So You’ve Decided To Purchase Weed

A friend of mine recently sparked the idea for this article when she told me about her recent trip to Denver. Her host, a college buddy, took her to a recreational marijuana shop, because when in Rome. They purchased a small amount of weed—LEGALLY!!!—and gleefully brought it back to their apartment, only to find themselves staring at the friendly little buds with bewildered expressions. Casual but not regular users of pot in college, neither of them had ever had to roll a joint, pack a bowl, or any of those other mildly scandalous verbs. For them, it was the equivalent of standing in front of a sack of potatoes holding a martini glass.

And such is the case for thousands of similarly passive users who are now exercising their new rights to buy recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington. Should you smoke it rolled up in a joint or spliff? Perhaps using a glass pipe or bong? Using something simpler, like a one-hitter, or something expensive, like a vaporizer? Your choice might vary based on factors like how many people you’re smoking with, and how comfortable you are with handling the ganj.

[Note that this is more of a guide for people who have smoked in the past. Things to remember if you have never smoked marijuana before: start with a little bit; remember to gulp the air, almost as if you’re swallowing it; know that it’s okay to cough; and remember to eat/drink something. Don’t do what this guy does... or do, because it’s fucking hilarious (it’s not crack, sir!!).]

For starters, regardless of your smoking device, you’ll need to grind down that pretty, conical green bud. Many people who use weed regularly have a grinder of their own, which allows you to break a bud into a few smaller pieces and then grind it within a range of fineness—say, French press to espresso. Others, myself included, who haven’t gotten around to investing the $25 in a small grinder, use their fingers. I usually break a bud into manageable pieces—around the size of a pea or smaller—and then rub the piece between my thumb and forefinger with all the delicateness of a French chef crushing some dried thyme over a steaming coq au vin. If you go for this chez stoner approach, be sure to crush the bud over a smooth surface so it’s easy to sweep up and won’t get stuck in any crevices. An open magazine works nicely for this.

Now, to choose a device. If you’re just looking for a tiny toke and you happen to be near a corner store that sells tobacco products, it’s worth investing in a one-hitter, also know as a “porcelain cigarette.” True to its name, it’s painted to look exactly like a cigarette, but it’s typically made of metal (someone realized porcelain was too fragile for pot smokers). Very sneaky, if you’re trying to fool any friends who also don’t happen to have a sense of smell. The great thing about a one-hitter is that it’s easy to pack and even easier to use. All you need to do is gather up some of the bud you’ve just crushed—a coarse grind works in this case—and stuff the front of the cigarette (the end of the white part, where there’s about a half-centimeter well) until you can’t fit any more in there. I had a friend who would simply plunge the one-hitter into a jar of weed to simultaneously crush and pick up bits to stuff the front, which is a little barbaric, but to each his own.

To smoke your stuffed one-hitter (which is actually a misnomer, as you can usually get 2-3 small hits out of it), simply light the front end with a lighter and inhale gently. The one-hitter might get a little warm because it’s metal and thermodynamics something something something, but only the weed itself will actually light. You’ll have to repeat this with each hit, holding the lit lighter in front of the weed without jamming the flame into the front well, so the pot inside gently burns. To clean out the residue after smoking, simply hit it against something hard. I recommend a brick wall. One-hitters can get a bit gunky, but you can boil them in some vinegar to loosen the crud inside. And you know those pipe cleaners you used to love in art class? They’re not just for homemade ornaments anymore!

My one-hitter, whom I call "Trusty Rusty"
My one-hitter, whom I call “Trusty Rusty”

If you’re planning on sharing with multiple friends or if you just want to smoke a lot of weed (no judgment), you might want to consider packing a bowl or bong. Here, you can be a little coarser with your grind. You just want to pile a bunch of little pieces of bud into the bowl or well of a glass piece, almost filling it up. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend purchasing a giant bong, especially if you’re an infrequent user or you have grandparents who like to drop in unannounced, but if you have one to use, this helpful video will show you how to smoke from it.

I personally prefer smaller glass pipes, as they’re easier to store and clean (see one-hitter cleaning instructions, minus the brick wall part), and they come in a wide variety of styles and colors. My beloved pipe is beautifully glass-blown to look like a hedgehog: the underside is the bowl, the tail is the mouthpiece, and the mouth is the air hole (also known as a “carb”). I keep it on my mantle, and no one’s the wiser…

Ain’t she a beaut?
Ain’t she a beaut?

Smoking from a pipe is pretty simple but takes a little bit of practice: hold it in one hand, with a finger covering the carb, and have a friend light the bud; or if you’re feeling coordinated, do it with your other hand. As you see the green bud glowing merrily, inhale gently, still covering the carb. Then, release the carb and inhale a little deeper. All of the smoke that’s accumulated in the pipe will now be in your lungs! Be careful not to produce too much smoke before you release the carb, though, because coughing a lot is way less fun than being high.

The last and (I think) most visually classic method is the trusty joint. This is when you’re going to want to use that grinder or those fingers to their full extent, really pulverizing your weed. You’ll want to get rolling papers for this. My favorite brand is OCB, though I’ve heard those are tricky to get in the US. But any brand will do! Simply lay out a single rolling paper horizontally, with the tiny adhesive strip on the far side, facing up. Carefully place your finely-ground weed along the fold of the rolling paper, then even it out, leaving a pinkie-nail length of empty paper on one end. That will be your smoking end. Carefully pick up your loaded cargo and take the fold between the thumb and forefinger of your hands. Give the weed in the paper a little pinch from below, to try and pack it into this long cigar-shaped form. (You can use a little or a lot of weed, but remember: the more you put in, the harder it is to roll. And you can always roll another!)

Pre-loaded joint/spliff rolling paper
Pre-loaded joint/spliff rolling paper

In theory, what you’ll want to do next is very gently shift that packed weed roll toward the non-adhesive end of the rolling paper, so it’s primed to roll within the paper all the way up to the adhesive end. This step requires a lot of finesse, so don’t throw it against your wall in a fit of rage if you don’t get it right the first time. That would be very wasteful of you! I like to hold the end of the paper with my thumbs, sticking my forefingers atop the weed at either end, and resting the whole operation on the rest of my fingers. I use my thumbs to lift the paper up and over, and then I use my forefingers to tuck in the weed. Once there’s a reasonably tight seal, it’s easy to finish rolling the joint, licking the adhesive to completely seal it up. This sounds much more complicated than it is, so here’s a video demonstrating that same process.

Then I tuck in a roach, which is a little piece of poster board-weight cardboard that usually comes with the rolling papers, rolled up and stuck into the end where you left a little empty space. Truly great joint-rollers will stick this in while they’re rolling, so if you’re feeling ambitious, experiment away. If you find that your joint is too loose, just re-wrap over it with another rolling paper!

A professionally-rolled joint, with roach
A professionally-rolled joint, with roach

Obviously, if you’re only using a small amount of weed, and especially if you’re double-wrapping, it can feel like you’re smoking more paper than pot. Because of this, my go-to rolled choice is a spliff (mixed marijuana and tobacco), which requires either buying some rolling tobacco at a corner store or, if you’re in a tight spot, bumming a cigarette from a friend. Yes, cigarettes are definitely bad(!), so I recommend using rolling tobacco if you can get it, which is still tobacco, but has fewer nasty chemicals. I never use more than a third of a cigarette’s worth of tobacco in a shared spliff, anyway; and also, you’re already smoking, so, let’s talk about the pot calling the kettle black (ZINGAHHH!!!). The rolling process is obviously the same, although you’ll have more product to roll since you’re mixing tobacco with the weed. I like to pre-mix to ensure evenness when smoking, either stirring the pulverized weed in a jar with the tobacco or just mixing it with my fingers on the same open magazine, before piling it into the crease of my rolling paper.

I recently visited a city where weed purchasing is, if not totally legal, then at least ignored. There, I purchased a pre-rolled, monster-sized spliff, which I took apart to show you its guts:

Notice how nicely the little weed pebbles are mixed in with the tobacco strands
Notice how nicely the little weed pebbles are mixed in with the tobacco strands

Of course, if you’re in the middle of the woods or you don’t have any of the aforementioned devices, you can go all high-school and make a bong out of an apple. I’ve tried it before—it’s not as delicious as you might expect, but it gets the job done.

Happy toking!! Don’t eat too many frosting sandwiches! Uh-oh, I’ve said too much.

Photo by Gali Levi-McClure
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