The Alternatives to the Joint Are Not a Hit

Rolling a joint is a sacred ritual that’s an integral part of my cannabis use. Like most stoners, I have my preferred way to roll, and without the right materials, it’s unlikely the joint will be fully satisfying. The rolling paper must be rectangular, approximately four inches in length and one inch in height. If I don’t have long papers, I stick small skins together to make the required size – I call rolling papers “skins.” They have to be thin paper too, almost transparent, because I don’t want to taste them as I’m smoking. My current favourite brand is RAW.

About ten years ago, I switched to loose tobacco so that’s what I use to roll, preferring the bushier leaves at the top of the pouch, as they have a smoother taste. I smoke hash, and given the choice will choose an oily Kush as opposed to the drier pollens that have become popular in recent years. Rule of thumb: if it’s necessary to burn the hash before crumbling it, it’s bad hash. It’ll get you stoned, but it’s still bad hash. The more the hash sticks to your fingertips, the better its quality. Hash in its purest form is resin so it should be oily and sticky, that’s when you know it’s dank as fuck.

The roach is really important, as a bad filter can destroy the best of smokes. When I first started smoking, we used to rip the inside flap from a box of cigarettes, roll it into a spiral and use it as a roach. Postcards and club flyers also work well but they have to be right paper weight for optimal results. About five years ago, some bright spark had the idea to produce pre-cut roaches, and that’s what I use now. Again, I use RAW, and like their subtle woody taste. All of these items can be found in my stash drawer at all times, as all of them serve a pivotal role in my smoking life. In other words, without them, I can’t get stoned.

Or I can get stoned, but it’s not the same high, doesn’t satisfy my cravings, leaves me wanting more. This is one of the key features that differentiates so-called recreational cannabis users from users of other substances slash drugs: we’re really fussy about our chosen mode of consumption. Junkies will take heroin in any form available, shooting up fentanyl if that’s all they can get. Cokeheads will snort any powder when they’re clucking. Likewise, speed freaks and pill heads will crush up anything that looks pharmaceutical. The cannabis user is far more selective, and must have the preferred strain, and right paraphernalia to fully enjoy the experience.

The more entrenched your preferred mode of consumption is, the more it becomes an extension of your personality. Making a change to it feels as disruptive as being asked to change your personality. This is what I’ve discovered in recent months as I struggle to quit smoking tobacco. I quit tobacco two times in the past, and on those occasions I didn’t struggle so much with my cannabis use because I simply gave it up too. This time I’m trying to find a way to replace my joints with an alternative mode of cannabis consumption, but it’s not working. If anything, it’s making the process of quitting tobacco more frustrating. Here are some of the alternatives I’ve tried, and their rating in terms of cost, convenience, and satisfaction/high.

Mint Leaves

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Lots of people are eager to recommend dried mint, eucalyptus or raspberry leaves as a substitute to tobacco. Let it be known that they are a very poor substitute, and also possibly just as bad for you as tobacco. First of all, any smoke going into your lungs is a bad thing so don’t bother fooling yourself that some kinds of smoke are better than others. Preliminary studies suggest that smoking cannabis does not harm the lungs in the same way tobacco does but further studies are needed. It’s also difficult to roll with mint leaves, making it a challenging task for anyone who doesn’t have dexterous fingers. The mint has a harsh taste that cuts the back of your throat and makes inhaling uncomfortable. There is nothing pleasurable about this experience, meaning you end up stoned but also grumpy.

  • Cost: Low
  • Convenience: High
  • Satisfaction: Low

MJ Brownies

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My brownies are so good that once I eat one, I tend to eat two or three. Yes, I clearly have self-control issues – I’m working on it – but when two addictions come together, in this case chocolate and cannabis, resistance is absolutely fucking futile. I’m exaggerating. It’s possible for me to make a batch, put them in the fridge and eat as need be, but I’ll probably eat a bit more than I should, and before I know it I’m off in another planet. Certain factors will also increase the potency of an edible high. If you eat edibles with a meal, or exercise afterwards, the high will be stronger. In short, anything that boosts your metabolism will boost the high.

Eating cannabis is far more potent than smoking it, which means it’s more important to get the dose correct. I have a high tolerance to THC, but there have been one or two days where even I have exceeded my limits, finding myself suddenly red-eyed at the gym, or floating on a walk with the dog. However, by eating cannabis, I have come to fully appreciate its healing powers, and fully understand that it’s a drug. In the last two years, I’ve corrected my gut issues with edibles, and also use them to soothe muscle ache after a workout. They’ve eliminated my belly bloating, regulated my appetite, and my sleep, and improved my skin health. But if you’re going to eat cannabis, you have to know how to dose correctly if you want to function normally during the day.

  • Cost: High
  • Convenience: Low
  • Satisfaction: Too High

Cannabis Oil

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I was sure this was going to be the option that would work best for me. I was wrong. It was a disaster. First of all, this is currently the most expensive way to consume cannabis because you’re smoking pure resin, which is costly to produce. The extraction process is lengthy, involves expensive extraction equipment, and different processes produce different qualities of oil. Rick Simpson Oil, which Rick started making in the early 2000s, is the most famous kind of resin, and is made with butane, producing a thick oil, 100% THC, with the consistency of treacle, and a smoked earth taste. With the growth of the cannabis industry, there are new extraction options including BHO, the Rick Simpson method using butane, as well as cleaner options such as CO2 and ethanol. Each process produces a different oil, resin or rosin.

Because we’re still in a very grey market, getting access to oil with consistent quality is practically impossible. I have a contact, and was sure what I was getting was good but not so. The oil came in the form of a cartridge, which was attached to a vape battery. The first morning I pressed the button five times as is the norm with vapes but nothing happened. I kept pressing the button, leaving it for a moment, and trying again, sure it was fully charged, and no clue what was wrong. Finally, I managed to get one hit from it, and it was nice. But it wouldn’t work again. I returned to my guy who graciously provided me with a replacement. This time the device worked but the oil didn’t. I smoked it for two days, and it had no effect on me. 0.5ml of oil is approximately €55, and if it works, the high is smooth, clean and long lasting. The chances of it not working are high due to the inability to check the source of the oil. Legal markets are tackling these kinds of problems but prices and quality still vary widely. This Canadian store charges $45 for 1ml.

  • Cost: High
  • Convenience: Low
  • Satisfaction: Low

CBD Oil

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There’s an urban myth that CBD oil can be used to quit nicotine. This is bullshit. Yes, it’s possible to vape CBD oil as an alternative way of smoking but it’s only going to be satisfying if you’re not doing it as a substitute for nicotine. Smoking CBD oil will not make you feel particularly calm, nor will it stop your cravings. As of yet, the only thing we know for sure about CBD is that it’s effective on kids with epilepsy. Any other claims are based on animal tests, hearsay or wishful thinking. That said, there are millions of people using CBD to treat all sorts of ailments from anxiety to diabetes, and seeing great results. If you’re just looking for a way to just consume CBD, a vape oil is both inexpensive and effective.

  • Cost: Low
  • Convenience: High
  • Satisfaction: Low

Smoking Flower

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In the same way that a beer guzzler has little in common with a wine connoisseur, those who smoke herb are not the same as hashheads. This has a lot to do with market forces but has evolved into cultural differences over time. Traditionally, weed was exported from Mexico to the States, meaning most North Americans prefer green, and tend not to smoke it with tobacco. In Europe, Moroccan hash dominated for decades, and became the norm. So, it’s fair to say North Americans prefer green but a growing number of Europeans are smoking bud these days, too, meaning now the differences are subtler. In Europe, smokers of bud tend to be growers, or have some special plant knowledge or connection to the industry. A selection of bud and oil users are ex-tobacco smokers looking for a healthier option. For many daily users, hash is preferred because it’s the cheapest way to smoke.

I grew up smoking hash, and it’s only in recent years that I’ve developed a relationship with the plant by learning how to grow it. When I smoke my own flower, I’m not thinking about cost because the only direct cost is the seed, which is €2 to €5 depending on the seed. Maintaining a daily habit when you’re not a grower is expensive, as bud costs approximately €5 to €10 per gram. The average cannabis users consumes two grams per day, adding up to a potential €20 per day of flower. Because hash can be crumbled onto tobacco it lasts much longer, meaning €20 of hash, 3 to 5 grams depending on the generosity of your dealer, can last days, if not a whole week. The real reason we smoke hash mixed with tobacco in joints is because it’s affordable. Taste and the high are important but affordability comes first.

  • Cost: High
  • Convenience: High
  • Satisfaction: Medium

Why We Smoke Joints

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The harsh truth is we smoke joints with tobacco because it’s the cheapest way to consume cannabis, and they satisfy two cravings, giving you an extra bang for your buck. Most of us started smoking as teenagers, or in college, meaning these habits were formed when we had no money. Unlike other addictions, such as gambling, cocaine, or even alcohol, maintaining a daily hash habit is relatively inexpensive if you’re also a tobacco smoker. Most of us have jobs that make the habit affordable, and know at least one or two reliable dealers. For those of us who know where to get it, it can be easier than buying alcohol, and usually a more pleasant experience due to the friendly relationship between buyer and seller. I made the decision to start exploring new ways to consume cannabis because I wanted a substitute to tobacco. Turns out, there isn’t one, and searching for an alternative is a fool’s gold.

  • Cost: Low
  • Convenience: High
  • Satisfaction: High

 

WHAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE?

What brands are part of your smoking routine? What’s your experience of using alternatives to the traditional tobacco joint? What alternative is your favourite, and why? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

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