|Pipe and joint smokers enjoy twice the efficiency of water pipes, but vapes are even better.|
In the midst of the black market Vape Crisis that has killed and injured numerous Americans, a large number of adults with normal fears - even in a regulated, legal marketplace - are returning to smoking or vaporizing cannabis flowers. Smoking may ease one’s mind, but that joint or bowl of state-regulated cannabis isn't as toxin-free as you might think. Dr. John McPartland believes toxins created by the combustion of cannabis can be considered contaminants. (1)
Don't get upset. The good news is that the toxins aren't actually in your cannabis. Regulated cannabis markets protect consumers by requiring inspections and product quality testing of every crop, so you're safe there. It's when you burn and smoke it that the trouble begins.
McPartland believes that smoking potent cannabis is paramount for those who do smoke. In a 2001 journal article he stated, “marijuana smokers have implemented several strategies to decrease exposure to smoke contaminants. The most important strategy is to smoke high-THC cannabis.” (1)
Of the more than 200 thermal degradation products in cannabis smoke (not found in cannabis), several gas phase toxins are removed by smoking through a water pipe. (2) This is welcome news for water pipe lovers as some of those toxins are nasty carcinogens just waiting to cause trouble in your body.
The Bad News
A 1996 Water Pipe Study found that consumers smoking joints and pure pipes inhaled an average thirteen parts tar to inhale one part THC (13:1; 92.8% tar), while water pipes removed so much THC that the ratio averaged twenty-seven to one (27:1; 96.4% tar), tar to THC, with the worst water pipe coming in at a ratio of forty to one (40:1). (3) Essentially, those choosing to consume with a water pipe ingest an average of twice the flower (and tar) to ingest the same dosage of THC.
Dr. Dale Gieringer, Ph.D., the architect of the tar study above, suggests that cannabis consumers should use a vaporizer and get a ratio of only ten units of tar to every one unit of cannabinoid (10:1; 90.9% tar), a clear advantage over combustion. (3) In summary, a consumer ingesting cannabis via vaporization will consume 5.5% less tar and less than half as much flower as they would with a water pipe to achieve a given high. In contrast, the same consumer could ingest the same amount as consumed with the water pipe and propose to get twice as high. It’s all relative.
1) McPartland, J.M., (2001). Contaminants and Adulterants in Herbal Cannabis. In Grotenhermen, F., Russo, E.B. (eds). Cannabis and Cannabinoids. Haworth Press, Binghamton, NY. pp 337-343.
2) Huber, G.J., First, M.W., Grubner, O. (1991). Marijuana and tobacco gas-phase cytotoxins. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. 40(3):629-636.
3) Gieringer, D., (1996). Marijuana Research: Water Pipe Study. Bulletin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. 6(3):59-66.