Marijuana News

How Europe is Getting it Wrong on Cannabis

Please support my work by sharing:

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.

42 thoughts on “How Europe is Getting it Wrong on Cannabis

  1. Coming from Scotland and smoking hash/weed since 1987 along with tobacco, it was a revelation to realise that I could smoke less weed or hash by leaving out the tobacco.

    I was addicted to tobacco and not realising it and possibly denying it because I didn’t smoke cigarettes – just joints.

    My lungs were in a terrible state and also my mental health was suffering because I was having a joint in the morning and that was me off and running through the rest of the day, if I wasn’t working. If I was working I would always wake up at 3 or 4 am and have to have a joint – not realising that this was a tobacco craving and not the cannabis.

    I stopped smoking altogether 14 yrs ago, convinced that cannabis was addictive and messing my health up both physically and mentally, however about 4 yrs ago I had a joint and enjoy hated the effect but hated the ordeal of smoking the tobacco with it.

    I decided after that to roll a small pure joint with weed and was surprised how quickly I got stoned and nipped it ,spending a few hours savouring the effects. I haven’t looked back since then and I go days and weeks with out smoking anything – despite having accesss to really good quality when ever I want it.

    I go swimming and eat really well and never have a morning smoke or wake up in the middle of the night wanting a spliff. I also don’t spend more than 20 euros a week on hash or weed. If I was using tobacco I’d be spending an absolute fortune and physically I’d be a a wreck.

    Tobacco is bad news, especially as I get older. Cannabis enriches my life, I’m also tee total, which also helps me to appreciate the effects of cannabis and I use sativa during the day and indica at night or for just chilling at home and watching a film or football.

    The past 4 years have never presented me with any problems as far as using cannabis and this can’t be said about the many years I used cannabis with tobacco. I’m just glad I got to understand that there is a massive diff between the two substances and for me they don’t mix well.

    Each to their own though.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Jim. Besides the fact that tobacco is damaging to health, a pure joint just tastes better! 😉 Keep on keepin’ on mate. Best wishes Peace -Russ

  2. You forgot the main point ! In Europe most smokers have been smoking hash in joints because hash was most of the time the only form of cannabis available in quantity on the market.
    Weed has been grown outdoor mainly but were available in small quantities in autumn (after druing period).

    This is the main reason why european mix tobacco, is the history of european cannabis culture which is responsable

    1. Huh? Thanks for your comment, but I didn’t forget anything, this was my final point in the article:

      “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.”

      1. Actually, here in Europe, we mostly have acess to hash, or bad quality strains.
        You should come here someday and tryout a real spliff, you might enjoy them.

        1. I’ve lived in the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain (been living in Spain for 5 years now), and most of my work in the cannabis industry is based in Europe. There is plenty of access to excellent quality hash and cannabis, depending on where you live and what type of connections you have. No, I will NEVER smoke anything with tobacco in it, did you actually read this post Joe?

  3. What should I do. I smoke weed for 23 years. I do not like cigarettes and besides a period when I did not smoke weed I never smoked cigerettes. To be fair this Menthol cigarettes helped me during 2 Weeks to lay of the Habit of smoking. On the other Hand, I do not like the taste of MJ trough a bong or in a joint when it is 100% weed. 80% Weed to 20% tobacco is ok. I just like the taste of both Things combined. Vaporizers could be a Thing for me, tried it 2 times (one mobile and one immobile vaporizers). Well, in the end I sold both vaporizers and went back to bongs und Joints with tobacco.

    1. Hola Lars; well, if it’s the taste of combined tobacco and cannabis that you like, then I don’t really have any suggestions. There are some non-tobacco blends available on the market now, with terpenes added in some cases, you might want to try some of these, as it’s my opinion that compromising your health because you like the taste better isn’t an acceptable option. You might also consider using edibles in place of smoking. On a final note, where are you acquiring your cannabis? Are you sure it is cultivated and cured properly? Best wishes. Peace -Russ

  4. i hate tobacco.but we have hash here. how to smoke it without tobacco. it feels easy to make joints with tobacco. is there an alternate to tobacco

  5. 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

    1. You can smoke that hash in a pipe. Break up a half of a bowls worth and light the edges of the bowl so you can control how much hash in being burned.

  6. 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

    1. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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!

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

  10. 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

  11. 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.

    1. 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…

  12. 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.

    1. 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

  13. 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.

  14. 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

    1. 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

  15. 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!!

    1. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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.

    1. 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

    1. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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.

    1. 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

Leave a Reply to Jakub Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *