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A Strange Blend: Why Are Europeans Mixing Cannabis and Tobacco?

This article was originally published on Leafly.

Cannabis doesn’t carry the sort of health hazards tobacco does, a majority of studies say. But that doesn’t change the European habit of mixing the two. It’s something North American cannabis consumers don’t often do: even cigarette smokers in Vancouver or L.A. tend smoke their flower pure, strictly separating nicotine and cannabinoids. So where does this difference come from?

To answer the question, let’s go back in time to the cannabis renaissance of the 1960s and ‘70s. Consumers in Europe at the time almost exclusively smoked hashish, often crumbling it into cigarettes, as hardly anyone was aware of the dangers of nicotine and smoking tobacco. The vast majority of cannabis consumers in the U.S., on the other hand, overwhelming had access only to dried flower, which could easily be used to roll pure joints.

These differences influenced the size of what was being rolled in North America and Europe. In the U.S. and Canada, pure “mini-joints” became the standard, while on the continent a king-size joint is preferred. A European-sized joint that contains only cannabis might contain 1.5 grams to 2 grams of flower — far too much for most. An American joint, on the other hand, contains about as much herb — about 0.2 grams to 0.5 grams — as a European mixed joint (often called a spliff in the U.S.), but without the nicotine. Scientists have even pinpointed the average amount of cannabis in an American joint at 0.32 grams. In Germany, the Netherlands, or Denmark, that amount of cannabis is typically mixed with another gram or so of tobacco, depending on personal preference.

Smoke Raw

Not only does consuming a cannabis–tobacco blend affect your health more than pure flower, it also complicates efforts to gauge the health effects of cannabis itself. The legalization debate often revolves around the dangers of “smoking,” because almost every European study on cannabis is not about smoking it pure but about cannabis mixed with tobacco. Even in medical programs, little attention is paid to whether patients smoke pure. That means that Europeans who use cannabis alone has to justify the consequences of a substance that has little to do with cannabis.

Even without tobacco, smoking is the unhealthiest form of any medical application. Yet other, healthier forms of consumption, such as vaporization or edibles, seem to catch on much more slowly in Europe. That’s in part because tobacco has long been engrained in European culture; as cannabis grew in popularity among Europeans, that affected how people chose to consume. In other cultures, where cannabis has been part of everyday life for millennia, people consume orally or at least smoke cannabis pure.

Mixing tobacco into a joint increases the addictive risks immensely. Many casual users have only begun to smoke cigarettes because they use tobacco for their joints. “Without cannabis I have no problems, but I then smoke more cigarettes” — you’ll never hear such a statement from a pure-cannabis consumer. Doctors in Germany or the Netherlands treating cannabis patients are often unaware of this phenomenon and fail to advise patients to quit tobacco— or at least to separate the consumption of both drugs so the positive effects of cannabis remain intact. The unfortunate reality is that in most instances in Europe, the pairing of cannabis and tobacco simply isn’t discussed.

Last but not least, pure cannabis acts quite differently than a cannabis–tobacco blend. Patients report that the combination of nicotine and cannabis can lead to pain relief and relaxation, but very often they note fatigue as a negative side effect.

Lung-Killer Nicotine

All these facts should be worrying enough for European cannabis fans to reflect on their consumption habits. To make things worse, there’s the political aspect. Prohibitionists use the dangers of the legal drug nicotine to protest against legalization of cannabis: “How can we have ever stricter laws to control tobacco and at the same time legalize cannabis?”

Professor Donald Tashkin has been a leading American pulmonologists for decades. In the past he was a vocal supporter of cannabis prohibition. Tashkin was convinced that smoking cannabis flowers created a high risk of developing lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). At one point, he was convinced that cannabis and lung cancer had a causal relationship worse than tobacco.

But more recent evaluations of long-term studies, however, made him change his mind in 2009: “Early on, when our research appeared as if there would be a negative impact on lung health, I was opposed to legalization because I thought it would lead to increased use, and that would lead to increased health effects,” he has said. “But at this point, I’d be in favor of legalization. I wouldn’t encourage anybody to smoke any substances, because of the potential for harm. But I don’t think it should be stigmatized as an illegal substance. Tobacco smoking causes far more harm. And in terms of an intoxicant, alcohol causes far more harm.”

If the legislators take their task to protect public health seriously, European studies that evaluate the risk potential of pure cannabis consumed in various forms (smoking, vaporizing, edibles) have to be undertaken. These studies should take the international state of research into account, focusing on safer ways of consuming.

Michael Knodt is Leafly’s Germany correspondent.

A Strange Blend: Why Are Europeans Mixing Cannabis and Tobacco? This article was originally published on Leafly. Cannabis doesn’t carry the sort of health hazards tobacco does, a majority

Smoking Cannabis Without Tobacco: Pros & Cons of Pure Cannabis

Mixing cannabis with tobacco is a commonplace activity in Europe, but almost blasphemed in the USA. Why do people mix cannabis with tobacco in the first place? We explore this phenomenon and give alternatives to tobacco for those wanting to kick the habit!

In the USA, Canada, and South America, it’s almost blasphemous to mix cannabis with tobacco. In Europe, mixing is much more commonplace, and is even considered to be the “normal” way to use cannabis.

At the end of the day, cannabis users mix with tobacco for a number of reasons. It may be because they prefer the taste, the effect, or simply because they don’t want to put 1 or 2 grams in a single joint.

The advent of the cannabis revolution brought to the world an infinite number of ways to consume cannabis. The more that consumers become aware of the health risks associated with smoking, the more they are turning to edibles, vaping products, and extracts for oral consumption.

Despite these new ways to use cannabis, smoking is still many people’s preferred method of administration. In this article, we’re breaking down the pros and cons of mixing cannabis with tobacco, and we will share some alternatives to tobacco for mixing.

The cannabis vs. tobacco debate

There is a common school of thought that cannabis smoke is well tolerated by the body, while tobacco smoke leads to all kinds of cancers — lung, colon and rectal to name a few. But this is only partially true.

Most academic literature on the topic confirms that pure cannabis smoke does not cause lung cancers. Donald P. Taskin’s 2012 research is one such example, corroborated by previous studies as demonstrated in this 2008 literature review.

However, while cannabis smoke is not directly linked to lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it still damages the bronchioles of the lung. In fact, cannabis smoke is still carcinogenic, although not equally to tobacco. In this way, the argument that cannabis smoke is well tolerated by the body is a myth.

Habitual cannabis smoking (such as a joint on the weekends) is not considered to be of any great danger for the general population. In the studies mentioned above, however, it is clearly indicated that things become more complex in heavy or chronic cannabis smokers. The likelihood of developing a respiratory disorder increases in long-term cannabis smokers.

Regular cannabis users — especially those who use cannabis medicinally — are urged to consider the alternative methods of cannabis consumption. It may not be as dangerous as smoking tobacco, but it is nonetheless linked with dangers of its own.

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Smoking cannabis with tobacco vs. smoking pure cannabis: the pros and cons

If you don’t smoke tobacco at all, it seems like there are no pros to mixing cannabis with tobacco. But for the lover of the spliff (the mixed joint), there are just as many pros as there are cons. We’re breaking them down, one by one.

The benefits of mixing tobacco with cannabis

1. Your cannabis lasts longer

To virtually everybody that mixes, this is one of the most obvious benefits. For most people, ¼ to ½ gram is enough weed for a joint, and anything more is excessive. Most pure joints contain at least one gram, which to spliff smokers, is a complete waste of weed. Plus, nobody likes relighting a joint that they’ve already put out.

2. A spliff burns better than a joint

Arguably, the reason tobacco mixing became so popular in Europe was because for a long time, hash was the main commodity (not flowers). To smoke hash pure, it required a special pipe for hashish. However, it could be smoked in a joint providing there was tobacco or some other herbal mix.

Europeans still see cannabis flowers the same way: without a pipe, it’s almost impossible to smoke a pure joint without having to relight it before every puff. Tobacco helps the joint burn much more smoothly, mitigating the issue of it constantly going out.

3. The taste

This pro is arguably a con, too. To lovers of tobacco, the taste of a spliff is unmatched. Of course, to haters of tobacco the opposite is true. There are many spliff smokers out there who believe there’s no greater marriage than tobacco and cannabis, like peanut butter and jelly or strawberries and cream!

4. Mixing with tobacco intensifies the effect of cannabis

There’s no doubt that mixing with tobacco somehow alters the effects of cannabis. Nicotine and tobacco have cerebral effects of their own, and when used in conjunction with cannabis, it seems that tobacco potentiates the effects of cannabis. The high is less “clear” and more “cloudy”, giving the feeling that the high is intensified.

The benefits of smoking pure cannabis

1. You can enjoy the taste of pure cannabis

The smell and taste of cannabis are among the most important aspects of the cannabis experience. In fact, the smell and the taste tell a person a lot about the quality of the cannabis they are smoking. When you smoke pure weed, you get the full aromatic experience of weed without it being hindered or interfered with by any other plant (such as tobacco or other smoking mixes).

2. There is less chance of addiction

Typically, cannabis is considered far less addictive than tobacco. However, one 2016 study identified a higher risk of dependency for those who mix cannabis with tobacco. While this “addiction” may be to the tobacco inside the joint, the result is a dependency on the whole joint. Smoking pure cannabis reduces the likelihood of developing a cannabis dependence.

3. A pure cannabis joint means a pure cannabis high

Lovers of cannabis want the effects of cannabis — not the effects of cannabis mixed with tobacco. The experience of pure weed is different to the experience of mixed weed in multiple respects. We already mentioned the taste and smell, but the high itself is also much clearer when smoked pure. For some, this clear-headed high is preferable to the sometimes-too-intense high that can be had when mixing.

4. Smoking pure cannabis doesn’t damage your taste buds or olfactory senses like tobacco does

It is common for tobacco smokers to report a lacklustre sense of smell and taste. On the contrary, cannabis heightens taste and smell sensitivity. Pure cannabis does not interfere with these senses. It doesn’t take long after tobacco cessation to regain full faculty of the nose and taste buds.

Why do people mix tobacco with cannabis? We talk about pure joints vs. mixed joints, and the pros and cons of both.