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How to smoke a bowl: Smoking cannabis from a pipe

How to smoke a bowl: Smoking cannabis from a pipe

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Smoking is the fastest, most popular method for consuming cannabis, and it’s also an easy way to measure your intake. Most people who’ve smoked marijuana have tried a nicely-rolled joint, maybe a blunt or a bong hit. But one of the most popular ways of smoking marijuana is to use a pipe to “smoke a bowl,” and once you’ve tried it, chances are you’ll be a believer. 

What you need to smoke a bowl: 

  • Cannabis flower 
  • A pipe, preferably made of glass 
  • Grinder (you can also use your fingers or scissors to break up the flower for a more even burn) 
  • Cigarette lighter, custom clipper lighter or hemp wick
  • You may need a screen if you’re using a metal pipe with a large hole 
  • A pencil or some other tool to tamp down the weed in the bowl. 
bowl of cannabis
Glass Bowl (The Cannigma / Anthony Travagliante)

How to smoke weed out of a bowl:

  1. Make sure the bowl is empty. If you have recently used the pipe there may still be some ash in the bowl. Turn the pipe upside down over a waistbin, put your finger on the carb, mouth on the mouthpiece, and blow the ash out into the bin. 
  2. Take a small amount of cannabis, depending on how much you want to smoke and whether you’ll be sharing, and place it in the bowl. (see above for tips on how to not over or under grind the weed) 
  3. Hold the “spoon” end with one hand while sealing the carb with your pointer finger of the same hand. 
  4. Hold a lighter flame or hemp wick flame to the bowl of cannabis and inhale for a few seconds. Towards the end of the inhalation, uncover the carb and inhale the rest of the smoke. 
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 until the bowl is empty. 
  6. Make sure to empty out the ashes after use. 

Why use a pipe to smoke weed?

Using a pipe is one of the most efficient and economical ways to consume cannabis. It only takes a small amount — much less than preparing a joint — and can be just as effective. This makes a pipe a great option for when you don’t want to smoke much, or you don’t have the time to sit and leisurely roll and smoke a joint. This also makes it a sound option when your supply is running a little low. 

It also makes pipes a perfect method for people who tend to smoke alone. All you need is enough weed for a small bowl, and after a couple tokes in your favorite chair, you should be all set. 

With a pipe you smoke the marijuana directly, without any additives like rolling paper. This allows you to really taste the flower, and can make a pipe the ideal method for trying out a new weed strain that you’re really excited about, especially one that you heard has a great flavor profile. That said, keep in mind that you may also get a hint of some of the residue of past bowls as well as ash from the bowl.

How to smoke from a cannabis pipe
Glass marijuana pipes on display. (Svetlana Day/123rf)

The parts of a pipe 

A typical weed pipe isn’t exactly a particle accelerator, but it’s still a good idea to know the terminology now that you’re a pipe fan. 

Ultimately, any object that has a bowl that leads to a chamber and a mouthpiece can work as a pipe, but there’s no reason to settle for just the basics. 

The typical pipe will have a bowl, where you place the cannabis you plan to smoke, which is connected to a stem with a hollow chamber that has a hole on the end where you place your mouth in order to inhale.  

Typically on the side of the bowl there will be a small hole, often called “the carb” or the “choke,” and while it isn’t essential for a pipe, it makes the experience a lot better. The carb is kept sealed while the smoker is inhaling and then exposed towards the end of the inhale, causing a sudden influx of air which clears the chamber, forcing the rest of the smoke into your mouth. 

What type of pipe should I use? Glass or metal?

Metal, bamboo, wood, ceramic, or corncob pipes used to be the norm a few decades ago, but today, most pipes for smoking marijuana are made out of glass. These are typically “spoon” shaped, with a round bowl at the end attached to a long airtight stem that has a hole at the end on which you place your mouth, along with the “carb,” usually on the side of the bowl. 

When they’re new and still clean, glass pipes allow you to see the smoke fill the chamber as you inhale and then rush through the mouthpiece as you take your finger off the carb. Thick glass pipes typically don’t get as hot to the touch as metal or thin glass pipes, making them easier to handle as well. Finally, glass pipes just look cooler, and provide a perfect medium for glass blowing artists to showcase their flair. 

Metal pipes or metal bowls will often come with a screen which is placed in the bowl in order to keep any cannabis from falling through. Metal pipes often come with a lid as well, which can be placed on top of the bowl making it more portable. The lid also means that you can load the bowl and then screw on the top and smoke it through a hole in the top. The screen and the lid can be very convenient, and many metal pipes can be unscrewed and broken apart for easy cleaning.

The bottom line in the glass vs metal pipe debate is that ultimately it’s a matter of taste. Both are highly effective and provide the benefits of pipe smoking, though if we were to base it just on popular opinion and the pipe market today – glass pipes are far and away the preferred choice. 

Smoking marijuana from a pipe
A woman smokes marijuana from a pipe. (Grav/Unsplash)

How to pack a bowl 

Arguably the most essential step in smoking a pipe is making sure to pack the bowl right. 

It’s a balancing act of sorts — if you put in too much weed or overpack the bowl, you won’t be able to pull much air and you may end up wasting good weed. If you put too little marijuana in the bowl, you won’t get enough to smoke and even worse — it can quickly be sucked down into the hole at the bottom of the pipe and then back into your throat. 

You’ll want to find an amount somewhere in the middle. 

The same goes for how you break up the weed. If you take a good sized nug and run it through the grinder until it’s too finely ground, then it won’t burn as well, and you’ll also lose some through the hole. On the other hand, if you just take that bud and place it directly into the bowl it won’t light or burn well, you won’t get a good air flow, and you’ll end up wasting your weed. 

Your best option is to use a grinder or your fingers to break up a small bud into a number of smaller pieces, and then gently drop it down into the bowl. The best method is to find a small bud that has a very small stem protrusion at the bottom and place it into the bowl with the stem sticking down to hold it in place. 

Once your weed is in the bowl, you’ll want to pack it down a little bit with your finger or something like a pencil. Make sure not to pack it down too tightly though, otherwise you won’t get good airflow for the smoke. 

Can I pack a bowl without a screen?

Back when metal pipes were the norm, a small metal screen that fits snugly in the bottom of the bowl was a must. It kept the weed from falling through the bowl and when used in a bong, it meant less burnt stem and ash falling into the bong water. 

If you’re smoking weed that has not been ground too finely then you really don’t need to use a screen. A small nug broken up into a number of smaller pieces can be packed very easily into the bowl of a standard glass pipe without falling through, and as long as you don’t pull too hard on the last inhale of the bowl, the ash should not rocket down into the stem and into your throat. 

Screens can easily be purchased in bulk at any headshop, or in a pinch you can take one out of the faucet of the kitchen sink, a time-honored life hack. 

How many hits can I get in a bowl?

How many hits you can get out of a bowl depends on two main factors – the size of the bowl and how much weed you put in it. But assuming you use a standard spoon style glass pipe, a bowl about halfway filled should be able to provide you with a few hearty, satisfying inhales. And if you pack it to the top, you may find you actually have enough for two sessions. 

The advantages of smoking out of a bowl

How to talk to your grandfather about cannabis
(Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance)

Like all other methods, it definitely has its pros and cons.


  • Economical 
  • Good for quick, small doses 
  • Allows you to really taste the cannabis 
  • Doesn’t require burning paper 
  • Can deliver large, very clean hits of marijuana


  • Pipes need to be cleaned regularly and can break 
  • Smoke can be harsh 
  • They get filled with resin and produce a bad odor
  • The bad odor can make pipes not especially portable (not great to have in your coat pocket)
  • Ash or plant matter can get in your mouth
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