Sick of smoking? Try this instead

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

You might love to get high, but not everyone’s lungs appreciate being cloaked in clouds of smoke. Maybe you’re sick of coughing like you’re hacking up a lung every time you take a big hit. Perhaps you’re grossed out by the soggy end of a passed-around joint. Maybe you’ve dropped and smashed one too many glass bowls. Well, you’re not alone. And lucky for you, there are multiple non-smoking means of ingesting cannabis available here in Colorado. We spoke with Lance Gollihugh, budtender at Santé Dispensary and Max Progar, master grower and manager at Colorado Grow – both proponents of the use of cannabis recreationally and medically – about all the different ways to blaze.

Please note: We don’t endorse overdoing it, so practice safety first. “My advice is: ‘Always take the smallest effective dose,’” said Gollihugh. “Overshooting things can lead to horrible reactions. Find the baseline dose for yourself first, then we’ll work on getting you high.” The continued stigma surrounding marijuana use still frustrates Gollihugh, who regularly speaks with older customers in Santé admitting they take Vicodin or Oxycodone to deal with physical pain. He believes herb is much safer than doses of narcotics. “In the end, the idea of incorporating cannabis into somebody’s lifestyle doesn’t mean derailing it,” he said. “My customers are runners, weightlifters, MMA guys, mountain bikers. I don’t want cannabis to live with the stigma of the slouchy stoner slacker! We’re a great community of really active people.” Here are few ways to ingest weed without the help of a bong, bowl or joint.

VaporizingVaporization is a technique by which you avoid unhealthy smoke toxins by heating cannabis to a temperature just below the point of combustion where smoke is produced. With vaping, THC and other medically active cannabinoids are discharged without the carcinogenic tars and gases found in smoke.

Pros: Vaping is of the healthiest forms of smokeless cannabis consumption. Using a vape reduces your smoke intake by almost 95 percent, since the weed is being burned at a much lower temperature, which means less tar and carcinogens enter your body. “The big argument for years has been the particulate matter, the carbon, the charred matter is really the worst for you,” said Gollihugh. “People who’ve been smoking joints cough, and you might as well be smoking filtered cigarettes. But with vaping, it’s a natural resin, so your body can handle it a heck of a lot better. It’s got infinitely less chemicals and treatment than anything else. For older customers, if they don’t want to do edibles, I do think vaping is the most logical solution – it’s less harsh, less damaging.” Your throat most likely won’t even burn afterward and there’s hardly any smell (so no reeking of smoke! Very discreet). Progar claims the high is different, too. “I personally feel like it gives you a lot more mellow of a high – more of a head-high rather than getting the full-on body effect you would if you were smoking dry flower.”

Cons: When smoking from a joint or bowl you’ll just need a lighter, but vaporizing equipment needs to be fully charged. This isn’t a huge inconvenience, but if you’re out of battery and in the woods with no place to plug in, you’ll have to wait to get high.

Budtender’s tip: You can purchase a larger table-top vaporizer with advanced temperature settings (these can get pricey, a few hundred dollars), or a smaller, cheaper hand-held device that’s portable for taking on hikes or road trips.

EdiblesEdibles get a bad rap. Everyone has at least one edible horror story, and lots of people read Maureen Dowd’s harrowing New York Times column in which she describes the traumatizing effects of consuming her first. Dowd was a novice who ate far too much and blamed the cannabis; but if you consume responsibly and take it slow (edibles don’t kick in right away), you should be fine.

Pros: A family member of Progar’s had cancer and couldn’t smoke, so eating for the medicinal benefits turned out to be a great alternative. “Someone with throat cancer isn’t going to want to smoke,” Progar pointed out. “The onset with edibles is later, 30 to 90 minutes. I recommend it to people who want long-lasting relief to muscle spasm or pain. It will take a while to feel, but after that it will last quite a while.”

You can make your own cannabis-infused butter or oil to bake with at home, but Colorado dispensaries sell plenty of delicious products if you’re not a pro in the kitchen. Cookies, popcorn, crackers, ice cream, chocolate, brownies, lollipops, you name it.

Cons: If you’re not overly familiar with edibles, it’s freakishly easy to overdo it and get more than you were bargaining for. “The state of Colorado tells people 10 milligrams is a good starting point, but I always tell people 5,” said Progar. “I find with some people, especially those who haven’t smoked in 40 years or have never smoked in their life, 10 milligrams can be a little too much. You can always try more, but you can’t take it back. Try 5, wait 90 minutes and see how you feel.”

Budtender’s tip: “With the baked goods, you have an issue of cannabis butter and oil versus hash,” said Gollihugh. “Butter is more of a traditional high. If old school stoners come and tell me, ‘I smoked a lot in the ’70s, and haven’t smoked since,’ I recommend cannabis butter. It will be more familiar for them. A more gradual high, very gentle as it takes a while for the body to digest it. The Wana sour gummies [a very popular edible candy] have hash in them, so if you eat a bunch of them, you’ll probably fall or asleep or just sit still for an hour.”

DabbingDabbing might sound weird to laymen, but it seems to be gaining swift popularity among seasoned tokers. It’s probably the most complicated method of ingestion to explain. A “dab” is a cannabis concentrate (hash oil, shatter or wax) that you drop on a heated water-pipe attachment and inhale. The attachment is either a glass or metallic nail that’s heated up using a butane torch.

Pros: Progar tends to recommend dabbing only for people on the recreational side. “There are some CBD dabs, but dabbing is a very concentrated form of whatever it is you’re try to dab,” he said. Basically, dabbing makes good sense for someone looking to get REALLY high.

Cons: It could possibly look like you’re smoking crack cocaine. Best not to flaunt this one around in public (not that you should be getting stoned in public, anyway). And don’t try this method if you have a low THC tolerance, because it’s intense. “I’ve had a couple people come in and be like, ‘I know what this is, I was a child of the ’80s,’” said Gollihugh. “You’re heating something up and you’re putting something on it. It’s not the best face of the industry. It’s something that’s abused a little.”

Budtender’s tip: “For somebody starting out, I don’t think dabbing is right,” Progar said. “We’ve got stuff that’s testing out in the mid-90 percent THC, so you take one dab of that at night and you’re ready for bed! It’s very strong.”

Transdermal patchesThis is a cannabis-infused patch that you wear on your body (like a NicoDerm patch to quit smoking), and it lasts eight to 12 hours.

Pros: “Most people who buy these are iffy about marijuana in general, so they feel more comfortable putting a patch on their foot and then putting a sock over it,” said Progar. “You don’t see it, it’s very low-key. They don’t feel as if they’re doing as bad of a thing in their head!”

Gollihugh particularly advocates the use of these to customers who have broken their leg and have to be laid up for while, or for people who have chronic nausea from chemo or stomach problems.

Cons: Gollihugh cautions against misconceptions about the patches: “You might see a 20-milligram patch and doubt it will get you high, but it’s not going through a digestive process or your lungs, it’s going right through your skin to your blood,” he said. “Twenty milligrams in your blood is a heck of a lot different than 100 milligrams in your mouth. With the patches, you’re talking about the minutest dose. I’ve had customers try them and say ‘nothing’s happening!’ and then they’ve been sitting in their chair for 45 minutes without moving.”

Budtender’s tip: You don’t put the patch on the direct area you want to treat. “Put it on the soft tissue areas of your body, like the top of your foot, your wrist, behind your ear,” said Gollihugh. “If you’re a lightweight, you can even cut the patch into four doses and wear it for multiple days.”

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