Although the recreational use of marijuana is essentially illegal in the United States, about one in ten Americans light up at least once each year. Marijuana users experience the drug in a variety of ways, and various "tools of the trade" exist to facilitate consumption.
Whether one is smoking, preparing or growing marijuana, methods for handling the drug have evolved largely from the use and horticulture of tobacco. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) states that, in general, it is “unlawful for any person to sell or offer for sale drug paraphernalia,” which is why many shops selling such products can avoid wrongdoing by offering items for “tobacco use only.” Despite these efforts, many of these products have gained popularity almost exclusively within the marijuana culture.
So, what are some of the most popular marijuana “tools of the trade?” Click ahead to find out!
By Paul Toscano
Posted 13 April 2010
One of the more popular methods of experiencing marijuana is to roll the drug in papers specifically designed for smoking. Generally called "rolling papers," they are small, thin sheets that are filled with tobacco, marijuana or other herbs that can be rolled into a cigarette. Papers may come in various flavors and designs and are sold for the general purpose of tobacco use, but are often used for marijuana instead. Most general stores offer rolling papers for tobacco use, which generally sell for less than $3.
Blunts are different from rolling papers in that they are derived from a cigar by removing the tobacco and replacing it with marijuana. The term describes a certain type of cigar, but is used in reference to any cigar that has been re-purposed to contain marijuana. Blunts are generally larger and can contain more marijuana than rolling papers. Thus, blunts are often smoked by multiple users in one sitting.
Hookahs are smoking devices featuring long flexible tubes. Smoke is pulled through water, and thus cooled, before traveling through a tube and inhaled. Hookahs can have several pipes emanating from the central column, allowing multiple users to smoke from the same device without passing it around. Hookahs range in price from around $20 to as much as $600 for specialty models.
However, hookahs are more popular around the world for smoking various types of flavored tobacco, instead of only marijuana. In addition, marijuana smoked in a hookah is said to taint the flavor of tobacco in the device for future use.
Similar to hookahs, bongs are an air-tight smoking device that bubbles smoke through water, reducing irritation to the airways by absorbing heavier particles that would be otherwise inhaled. Bongs are generally blown from glass, but they can also be ceramic, stone or constructed from household products.
They can range in price — from $10 to $400 — and size — from several inches to several feet. Some retailers avoid the use of the term "bong" as the word itself suggests the intent to use marijuana, and label the products "for tobacco use only."
Vaporizers have come into popular use as an alternative to smoking marijuana. Vaporizers work by heating plant materials in a partial vacuum, which releases the active ingredients without combustion or smoke. This method is said to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, carcinogens such as carbon monoxide and tar. Use of a vaporizer also eliminates the possibility of second-hand smoke, unwanted odors and is more efficient as it requires less of the drug for similar effects.
Vaporizers can be purchased in the United States for as little as $100, but more complex systems can sell for $800 or more.
In order to most efficiently prepare marijuana for smoking or for use in cooking, “grinders” are used to dice the original sample of drug into smaller pieces. When smoking, a grinder creates better air flow and a more uniform burn, while also allowing for easier rolling when marijuana is used in a cigarette.
Hemp is the fiber derived from Cannabis plants and is used for a variety of purposes, including jewelry and clothing that are associated with marijuana culture. Hemp can also be used in the production of items such as rope, paper and food products, but it is generally recognized in popular culture for its use in necklaces and bracelets.
Although hemp can be derived from several members of the Cannabis genus, when used for commercial purposes, the strain of choice is not the same as is grown for marijuana use. Industrial hemp contains minuscule amounts of THC, while hemp from plants grown for marijuana production contain significantly higher concentrations of this active ingredient.
Lighters are an integral component of most popular forms of smoking, and they can come in various types. Most popular forms of marijuana use involve igniting the drug and inhaling the resulting smoke.
Lighters like those made by Zippo and other similar companies are manufactured with personality; while a variety of "torch" lighters have come into popular use, featuring flames of various colors. These torch-style lighters are also generally wind resistant, which makes smoking outdoors easier.
Legally sold in the US for the purpose of rolling cigarettes, rolling systems are simple devices that assist in creating a hand-made marijuana or tobacco cigarettes. By holding a rolling paper in place, the device allows even an inexperienced user to assemble a marijuana cigarette, commonly referred to as a "joint."
Although "joints" are generally rolled by hand without mechanical assistance, rolling systems offer a method for faster and more uniform construction. Rolling systems are quite inexpensive, with the highest-priced models in the $15 to $20 range.
For the ultimate marijuana enthusiast, cultivating one’s own plants can offer a cheaper and safer option in the US than purchasing the drug on the street. Seeds are sold in a wide variety of strains that grow best in several different conditions, including indoor, outdoor and greenhouse settings. Those who grow their own marijuana avoid running the risk of tainted drugs or unsafe purchasing situations. However, being that the legality of growing marijuana or possessing marijuana seeds varies by state, individuals engaging in this activity run additional risks.
Seeds sell for as little as $30, but can sell for upwards of $150 for packs of 10 seeds. Experienced marijuana users also know that they can take their own seeds from marijuana they purchase, although the quality of these seeds is less than those sold explicitly for this purpose. Most seeds flower after a period of between 7-14 weeks, depending on type of seed and growing environment.
The technique of hydroponic gardening has been around for centuries, and at its core, hydroponics is simply a method in which to grow plants through the use of a mineral-nutrient water solution instead of soil. The technique is widely used, from corporate America to NASA, as it allows for greater yield per acre than traditional farming. Hydroponics has also come into widespread use among marijuana growers because it allows for them to more easily cultivate a plant indoors, where detection by law enforcement is less likely.
There are several different hydroponic techniques and gardening systems can vary in complexity. For the indoor hydroponics that are typical for growers of marijuana, full systems can be purchased for around $550, but require multiple grow lights, which can range from $100 to $400 apiece, depending on size and power.
At the time of this writing, a search on Amazon.com yields 2,824 books on the subject of marijuana, including marijuana horticulture, "The Medical Marijuana Handbook," "The World's Finest Cannabis," "Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence" and "The Official High Times Pot Smokers Handbook: 420 Things to Do When You're Stoned."
The best-selling books on the subject discuss methods of growing, marijuana culture and the physiological effects of the drug on the body. With an unregulated market for marijuana in the US, individuals must educate themselves in order to avoid potential dangers for its use.
With many US companies increasingly screening job applicants via drug tests, evidence of the use of marijuana can seriously affect an individual's future employment.
A range of products exist to eliminate traces of marijuana use, from drinks and capsules to mouthwash and shampoos. Most drug tests in corporate America take urine samples, for which various "detox" drinks exist and act to flush traces of marijuana from an individual's system. Some drinks on the market can be used as little as one hour prior to a drug test, according to the manufacturers, and can sell for as little as $25, with more comprehensive kits selling for $70 or more.
Other screening methods include saliva swabs and hair samples. The manufacturers of some mouthwashes on the market contend that they wipe out traces of marijuana and other illegal or illicit drugs, while detoxifying shampoo products eliminate impurities that signal marijuana use from hair samples, both allowing individuals to pass these drug tests. Both mouthwash and hair products sell in the $30 range.