What you need to know about weed stems

Weed stems aren't waste. There, we said it. They get a bad reputation because they don't contain trichomes, which means they don't have THC and won't get you high. So, to many cannabis consumers, weed stems have no use and often get tossed in the trash. Nobody is interested in smoking stems. Everybody is interested in "smoking weed" (which, in this case, is the flower).

weed stems
Cannabis stems and other plant fibers offer source material for textiles and commercial building materials.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

But the attitude that weed stems are useless stems (pun absolutely intended) from a misunderstanding of the very real value cannabis stems and other plant fibers offer — source material for textiles and commercial building materials.

This guide will help you understand what weed stems are, how to use them if you want to get the most out of your plant, and ways the construction and textiles industries are making use of weed stems and other cannabis fibers.

What are weed stems?

Cannabis plants have a lot of parts. Weed stems are the part of cannabis plants that support the flowers and leaves. The structure of the cannabis plant consists of the main stalk, similar to a tree trunk, with various branches and smaller stems that grow out to create the cannabis plant's structure. Some cannabis strains have thick, stout stem structures, while others are thinner and taller.

parts of the cannabis plant
Weed stems are the part of cannabis plants that support the flowers and leaves.

Can I smoke weed stems?

You can, but you shouldn't. Smoking stems won't get you high. Smoking stems won't enhance the flavor of your hit. Smoking stems will only serve to introduce into your lungs more plant material that's potentially harsh and unpleasant. If you happen to get a piece of a stem into your grinder, don't worry too much about it. But don't go out of your way to grind stems to add to your cannabis flower thinking it will elevate your experience. It won't.

Can I consume weed stems in other ways?

Should you grind up your stems and add them to your bowl? No. But that doesn't mean stems can't be used in a consumable preparation.

One of the more popular ways people use cannabis stems is to add them to cannabis tea. If you don't have a tea bag handy, you can use a coffee filter or pair of unused nylon stockings to steep your flower-and-stem tea. Some people like the flavor of weed. Marijuana stems may not have trichomes but they do have essential oils. Adding stems will add flavor without adding THC.

weed tea
One of the more popular ways people use cannabis stems is to add them to cannabis tea.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Can weed stems be added to topicals or edibles?

If you happen to have some weed stems, there's no harm in adding them to flower and leaves when steeping a cannabis tincture. You can also include stems when making oil-based cannabis-infused concoctions. It's best to make high-quality flower the feature ingredient if you're looking to make potent edibles or topicals. But if you want to make use of your stems, it certainly can't hurt to let them steep alongside your ground flower in topical or edible preparations. You can find many recipes online for cannabis-infused coconut oil, cannabutter, a cannabis cocktail or two, and other edible goods. 

Can stems increase my cannabis concentrate yield?

Stems can be marginally useful in maximizing trichome yields for kief or bubble hash. Unless you're a licensed manufacturer tumbling pounds at a time, it won't help to add weed stems when you're making kief or hash at home. While stems won't turn a mediocre bubble hash yield into a spectacular one, trichomes are sticky and might have gotten attached to stems during processing. Including them helps get the most off the plant, but the amount of residual trichomes that may have gotten stuck on cannabis stalks or stems is negligible so place your hopes appropriately.

How are cannabis stems used commercially?

Beyond attempts to squeeze the last possible amount of THC out of weed, the fibrous plant material in hemp and marijuana, including weed stems, can be used to make hemp rope, hemp paper, wood chips, paper scraps, and even a plant-based concrete.

The textile industry has also historically used hemp as a substitute for cotton, and modern fashion has seen increased interest in hemp-based textiles for reasons of sustainability.

Sustainable agriculture means making better use of more leftover cannabis plant matter that doesn't traditionally wind up in the jars that line dispensary storefronts.

Increasing marijuana legalization provides us the opportunity to look beyond the medical and adult-use benefits of the cannabis flower and toward the many benefits of cannabis as an agricultural commodity crop.

Instead of trying to smoke your stems, look to cannabis fiber-based goods, such as hemp paper, rope, fabric, and other textiles to support sustainable agriculture and promote the many beneficial qualities of cannabis that don't come with a head change. 

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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 February 23, 2021.