With four states having voted to legalize recreational marijuana (Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, and Washington), and legalization efforts mounting in yet more states around the country, it seems like a great time to brush up on your weed game if you live in one of those areas. You know, learning the different kinds, different effects, how to use it responsibly, the whole deal. And, of course, any plan to indulge in some legal recreational drug use should come with a thorough review of the health implications. So, what's the safest way to smoke marijuana?
The answer is a little hard to figure, because scientific research into the long-term health effects of marijuana use is still in woefully short supply. Thanks to its status as a DEA-restricted Schedule 1 drug (hysterically alongside things like cocaine and heroin), would-be researchers have been stymied and frustrated for years when seeking government approval for such studies. But here's a tentative answer, based in part on common sense: the safest way to smoke marijuana is... not smoking it.
Never fear, this isn't some kind of stealth pro-abstinence article. Just an admission that, of all the ways to use marijuana, actually smoking it is probably the one you should avoid. Inhaling smoke into your lungs — even if it's marijuana smoke, rather than that of the infamously dangerous tobacco plant — can be a wheezy and sometimes physically painful process.
Ever suffer a searing coughing fit after an overly harsh toke? It's not uncommon, and it really doesn't take a doctorate to realize you might be hurting yourself in some way. So here's some advice: Don't wait on marijuana studies that might arrive too late to meaningfully inform your behavior. Trust your gut — and your scratchy smoker's throat — and start consuming your cannabis in other, less obviously caustic ways. There are two major ones that are popular nowadays, after all!
This is all the rage these days, so if you're a marijuana user you've probably encountered vapes before, if you haven't tried them yourself — vaporizing is undoubtedly a lighter, less taxing way to consume cannabis, and best of all, it's not that functionally different from the classic fire-lit pipe bowl. Basically, if you want something portable, you can pick up a vape pen and puff occasionally without the heavy, burning smoke that traditional blazing creates.
Vaporization uses less heat, thereby drawing THC out of cannabis (whether in plant, oil, or wax form) without actually burning it, and as such provides a much smoother experience. It's important to note, however, that the science on vaporizing is similarly early and uncertain, so please don't interpret this as an informed medical opinion. But it's possible that if you're consuming vapor instead of smoke, your respiration when you hit the gym might feel much better for it. If you're interested in this as an option, you're in luck, because there's never been a better time — vape tech is surging along, and there are many different types you can buy.
Ahh, the old reliable marijuana edible. Be careful if you decide to go this route, because while edibles eliminate the risks posed by smoke inhalation altogether, they can pose other challenges — mainly, you can accidentally eat too much and get way, way too high. Being so stoned that you lose your sense of balance during a hike is not a great time, nor is falling blissfully asleep and waking up with a vicious sunburn.
But pound for pound, cooking or baking your marijuana could be a dynamite decision. Beyond just eliminating any real potential for respiratory harm, edibles can be creative, delicious, and communal — scones, chocolates, teas, maybe a heaping pasta dinner with some marijuana pesto? You're really only limited by your cooking abilities, and what mixes well with the taste of the weed. Which, admittedly, isn't as long a list of foods as you might like.
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