When a joint is passed around, armchair scientists tend to emerge.

When the joint is being passed around, everybody suddenly becomes a leading authority on the finer sciences of what makes the perfect joint. There's the temperature guy who insists that the joint must always be at "this" temperature and the other dude who won't go near a vape pen. 

Who can set the facts straight? The Quintessential Tip takes a closer look at the science behind the joint or the marijuana cigarette as it's referred to in peer-reviewed journals.

Why Is Cannabis Supposed to be Heated?

The significance of heating is well understood and is central to cannabis pharmacology. Cannabinoid acids found in the plant's resin glands contain an extra carboxyl molecule, rendering them psychoactively inactive. Decarboxylation, a heating process, is required to remove these molecules. THCA is converted to THC, CBDA to CBD, and so on through this process. Interestingly, until this heating process is complete, a cured cannabis flower contains minimal THC, so the testing data patients see at dispensaries technically reflects anticipated, rather than actual, THC content.

When medical cannabis is smoked or vaporized, the decarboxylation process occurs in real-time as the patient heats and inhales the medicine. When making edibles, the procedure is generally carried out at lower temperatures, and appropriate decarboxylation is accomplished by applying moderate heat for a specified amount of time to enhance potency.

Is the duration of huffing and puffing relevant?

The truth is that your lungs can only absorb 5–6ml of oxygen each minute, and the same holds when you smoke marijuana. Or, to put it another way, you can't force more THC into your system if you have smoke in your lungs. Simply breathing more smoke may lead you to believe that the quantity of THC you receive has risen. This is, without a doubt, not the case.

Our lungs absorb oxygen from the air relatively immediately (or THC from smoke). Most of the cannabis (95 percent) has already penetrated your system the second you take a puff. This implies that holding your cigarette for a lengthy amount of time is pointless.

What is the most effective? Vape vs Bong vs Joint

Donald Abrams, a pioneering AIDS and medicinal cannabis researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, published a study of THC use using the Volcano vape in 2007. Abrams put the vaporizer through its paces as a safer alternative to cannabis cigarettes. 

Abrams discovered that vaporization was healthier. Compared to smoking a joint, the vaporizer emits far less tar, carbon monoxide, and other combustion byproducts while providing nearly identical blood-THC levels. The vaporizer extracts 54 percent of the THC from the leaf, compared to 20 to 37 percent from a joint.

Bongs, on the other hand, may contain less THC per gram of flower. Perez-Reyes discovered that peak blood THC levels in his subjects who used a water pipe were approximately 50% lower than peak blood THC levels in the same subjects who smoked the same amount of cannabis in a joint. This finding may give credence to those who wonder if bong water filters out some cannabinoids that customers seek.


Science doesn't lie.  Given the amount of credible scientific research on cannabis consumption methods and efficacy, however, it is clear that more research is required before making any definitive claims about what makes the perfect joint. Until that research is available, it's probably best to stick with whatever method works best for you!

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