Howdy partners! Another report from Professor Harvest here, freshly rolled with new information from the global cannabis scene. Today, I want to shed some light on a tradition that divides smokers all over our green little planet: tobacco. I know, I know, smoking tobacco is bad for your health. So why is it that potheads in so many countries are hell-bent on mixing the stuff with marijuana? According to estimates, some 90% of European smokers prefer adding tobacco to their smokes, while their US counterparts generally prefer pure weed. What’s that all about? Surely, weed will burn by itself if you hold a lighter to it? There must be some other benefits to be gained from mixing the two, then. Let’s try to figure out why buds and bacca are such a common couple, shall we?
What’s In A Name?
A quick note on terminology may be handy here. Although the lines are blurry, many smokers distinguish smoking pure weed and weed mixed with tobacco by using different words for the two. Typically, at least in English-speaking countries, a joint is what you call an all-weed smoke, while mixing it with tobacco turns that joint into a spliff. Then there’s blunts. These are cigars (consisting of crudely cut tobacco rolled in tobacco leaves), which get cut open, cleaned of most of their tobacco content, filled up with a truckload of weed and then sealed back up. Even if you manage to clean out every last shred of tobacco, which you won’t if you’ve already had a previous blunt, the wrap is still made of tobacco leaves, so technically, a blunt is more like a spliff than a joint. On top of that, there is a custom known as the ‘tobacco chaser’, which means that the blunt is followed by a cigarette while it is passed around. That’s double tobacco, then. Finally, people may choose to use a weed-and-bacca mix when smoking pipes or bongs. No specific names as far as I know, but it’s yet another way to smoke tobacco and cannabis at the same time. Time to try and find out why.
Cutting The Costs
So okay, we’ll start out with the obvious reason for adding tobacco to the mix: money. Unless you’re growing cannabis at home so successfully that you’re drowning in ganja, tobacco is cheaper per gram than weed. That means you’ll be rolling more joints from that baggy you have in your room. Of course, ounce for ounce, the effect stays the same: if you fill half your joint with tobacco, sure, you’re saving half the weed, but you’ll only be inhaling half the weed as well. Then again, if you’re no regular smoker, or if you smoke a very potent high-THC strain, you’ll probably get sufficiently smashed on that half-tobacco, half-weed spliff, so there you go.
A Matter Of Taste
Of course, choosing any particular strain depends on personal preferences, but similarly, adding tobacco may simply be a matter of taste. Some people claim that tobacco actually amplifies the flavour of the ganja that it accompanies. This is pretty much impossible to check scientifically, as goes for pretty much all matters of taste, so I’ll just leave that up to you. Many spliff-over-joint smokers point out, though, that weed-only joints keep going out, which lots of people find annoying. Still, that’s also just a personal preference. What I do know from personal experience, however, is that our Dutch cannabis tradition has almost exclusively consisted of mixed spliffs. Sitting down in an Amsterdam coffeeshop and rolling an all-weed joint will probably get you some raised eyebrows, but that may be admiration rather than contempt: after all, we’ve got some pretty damn powerful weed in our country, and the spectators may just be waiting for you to keel over and pass out on the floor halfway through your joint. In fact, our national tobacco spliff tendency might simply be due to our legendary thriftiness – see the above paragraph for an economic account of this habit.
Does Tobacco Boost Your High?
The third explanation for adding tobacco to the mix is a disputed one. Many people from all walks of stoner life claim that adding tobacco boosts the high you’ll get from cannabis by itself. Somehow, the say, the brain is primed by the tobacco contents, leading to higher highs and rock-solid stoned dazes. Now here’s something scientists can get to grips with, and unsurprisingly, they did just that. In a recent study conducted at UCL, regular smokers were divided into a group that received bacca-infused spliffs, while a control group smoked weed-and-placebo joints. They were then interviewed to assess their experience of the resulting high. Researchers found no evidence that adding a pinch of tobacco added anything to the high. It seems that the scientific community has helped debunk yet another stoner myth.
So What About That Nicotine, Then?
Interestingly, the experiment didn’t stop there. After assessing their subjective high, both groups of participants were asked to recall a text they had read before smoking up. You can probably guess that the overall results were pretty underwhelming, as anyone of us who has tried to make sense of a book while stoned will acknowledge. Still, the respondents who had smoked tobacco along with marijuana performed better overall on recalling what they had read. The evidence suggested that nicotine may be responsible for this effect, increasing the accuracy of subjects’ memory. Do keep in mind, though, that memory is negatively affected by THC in itself, so the nicotine effect probably won’t compare to staying sober if you have exams to pass!
The News Ain’t All Good
Right. Summing up, we can safely conclude that tobacco doesn’t actually add to the high experienced when smoking cannabis. It may help keep your memory going, but if that’s your goal, you’re better off not smoking at all. There is a serious downside to tobacco-laden spliffs, however, and I feel it is my duty as a responsible professor to point this out. Nicotine is heavily addictive, as you’re probably aware. That creates a real risk for cannabis lovers, especially for those who don’t smoke regular cigarettes. There is a general consensus that cannabinoids such as THC or CBD do not have physically addictive properties by themselves. Adding tobacco – and therefore, nicotine – to your weed could lead to a physical dependency on smoking. Nicotine could get you addicted to smoking spliffs; not because of the weed, but because of the tobacco. The above study also found that adding tobacco increases heart rate and blood pressure right after smoking up. Not necessarily harmful, but definitely an effect worth considering if you mind your health.
Rolling Up The Facts
Right, so there you have it. Even if everyone around you smokes spliffs instead of weed-only joints, you now know that it doesn’t affect how high you’ll get. You may opt for adding tobacco because of personal taste, out of respect for tradition, or for economic reasons, or you could decide to just stick to the green. Whichever you choose, at least you can make an informed choice now, and that’s what we’re all about here at the Coffeeshop Info Centre. Regardless of your personal preference, remember to smoke responsibly and never to let yourself be pressured into something you don’t like, no matter what your friends say. Professor Harvest arms you with solid facts, so go ahead and choose for yourself. Whatever you decide, happy smoking, y’all!
With blazing regards, Professor Harvest