With or without tobacco?

With or without tobacco?

Depending on which side of the Atlantic ocean you live, mixing your cannabis with tobacco is either frowned upon or is common place. It remains controversial, thus worthy of looking into.

History of cannabis and tobacco

Cannabis and tobacco each have a long history of being consumed by humans for various reasons. According to Wikipedia, tobacco has been around since 5000-3000 BC, while cannabis has been around even earlier: 8000 BC.

But, zooming in on the Western civilization, tobacco was introduced in Europe in the 17th century through the colonial expeditions. Expeditions that could not take place, for the record, without hemp and it’s versatility, i.e. being used for ropes & sails on the ships.

Tobacco was expensive at first and was mixed with other herbs, like (industrial) hemp. Those who could not afford tobacco, would just smoke hemp. The latter is depicted in a 350 year old painting by Hendrik Martenszoon Sorgh, which you can go see in the Hash Museum in Amsterdam.

First with hashish in the 50’s, later flowers, imported through the harbors of Antwerp (Belgium) and Rotterdam (Netherlands), here the practice of mixing cannabis and tobacco gained popularity again in times where people were less concerned about their health (or simply didn’t know).

Long before the Dutch started growing themselves, everything was imported and generally mixed with tobacco. To this day, you will find pre-rolled joints in Dutch coffeeshops with cannabis flowers (or hash) and tobacco.

Around the same time cannabis was introduced in the Netherlands (as a smokable drug), the Spanish population was introduced to cannabis through their soldiers coming back from missions in Morocco and bringing hashish. It also made it easier for the younger generation to explain cannabis to the elderly population, as they remembered the soldiers returning with it. To this day, Spain still has several territories in North Africa.

Imported Moroccan, Afghani and Nepalese Hash
Imported Moroccan, Afghani and Nepalese Hash
Naga Sadhus of Mahakumbh Smoking a Chillum
Naga Sadhus of Mahakumbh Smoking a Chillum

In the present day

In addition to the Dutch, most Europeans still mix their cannabis with tobacco. A Swiss company has even gone as far as producing cigarettes containing hemp in addition to tobacco. There’s even a company in the United States which has patented mixing cannabis and tobacco. Here’s the patent application for those who are curious.

Chillums, were invented in India and this is still the most common method used to consume hashish (usually with hand rubbed Charas). With over a billion people in India, it belongs in this summary of present day habits of mixing cannabis and tobacco.

Why mix cannabis and tobacco?

But why mix your organically grown (or bought) cannabis with tobacco, unhealthy for many reasons? First and foremost, Europeans still do not have access to a legally regulated market. Prices are still high and much like their Golden Age counterparts, they mix it with tobacco to stretch their stash.

Some may have tried to smoke cannabis without tobacco, but just ended up coughing their lungs out. On the one hand this might be because of black market cannabis, on the other hand it might be because there’s a substance in tobacco which keeps you from coughing.

There’s also a big bunch out there that just really like unique effect of a blend of cannabis and tobacco. In fact, a study published in 2009 found that to maximize the intake of THC, you should only add a minimum to (a lot) of tobacco. Which completely goes against any common sense, for most people that is.

A more recent study from 2017 concluded that the combination may actually reduce the damaging effects cannabis can have on memory. And while cannabis legalization might be on a roll in North America, finding a spot where you can legally consume could still prove difficult.

THC in Spliff Smoke
THC in Spliff Smoke

Which is why some people have gone as far as mixing their cannabis with tobacco, much like their European counterparts:

“Say you live in a Seattle apartment that doesn’t allow smoking. Consumption in public is illegal. Cannabis cafes don’t exist. What do you do? If you’re like a lot of people, you smoke in a tucked-away spot, in the rain, where you hopefully don’t bother anyone else. To the degree you’re worried about a ticket from the police, smoking something that smells more like a cigarette can be reassuring. (Please don’t break the law and blame me, but for real, what is everyone else doing out there?)”

Furthermore, the author also states it burns better and gives similar reasons to the ones mentioned earlier in this article.

Why you shouldn’t mix cannabis and tobacco

If you’re concerned about your health, it is recommended not to mix cannabis and tobacco. In fact, smoking anything (even burning cannabis) will make you inhale toxic substances. Instead, opt for vaporizing or edibles.

If you’re concerned about whether your cannabis is organically grown, you’re a hypocrite if you still mix cannabis with tobacco, as tobacco is known to be infused by a plethora of (chemical) substances.

Tobacco use also leaves a smell on your fingers, on your clothes and in the room. And gives you a bad breath.

In the future

As cannabis becomes more accepted throughout the world and tobacco continues to be demonised, prices of cannabis will continue to decrease while prices of tobacco will continue to increase. As such, the financial argument will cease to exist. Instead, you might still be able to buy your cigarettes, but they don’t contain tobacco but hemp (with little THC). Like Sherbinskis’ (the creator of Gelato) new terpene infused hemp pre-rolls.

And as cannabis also becomes legalized in Spain and the Netherlands, those pre-rolls (and the habit of mixing) might cease to exist as it is unlikely the cannabis shops will continue to be able to sell a product containing harmful tobacco.

In addition, edibles, concentrates (for dabbing) and pre-filled cartridges (with hash oil) will give the consumer more options to consume cannabis other than the option of with or without tobacco.

Some outlaws or long term consumers who have been mixing cannabis and tobacco all of their lives, will probably continue to do so until their death (likely of a lung disease). It’s their own choice after all. While newcomers, much like the present day Americans, will look upon you with dismay when they catch you in the act of mixing cannabis and tobacco.

Text by: Mauro Picavet
The Stoned Society