How to Smoke Cannabis

Cannabis is usually smoked and this is perhaps the most controversial aspect of its use which is understandable because smoking anything carries health risks. But as always there are things you can do, there are ways of smoking which reduce the potential for harm greatly.

important information about smoking


Smoking cannabis with tobacco
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. Smoking with tobacco is the most harmful way to consume cannabis and is the single biggest health hazard cannabis consumers face.

Toke Pure
UKCIA safer smoking campaign


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 well as small particles known as PM10's, which are small enough to get right down into your lungs. As a general rule of thumb, the less smoke you breath in the better.

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. You can read our critique of that report here, as well as the original report. There have been a whole series of other studies which have demonstrated that cannabis smoke contains a lot of cancer causing chemicals, for while it began to look like cannabis was really dangerous to smoke and the prohibition groups made a lot of noise about it.

But studies of real populations of cannabis users have failed to show the lung damage everyone expected to see the Research Library and as the NHS accepted in 2011 there is "no conclusive evidence that cannabis causes cancer". THC - one of the main chemicals in cannabis seems to have anti cancer properties which may account for this unexpected finding.

But - and it's a big "but", this only applies to smoking pure cannabis, not - as most people still do - mixing it with tobacco in joints. Tobacco certainly does cause cancer and other lung damage, as well as being highly addictive.

UKCIA has been asking the government to run an information campaign about the dangers of using cannabis mixed with tobacco similar to Toke pure, but they refuse to do so for reason that simply do not make sense.

It's very important to understand that UKCIA doesn't claim cannabis is harmless, but because of prohibition scare after scare claiming serious dangers have been made, most of which have been shown to be false. It's been like shouting "wolf", many people simply don't believe government warnings anymore.

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 either. The government line is simplistic; "there is no safe way to smoke cannabis", that's as maybe, but tthere are certainly safer, less harmful ways.

Smoking does have one big advantage 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.


Using a vapouriser (or "Vape") isn't really smoking, they don't burn the cannabis and so there is no smoke but they're included here because the experience of using them is similar to smoking.

a vapouriser

A typical vapouriser

There are two types of vapes: Those that use cannabis concentrates dissolved in a vape fluid and those that heat raw hash or grass. The first type are not recommended as there is no way of knowing what is being sold as cannabis (UKCIA has heard reports of vapes containing SCRAs - Spice etc). Also the vape liquids may be dangerous in their own right.

The best type of vapouriser and the sort UKCIA recommends is a device that simply heats up cannabis to a temperature above the boiling point of the active ingredients, but below the combustion point of the plant material.

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

There are many vapouriser designs which cost from around £40 for the basic type up to several hundreds of pounds for more advanced models. The best include extra features such as a temperature control.

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.

As with smoking, vaping cannabis makes it easy to control how much you take

Read a study of the effectiveness of vapourisers here
This website about vapourisers is worth checking out: "VaporizerWizard"

Smoking pure cannabis

one hit pipes

You don't need to mix cannabis with tobacco to smoke it and it's far better if you don't. "One hit" pipes such as those shown above allow you to use just the right amount of cannabis you want without wasting any and without taking too much.


Probably the best way to smoke cannabis, 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. But if you do this NEVER use an aluminum can because aluminum 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 the hole, 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, especially if they're not 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 breathing in. 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 inefficient way to smoke, wasting a lot of the stash but it does remove the heavy tar in the 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 enthusiasts claim home made ones are the best. Creating a bong is an area where many cannabis smokers take a pride in their creativity.


A female flower

A female cannabis flower


Another hardcore "slam" way of smoking that involves water but 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.

here 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.


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.


This requires a large beer glass so probably is not a practical method for non-Europeans and it really only 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! Hot knives only 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 one 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.

Safer smoking tips

If you make home made pipes or other contraptions there are some important things to be aware of.

Some things give off toxic fumes when they get hot - don't use rubber tubes, plastic bottles for anything that might get hot.

Pipes or cans made of aluminium might be especially dangerous and aluminum vapour is linked to really nasty brain damage - see here.

Be wary of cardboard/paper that has printing on, or paper covered in plastic.

Breathing in huge quantities of smoke isn't a good idea, neither is keeping 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

Tobacco methods - Joints, Chillums

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 common way of using cannabis however, so you will come across it.


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 lasting decades.

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 evolved around the sharing of joints back in the 60's and 70's and 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. Tobacco is highly addictive and smoking cannabis mixed with it often leads to severe tobacco addiction. 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 do otherwise. Tokers who give up tobacco usually find they use far less cannabis as a result.


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 as huge amounts of hot tobacco/cannabis smoke are taken straight into the lungs.

Smoking with tobacco is not recommended, see Tokepure

Non-tobacco smoking herbs

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 told UKCIA he uses dried parsley. It started some years ago when he gave up smoking (tobacco) and someone recommended dried parsley as a substitute.

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 list of herbal smoking alternatives is here

But UKCIA can't recommend any of these non-tobacco alternatives. While they don't contain addictive nicotine, they do contain many other comounds which are not good to breath in, as well as lots of small PM10 particles of course.