling is to use a cigarette roller. This takes much less practice and coordination than hand-rolling and will deliver a perfectly formed, easy-to-smoke joint every time.
Check out our how-to video:
In the next installment of the Cannabis for Newbies guide, we’ll go over other popular methods used to smoke cannabis, specifically pipes and bongs.
Photo credit: Uriah West
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