A small, handheld device used to smoke cannabis. Pipes are available in most dispensaries and in any smoke shop. Cannabis flower is packed into the bowl, which as the name suggests is the bowl-shaped area that holds the marijuana. When using a pipe to smoke cannabis, it is important to cover the carb, or hole found on the side of the bowl where the flower is packed.
She bought her husband a glass pipe for his birthday.
He had a bong and rolling papers, but he found the easiest and quickest way to smoke was with his pipe.
History of pipes
Pipes date all the way to at least 4,000 years, with evidence discovered in ancient Egypt. Remains of pipes and tobacco leaves have been found in Egyptian sarcophagi from as early as 2000 BC. Ceremonial pipes have also been used by Native Americans throughout history, in prayer ceremonies (the smoke produced by the pipe was thought to carry prayers to spirits), in war (symbolic “peace pipes” were presented as a gesture of good will), and as part of social gatherings.
Pipes have also been used throughout history as a method for smoking cannabis. Holy men, known as Sadhus in India and the Middle East used “dry pipes” as an alternative smoking mechanism to the more popular hookah.
Today, pipes are one of the most popular devices for smoking cannabis flower thanks to their wide availability, ease of use, affordable prices, as well as the variety of types, colors, and styles. While pipes are widely used and sold, they haven't been without legal controversy.
In 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice set up a sting operation nicknamed Operation Pipe Dreams, which targeted dozens of glassblowers across the country — most prominently among them pop culture icon and cannabis advocate Tommy Chong — and charged them with “trafficking of illegal drug paraphernalia.” The resulting sentences, including Chong's 9-month jail sentence, and surrounding controversy inspired the next generation of glassblowers and sparked a resurgence of American pipe making that continues today.
Types of pipes
There are a wide variety of types of pipes, including hand pipes, one-hitters, steamrollers, and even crafted pipes inspired by literature and motion pictures.
Also known as “spoons,” hand pipes are the most common type of pipe used for smoking cannabis. Hand pipes sit in the palm of your hand and are composed of a bowl in which you pack the flower and a stem from which you inhale the smoke. There is a hole in the bottom of the bowl that allows smoke to travel through the stem as well as a larger hole on the side, known as a carb, that allows smokers to regulate air flow.
Hand pipes are most commonly made out of glass, although metal and wood forms are also available.
One-hitters, which were also called chillums, are small pipes, typically 2–4 inches, or 5–10 centimeters, long and shaped like a tube with a mouthpiece on one end and a small opening for cannabis flower on the other.
These pipes are called one-hitters because the amount of cannabis they can hold often is small — the equivalent of one hit.
Steamrollers combine characteristics of both hand pipes and one-hitters. They're typically cylindrical, similar in shape to a one-hitter, but borrow certain features — such as a carb and a larger bowl — from a hand pipe. The main difference between a steamroller and a handpipe is the open area at the front of the steamroller, which allows for greater airflow.
Pop culture icons throughout history have also inspired their own categories of pipes, including the Sherlock pipe (made popular by fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and categorized by its long, curved shape) and the Gandalf (Originally called a churchwarden pipe and associated with wizard Gandalf from the “Lord of the Rings” series, this pipe is similar to the Sherlock but significantly longer).
How to use a pipe
Using a pipe is one of the most simple and straightforward ways to smoke cannabis. To start smoking with a pipe:
- Take a small amount of cannabis flower and break it up with your hands or a grinder.
- Pack the cannabis into the bowl of the pipe. The key is to not overpack the bowl. Packing the cannabis too tightly will restrict airflow, making it harder to smoke.
- Hold the pipe in the palm of your hand and place your finger or thumb over the carb, which depending on the type of pipe you're using, will either be on the side of the end of your pipe. If you're using a one-hitter, there's no carb to cover.
- Spark your lighter close to the surface of the bowl and inhale, keeping your finger on the carb. This will draw the flame to the bowl, ignite the cannabis, and create the smoke to inhale through the stem.
- Once your flower starts to combust and cherry, lift the flame away from the bowl. You can keep the cherry burning by covering and uncovering the carb using a tapping motion while you inhale.
- Exhale and repeat until you've smoked all the cannabis in the bowl.
How to clean a glass pipe
With frequent use, pipes can build up residue that can lead to clogging and impaired smoke flavor. Cannabis users should plan to clean their bowls regularly to enjoy an optimal smoking experience.
- Place the pipe in a sealable plastic bag.
- Fill the bag with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to submerge the entire pipe.
- Add a teaspoon of salt. Either table salt (sodium chloride) or Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) will work.
- Leave the pipe to soak in the container or bag for up to 12 hours. This will give the alcohol time to dissolve the resin.
- Once the pipe has had time to soak, shake the bag vigorously to remove any resin in hard-to-reach places of the pipe.
- Remove the pipe from the bag and wash thoroughly with dish soap and water.
- Let the pipe dry.
If you don't have a baggie on hand, you can also clean your pipe in a small sealable container. Skip the “vigorously shaking” step, though, to avoid breaking your pipe.
Frequently asked questions
How do you smoke a pipe with no carb?
The mechanics of smoking weed from a pipe with no carb don't differ all that much from smoking a pipe with a carb. A carbless pipe will simply require a slightly harder pull to clear the smoke through the stem. When using a pipe that doesn't have a carb, smokers should also expect to lose smoke that dissipates from the bowl, instead of through the pipe, as the cherry burns.
With less control over the airflow of the pipe, it may be helpful to start with smaller hits from the pipe until you get a better feel for the pipe, as well as your own lung capacity.
How much do weed pipes normally cost?
A standard glass pipe will typically cost $20–$35, with more elaborate or custom pieces costing anywhere from $100 to hundreds of dollars or more.
What's the difference between a piece, bowl, and pipe?
A “piece” is a catchall term for a pipe or other crafted smoking device. A bowl is the opening in a pipe where flower is packed, though the term may sometimes be used synonymously with pipe to describe the whole piece.
What's the difference between a pipe, bubbler, and a bong?
A pipe is a basic, dry smoking device that consists of a bowl and a neck, where a bong is a water pipe with a bowl that connects to a downstem, which filters the smoke through water before it reaches the user. A bubbler is also a water pipe, but a handheld one with a fixed bowl and water chamber.