Hemp Wick Vs Butane Lighter: What’s the Best Way to Smoke Weed?
Vapes, themes, tinctures, sublinguals – more alternatives to smoking are appearing every day.
But die-hard poker players still wonder how best to burn one.
A trustworthy old BIC or the leading alternative called hemp wick?
A bit of hemp yarn dipped in beeswax offers better taste and less landfill waste, many say. For the first time ever, Leafly is asking chemists and other experts to better understand the pros and cons of wicks over BICs.
How bad is butane – really?
Butane lighters predominate, with the exception of the white lighters which are cursed. (Julia Sumpter / Leafly)
BIC lighters likely flare more shells than any other source. They are cheap and convenient. The actual research into butane lighters lung health looks thin, but our experts weren’t concerned.
“Butane is relatively non-toxic for what it’s worth,” said Josh Wurzer, president and co-founder of SC Labs, a leading cannabis laboratory in California.
As for maximum flavor, cannabis star Ngaio Bealum said he “didn’t hold the lighter over weeds long enough to inhale a lot of butane, and I didn’t notice any difference in taste”.
But when it comes to “giant cigar doobies”, Bealum prefers wooden matches for a lower temperature and smoother burn.
Cigar lovers place great value on taste and sometimes use butane lighters or long, sulfur-free wooden matches.
Hemp wick – a natural alternative?
A combination of health, taste, and landfill issues resulted in the first major hemp wick brand – Bee Line, said Kea Eubank, co-founder of Maui’s 16-year-old Bee Line Hemp Wick and coinage of the term “hemp wick.”
Bee Line co-founder Miranda Campbell survived car crash injuries that put her into a coma. When she woke up, she used weed to wean herself off strong pain killers. Campbell heard that butane could hinder bone healing and used “magnifying glass hits” to smoke, but wanted an easier way.
“We were definitely interested in improving the taste and reducing the environmental impact of lighters,” said Campbell, “but the main reason was health.”
Make sure you don’t burn your house down while chasing the top flavors. (Courtesy Bee Line)
The couple opted for a beeswax-covered hemp wick because they loved beekeeping, it was food safe, and “paraffin wax was no better than butane”.
Today over 70 different companies use the term “hemp wick” and some claim to be vegan. Eubank and Campbell said, “All waxes and hemp are not created equal.”
“If it’s not organically grown, it can be worse than GMO cotton [and] possibly worse than using butane, ”they said.
Go for thin wick over thick wick, they also recommend.
“If a wick is too big, it uses more wax than the flame can burn [and] The unburned material escapes from the flame as soot or smoke. “
Hippie wick health
Bee Line said, like all the other experts Leafly spoke to, “there hasn’t been a lot of research into butane or hemp wicks.”
Wurzer agreed and said, “I don’t have a lot of good data on this.”
Burning organic matter releases carcinogens, he said. But “the added impurities from the wick are likely to be minimal.”
It got complicated quickly. Is it time for a bite to eat? (Jesse Milns for Leafly)
In contrast, the organic chemist Steve Palaia likes the purity of butane. “Hemp wicks literally have nothing clean … they burn lignocellulose and get an extra helping of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and creosote.”
Mark Lewis, Founder and CEO of Prrl Labs – a lighter alternative to BIC – agreed: “Butane burns pretty clean [and] Burning waxes are more important to me than unburned butane. “
Lewis said wax molecules are bigger than butane. “There will be more unburned hydrocarbons from wax fumes than from butane.”
Aside from the lack of health research, many fans say the so-called hippie wick affects the taste of smoked cannabis less.
Prrl’s CEO Lewis, who has an engineering degree from Caltech, explained the science behind it: “Butane burns hotter than the hemp wick flame.”
Just like a low temperature hit from a hash bubbler burns fewer terpenes and maximizes the flavor of a swab, hemp wick uses a gentler heat for a more aromatic smoke.
While the studies varied widely, “there may be some support for the claim that hemp wick results in less cannabinoid and terpenoid loss during incineration,” said Lewis.
Beyond BICs or wicks
Aside from hemp wick, there are several butane-free ways to burn it.
In front of the wax thread, the stoners used a magnifying glass to spot the sunshine on a sunny day. Country singer Margo Price promotes smoking “from an apple with a solar hit, because it tastes better and there is no butane”.
Aside from solar bowls, you can buy a “weed stick” – a borosilicate smoking device with a bulb end. You heat it scorching hot with a kitchen lamp and then touch flowers to vaporize and burn them. Just don’t get burned!
Looking for a less medieval option? “Flameless lighters” use Tesla coils to fire your flower, or you could go really high tech and buy an electronic warming wand called the Prrl Neo. The Neo works like a lighter, but you don’t vaporize.
The Neo will make your friends ask, “OK – WTF is going on now?” (Courtesy Prrl Labs)
“It’s positioned as an evolution of the lighter,” said Lewis.
The pocket-sized device illuminates your herb like a suntan. Basically, you can vape from most pipe bowls. Of course, Prrls CEO burns everything.
“The real problem is combustion in any form,” said Lewis. “Both the butane lighter and the hemp wick will burn your material. This leads to the formation of harmful ash particles as well as toxic compounds. “
Ultimately, which is better – a hippie wick or a butane lighter?
- Move the BIC for convenience and fire safety.
- For reasons of sustainability, hemp wick does not clog a landfill.
- The health debate looks like a stalemate – we need more research.
- And for taste savers: try hemp wick or a vape gun like the Neo, try it yourself and let us know.
Are you Team Wick or Team BIC and why? Comment below.
Mitchell Colbert is a freelance journalist who has written for Cannabis Now, Hemp Magazine, Green Flower Media, High Times, the Wine Industry Advisor, and other cannabis and alcohol-focused publications. He heads the political strategy firm Full Spectrum Strategy, where he supports cannabis vaporizer companies in making products more sustainable. He is also a senior lecturer at Oaksterdam University teaching everything from business management to admission methods.
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Show article by Mitchell Colbert