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How Unhealthy Is It to Re-Light the Same Joint Over and Over Again?

All that butane. Hours-old saliva. The ash that’s everywhere. It can’t be good for you — can it?

Whether called a “joint,” “doobie” or “marijuana cigarette,” placing weed in rolling paper has always been a crucial step in actually being able to smoke that weed.

Maybe you were a Zig Zag aficionado who always kept papers in your pocket. Maybe you rolled with the help of an efficient, plastic machine. Maybe you begged friends with steadier hands to roll for you. Maybe you were dexterous enough to roll on the go — e.g., while standing at a concert.

Whatever your style, rolling weed was a task at hand.

For today’s weed consumer, however — especially those in states with adult-use cannabis laws — the act of rolling a joint is becoming obsolete. Instead, indulgent pre-rolls are delivered directly to them — sometimes even to their door. These joints are especially indulgent because they’re often a marriage of premium “flower” and wraps dipped in hash and sometimes sprinkled with kief. They’re also conveniently packaged as either single-servings or in cigarette-like packs.

The (only?) drawback? Though pre-rolls are designed to be “one-offs,” their size and potency often becomes reason to extinguish them before they’re finished. And so, the thick plastic container they typically come in can function as both portable ashtray and extinguishing device — at least for my mom.

“Just put the joint in when it’s lit, close the case and it goes out perfect,” my mom explains to me, a joint between her manicured fingers. I assure her that’s not how they’re designed to work, i.e., no weed company intends for stoners to drop lit joints into plastic tubes and carry them around on their person. Personally, I prefer to flick off the fiery end of a joint while preserving the integrity of its smokable body. This is an important technique given that I light the same pre-roll anywhere between three and twelve times before finishing it, averaging about four re-ignitions per joint.

Miles Klee, my closest rival for the title of MEL’s Top Stoner, is the same way. “I like to pace myself mostly. [My partner] Maddie and I will smoke a third or half a joint and then put it out. We’ll take a break, be high and relight it later,” he tells me. “It’s especially good if you’ve got a fancy, expensive pre-roll that’s really strong with hash oil or whatever. They burn a bit slower and give you dense smoke, so a couple puffs is usually enough for the moment.”

Admittedly, though, by the end of that joint, it no longer looks as inviting as it did when it first arrives in your hands. Namely: The paper becomes incinerated, and the butt of ash at its end grows thicker and thicker.

Maybe that’s why during the holidays — when I smoked a particularly large amount of weed — I started to wonder if I was somehow exposing myself to health risks by insisting on making a single joint last all day, me puffing on it at the same time every hour like a train arriving to its station. I began to imagine the dangers of relighting something that was already burnt — primarily, the increased butane exposure from more lighter usage.

UCLA professor Donald Tashin, more or less the expert on marijuana and lung health, already assured me weed doesn’t give you lung cancer, but when I ask him about smoking the same joint over and over again, he did have some advice based on his research. “In 1991, my colleagues and I published a paper in which we found (not unexpectedly) that the amount of THC, tar and [carbon monoxide] delivered to the smoker’s lung from the proximal half of a marijuana cigarette (after the first half was smoked) was significantly greater than that which had been delivered from the distal half [or the half that starts out farthest from your body],” he tells me.

“Consequently,” he continues, “if a higher burden of marijuana smoke particulates caused lung injury, smoking the butt end of a premium marijuana cigarette could potentially pose a greater likelihood of harm to lung health. Moreover, the higher [carbon monoxide] delivery could increase cardiovascular risk in smokers with underlying ischemic heart disease and higher THC delivery could cause more intoxicating effects.”

Basically, while a heavily torched joint may look grotesque as it peers out a couple of centimeters from your nose, the potential health risk of smoking it is about the nature of the second half of any joint more than it is about how many times you’ve lit a particular one.

Breathe easy my fellow stoners.