Marijuana Smoking Devices

Man Smoking Secondhand Smoke
Photo by: andrey olenik/Shutterstock

Bubbler or apple? Bong or blunt? E-nail or nectar collector? Rig or one-hitter? CHILLUM. While marijuana bongs have long been sold under the auspices of tobacco water pipes, the changing legal and social landscape surrounding cannabis is finally allowing some head shops to call the products what they are: weed smoking devices.

While the perception of interchangeability between smoking devices (they all do the same thing) prevents some users from ever trying the best bongs, we can contribute some of the confusion surrounding marijuana smoking devices to the illegality of marijuana: it is all paraphernalia in the eyes of the law.

And even though people love being able to geek out on their new toy, a novice would see a honeycomb percolator to 4 arm tree bong and just think “that’s a complex marijuana bong” before ripping from it with the same physical force you start a lawn mower with.

Today, the landscape for weed smoking devices has evolved, complementing the concentrates industry in new and exciting ways while riding sidecar in the expanding marijuana-friendly population. Many of the best bongs these days can easily be converted into hash-burning dab machines, though I feel like I am limiting the scope of cannabis combustion tools by going on about marijuana bongs so much. Let’s take a look at some of the more common type of weed smoking devices.

Vaporizers

Vaporizers invaded the market with wide popularity as an alternative to cigarettes in the mid-2000s, but the concept of vaporization is much older than this. In the US, the first patent for an electronic vaporizer was filed in 1927. In as early 500 AD, hookahs were introduced, wherein a coal was placed on a metal cage that housed tobacco or other herbs. When the user inhaled, the air surrounding the hot cold transferred into the tobacco chamber, heating it and creating a vapor. But as far back as Herodotus’s Historys in the 5th century BC, there are accounts of vaporizing substances and inhaling the smoke-like vapor. So, like I had said, nothing new.

Weed smoking devices are trending towards vaporizers for several reasons related to the negative effects of smoking. There are two different ways you can vaporize a substance, and in order to better separate vaporizers from marijuana bongs and pipes, I have defined them for you:

Convection: To pass thermal energy through and around a gas or liquid (think popcorn being roasted in a hot pot: popping as the air heats, thus passing the heat from the air to the food)

Conduction: To pass thermal energy through and around a solid (think about that hot pot I mentioned above, it is likely sitting on a burner, warming the pot which, through conduction, heats the air within the pot, forcing a change from corn kernel to popcorn)

The best weed smoking devices out there have grown to include the vaporizer category. There are three examples that best sum up the types of vaporizers for marijuana.

  • The Vape Pen: As opposed to the best bongs, vape pens come in a variety of shapes, sizes, prices, and functions. Some can burn flower, some hash, some oil, and some that do all three. There is also a trend of refillable cartridges on reusable batteries, fitted to an almost industry standard, allowing for consumers to purchase different brands while not having to worry about purchasing a battery with each cartridge.
  • The Dab Rig: The dab rig, like a marijuana bong, requires the user to pull the smoke/ vapor through a chamber of water. Dabbing any form of concentrate requires that you vaporize the wax on a hot nail (AKA conduction) and inhale the vapor by pulling it through the water chamber. Are not made to handle flower
  • The Volcano: While boasting a high price, the cone shaped vaporizer uses convection to push heated oxygen through the buds into a reservoir, where the user can toke from at will. Since this option doesn’t crudely burn the plant matter, it is considered far less toxic than traditional smoked marijuana. Aside from the high cost, these units are perfect for the flower smoker who medicates at home (not the most portable or discreet, you understand).

While not comprehensive, these three varieties offer a glimpse at the varieties of vaporizers out there and how they are different from the best bongs and pipes.

Combustion

When we talk about weed smoking devices that harness combustion, we are talking about the more traditional smoking methods. While there is a multitude of factors that set them apart from vaporizers, combustion methods largely rely on a heat source that burns well above the boiling point of the cannabinoids in your bud. A joint, for instance, is estimated to burn at over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit when the active ingredients are boiled out around 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Many of the negative health aspects associated with inhaling smoke produced via combustion are the result of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) being chemically destroyed by heat and oxygen. In this chemical exchange, we are left with:

  • Carbon (ash)
  • 12% cannabinoid substances
  • 88% non-cannabinoid byproducts

PAHs are established in animals to be carcinogenic, and there is good evidence linking the effect of PAHs to lung, skin, bladder, and gastrointestinal cancers in humans.

Though long term effects of smoking cannabis have been shown to not significantly affect the lungs, the status of three PAHs in particular (benzene, naphthalene, and toluene) and the carcinogenic effects on the body when inhaled are a major consideration for some cannabis enthusiasts.

But c’mon, be honest. . .If you are faced with having to use a marijuana bong to deal with pain while you fight lung cancer, the cost of taking medicine this way may include more carcinogens, but the alternative is super addictive opioid-based pain killers. What would you choose?

Rolled Up

Joints, Blunts, and all the variations in between. Would you like a joint shaped like a cross? What about rolled with gold? How about a honey blunt? With many dispensaries carrying pre-rolls, you can get all of those and more. If you are more of a home-rolled kind of smoker, our friends over at Livwell can offer you a one-stop shopping experience.

Disposable/ Edible

If you’ve ever used an apple or poked holes in a soda can — this category of weed smoking devices speak to you. For the impromptu (or unprepared) smoker, these methods work for smoking, though not as well as the rolling a joint or using your marijuana bong (apple juices can make your weed hard to burn).

Hand Pipe

As you can imagine, these pipes can fit in your hand, although they can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Weed smoking devices in this category also include weed smoking devices such as chillums and one-hitters. They are easily portable, vary in price, and some even look more like a work of art than weed smoking devices.

Marijuana bong or water pipe

While the best bongs vary based on user preference, marijuana bongs all have one thing in common: they pull the smoke through a water filled chamber. The smoke is thought to be cooled by the water, making it less harsh on the lungs. Some of the best bongs out there boast multiple chambers and utilize various types of percolators to assist in diffusion. Bongs designs can be classified into three subsets of weed smoking devices: traditional, angular, and custom, and they vary extensively in price.

Bubblers

A bubbler is the mid-point between hand pipes and marijuana bongs. The best bubblers, like the best bongs, feature a chamber where the smoke is cooled and are often more portable than marijuana bongs available on the market today.

Hookah

Similar to the best bongs, hookahs utilize a water filled reservoir that the smoke passes through on the way to the users lungs. The main difference is in how a hookah allows for multiple users simultaneously via individual hoses. Some hookahs can have up to 8 hoses, allowing for extremely long smoking sessions. Myself, I like to add some buds in with the shisha for a long-lasting cannabis hookah session.

by Joey Wells