Smoking weed is, and has been, one of humanity’s most cherished social bonding rituals. But sharing cannabis with friends, family, and co-workers carries the inherent risk of spreading illnesses such as the common cold, the flu — and yes — even SARS-CoV-2, otherwise known as the dreaded novel coronavirus.
Since many of you will throw caution to the wind — even as the National Guard gets called in and the Federal Reserve injects trillions of dollars into our economy to keep it from tanking — we’ve got a handy little guide so you can minimize the spread of most pathogens while still enjoying your favorite flower with the homies.
Don't do this.
Tip #1: Don’t Share Shit. Period.
Really, if you want to prevent coming down with anything while blazing, don’t share your smoking utilities at all. If you’re chilling with your friends for a sesh, you can share weed out of the same bags, just don’t share consumption devices. That means bring your own pipes, your own papers, or, if you’ve got a padded case, bring your own bongs or dab rigs, too.
Viruses typically spread through human fluids. They can’t survive for long in dry environments, though scientists believe the coronavirus can survive for days on many types of surfaces. So, sucking on a pipe and passing it to someone else is the surest way to spread anything.
Alcohol mixtures at 60 to 85 percent are best for destroying viruses. Higher concentrations should be properly diluted first.
Tip #2: Wipe Everything Down with Rubbing Alcohol
Remember we said not to share joints, pipes, or bongs? Well, if you insist on doing that anyway, at least you bought some isopropyl alcohol before the nation’s retailers ran out, right? If you’re not saving all that alcohol for making hand sanitizer or fueling an emergency stove, you should set some aside for sterilizing your smoking devices.
A quick wipe with rubbing alcohol should get rid of most viral particles on your glass, silicone, or even plastic pieces. Just ensure the alcohol is at 60 to 85 percent. Anything below 60 percent won't do much to the virus. Anything above 85 percent won't be as effective, believe it or not. Also, make sure the alcohol evaporates or gets wiped off before the piece goes into someone’s mouth. Rubbing alcohol is mildly toxic, and besides, it tastes fucking nasty.
You can speed along the evaporation process by touching a flame to the wiped-down spot, just be especially careful if you’re working with 91 percent alcohol, since it’s extremely flammable.
Tip #3: Torch the Pipe Between Hits
If you’re sharing a typical handheld glass pipe, you can simply hit the mouthpiece with a flame from your lighter. The heat should fry any viral particles lingering on the mouthpiece. Just be sure to (1) leave the flame there for several seconds, and (2) get the flame on the actual opening, as well as on the area immediately surrounding it. Sometimes saliva will get inside of the mouthpiece, so you want to ensure you’re cooking that inhalation-hole along with the part that the lips touch.
Despite the name of the technique, do not use an actual torch to do this. Propane and butane torches burn at incredibly high temperatures, much higher than a Bic’s. If too much heat saturates the pipe’s mouthpiece too quickly, it’ll shatter your pipe, and that’s a tragedy, especially in a time of quarantine. How are you going to get another one?!
Tip #4: Use a Silicone or Rubber Mouthpiece
Sometimes you’ve just gotta hit a bowl out of a two-foot bong, especially in trying times like a pandemic. Since most folks don’t own a two-foot bong or are unwilling to transport it across town, that means you’re probably going to rely on a shared, communal two-footer instead.
Thankfully, the cannabis industry already anticipated this. You can buy small, detachable silicone or rubber mouthpieces that fit on most bongs or dab rigs. These are available at most head shops, but some dispensaries carry them, and online retailers usually have them, too.
Mouthpieces keep your mouth off the glass, so your saliva won’t be mingling with everyone else’s. Of course, these mouthpieces only work if (1) you’ve got your own, and (2) you aren’t sharing it. And it’s probably a good idea to regularly clean your mouthpiece with either hot water and soap or rubbing alcohol after each toke sesh.
Tip #5: Fist the Joint or Blunt
If your social circle insists on sharing a joint or a blunt, you can minimize the spread of germs by “fisting” or “cupping” it. To do this, insert the joint or blunt between two fingers (usually the middle finger and ring finger, or the ring finger and pinky), then curl your fingers to form an O or circle. Think of making the “OK” symbol with your hand, except all of the fingers closed.
Now, tighten the circle by curling the fingers in enough to almost form a fist, but leave an opening at your palm. Cup your other hand underneath the hand holding the joint or blunt to form an air-tight seal. If you look down, you should be staring into a hole at the top of your hand holding the blunt. Just place your lips to the top of this hole and begin sucking. If you did it right, there should be enough of a vacuum inside of your hands to pull smoke through.
Just be careful not to touch the end of the joint or blunt to your lips. And don’t drool all over it either, or the entire exercise is pointless. And, as always, thoroughly wash your hands before and after the sesh.
Tip #6: Use a Cigarette Holder or Wooden Cigar Tip
If sharing blunts or joints, you can also use a plastic cigarette holder a la Hunter S. Thompson or Audrey Hepburn. Or you could use a wooden cigar tip (for blunts) to keep saliva from spreading among your social circle. They even sell re-usable glass blunt tips these days, too. But, like with the bong mouthpieces mentioned above, everyone needs to have their own, or the tips won’t help.
Tip #7: Wash Your Hands, Like Your Mom Told You
All of this advice means absolutely nothing if you fail to observe basic hygiene. The best way to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus — or any respiratory virus, really — is to regularly wash your hands and keep your fingers out of your mouth and the mouths of others. Also, don't share shit, period.
If you’re going to cough or sneeze, do so into your elbow. Not in your hands. Not into the empty air. Into your elbow. This will contain the virus so it’s not flying around the room, and since the projectile spit-spray isn’t going into your hands, you minimize spreading the virus once you reach out to blindly grab for a box of tissue.
And most importantly: If you think you’re coming down with a cold, flu, or the coronavirus, just stay home. Don’t invite anyone over, and don’t invite yourself over to other people’s cribs. We live in the age of Amazon, Eaze, Uber Eats, and Postmates. Use them.
Happy toking, and stay safe out there, everyone.