Hotboxing is common and popular slang for smoking cannabis in a small enclosed space. Hotboxing is also known by the less commonly used slang “clambaking,” and while clambaking is used less frequently, the two terms are interchangeable.

More on hotboxing

Perhaps forever immortalized in cannabis culture by Cheech and Chong (Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong), a duo who pioneered the stoner comedy genre in the 1970s, hotboxing is typically done by smoking cannabis in a small, enclosed, and unventilated space and filling it with thick clouds of smoke.

While many folks associate hotboxing with being in a car, bathrooms are another popular choice for hotboxing. Any small space that you can easily close off and fill up with cannabis smoke is fair game. More adventurous cannabis lovers might endeavor to hotbox a large room with a large group of people and lots of weed.

Why do people hotbox?

Historically, folks have enjoyed hotboxing as a way to increase their high. It is believed that enclosing oneself in an unventilated space with clouds of cannabis smoke allows there to be no waste of cannabinoids since in a hotbox, you'd be continually breathing cannabis-infused smoke into your lungs.

Does hotboxing actually get you higher?

People have been enjoying hotboxing for decades, but recent scientific inquiry has not shown evidence that it actually gets you higher.

In 2015, John Hopkins University School of Medicine conducted a study that, while intended to investigate whether a contact high was possible when nonsmokers are exposed to cannabis smoke, also gave us a little more information in and around the effects of hotboxing

The study was done with 13 human participants, who were observed and tested before and after two separate smoking sessions. In the first session, a group of active smokers and non-smokers sat in a completely closed-off and unventilated room, in other words, a hotbox. In the second, the same group of active smokers and non-smokers sat in a ventilated space.

The blood plasma levels of THC in the smokers were virtually the same during both sessions, suggesting that hotboxing does not actually get more cannabinoids into your system. “Data from active smokers who participated in multiple sessions were analyzed together and are presented together because their levels of cannabinoid exposure did not significantly differ as a function of room ventilation,” the study noted.

Interestingly, though, it did show that folks who were not smoking but sitting in on a hotbox session could, in fact, experience a low-level high, along with having demonstrable levels of THC in their blood — in other words, a contact high. The nonsmokers did not experience a high or have appreciable amounts of THC in their blood after the ventilated session.

With that said, people still enjoy hotboxing for the feeling of an enhanced high. While it's likely not due to increased levels of THC or other cannabinoids in your body, hotbox sessions are notoriously hard to breathe in because of both the smoke and the increased levels of carbon dioxide. Even if lightheadedness is what's increasing the feeling of being high in a hotbox, folks who enjoy the ritual of hotboxing probably won't care either way.

Bottom line

Hotboxing is an institutional ritual for many cannabis enthusiasts, and it's a practice that has been enjoyed for decades. It can be an intense experience, so if you're new to hotboxing, be sure to crack a window if you or anyone else feels dizzy or overwhelmed. And if you're hotboxing your car, be sure to follow local laws around driving while impaired.

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on May 10, 2021.