A whole article on how to light a joint? Really?!
Surely it’s just flame meets joint, inhale? End of story, right?
Well, you might be surprised.
As with so many things cannabis-related, read around a bit online and you’ll find a whole world of right ways, wrong ways, equipment preferences, stoner tools, disagreements and tips. If you’re completely new to smoking, it can all be a bit confusing. And even if you’ve smoked cigarettes before, lighting a joint’s a whole other technique.
So read on, and we’ll try to guide you through it all.
As well as just the simple mechanics of lighting a joint, we’ll take a look at different types of lighters (including matches and hemp wicks) and their relative pros and cons, how not to do it, how to stub it out, smoking etiquette — in short, everything you need to know to light up like a pro.
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How to light a joint correctly: Your step-by-step guide to achieving a slow, even burn
First, what not to do: Don’t light it like a cigarette.
That is, don’t put the joint between your lips and inhale as you light up.
Cigarettes are much easier to light. Joints, on the other hand, need a little extra care to get a smooth, consistent burn going. Light them like a cig and you risk ‘runs’ and ‘canoeing’.
Canoeing is when only one side of a joint burns. Runs are similar but not quite as drastic, just thin parts of the joint that burn way too quick.
Now, onto the proper steps:
- Hold the roach or filter end of the joint between thumb and index finger.
- Spark up the lighter. At first, at a distance from the tip of the joint. To get a full even cherry (the red, glowing end of a properly lit joint), you need to work slowly.
- If your joint has a twist at the tip, let that light first. It’ll act a bit like a wick.
- Then, slowly, introduce the tip to the flame, rotating the tip by rolling the roach end between your finger and thumb. (Some people call this ‘roasting’ the joint.)
- Once there’s a nice even cherry, then you can bring the joint to your lips.
- But only short, slow puffs at first, without drawing into the lungs. The first puff or two are just to get the jay going, burning nicely and evenly. Long or fast puffs at this stage will just get it burning way too fast — and waste product.
- If the cherry’s still a little uneven, apply the lighter flame to the parts that aren’t burning so well.
- Now, once it’s burning nice and even, you can take your first proper draw into the lungs. Again, slow and short for the first couple of proper tokes does the trick. Be sure to ash your joint into an ashtray.
And that’s it. If everything’s gone right, you should now be enjoying a nice slow, smooth smoke.
But don’t worry if it didn’t. It can take a little getting the knack. But once you do, it’s like riding a bike (though, admittedly, a pretty stationary one).
What is baptizing a joint?
It’s a bit of a controversial practice, due to the saliva-related ick factor. But some smokers like to lightly moisten the joint with saliva to achieve a slower burn.
However, it doesn’t need to be saliva. Honey or brown alcohol (e.g. rum, whiskey or Cognac) are popular alternatives.
(Though, to be honest, we’re not entirely convinced adding alcohol will make anything burn slower…)
I’ve followed the steps, but it’s still not burning right....
Occasionally, even if you light it perfectly, you still might find a joint burns too fast, keeps going out or is just a really hard draw.
The problem in these cases usually lies elsewhere: A loose roll. An overly tight roll. Unevenly ground flower. Cheap papers.
Make sure you roll with a rolling tray set to help prevent these issues.
Here’s a quick troubleshooting guide:
- Burns too fast/unevenly: This is often a sign of a loosely rolled joint. Or sometimes badly cured weed.
- Runs: If you’ve lit it slowly and expertly, but you’re still seeing runs, the weed’s probably not been evenly ground. This happens most often in joints where the flower’s been crumbled by hand. Though occasionally it can also be the result of unevenly cured weed. Invest in and use a quality grinder.
- Keeps going out: Usually the sign of an overly tightly rolled/packed joint. Any material needs oxygen to burn. But pack your joint too tightly and there won’t be enough oxygen flowing through to keep the burn going, resulting in self-extinguishing joints.
- Hard to toke on: Again, a sign of a too tightly packed joint.
Lighter, matches or hemp wick? What’s healthiest?
A simple Bic lighter is cheap and convenient. Zippos look impressive. And refillables will save you some money long term.
But are they the right choice for lighting a joint?
The problem with butane lighters is twofold:
First, some smokers find the strong fumes affect the taste of the joint.
And second, inhaling butane is not exactly healthy. For some it’s an allergen that can irritate not just the lungs but also skin and eyes. While lighting a joint with a butane lighter now and again won’t do most people any damage, if you’re a frequent smoker it could be worth considering an alternative.
That’s where hemp wicks come in. They solve both problems. They’re non-toxic. And being hemp, they don’t add any foreign flavor to your inhale.
Another advantage is, they’re great for lighting up outdoors as they can stay lit in even wet or windy conditions.
Hemp wicks aren’t the only alternative though. You can also find plenty of flame-free or fuel-free lighters, such as Tesla coil or plasma lighters. As an added bonus, they’re wind-resistant too.
And you can even light a dry spaghetti noodle or wooden skewer on the stove to use as a wick (but be careful!).
What about matches?
Well, it’s a similar problem to butane. Matches contain sulfur, phosphorus and other chemicals. If you’ve nothing else to hand, though, just let the match burn a few seconds before lighting the joint. That way, most — though not all — of the chemicals in the match head will have burned off, minimizing what you’ll inhale.
How to put out a joint to save the rest for later
With the rise of pre-rolled joints and more potent product, a few tokes can often be enough these days. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to stub out a joint to save the rest for later.
There are two answers here:
- Traditional method: Flick off the cherry, then gently press the lit end against the ashtray, rotating it between your fingers, until it’s extinguished. But like we said, be gentle. You don’t want to bend or crush the joint.
- Saverette: The Saverette is a kind of heat-resistant doob tube that you can just drop a lit joint into. Pop on the lid and the joint will extinguish itself within a few seconds. The big advantage compared to the traditional method is, no risk of damaging the joint. Most other doob tubes will do the job too, so long as they’re heat-resistant and the lid’s airtight.
Weediquette for new smokers
Finally, if you’re reading this article, you’re probably not an experienced smoker. So we thought we’d round things off here with a few pointers on weed smoking etiquette. A few things to do and not do to make sure your early smoking experiences go well.
- Roller’s privilege: The person who rolled the joint lights it. Sometimes they’ll give someone else the honor, but generally if you put in the work you get the first few tokes.
- Puff, puff, pass: No-one likes a joint hog. It’s not a hard and fast rule with everyone, but if in doubt always just take a couple of tokes and pass it on.
- Remember the rotation: Usually the joint’s travelling the room in a particular direction. So don’t just pass it on at random.
- Ash before you pass: Flick any ash into the ashtray before you pass the joint, rather than letting it fall on someone as you’re passing it.
- It’s not a talking stick: Don’t just keep it in your hand burning down (or going out) while you chat away. You’re wasting weed someone else could have smoked.
- No-one likes a soggy roach: Just rest the smoking end on your lips when you inhale, there’s no need to take it inside your mouth. And no need to lick your lips first.
- Build Your Weed Kit: It's important to have your own gear.
There you go. That’s it. Everything you need to know for a good session — even if you’re a complete novice. Enjoy!
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