Joints are one of the most popular and ubiquitous cannabis smoking traditions. Also known as a marijuana cigarette, a joint is composed of weed, rolling papers, and sometimes a mouthpiece or filter. Joints are often enjoyed among friends, and the way you consume a joint is just as important as how well you roll it. Let’s go over the basics of how to smoke a joint the right way.

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How to Hold a Joint

Let's start off by saying there is no wrong way to hold a joint, as long as you're able to get high. Anyone who says otherwise is an elitist about something that doesn't even matter, so just hit them with a "Weird flex" and move on. There are, however, a couple of different popular ways to hold a joint.

Many cigarette smokers hold their cigs wedged between their index and middle fingers just below where the filter meets the tobacco, leaving enough space on the filter side to comfortably flick their ashes. While it is possible to smoke a joint with this grip, it may not be the most practical method if your joint doesn't have a crutch in it, or if the crutch is too small.

Filters in joints are not always as long, thick and spongy as tobacco filters. The finger and thumb method allows you to maintain a gentle but stable hold without pinching the mouthpiece closed, which could block the flow of air and absolutely ruin your joint. If you do have a long crutch and you find yourself cutting off the airflow of the joint while you're holding it like a cigarette, you have to ask yourself, "Why am I pinching this so hard?"

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The best way to hold a joint is between the pads of your index finger and thumb, similar to the mudra Gyan in yoga or like the scuba diving signal for “I’m okay.” Alternatively, you can pinch the joint with your thumb and the pads of your middle finger(like the Shuni mudra). While this variation may feel slightly awkward, it may help with tapping excess ash later on. This also makes it easier to pass the joint than holding it like a cigarette.

Hold the joint on the filtered end with about ¼” of the mouthpiece protruding towards you; just enough for your lips to catch onto. Grip the joint between your two fingers as lightly as you would hold a single piece of Rice Krispies that you don’t want to crush.

Get it Lit

Lighting your joint properly ensures a smooth and even burn and prevents the dreaded “canoe”—when your joint burns on only one side and makes a flaming hot mess. The person who rolls the joint earns the right to spark their own creation, however the roller may choose to pass the honor to another member of the smoker’s circle, perhaps to the host of the occasion or guest of honor.

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To light your joint for the perfect red cherry,  start by holding your joint in your hand, not your mouth. Ignite your lighter or hemp wick and rotate the joint as you slowly toast only the twisted papery tip to start.

Once you burn off the excess paper and start getting to the body of your joint, take two to three very small and gentle puffs. If your joint starts burning more on one side than the other, use your lighter to hold the edge of the flame under the unlit side to help it burn more evenly.

You don’t want your entire joint going up in smoke before it’s properly lit, so take your time and use only a touch of the flame. Continue with small puffs and your lighter until the joint begins burning at an even rate. A properly-lit cherry is key to a great smoking session. 

How to Inhale

Inhaling from a joint for the first time can be a daunting step for new smokers. You don’t want to waste smoke or give yourself a massive coughing fit. It’s crucial to know your limits and exercise caution as a beginner.  Start with dry lips. You may even want to dab them with a napkin, especially if you are wearing lip balm or lipstick. Don’t pucker up like you’re playing spin-the-bottle, either.

Try to curl your lips in over your teeth like you’re making an “mmm” sound to prevent any transfer of saliva. Bring the joint to your slightly-parted lips. Don’t puff like you would on a cigar or suck like you would through a drinking straw. Instead, draw in a breath as you would in a yoga session, relaxing the tongue and diaphragm and expanding the belly.

Fill your lungs halfway or less with smoke to start, then remove the joint from your mouth and fill your lungs the rest of the way with clean, fresh air. Pause for just a moment at the top of the breath and release in one controlled, fluid exhale. Remember, it’s general weed etiquette to take two puffs and then pass it along. 

Do I Have to Hold my Breath?

Don’t let the jeers of your fellow smokers put pressure on you: you do not need to hold your smoke in for longer than it feels comfortable for you. Alveoli, or tiny air sacs in your lungs, absorb THC in mere seconds.

In one study, researchers asked participants to hold their smoke inhalation for 0, 10 and 20 seconds and found that “there was little evidence that response to marijuana was a function of breath-hold duration.” Holding in smoke for prolonged periods merely deprives your body and brain of oxygen and can cause coughing, headache, chest pain and more. It is more important to inhale deeply with proper technique to get an effective hit.

How Much Should I Smoke?

It’s important to know your limits if you’re new to smoking joints. If you have a low tolerance for cannabis, two small hits may be all you need to feel the effects. After your first turn, take a few deep breaths and assess how you’re feeling. Is your heart rate normal? Do you feel like you can hold a conversation with others? If you’re comfortable, go ahead and take another turn.

If you’re starting to feel moderately high, it might be a good idea to pass on the next round. While exercising restraint may feel uncool, it’s far cooler than getting a bad case of the “smokie-too-muchies.” Knowing how to smoke a joint the right way is the key to enjoying a great high using this timeless method.