In this new article for Suzy’s Cannabis World Blog, we compare cannabis smoking with vaping cannabis and edibles (food products containing THC). When talking about smoking, we also address the European situation in which most of the cases cannabis is used in combination with tobacco.
This year it’s 15 years ago that the inventor of the first cannabis vaporizer died: Eagle Bill. Since then, numerous models have been developed and entered the market. A market that proves difficult to conquer in Europe. Most people in Europe who use cannabis will do so with tobacco. Depending on which side of the Atlantic ocean you live, mixing your cannabis with tobacco is either frowned upon or is common practice. It remains to be controversial and thus worth looking into before we delve into vaporizing.
Global Drugs Survey
Unlike the Canadians and the Americans, most popular in Europe is to mix cannabis with tobacco. The 2014 Global Drugs Survey found that no less than 90% of cannabis consumers in the Netherlands do so with tobacco. As opposed to 10% in the US. Only in New Zealand it was also quite low at just over 20%. In Australia it was slightly more than half. The rest of Europe, on average, all used to mix tobacco with cannabis in their joints. On average over the entire 2014 Global Drugs Survey, 70% of respondents use tobacco in their joints.
History of cannabis and tobacco
Cannabis and tobacco each have a long history of being consumed by humans for various reasons. According to Wikipedia, tobacco has been around since 5000-3000 BC, while cannabis has been around even earlier: 8000 BC.
But to zoom in on the Western civilization, tobacco was introduced in Europe in the 17th century through colonial expeditions. Expeditions that could not take place without hemp and it’s versatility to be used for the rope and sail production, for the record.
Tobacco was expensive at first and was mixed with other herbs, like (industrial) hemp. Those who could not afford tobacco, would just smoke hemp. The latter is depicted in a 350 year old painting by Hendrik Martenszoon Sorgh, which you can go see in the Hash Museum in Amsterdam.
With first hashish in the 50’s, later flowers, imported through the harbors of Antwerp (Belgium) and Rotterdam (Netherlands), here the practice of mixing cannabis and tobacco gained popularity again in times where people were less concerned about their health (or simply didn’t know).
Long before the Dutch started growing themselves, everything was imported and generally mixed with tobacco. To this day, you will find pre-rolled joints in Dutch coffeeshops with cannabis flowers (or hash) and tobacco.
Around the same time cannabis was introduced in the Netherlands (as a smokable drug), the Spanish population was introduced to cannabis through their soldiers coming back from missions in Morocco and bringing hashish. It also made it easier for the younger generation to explain cannabis to the elderly population, as they remember the soldiers bringing it. To this day, Spain still has several territories in North Africa.
Why mix cannabis and tobacco?
But why mix your organically grown (or bought) cannabis with tobacco, unhealthy for many reasons? First and foremost, Europeans still do not have access to a legally regulated market. Prices are still high and much like their Golden Age counterparts, they mix it with tobacco to stretch their stash.
Some may have tried to smoke cannabis without tobacco, but just ended up coughing their lungs out. On the one hand this might be because of black market cannabis, on the other hand it might be because there’s a substance in tobacco which keeps you from coughing.
There’s also a big bunch out there that just really likes the unique effect of a blend of cannabis and tobacco. In fact, a study published in 2009 found that to maximize the intake of THC, you should only add a minimum to (a lot) of tobacco. Which completely goes against any common sense, for most people that is.
A more recent study from 2017 concluded that the combination may actually reduce the damaging effects cannabis can have on memory.
And while cannabis legalization might be on a roll in North America, finding a spot where you can legally consume could still prove difficult. Which is why some people have gone as far as mixing their cannabis with tobacco, much like their European counterparts:
“Say you live in a Seattle apartment that doesn’t allow smoking. Consumption in public is illegal. Cannabis cafes don’t exist. What do you do? If you’re like a lot of people, you smoke in a tucked-away spot, in the rain, where you hopefully don’t bother anyone else. To the degree you’re worried about a ticket from the police, smoking something that smells more like a cigarette can be reassuring. (Please don’t break the law and blame me, but for real, what is everyone else doing out there?)”
Furthermore, the author also states it burns better and gives similar reasons to the ones mentioned earlier in this article.
A Swiss company has even gone as far as producing cigarettes containing hemp in addition to tobacco. There’s even a company in the United States which has patented mixing cannabis and tobacco. Here’s the patent application for those who are curious. And chillums, invented in India, is still the most common practice to consume hashish (usually hand rubbed Charas) in India. With over a billion people, it belongs in this summary of present day applications of mixing cannabis and tobacco.
Coffeeshops in the Netherlands
Already before the corona crisis started, the Dutch announced their plans for banning indoor tobacco smoking. Fortunately, an exception was made for the coffeeshops. Cannabis with tobacco may no longer be smoked in the coffee shop. What is allowed is pure joints or with another herbal mixture. And vaporizing course.
Up until July 1st coffeeshops weren’t allowed to have visitors, but since then have opened up again. Well some of them. You will find most coffeeshops have decided for themselves to no longer have visitors. Of course you can still smoke tobacco at home as much as you want, but in the coffeeshop you will really have to smoke pure or with a vaporizer.
Vaporizing is better for your health than smoking
One of the things I struggled with when I brought a vaporizer with me was the social pressure. Nice to have a vaporizer, but everyone would like to try it for themselves. Lending your personal vaporizer to someone you know (or stranger) felt like giving them my cell phone. Give it back quickly! Did you know that the feeling you get when you forget your phone at home is the same feeling people have who miss a limb?
I often felt like a kind of ambassador for the vaporizer. In itself logical, because I have now reviewed countless. Sometimes nice, but the countless questions were sometimes quite irritating. And I preferred not to lend it to that stranger. Also because it always had to be from my weed, of course, or their own mess, but also because of hygiene. Before the corona crisis you were labeled a freak. Now it is the most normal thing in the world.
In addition, vaping is simply better for the lungs. The Bureau of Medicinal Cannabis (BMC) advises patients to vape or make tea, but absolutely not to smoke. The crisis shows how fragile our health is and the more important it is to take good care of yourself. That is possible, also as a cannabis consumer.
Vaporizing is also more efficient: when you vape cannabis (this includes dabbing) about 75% of the cannabinoids will be used, while 25% you will not be able to use. While with smoking, about 25% of the cannabinoids in your weed will be obtained and 75% will just burn up.
If you’re concerned about your health, it is recommended not to mix cannabis and tobacco. In fact, smoking anything (even burning cannabis) will make you inhale toxic substances. Instead, opt for vaporizing or edibles.
If you’re concerned about whether your cannabis is organically grown, you’re a hypocrite if you still mix cannabis and tobacco, as tobacco is known to be infused by a plethora of (chemical) substances.
Tobacco use also leaves a smell on your fingers, in your clothes and in the room. And gives you a bad breath. And whether you smoke with or without tobacco, you also inhale carbon monoxide which reduces your ability to take in oxygen.
Because when you smoke, you will reach a staggering 2204 degrees Celsius (4400 Fahrenheit). When you vaporize at temperatures between 160-220 degrees Celcius (which is most common), you don’t produce carbon monoxide and other harmful compounds.
Even better for your health and efficiency than vaporizing is edibles. Edibles can last 6 to 10 hours. The latter is also why for medicinal cannabis patients it is better to ingest the edibles just before sleeping, as patients aren’t looking for the psychoactive effects.
What happens when you eat an edible (which contains THC), is that the THC will be metabolized by the stomach and liver, creating 11-hydroxy-THC.
11-hydroxy-THC is better at going through your bloodstream and reaching the cannabinoid receptors in your brain. And that in turn is what gives the lasting effect and the sense it is ‘stronger’.
Because you put no strain on the lungs at all, it’s even safer than vaporizing.
In the future
As cannabis becomes more accepted throughout the world and tobacco continues to be demonised, prices of cannabis will continue to decrease while prices of tobacco will continue to increase. As such, the financial argument will cease to exist. Instead, you might still be able to buy your cigarettes, but they don’t contain tobacco but hemp (with little THC). Like Sherbinskis’ (the creator of Gelato) new terpene infused hemp pre-rolls.
And as cannabis also becomes legalized in Spain and the Netherlands, those pre-rolls (and the habit of mixing) might cease to exist as it is unlikely the cannabis shops will continue to be able to sell a product containing harmful tobacco.
In addition, edibles, concentrates (for dabbing) and pre-filled cartridges (with hash oil) will give the consumer more options to consume cannabis other than the option of with or without tobacco.
Some outlaws or longtime consumers who have been mixing cannabis and tobacco all of their lives, will probably continue to do so until their death (likely of a lung disease). It’s their own choice after all. While newcomers, much like the present Americans, will look upon you alienated when they catch you in the act of mixing cannabis and tobacco.