Former POTUS/Future First Man Bill Clinton famously admitted in 1992 that he had attempted to smoke marijuana, but didn't know how to inhale. Keep this in mind: even an eventual president couldn't lay lips on the world's favorite semi-prohibited plant without stuttering and failing. So, don't be discouraged by your own chronic shortcomings.
In order to help you go from square to Redman, we consulted two full-time marijuana experts -- Michael Armstrong, manager and budtender at famous (and legal!) Colorado dispensary LiveGreen Cannabis, and "Elvis," an illegal marijuana deliveryman in New York who understandably prefers to remain anonymous -- to get the straight dope on everything you need to know while "doing the pot." Here are 25 things you're doing wrong when lighting up.
1. Treating pot like a cigar
Michael advises first-timers inhale like they're smoking a cigarette and not a cigar -- so take a draw, then take that deep, extra breath to bring the smoke all the way down. And despite popular belief, neither expert had noticed any difference in effect the longer the smoke is 'held' in the lungs. “There’s evidence out there that claims we absorb any and all THC from smoke pretty quickly, within seconds, so holding it in for a long time is essentially doing nothing,” Elvis says. “Just make sure you breathe in deeply, that's more important," Armstrong adds.
2. Thinking you won’t get high the first time
Elvis and Michael both confided that they got "very-to-extremely" high the first time they smoked weed, and the prevailing belief that you won't feel anything the first time around is a myth perpetrated by smoking incorrectly. “Truth be told, I think a lot of people maybe aren’t inhaling correctly their first time smoking, which would make them think it doesn’t work,” Armstrong says.
3. Using your carb incorrectly
A “carb” is the little hole on the side of a bowl or a bong that you plug with your finger while taking a hit. It’s there so you can clear your bowl of smoke without taking another puff. “When you feel like you’ve gotten a sufficient pull, you take your finger off, ‘releasing it,’ then continue to inhale, thus clearing the bowl of smoke," Armstrong says. “That’s it -- bong or bowl -- it’s not too complicated."
4. Throwing out the stems
One’s man’s refuse can get another man (or the same man, again) stoned, according to Michael. “[Stems] still have a lot of THC sticking to them, for the most part, and in a pinch you can use them to get high.” You can soak them in alcohol to make a THC-infused cocktail (!), put them in a vaporizer to cook the THC out, or make “stem tea,” which is exactly what you expect it to be -- just soak your stems in warm tea for a few hours to extract that intoxicating THC, Earl Gray-style.
5. Not knowing the difference between indicas and sativas
Armstrong considers this one of the most important facets of marijuana use, one that many casual smokers overlook. “This makes all the difference. There are two basic kinds of marijuana: sativa, and indica, both having their own, unique effects. Traditionally, indica releases a more mellow body high, while sativa is a little more intense, and is typically what you would call a ‘head-focused’ high -- it’s more psychoactive. Here’s a quick key we use: indica means ‘in da’ couch,’ like, you’ll typically be relaxed, and mellow after smoking. Sativa means ‘festiva’; it’s good for partying, going out, doing things. For first-time smokers, or people who get paranoid easily, I’ll usually recommend indica, as it’s less likely to cause anxiety as a sativa. Most strains are hybrids, nowadays -- they're a mix of each, to varying degrees. That’s normally what you are smoking, especially if you don’t specifically know what it is. So, you'll be getting both sides of the spectrum.
"But -- and this is important -- everyone’s body chemistry is different. People can react to certain strains in different ways. It’s all about how your body independently reacts. There are these guidelines, sure, but the only way to know how you will react to a certain strain variation is to try it."
6. Not owning a grinder
Armstrong and Elvis were in complete agreement about using a grinder every time they smoke, saying it creates a level of burning consistency that can't be achieved manually. As an added bonus, it makes kief (the very fine, almost dust-like material that collects at the bottom chamber of a traditional grinder) that contains a metric buttload (not an official measurement) of discarded THC that you can put on top of your supply. “It’s fucking awesome," Elvis says.
7. Storing it in the worst places possible
"If you need to keep some weed for a while, make sure your bud is in an airtight container, somewhere dark, cool, and if possible, not too arid... glass containers over plastic,” Armstrong says. “This will keep it fresh tasting, and make sure it doesn’t dry out or lose any effect. If you really want to keep your weed fresh, they make humidors (like for cigars), to store large quantities.”
8. Torching it with a crappy lighter
Matches and heavy butane lighters can give your weed a bad taste, and your lungs a sucker punch with heavy gases and harsh sulfur notes. Armstrong says he (and everyone he knows) uses a standard BIC, but HempWick is an option for those who want to keep it organic. Elvis agrees, for the most part: “I do use a regular BIC, though in a pinch I have been known to use those long-ass grill lighters... but they aren’t ideal.” Cash-strapped college kids across the nation are nodding their heads in solidarity.
9. Claiming it's "laced"
Elvis says he hears this “myth” frequently. “Most importantly, if you bought weed that was laced with other drugs, and didn’t know about it, it would mean that dealers were just giving you extra drugs -- that are probably more expensive than weed in the first place -- for free, and not telling you about it for some reason. That makes zero sense.” For Armstrong and other smokers in Colorado, this is a total non-issue, as their marijuana undergoes strenuous, official testing. He thinks it may happen in some cases, but overall, it’s people getting uncomfortably (or unexpectedly) high.
10. Being a dickhead and not cornering the bowl
You're going to want to "corner" your bowl, which is lighting only a small portion of the surface area to make sure some green is left over for your buddies... or yourself. “I even do it when I’m smoking by myself," Armstrong says. "It actually makes the whole experience better than just burning the whole top -- this way, you don’t have a bunch of green underneath a layer of ashes, and every hit has a little fresh bud in it." And Elvis adds, “It’s just rude. Don’t just grab the bowl and spark the whole thing up, like a fiend.”
11. Being clueless about smoking devices
Vaporizers are the decidedly 21st-century option for those seeking a "mellow, less-intense, but long-lingering" high that's great for travel, and keeping a solid buzz, according to Armstrong. “Pipes and bongs are pretty similar in effect -- as are joints, really -- but with bongs you usually get a massive rip. They cool down the smoke to make it easier to inhale, and have higher volume chambers, so you get a lot of smoke in one hit, and it's smoother and not as harsh." This is probably why people tend to think bongs make them higher.
12. Freaking out, man!
Armstrong recommend people prone to paranoia try a moderately strong indica strain, as it’s less likely to induce anxiety as a sativa-leaning bud. "I also think you should be smoking with someone you trust, and someone experienced, so you can lean on them for advice and guidance. Most importantly, if all you did was smoke, and didn’t do anything else, just remember: you’re going to be fine. In an hour, everything will be normal.“ Elvis recommends staving off a panic attack by playing with pets, listening to music you love, and keeping your mind occupied. ”
13. Forgetting to cover your tracks
For those of us unfortunate enough to live in areas where marijuana is still strictly prohibited (or, you’re just living with a parent/significant other/roommate who frowns upon the devil’s cabbage), covering your tracks is a bothersome, but essential component to smoking and being high. Febreze does the trick for the smell, while Rohto drops will take care of your eyes (be warned, they burn like hell). “If you want to smoke without it smelling, grab a cardboard toilet paper roll, and stuff it tightly (but not too tightly) with dryer sheets -- exhale through that. It will cut the smell down dramatically," Elvis adds, dubbing it a "silencer."
14. Packing the bowl like a slob
Even if you use a grinder to break up your bud, you can pack a bowl incorrectly. “I always will take a slighter, bigger piece of non-grinded nug, and use it as a plug at the bottom of my bowl, so the grinded, finer weed doesn’t slip through. You also shouldn't be packing your bowls too tightly, as this will cause a bad pull. Air has to be able to move through the bowl pack, in order for you to inhale," Armstrong says.
15. Misinterpreting your coughs
There are a few common misconceptions about coughing while smoking: it will (somehow?) get your higher, it’s a warning sign that you are getting too high, and that coughing is a signal that you're smoking “good bud.” All three claims were thoroughly denied by our esteemed experts. “I mean, I smoke every day. Sometimes I cough, sometimes I don’t. I don’t think there’s any difference in effect, nor do I think it’s dependent on good bud or not,” Armstrong explains. “For instance, if I smoke out of a vape, I tend to cough more because the vapor is really hot when it hits my lungs. Good bud won’t make you cough any more than mediocre bud, and coughing is not necessarily a warning sign that you are getting too high -- more likely, it means your throat and lungs are irritated because of the smoke/vape itself.”
Elvis is in the same camp: “I’ve heard those things before, the kind of pseudo-science that says coughing 'opens up your lungs,' but from my [extensive] experience, that’s just not the case. You don’t get any higher. And, ‘stronger’ weed won’t make you cough more than the bad shit -- it depends more on your smoking device and your own lungs. Weed strength isn’t displayed in the smoke, it’s proven in how you feel.”
16. Knowing nothing about good vs. bad weed
If you don’t trust that white dude with cornrows and a hemp sweatshirt in the park, and his assertion that his bags are "hot fire," there are a few things you can look for that will advertise high quality, according to Armstrong. "Frostiness" (what he calls the little crystals on buds), is a prime sign of premier product. “A good flower will also normally be spongy, but not too wet. It shouldn’t be dried out though, obviously. It should have a little give when you press down on it, and be on the denser side.” And, those little red hairs? They aren’t necessarily proof of merit, and often don’t mean much.
17. Letting your tolerance build too much
If you are a regular smoker experiencing diminishing effects from weed, it might be time to take a tolerance break. “Building up a tolerance to weed, and getting less high the more you smoke, is definitely a thing," Armstrong says. "That’s why people go on ‘tolerance breaks,’ taking a few days or even a week or two to reset their system. That’s really all you need, to get back to feeling the full effects.”
18. Being too conspicuous around the fuzz
“I don’t really have to worry about this,” Armstrong says, “but still, even if you buy weed in legal states, from a dispensary, you probably shouldn’t drive with it in your front seat. Put it in the trunk, in legal states or not. It’s just smart. If you get pulled over, you don’t want a cop seeing a bag from a dispensary in your front seat. It will give them a reason to be suspicious you are smoking while driving.” On the illegal side of things, Elvis has some pretty handy advice. “Put it in your underwear."
19. Being wasteful
Joints and blunts, despite the pronounced admiration of Afro-Man, may not be the most efficient way to smoke. “They're constantly burning when you're smoking them, or passing them around, even when you aren’t smoking," Armstrong says. "A small bowl, bong, or little one-hitter would be more efficient. If you are trying to conserve weed, your best bet is probably a vape. You get a lot of hits for a small amount of weed, and also, even when your weed has been thoroughly vaped, you can still use the burned bud left over to smoke... if you're really in a pinch.”
20. Overlooking the glories of the dab
Consider the dab -- a somewhat recent phenomenon that is essentially a mega-hit of THC in hash-oil form. It comes in a wax, or shatter (kind of looks like amber), and is made by running solvents through potent buds, then letting the solvents cool and harden. Armstrong compares the effect as “the hard liquor shot, to a standard bowl rip’s beer." It comes on quickly, and it’s very intense. You can smoke it with either a vape pen, or a bong-esque rig that requires blow-torch, butane flames, or other heavy-duty lighters (seriously). So, if you like to fly super high, super quickly, and don’t mind intensely concentrated open fires around increasingly clumsy people, dabs might be right for you.
21. Thinking you can just eat it raw, for some reason
Simply put: you can’t. “You can’t eat weed raw to get stoned. It’s impossible," Elvis says. "You need to heat it to at least 200-250 degrees to release the THC [Editors Note: He’s right] and even then, you need a fatty substance like butter to absorb the released THC. That's why we sell edibles, too."
22. Lazily picking the wrong buds
Frequently, people will choose bags with the biggest, boldest nugs in them, but that’s not necessarily how you’ll get the most bang for your buck. “Usually, the larger nugs will have a big stem in them, so you’ll actually end up with more flower if you get a bunch of smaller nugs instead," Armstrong says. "Actually, a lot of our more potent strains just naturally come in smaller, tighter nugs, in my experience. That being said, a lot of people just like getting one big nug, because it’s kind of cool -- it’s a visual thing."
23. Letting your pipes get filthy and clogged
As this scene in There's Something About Mary taught us, cleaning the pipes before a big date is a necessity. Cleaning your weed pipe: just as important. Armstrong's got it down to a science: "People over-think cleaning. Buy some 99% isopropyl alcohol from a drug store and, if it's really dirty, maybe some table salt as well. That's all I use. Let your piece soak for a while in the alcohol and rinse it off with hot water. If you're working with a bong, and it's really bad, fill the base with a bit of alcohol and some table salt. This will help break some of the resin loose. Shake it (carefully, I've broken a couple paychecks' worth of glass just from this step), rinse with hot water (give it a shake here too) and repeat. You can reuse the alcohol for a couple of rinses."
24. Thinking smoking and eating are the same
THC is absorbed through your stomach, and metabolized when you eat it, so it takes a little longer to kick in (from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the individual). “It’s somewhat dependent on the strain, but I’ve found edibles carry more of a body high, so sometimes even sativas can end up feeling more like indicas," Armstrong says. "They come on more slowly, but it lasts a lot longer -- five-plus hours, in some cases. Personally, they always end up making me very sleepy. We recommend people wait a full two hours before determining an edible ‘doesn’t work,’ and taking more. You could get higher than you want." This is sound advice.
25. Drinking the bong water
"No one really does that, man. That's kind of a stupid question," Elvis says.
Welp. Guess it's just me then...
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.