A cannabis pipe is a handheld device with a narrow tube, a bowl at one end to be filled with fresh cannabis, and a mouthpiece for inhaling. Often there is a third hole known as the carb located near the bowl, usually on the side or the front of the pipe. The carb is used to stoke the burn and control air flow. There are many cannabis pipe designs available such as the one-hitter, chillum, bubbler, spoon, hand pipe, and more

History of the Cannabis Pipe

Evidence of pipes used for smoking cannabis can be dated back to at least the year 1200. Ancient communities spanning the globe used pipes to consume cannabis or tobacco in social, religious, and economic rituals. Today, pipes can be made of almost anything, including glass, wood, an empty water bottle, an apple—you name it.

How To Use a Pipe

Empty the Bowl
Before loading the bowl of a pipe with cannabis, empty the bowl of residue from past use. This can be done by gently tapping the ashes into an ashtray or against one’s palm. Then check that air pulls freely through the pipe.
  • If the airflow is clogged, a device such as a bent paperclip, or a Toker Poker, may be used to clear the hole in the bottom of the bowl.
  • If there is still a blockage of airflow, you may have to clean the whole pipe by submerging it in rubbing alcohol.
  • Once airflow is clear, the bowl is ready to load.
  • To prevent inhaling cannabis particles, a screen or glass “daisy” can be used to block the hole at the bottom of the bowl. If you choose to use a screen, put it in the bowl before loading it with cannabis.
Load the Bowl
  • Break up the cannabis, either with a grinder or by hand. Cannabis will burn more evenly if buds are broken into small pieces. Grinders are typically more efficient, less wasteful, and less sticky than pulling buds apart by hand.
  • Once the bud is ground, fill the bowl to the rim, or slightly mounted, whatever amount is right for you.
  • Once loaded, a fresh, full bowl is known as “greens.” One can either light the bowl themselves or “pass greens” to another in the circle to be the first to hit the bowl. Passing greens is viewed as an act of generosity and is often an honor bestowed upon a guest or someone in the circle with something to celebrate.
Light the Bowl
  • Using a lighter, match, or hemp wick, light the corner of the bowl. This is known as “cornering” and is important, especially when sharing a bowl, to ensure all participants get greens.
  • Inhale to fill the pipe with smoke while covering the carb with a finger.
  • After a few seconds, lift your finger off the carb. This allows air to flow and direct smoke toward the lungs. After you take a “hit” of cannabis, it’s ideal to also inhale more real air (oxygen) so that the herb smoke actually gets into your lungs.
  • Continue to inhale to clear the pipe of smoke.
  • Exhale. Can you blow smoke rings? This is your opportunity to try.
  • Clean out the bowl—a “debowler” is recommended for immediate cleaning post-smoke.
  • Repeat this process as desired.

Photography by Matt Ferro

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Finding the Right Pipe for You
As mentioned above, pipes come in a variety of styles. There is no better way to know what style you prefer than handling and trying as many as you can. Local glass or tobacco shops are located all over the world and often have a large array of pipes available. Be sure to physically pick up and handle pipes in store if possible. Weight, material, fragility, and bowl size and shape are crucial things to look at before deciding on your pipe.

There are glass makers who make indestructible pipes and glass-blowing artists creating amazing works of art. The purchase can be an expression of individuality, or one of pure utility. Pipe options are endless, and finding the perfect one is almost as fun as smoking out of it, so enjoy the search.

SWEET JANE takes the intimidation out of consuming cannabis. See our other How To guides here. 

SK Belford
SK Belford
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SK Belford is co-host on the podcast High Minded with McCarter and a freelance writer living in Boulder, Colorado. A passionate cannabis and plant medicine advocate, you can find her on Instagram @herhighnesssk.