How Europe is Getting it Wrong on Cannabis

Progressive European marijuana policy is likely being hindered by the vast majority of EU citizen cannabis users who mix tobacco with their marijuana. In fact, this practice is so common that Americans such as myself seem out of place in Europe when we smoke joints, pipes or bongs consisting of pure marijuana. But more importantly, the European practice of mixing tobacco with marijuana also means that it’s no wonder Europe isn’t advancing the medical marijuana agenda like in North America.

Most marijuana users in Europe mix tobacco with cannabis. In the 2014 Global Drug Survey, the authors sampled 38,000 cannabis users and concluded that while just 7% of American cannabis users add tobacco to their marijuana, more than 80% of cannabis users from other countries do so as a matter of practice.

In my personal and professional experience, this number is probably about 10% higher for Europeans specifically. For example, when I lived in the Netherlands, I found that nearly everyone I met and interacted with in the cannabis industry mixed tobacco with weed. I was always the “odd man out,” and my practice of rolling fat, filter-less joints of pure cannabis raised many an eyebrow.

Conversely, everyone around me in the Netherlands smoked their weed with tobacco, despite the fact that the Dutch recently made it illegal to smoke tobacco in public places. My experience in Amsterdam, Arnhem, Nijmegen and Utrecht is that this is policy but not practice, although famed travel expert and marijuana activist Rick Steves claims that in most cases where a Dutch coffeeshop is busted or harassed by authorities, it’s because of tobacco, not marijuana.

My work with the cannabis clubs of Catalonia has also shown that 90% or more of social club members in Spain add tobacco to their marijuana. I have worked with dozens of clubs and spent hundreds of hours inside clubs conducting interviews, providing consultations and gathering information. As was the case when I lived among the Dutch, Catalonians and Spaniards categorically mix tobacco and cannabis. Again, my American-style practices of smoking pure weed in filter-less joints surprised most of my fellow socios. In fact, there have been many times while hanging out in clubs like La Mesa, Dr. Dou or Green Age where strangers identified me as an American simply by watching me roll a pure joint from across the room.

I have had a number of discussions and even some good-natured arguments about this practice. My personal belief is that mixing tobacco with marijuana is not only bad for the individual, it’s bad for the people around them and for the entire legalization movement, and it does nothing to advance marijuana policy for medical users. The following are the 6 most common arguments I have heard for why Europeans mix tobacco and marijuana and my most common summarized rebuttals:

1. Raw Marijuana is too Strong

This is the most common argument in support of mixing tobacco and weed. However, it just doesn’t make sense. Instead of exercising self-control by only consuming a “hit” or two at a time, the solution is to add toxic tobacco to dilute the cannabis? That’s just not logical. Of course, this inevitably leads to argument #2.

2. Mixing with Tobacco makes it Last Longer

The second most common reason given by Europeans who smoke tobacco and marijuana together is that it makes joints last longer. Whether simply to prolong the social activity of smoking a joint or to save money by extending the duration of a smoking session, this argument seems to be the hardest to rebut, but it’s really not. This practice means that Europeans are seemingly willing to compromise their health in order to extend the life and/or duration of their cannabis or smoking session.

Instead, I argue that smoking practices should simply change. For instance, the few people that I know in Europe who only smoke pure weed do exactly what I do; roll a joint and take a few puffs, then put it out and socialize, then fire it up again when we want a few more puffs, and so on. We enjoy the experience for as long as anyone else and our pot goes a long way. It’s not like because we “purists” only use marijuana that we run out of weed sooner than tobacco mixers, spend more money for our consumption or that our socializing comes to an end sooner. We simply moderate our use differently and without the added health risks and complications attributed to tobacco use.

3. They Like the Taste of Tobacco

Some people just like the taste of tobacco. There really isn’t a way to argue against this point except that if a person enjoys the specific taste of tobacco so much, then why not just smoke tobacco? Meaning, if the taste of tobacco is so enjoyable, why adulterate it with marijuana? And why force everyone around you to inhale your dangerous second-hand smoke simply because you have a preference for the taste of tobacco?

Most Europeans Mix Tobacco with Marijuana

4. They Don’t Like the Taste of Weed

This is sort of like saying “I don’t like the taste of broccoli so I smother it in arsenic sauce before eating it.” If the primary complaint is the taste of marijuana, there are a number of things that can be tried before resorting to mixing weed with toxic tobacco. For instance, there are hundreds of different cannabis strains in circulation, all with different taste and flavor profiles. Chances are that a tolerable strain can be found. Otherwise, why not try dabbing or vaporizing, which offers a completely different experience and taste/flavor/aroma? This latter suggestion is even healthier than smoking pure marijuana.

5. They Need Tobacco Mix to Roll a Joint Properly

Although I listed this excuse at #5, this is one of the more common rationales I have heard for mixing tobacco with cannabis. Apparently, many Europeans believe or have personal experience that a joint of pure weed cannot be rolled properly. The list of problems with rolling pure joints usually include inability to roll without clumping, inability to roll without tearing, inability to “tuck” the paper, and inability to keep a pure joint lit continuously.

I call bullshit on all of these excuses. I’ve rolled and smoked thousands of pure, filter-less joints and never had a problem. My joints are large, straight, evenly distributed, properly packed and burn cleanly and evenly to the end once lit. Occasionally I’ll have a joint that runs down the side, but this is rare and is also quickly fixed.

You can’t argue that my success with rolling pure joints is due to the fact that I’m a veteran joint roller; most of the 420-friendly people that I know in the United States and Canada roll pure joints without any problems at all. In fact, most of the people in the circles I travel in within the US cannabis industry would laugh at the list of problems Europeans give concerning joint rolling.

6. They’ve Always Done it that Way – Tradition

This is a lame excuse regardless of the subject matter to which it is applied. The year is 2015; we know that tobacco is a toxic, noxious, obnoxious substance. If you’re mixing tobacco with your weed just because it’s what you’ve always done, you need to wake up and smell the terpenes.

Conclusion

This isn’t a bitch-fest with a petty matter at heart. This is a serious problem. How can Europe expect to advance marijuana as a medicine when 90%+ of the people who use it – including medical users – mix it with health-damaging tobacco?

And how many people such as myself must breathe in this second hand-smoke, which has been shown to be especially nasty and causes a multitude of serious health problems?

Any time a European argues in favor of mixing tobacco with cannabis, they need to be reminded of three important facts:

  • Tobacco smoke is dangerous to personal health
  • Tobacco smoke damages the health of those around the smoker
  • The custom of mixing tobacco and marijuana likely slows the progress of marijuana activism

Ultimately, the real reason that so many Europeans continue to put tobacco in their marijuana is because they are addicted to tobacco. The nicotine found in tobacco is one of the most addictive substances known to man. So while the majority of Europeans who mix tobacco with marijuana might argue that they do so for one of the 6 reasons listed in this article, the reality is that most of them are doing so because they are addicted to tobacco.

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Author: Russ Hudson View all posts by
Russ Hudson is the CannaBizConsultant and founder and editor of MarijuanaGames.org. A professional writer, certified search marketer and web developer, Russ is an avid supporter of transparency in marijuana research, truth in cannabis activism, and full repeal of prohibition. Russ also advocates for the immediate development of a cooperative international economic and agricultural marijuana strategy.

Having lived, worked and traveled extensively throughout The Netherlands, Spain and the United States, Russ is intimately familiar with cannabis culture. But one of the coolest things about Russ is that he actually responds to emails personally. Find out for yourself by getting in touch with him now:

Email Russ: russ@marijuanagames.org

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Leave A Response

29 Comments on "How Europe is Getting it Wrong on Cannabis"

  1. antony August 12, 2016 at 16:18 - Reply

    would like to add, while weed has been widely available in the us for many years over here in europe this has not been the case, uk/ireland for instance when i was a young lad and until about 10 years ago was dominated by hashish not weed from morocco. (i have tryed smoking a slab of it without tobacco but it dont work). this is the reason i use tobacco in joints, ok now weed is available easier than hash but old habits die hard. and cost. 2.5g is €50 here on street. €50 euro a joint is just to much, i love smoking pure weed joints it would be my prefered option but i just cant afford that. id smoke one every evening. €350 pw. get real

  2. ReggaeShark August 5, 2016 at 11:27 - Reply

    This is like saying that putting Gin with your Tonic water is damaging and shouldn’t be done cause its not helping the benefits of Tonic water.
    In Europe, Weed tends to be more expensive and people pay by the gram not the ounce, like in America. So mixing tobacco makes the few grams last longer, while in america you can buy a 4th ounce for what it cost buys 2 grams somewhere in Europe

    • Russ Hudson August 10, 2016 at 15:29 - Reply

      Lol, no, it’s not. Tonic has never been made illegal. Tonic has not caused war and been criminalized, sending thousands to prison or the grave. Tonic doesn’t have a host of medical benefits being repressed by the pharmaceutical industries for decades. Tonic doesn’t offer the potential to produce all of the world’s oil needs, fiber needs and to replace plastic. So overall your comparison is weak at best and lame at worst. You also don’t know anything about how people buy marijuana in the United States. We (the average American cannabis user) purchase by the 1/8 and 1/4 ounce, sometimes 1/2 ounce. A 1/4 ounce on average has cost $50 for the last 25 years, which means that you are telling me that in Europe, the average price of a gram is 25, which is not true. I have lived in Germany, the Netherlands and I split my time between Spain and the US, and you are just plain categorically wrong. Your comment doesn’t hold any water, Johan.

  3. Scott August 5, 2016 at 04:44 - Reply

    Most people who smoke weed in australia mix it with tobacco
    Except in south australia where the laws are lax and its relatively cheap personnally i get offended at the thought of mixing tobacco with my pot and dont even think about using my bong for mix

    • Russ Hudson August 10, 2016 at 15:29 - Reply

      Cool, thanks Scott, I didn’t know that. Peace -Russ

  4. Toby Walpole August 4, 2016 at 22:17 - Reply

    Russ, thank you for your article but it was a frustrating read. This is a topic close to my heart and I feel like you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. I’m 29 and have lived in South East England all my life. Most of the people I know either smoke cigarettes or both cigarettes and joints with tobacco. Nobody I know considers this a good thing. Everybody knows smoking tobacco causes cancer. Nobody wants cancer. Everybody just seems to hope they won’t get it. Personally I gave up smoking cigarettes nearly 3 years ago in favour of vaping. I think vaping is fantastic. The act of inhaling and exhaling is more pleasurable and satisfying, there are countless flavours available, nicotine content is a choice and it’s considerably less harmful.

    The problem I have is that I’m still buying tobacco for my joints. I hate doing so. I know there has to be a better way. I cannot simply stop putting tobacco in my joints though. If use the analogy of a ‘normal’ joint containing tobacco being equivalent to a pint of beer then a pure weed joint is equivalent to a pint of vodka. I can’t handle 2 or 3 pints of vodka every night. Even half a pint would be overkill. That full pint is gonna last for days. While I respect your position, sipping on your pint of vodka for as long as it takes to finish, you should appreciate that not everybody is going to want to do that.

    I feel like the only viable solution for me personally is learning how to infuse Vegetable Glycerine with weed to make an e liquid. As far as I’m aware such a thing is easily available in the USA where cannabis laws have been relaxed. I’m thoroughly jealous. In the UK it cannot simply be bought. I have tried one method of making it at home, found on YouTube. It involved grinding up bud and baking it at a low temperature, then adding that to some plain VG in a small pan which was then placed over a larger pan full of simmering water. This was then kept at temperature and stirred occasionally for about 5 hours. The whole process took bloody ages, plus £40 worth of bud, and I was left with something that tasted like bong water. It was foul.

    Since then I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this. Can you or anyone else enlighten me about making e liquid infused with weed? I would be very grateful!

  5. Sammeh Marley August 4, 2016 at 16:19 - Reply

    If that’s the issue, just smoke a cigarette after smoking weed, lol. Why not enjoy them separately?

  6. Marcko Kinsbourg August 4, 2016 at 07:57 - Reply

    Just to mention another reason why it’s smoked with tobacco. The nicotine combines well with the thc to give you a better rush. (Just saying).

    :p

  7. Randy large July 24, 2016 at 11:36 - Reply

    You make some good points, I’m a Brit who smokes “pure” weed. Or as I call them, blunts. I think there’s a little more behind the reasons weed is smoked with tobacco in Europe, from my experience, at least, most cannabis users just haven’t been introduced to blunts, or they use them as a special occasion.

    My friend and I often roll 2 – 3 gram blunts, and the circle of people we smoke with think we’re crazy because of it, so much so that they have even turned it down in favour of a joint (Tobacco mixed with weed)

    Another thing you have to consider, is the fact that the majority of cannabis users here are younger people, 16-20’s. Unfortunately, many of the people around this age I’ve spoken to don’t really take in to account the health risks when smoking tobacco with their weed. This carries over to cannabis activism – Most either don’t care, or don’t see it as a hindrance to the cause.

    • Russ Hudson July 25, 2016 at 15:18 - Reply

      Hola Randy; thank you for your comments. “Blunt” is a very common term in the cannabis industry, but exclusively refers to a cigar that has been filled with cannabis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blunt_(cannabis_cigar). What you roll, and what I roll – are joints. A joint with tobacco is called a spliff and of course a blunt is as discussed above. But overall, yes, you are right; this culture of combining tobacco and cannabis is one that should change. It’s probably hurting the movement, and at the very least it’s preventing people from getting involved…

  8. Jim May 24, 2016 at 14:48 - Reply

    I found this article a good read. But noticed no mention of Australia, so I thought I would add my experience. I am an ex weed smoker from Australia and can notify you that 99.9% of people that I have encountered in Australia that smoke weed do mix it with tobacco, or as we call it ‘spinner’. ‘Spinner’ is the name given to tobacco that is to be used to mix with your weed. One thing I have experienced and noticed is that people who smoke weed here struggle to ever quit cigarettes. We often fail to quit or quickly relapse into smoking cigarettes due to the fact that we always have a pack of cigarettes around for spinner and eventually end up giving in and smoking one. Therefore it is rare to find a weed smoker who does not also smoke cigarettes, this is an unfortunate cycle in our society due to the fact that all weed smokers are addicted to tobacco. Like you say the fact that we add tobacco to weed may also have something to do with the fact that legalisation is so far away in our country. It is so far away that I dont ever see a future where weed becomes legal here. Unfortunately we aren’t even close to debating the issue you talk about, as we live in such a controlling ‘nanny state’, where we are constantly told what we can or cant do, and a corrupt few in power dictate the laws that we abide.

    • Russ Hudson May 24, 2016 at 15:18 - Reply

      Thanks for your comment and for the information, Jim. It’s unfortunate the situation Australians are in. In the majority of the US it’s the same; I have to be very careful when I am in my home country so I feel your pain man. ;-( Peace -Russ

  9. Joy March 16, 2016 at 21:58 - Reply

    Unfortunately ,in some countries where the herb is still illegal,unless you grow your own,in India,most of the stuff(which is already close to shwag) is spiked with ratkill and what not to conceal the smell,so we smoke hash ,because we’re sure it’s pure.
    Ganja however unless you can see it’s clean and frosty cannot be smoked blunt without tobacco.

  10. Pascal Ladalle (@PascaLadalle) January 14, 2016 at 22:14 - Reply

    Kudoz for spreading the good word, tobacco is the plague.
    The average European smoker will mostly find Moroccan hash available for purchase, that’s the original reason behind the custom I suppose. Pipes and chillums were popular in the 70s but, not sure what happened, they were replaced by hookas and bongs? sprinkling some hash on a bed of…tobacco of course.
    Then comes money: rolling a joint with 0.1g material and 1g tobacco is common practice. Cheap poor-quality high..and health damaging.
    While if your jay has €10 worth of material, you won’t share it so easily…you say so yourself in the article – “then put it out and socialize” – not sharing a joint seems quite unthinkable around here.
    Keep up the good work. If you need some content in French, hit me up.
    Cheers

    • Russ Hudson January 14, 2016 at 22:27 - Reply

      Hola Pascal; thanks for your comment mate. It’s the same in the United States; not sharing a joint is virtually unheard of. But when I moved to first the Netherlands and then Spain, no one shared joints and it was hard for me to adjust to; I always felt automatically obliged to share my joints. Now in Barcelona, everyone pretty much smokes their own joint. It’s sort of like sharing a beer in America; there’s just no need for it. 😉 Peace -Russ

  11. Colm October 26, 2015 at 17:54 - Reply

    Hey, that’s a great perspective / observation. You’re right, on all accounts! Tobacco ruins the flavour and drastically reduces the high. I gave up tobacco over a year ago and I actually smoke/ consume so much less cannabis now just because I feel all the positive effects from it even more. Anyone that really enjoys cannabis should avoid tobacco. Other people I know that quit tobacco say the same thing!! But I didn’t really think about it as being so prevalent across Europe until I came across this article. Someone should campaign within the campaign!!

    • Russ Hudson October 26, 2015 at 21:59 - Reply

      Hi Colm; thank you for your comment. I’m hoping that Spain will lead the way by offering some private clubs that disallow tobacco, but so far in Catalonia this isn’t really an option. Because I spend so much time in the clubs, I get concerned for my health because of the amount of second hand tobacco smoke I breathe in while I am there…not to mention the putrescent smell that emanates from my clothing for long after I have left the club. Pity. Thanks for stopping by mate! Peace -Russ

  12. Tj July 23, 2015 at 08:10 - Reply

    Fuck off will ye just leave us be

  13. M.A. July 14, 2015 at 20:35 - Reply

    Hey Russ, I´m german and I say: Full ack!

    • Russ Hudson July 15, 2015 at 12:56 - Reply

      Haha cool; thanks for teaching me a new urban slang term! 😉 Peace -Russ

  14. JackDKush July 8, 2015 at 14:21 - Reply

    Very interesting article, i’m french and i’ve been adding tobacco to my joints since a long time but it’s more because where i live you found more hash than herb and it’s impossible to smoke pure hash in a joint, when like me you don’t like pipe or bong you put tobacco in your joints, but now i only smoke weed and don’t mix it with tobacco anymore. But when i run out of weed and only find hash i change my way to roll.
    I think most of the “cultural” thing in mixing tobacco and weed come from the fact than a lot of people in europe start smoking with hash and learn how to roll joint with it 🙂 but again thank you for this interesting article

  15. Ben Yacine July 8, 2015 at 13:14 - Reply

    Nice Mr Russ Hudson.
    I am from north africa, and this is my argument : there is no weed here, just Hash. So how can i smoke Hash without tobacco?… i really want to quit tobacco.

    • Russ Hudson July 17, 2015 at 15:14 - Reply

      Hi Ben; no problem; I smoke hash all the time without weed or tobacco! I just roll it with my fingers into little balls, put the balls in a pipe and fire it up. Never had a problem smoking hash this way. 😉 Peace -Russ

  16. Tim Fuller July 8, 2015 at 01:58 - Reply

    In Amsterdam they have gone to substituting some herbal mix for tobacco in all the coffee shops. Enjoy.

    • Russ Hudson July 17, 2015 at 15:15 - Reply

      Hi Tim; I had a friend from Amsterdam visiting in Barcelona recently, and she smoked her weed with some herbal mix. I tried it but I just didn’t like it. I LOVE the taste and smell of weed, so for me there is no point in adulterating it. 😀 Peace -Russ

  17. Noah July 3, 2015 at 19:29 - Reply

    I couldnt agree more with you Russ. Pure weed joints are the best. I am now in love with vaporizers. The taste of cannabis through a vaporizer is more full, pure and less burning in your throat and mouth. Thanx for the cool article

  18. Jakub July 3, 2015 at 18:45 - Reply

    Hi Russ,

    interesting article. I’ve never thought if this this way. I am myself tobacco smoker and I am addicted to it. But the reason I mix tobacco with cannabis is because I find it more digestible, I simply cough less. That’s something you don’t mention and most of the people around me do it for the same reason. But then it can be because I am addicted to tobacco 🙂 But anyway you made me think to change this habbit and try some pure cannabis joints.

    On the other hand I’m not sure I agree with making tobacco look so dangerous when compared to smoking joints. If you smoke pure cannabis joint, I’m pretty sure it’s damaging your health more than a usual cigarette. I don’t have anything to backup my opinion and I am no scientist. It’s also true that in a usual cigarette you have thousands of crazy chemical substances which is much worse when you compare to smoking cannabis. On the other hand you have a filter on a cigarette which can make it ‘healthier’, although I would not put my hand into fire for that. So the main argument on why smoking a joint is worse than cigarette is that most of the people I know keep the smoke from a joint in their lungs for a much longer time than compared to cigarette. Don’t take me wrong, tobacco is dangerous to our health, but if you put it in a comparison, I think cannabis is not different, I think it can be even worse, because it’s not smoked the same way by many people, including myself.

    What do you think?

    J.

    • Russ Hudson July 5, 2015 at 13:44 - Reply

      Hi Jakub;

      Thank you for your comment. My understanding is that numerous studies clearly detail the extreme hazards of tobacco smoke, while several studies have shown that marijuana smoke not only doesn’t harm the lungs, throat and airways like tobacco does, but there is also the strong likelihood that marijuana offers some protective properties against lung cancer.

      On another note, I just got a study in my inbox that I need to review that indicates tobacco smoke may increase THC uptake as much as 45%. If the evidence is compelling I will update this article. Thanks! Peace -Russ