Using Cannabis

Smoking Cannabis

Back in 2002 the British Lung foundation (BLF) published a report called “A smoking gun” which made serious claims about the health risks of smoking cannabis. Later research has failed to support many of the more extreme claims made by the BLF, but unlike the enthusiasm shown for reporting the “Smoking Gun’s” claims, the later research was all but ignored in the British media.

However, UKCIA would welcome a factual information campaign about the possible dangers of using cannabis and we highlight some of the points made in the report in our “Risks” section, especially the added risk posed by the use of tobacco.

UKCIA doesn’t claim that cannabis is harmless, but because of prohibition scare after scare claiming serious dangers have been made, most if not all of which have been shown to be false. It’s been like shouting “wolf”, many people simply don’t believe government warnings anymore. It’s also worth pointing out that real world studies don’t back the alarmist claims

Also because of prohibition safer ways of smoking, such as pipes or vapes are themselves dangerous things to have because of the risk of arrest. Their use is hardly encouraged in government “educational” material such as Talk to Frank.. UKCIA is running a campaign called Toke pure to encourage safer ways to use cannabis.

OK, so before we go any further let’s be clear; smoking anything isn’t good for you. Smoke contains a lot of chemicals, tars and oils. As a general rule of thumb, the less smoke you inhale the better.

Smoking does have one big advantage over the other method of using cannabis – eating it. Because the effect of cannabis is felt quickly when smoked, it’s far easier to gauge how much you’re using which means it’s easier to stop when you’ve had enough. That said, it’s not an instant hit as the government’s “Talk to Frank site claims.

Cannabis has traditionally (in the UK) been smoked in a tobacco mixture, it’s strongly advised that you do not mix cannabis with this dangerous and addictive drug. It is still the most popular way of using cannabis however.

How to smoke Cannabis

Tobacco methods
Smoking cannabis mixed with tobacco isn’t a good idea, although it’s been the way cannabis has been used in the UK for some time.

Tobacco free methods
Smoking cannabis without the killer weed


Toke Pure
UKCIA safer smoking campaign

Tobacco methods – Joints, Chillums

Joints are cannabis cigarettes. Perhaps still the most common way cannabis is used in the UK despite the serious effects of tobacco on health. Smoking joints when young has often lead to a tobacco habit amongst cannabis users.

A joint is essentially a cigarette rolled with a tobacco cannabis mixture. Joints are bigger than cigarettes though and have a rolled up bit of cardboard at the mouth end called a roach or sometimes (wrongly) a “filter”.

Joints (or spliffs) are a sociable way of sharing cannabis, there’s no doubt about that and much of the UK cannabis culture has evovled around the sharing of joints.

Joint rolling became an important part of the ritual of getting stoned, but it’s a ritual worth breaking.

Tobacco smokers claim the tobacco “dilutes” the cannabis, making it easier to spin a stash out over time but that isn’t true as tobacco is highly addictive. Smoking cannabis mixed with it often leads to severe tobacco addiction and cannabis users who smoke this way often roll a joint to satisfy the tobacco craving, rather than to get stoned. This leads to them smoking much more cannabis than they would otherwise. Tokers who give up tobacco usually find they use far less cannabis as a result.

Chillums are basically a clay or stone tube which is filled with a tobacco cannabis mixture, very popular in India. These have to be the worst method of smoking health wise as huge amounts of hot smoke are taken straight into the lungs.

Smoking with tobacco is not recommended. Tokepure

A female flower
A female cannabis flower

Other safer smoking tips

Be warned that some substances give off toxic fumes when hot – try not to use plastic bottles, aluminium containers, and be wary of cardboard/paper that has been printed on for instance.

Do not inhale huge quantities of smoke and try and keep it down in your lungs for as long as possible. You won’t get much more stoned, but you will help coat your lungs in tar and other unpleasant materials

One way to smoke a joint without using tobacco is to use another combustible but non toxic substance mixed with the cannabis.

Mike from Glasgow uses dried parsley (The type that can be bought in supermarkets in a small jar e.g. Schwartz brand). It started some years ago when he gave up smoking (tobacco) and someone recommended dried parsley as a substitute. He’s not smoked a single tobacco cigarette since unlike previous occasions when he”gave up” tobacco but drifted back to it because he was still using it to make a joint. The ‘parsley’ method works equally well with hash or grass he says.

Commercial non-tobacco smoking mixtures are available.

But although these “herbal mixes” do avoid the use of tobacco, they still involve breathing in large amounts of smoke, so are probably just as unhealthy as tobacco, just not addictive.


A typical vapouriser

Although not commonly used in the UK at present, the healthiest way of consuming cannabis is undoubtedly via a vapouriser.

A vapouriser is a device that heats up cannabis to a temperature above the boiling point of THC but below the combustion point of the plant material so it doesn’t trally count as smoking.

As a result of this the psychoactive ingredients which get you stoned are released into a vapour for you to inhale but almost all of the unwanted side-effect chemicals you get when burning cannabis can be avoided. Research has shown that vapourisers can create a gas which is at least 95% pure cannabinoids.

There are many vapouriser designs which when bought cost from around £40 for the basic type up to several hundreds of pounds for more advanced models, which may include extra features such as a temperature control. People have also made their own vapourisers using heat sources such as soldering irons or lightbulbs.

Vapourisers are particularly good for medicinal users as they allow them to use cannabis regularly with the benefits of administering it by smoking without suffering the harmful effects of the tars and other unwanted chemicals. In addition vapourisers can be so efficient that significantly less cannabis needs to be used for the same effect.

Read a study of the effectiveness of vapourisers here
This website about vaporisers is worth checking out: ” Vapouriser Information Resource “

Here are some tobacco free methods of smoking cannabis:

Smoking without the killer weed, tobacco

You don’t need to mix cannabis with tobacco to smoke it and it’s far better if you don’t. Apart from the well known health risks of tobacco such as lung cancer, it’s a nasty addictive drug as well. There are many people who started smoking cannabis when young, decided they didn’t like getting stoned and stopped, but were left with a tobacco addiction as a result.

Smoking Cannabis without tobacco also means you breath in far less smoke, so any potential for harm is greatly reduced. The last time UKCIA asked the government about this we simply got the reply “there is no safe way to use cannabis”, but then,when have the government ever told the truth about the herb?


Probably the best way, pipes come is a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from small “one toke” varieties to very fancy things indeed and they can be shared around in the same way as joints.

Essentially, a pipe is a bowl to hold the hash or grass with a tube to suck on. An improvised pipe can be made from a beer can by flattening the side, punching a few holes and sucking through the opening on the top. However, NEVER use an aluminum can for this as this metal has a very low melting point and the fumes it gives off are very dangerous

The longer the stem the better, as this allows the smoke to cool and the heavy tars to condense out before you breath them in. A pipe which has been in use for a few weeks will soon become full of thick sticky tar and will need cleaning out.

There are some clever designs – such as the “credit card” type which are great for easy maintenance

Fastening a pipe to a tube and bubbling the smoke through water cools the smoke even better.

Some pipes have a “shot hole”. The idea is you suck in the smoke and then take you finger off thehole, allowing the smoke to shoot into your lungs. This gives a quick “hit” which gets you stoned very quickly. Be caeful with this sort of pipe.

Be aware that with all forms of toking that involve a “shot hole” you may get too stoned too quickly and some people, espeically if they’r enot used to it, can find this unpleasant and maybe disturbing. “Slam” smoking isn’t really advisable.

Water pipes and Bongs

A bong - a water pipe with a shot hole

Water pipes are pipes where the cannabis smoke is bubbled through water and then into an expansion chamber before inhaling. This has the effect of cooling the smoke and to some extent filtering it by removing the heavy tar elements.

Some studies have claimed this is an inifficent way to smoke, wasting a lot of the stash but it does remove the heavy tar inthe smoke.

Water pipes may or may not have a shot hole, if they do, they’re called a “bong”.

Bongs get you stoned much quicker than joints particularly if there aren’t many people sharing the hits. Bongs deliver much more smoke in one hit than a pipe or water pipe so inexperienced smokers might find they get too stoned too quickly,

Bongs can be bought commercially but enthusisasts claim home made ones are the best. Creating a bong is an area where many cannabis smokers take a pride in their creativity.


Another hardcore “slam” way of smoking that involves water but this time the smoke isn’t passed through the water so there is no water cooling effect. However, the smoke is cooled because of the way it works by drawing the smoke into a lower pressure expansion area.

The basic equipment is 2 large plastic bottles, however one needs to be slightly larger (for example a 1.5l and 2l bottle) than the other for reasons that will become apparent. Also thicker bottles like those that orange cordial comes in rather than cola bottles are better.

First take the smaller bottle and cut the base off and take the larger one and cut the top off it around the point where the neck begins to taper off. The smaller bottle should now sit inside the larger one. Take the lid off the smaller bottle and fit a bowl from a pipe containing a steel gauze (available from headshops). Now fill the larger bottle with water and place the smaller bottle inside it and place your herb on the gauze.

Light the cannabis and the slowly draw the smaller bottle up so that the smoke is sucked down inside the smaller bottle. Continue raising until the bottom of the smaller bottle is just below the water line and the smoke is all trapped inside it. With practice you will learn just how much cannabis to use so that it all burns and you have a full bottle of smoke.

There are two ways to get the smoke out the bottle, both require you to remove the gauze first, being careful not to spill any unburned material, them either push the bottle back down into the water and slowly inhale the smoke as it is pushed out. Alternatively place your lips around the bottle and pull it out of the water whilst rapidly inhaling it.

Be careful not to get the plastic hot, breathing the fumes in is dangerous.


This requires a large beer glass so probably is not a practical method for non-Europeans and reallyonly works with hash.

Take a piece of modeling clay and put a needle into it so that the sharp end points out. Place this near the edge of a table, break off a lump a cannabis resin and impale it on the needle (heating it gently first might help). Then place the lump of cannabis in the flame of a lighter until it burns and quickly place the glass over it. If the cannabis is actually on fire at this point quickly blow the flame out first, you just want it smoldering not actually burning. The glass will then fill up with smoke, leave it until no more smoke is coming from the cannabis. Then slide the glass to the edge of the table and suck the smoke out of it.

Hot Knives

Be careful when doing this one it easy to burn things like yourself and it’s avery good way to get those “blim burns” on your clothes! Again, it only works with hash.

Heat the tips of two knives in a gas flame until they are very hot. You may need to pick them up using a cloth if they are all metal. Prepare a small lump of cannabis to smoke and put it on a surface that wont burn or that doesn’t matter if it does.

Take on knife and lower it on to the lump, if the knife is hot enough it should stick to it. If so take the other knife and trap the cannabis between the knives. As you push them together the cannabis burns and the smoke can be inhaled, often using a tube such as an empty biro, so your face doesn’t get too close to the hot metal. It’s not the simplest way of smoking cannabis and requires some skill but done properly it can be very effective.


You need a pipe bowl and gauze, plastic bottle and plastic bag

Simply cut whatever size bottle you want in half, then take a carrier bag and tape up all the holes that may be in it. Otherwise its best to use a binbag.

Then place the base of the bag through the bottle neck, cut the handles off and fold it over so that the entire bag is in the bottle with some left flapping over the sawn off part of the bottle.

Then put the cut off piece of bottle to your mouth and blow down it to make the bag inside air tight. Then tape that flapping parts of the bag over the outside and try out the suction either by sucking and trying to pull the bag down or holding it on your palm and pulling.

Put the pipe bowl with gauze into the part of the bottle you would drink from. Make sure its tight on but also easy to get off so you can suck the lung.

Simply crumble cannabis onto the bowl place it on the bottle neck and burn it with a lighter, as you do this pull the bag down if it has good suction the bottle will fill with smoke. Then take the bowl off and suck the smoke from the lung.

Effects of Cannabis

The effects
what’s it like to get stoned?

Cannabis can be fun and very enjoyable, but as with any form of drug taking it’s important to keep it in its place. As these things go cannabis is pretty safe for most people, but nothing on earth is totally safe and cannabis is no exception. Getting stoned can lead you to be creative and to solve all sorts of mental challenges, but it won’t automatically do this, it can lead you to waste hours and hours watching junk TV. If you decide to get stoned, use it, don’t let it use you.

Always treat cannabis with respect and never abuse it. If you do get a bad reaction from getting stoned, don’t keep using it in the hope these bad feelings will pass.

So just what does cannabis do? How does it make you feel? That sounds like an easy question, in truth it’s anything but.

This first thing to know is that cannabis comes in many different varieties, which all have different versions of the same effect, versions which can be almost poles apart in some respects. Unlike almost every other recreational substance, cannabis is not a single drug, what it does is down to the combined effect of several active chemicals (drugs) and different strains of the plant have different ratios of these active chemicals. Because of this, some types of cannabis are laid back and dreamy, others are edgy and very “uppy”.

Cannabis is classed as a mild psychedelic, a mild version of the type of drugs which include LSD. This is possibly misleading as it’s nothing like LSD, cannabis doesn’t produce full on hallucinations, although it can alter your perception of the world around you. You may notice things you never noticed before, find deep complex patterns in things – especially music – and you may misunderstand things.

To try and describe what it is like to feel stoned to someone that hasn’t been there is very difficult, in a way it’s a bit like getting drunk in that it’s an intoxication, but the first thing to know is it is nothing like being drunk in the effects it has.

Whereas being drunk can change the personality of the drinker and make him or her unaware of who and where they are, Cannabis users are very much still “there” and aware of the world around them although, as we say, that perception may be changed.

Unlike getting drunk on alcohol, you are always “in control” with cannabis unless you get really hammered and fall asleep, but the world can feel distant and conversation can become difficult. Movement can be difficult and reaction times are slowed. Other people might think you are being vague and not paying attention, you might talk a lot or you might go very quiet. You might find strange things funny, or you might find you’re suddenly very concerned about what others think of you.

Sometimes you can experience a dose of paranoia, known as “the horrors” by seasoned stoners. This can be quite unpleasant and a few people find it always happens when they get stoned. If you’re one of these people, cannabis probably isn’t for you. Some types of cannabis are more likely to produce this unwanted effect than others, perhaps due to the ratio of THC to CBD.

If you toke a lot quickly, or especially if you toke after drinking a lot of alcohol, expect to “whitey”. The colour drains from your face and you can pass out, whities aren’t nice. But other than that, you are very unlikely to be sick when you get stoned, despite the claims made by the Talk to Frank anti drug campaign.

What follows is a summary of some of the things you can expect to happen if you get stoned. Of course, everyone is different and as we’ve explained, different types of cannabis produce different overall effects.

Keener perception: An increased appreciation of music or images. This is what people mostly use cannabis in a creative way for. Music in particular can sound very much more intense and elements of the music stand out. The governments anti drug site “Talk to Frank” puts it this way: “users can find hidden depths in daytime television/ the most unlikely song lyrics”. This is probably true, but by no means the full story.

A remoteness: people talk, but you miss what they say, things seem “distant”.

The munchies: a feeling of hunger. Be careful of this one, it can lead to midnight raids of the ‘fridge! It’s also one of the therapeutic effects of cannabis, particularly for cancer sufferers undergoing chemotherapy. This is one of the effects overplayed in Talk to Frank’s information however, it’s not that overpowering.

Thirst: coupled with a dry mouth and throat; it’s a good idea to have some fruit juice around, but not alcohol for best effect.

A feeling of increased empathy:, peacefulness and relaxation, oneness with nature and so on.

A definite feeling of slowed time, minutes can pass in a matter of hours, if you see what I mean.

Trancing: Getting stoned whilst dancing is an aspect of cannabis use which has been understood for a long time.

Downsides can include

Paranoia: Fear of what others think of you, or of who you are. Again, not something to overplay but this is a fairly common thing to happen from time to time. If it happens a lot, cannabis isn’t for you.

Forgetfulness: You easily forget things when stoned, especially things which have just happened or more frequently that you have just thought about.

Laziness: Cannabis is good for slobbing out and watching the world go by, be careful not to let it do that too much

Cannabis compounds

The Overgrow website site used to list these components of cannabis before it was closed down:

THC: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol & delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol – THC mimics the action of anandamide, a neurotransmitter produced naturally in the body, which binds with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain to produce the ‘high’ associated with marijuana. THC possesses high UV-B (280-315 nm) absorption properties.

THCV: tetrahydrocannabivarin – prevalent in certain South African and Southeast Asian strains of cannabis. It is said to produce a ‘clearer high’ & seems to possess many of the therapeutic properties of THC.

CBD: Cannabidiol – previously believed to be psychoactive, or to contribute to the high by interacting with other cannabinoids, conversely the most recent research indicates that CBD has negligible effect on the high, it is however a strong anti-inflammatory, and may take the edge off some THC effects, such as anxiety. CBD as a non-psychoactive cannabinoid appears to be helpful for many medical conditions. CBD biosynthesizes into cannabinol (CBN) & tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

CBN: Cannabinol – a degradation product of THC, produces a depressant effect, ‘fuzzy’ forehead.

CBC: Cannabichromene – non-psychoactive , a precursor to THC.

CBG: Cannabigerol – non-psychoactive, hemp strains often posses elevated levels of CBG while possessing only trace amounts of THC.

A cannabis flower

It’s a plant

Where and when?

Getting stoned before you go to work or college isn’t a good idea. Although there are people who use cannabis to aid their concentration, being stoned will not in itself make you good at doing something, indeed, it’ll do quite the opposite.

Cannabis isn’t like alcohol and doesn’t give you a false confidence, it can affect your short term memory whilst stoned though and your reaction times are lengthened, so using machinery or driving whilst stoned is not a good idea and may be dangerous. Dealing with work colleagues can be difficult and intimidating if you’re stoned.

Make sure the location is good – getting stoned in a threatening place can also lead to the feelings of paranoia.

If you want to get stoned, do it after work, in a place you feel safe in with people you feel safe with.

So there you have it, sort of.. Getting stoned is a personal thing though. The feelings you experience are also influenced by the amount of cannabis you take and its strength, the environment you are in and maybe the people you’re with, also your emotional state before getting stoned is important.

“Hashish absorbed in large quantities produces a furious delirium and…predisposes to acts of violence and produces a characteristic strident laugh…[with habitual use] the countenance of the addict becomes gloomy, his eye is wild,and the expression of his face is stupid…his intellectual faculties gradually weaken and the whole organism decays. The addict very frequently becomes neurasthenic and eventually insane.”

Dr El Guindy, Egyptian delegate, second International Opium Conference, 1924 (it’s not true, don’t worry).