The Rise of Cannabis Culture: Exploring the Evolution of Bong Smoking
You are likely to find a bong in every cannabis smoker’s accessories collection. And, it is not a wonder since bong smoking has been a growing preference for many people. This is for the fact that most smokers feel that it is safer than taking dry hits. Besides cooling off the smoke, the water also filters out harmful molecules and bacteria from the smoke. Smoking CBD is beneficial to the overall health of the user.
The effect is calming and reduces stress while combating nausea. Many users have concluded that it affects sleep quality and is known to cure late-night anxiety. Interestingly, bong smoking didn’t start yesterday. There is a rich history behind what has become an important ritual among cannabis smokers today that we are going to focus on in this article.
The history of bong smoking
As an avid smoker, you could be wondering where and how the tradition of bong smoking came to be. Well, the beautiful inventions in your collection started years ago. Let’s dive into the history of the bong, early inventions, and the evolution of what we find in stores in this 21st century.
While the name of the first person who invented a smoke bong isn’t known, there is evidence that these devices have been in use since ancient times. In the year 2013, archeologists led by Andrei Belinski unearthed what is believed to be the first bong in southern Russia. This earliest bong that was discovered in Scythian burial modes is estimated to be around 2400 years old. This ancient innovation was also a work of art and beauty. They were made with solid gold and adorned with intricate animal and human figures.
Besides this discovery, the ritual of cannabis smoking and the use of a bong has been traced to have roots in other regions that include:
Africa – Before the discovery of the above mentioned bong, there were earlier discoveries in Ethiopia by J.C. Dombrowski. The bongs found in a cave were believed to be from between AD 1100 and AD 1400. These were mainly made of animal horns and pottery. The discovery also showed that these ancient smokers played with different innovations to perfect the devices. They used to build the bongs underground to enhance the filtration.
East Asia – Records show that bongs were used in this part of the world in the 13th century and became more popular during the Qing Dynasty in China. They were the most preferred way of smoking tobacco such that Empress Dowager Cixi was buried with 3 of her favorite bongs. Bongs in this region were made with bamboo and others with metal.
Thailand – The word bong is believed to have come from the word “Ba’ung”, a Thai word that means bamboo tube. This word dates back to the 14th century, which depicts the smoking device used in the region around that time.
Growing in popularity
The Silk Road, a trade route between Europe and East Asia in the early years, played a significant role in the popularization of the bong. The use of bongs spread to Europe and later to the Americas using these routes. But, it was not until the 1800s that glass bongs came to be. This was after the glass industry started flourishing coinciding with the growth in tobacco farming as a cash crop.
The 1960s and 1970s mark one of the most iconic moments for glass bongs. At the time of the hippie movement, Bob Snodgrass, a famous glass artist who toured with the American band Grateful Dead started making glass bongs with borosilicate glass. Bob also developed the fuming process where he used silver and gold to add colors to his bongs, a technology that is used today. The first bong designs of Snodgrass continue to inspire bong designers to date. Since this period coincided with the growing popularity of cannabis use, the use of glass bongs spread exponentially.
As cannabis use continues to grow around the world, the bong continues to get popular among users. Modern innovations are about class and lifestyle in addition to functionality. Bong manufacturers continue to be innovative to bring every user a smoke bong that meets his or her needs. From intricate designs, shapes, and colors, modern bongs have become accessories that one can display on the house and a staple for social gatherings where cannabis is present.
Modern innovators also continue to enhance functionality and user experience. Today’s bongs are fitted with ash catchers, ice catchers, and percolators among other features that enhance filtration, providing smoother and bigger hits. This has taken bong smoking to the next level. The materials used in making smoking bongs come in a wide range. These include silicone, ceramic, and acrylic. However, glass bongs outshine other materials in popularity.
Moreover, after a long battle for social acceptance and cannabis legalization, bong smoking has evolved into every smoker’s ritual.
Bong smoking dates back from time immemorial in different parts of the world. From earth pipes used in Africa, bamboo pipes of the Thai people, and metal devices used in East Asia, bong smoking has remained a valuable ritual in cannabis smoking. The device continues to be every smoker’s dream collection as new innovations find their way into the market.
Let’s check out one of the hottest new weed restaurants in Hollywood, The OG Cannabis Cafe. This stoner-friendly restaurant/consumption lounge just had its re-opening in November after closing due to the pandemic in 2020. The experience did not disappoint. From impeccable service to gravity bong rips over nachos, the future of cannabis dining is greener than ever. Unmute the video above reported by Lindsey Maharry for Leafly.
Twenty-four US states have legalized weed but where can you smoke? Almost nowhere. West Hollywood has joined San Francisco as one of two major cities that have crafted regulations and permitted licensed cannabis lounges where you can actually smoke and eat. It’s a vision of a civil society we all deserve to live in, so show your local officials and make it happen in your town, too.
An interesting tidbit about gin, is that it started as a medicine. Here’s the lowdown on the distilled spirit, and whether it has medical uses today.
History and jenever
One of the biggest realities of both the modern and ancient drug worlds, is that drinking alcohol has consistently been one of the biggest parts of it. Whether we’re talking wine, beer, or distilled spirits, alcohol is the most popular drug today, and overall through history. It’s the kind of thing where we all know what we want by a certain point too. Some go for whiskey on the rocks, some want a nice chardonnay, others prefer to crack open a beer.
Gin is one of the main spirits on today’s market, alongside vodka, whiskey, and rum. For some things, we have history that goes back thousands of years. For some things, we can guess that the history is pretty extensive, but records only tell us for sure back to a certain point. In terms of gin, it was first mentioned in the 13th century in the book Der Naturen Bloeme, as part of a recipe for jenever.
Jenever (also called Dutch gin and Holland gin), is essentially, old-school gin. Like the gin of today, its made from juniper; and is a traditional liquor of Belgium, Netherlands, Northwest Germany, and Northern France. Much like champagne, and balsamic vinegar, its a rather specific product; and technically, only products that meet Belgian standards, Netherlands standards, the standards of two German federal states, or one of two Northern French departments, can be called by this name.
Jenever, and gin, were originally made by distilling wine, and then adding herbs to improve the flavor; with juniper as a primary one, for its medical benefits. There are a bunch of variations of jenever with different stipulations of production in terms of the amount of malt wine and sugar used. It’s believed the term ‘dutch courage’ might be a reference to soldiers using jenever before war, as a means of loosening up for battle.
Gin closer to its current form, was used as a medicine by the mid-17th century; for kidney problems, back issues called lumbago, gout, gallstones, and stomach problems. It had also been widely used during the black death, as a protecting agent against the illness. By the beginning of the 17th century, when re-distilling barley and malt wine came back into fashion, different varieties of gin came out.
In the 18th century, England began allowing unlimited production, and this skyrocked the popularity of gin. The allowance did come with alcohol taxes for imported products, though. From 1695–1735, low quality barley was often used, which led to a plethora of low-level gin shops popping up, creating the ‘gin craze.’ It’s generally low price encouraged it to be a prime drink among the poorer classes. Much like we saw with absinthe, gin raked in the blame for a number of social ills.
In 1736 the Gin Act passed, which slapped heavy taxes on the products, leading to riots. It was so unpopular, that by 1742, it was abolished. In its place came the Gin Act of 1751, which required distillers only sell to licensed retailers, all of which went under the watch of local magistrates. It actually became common around this time to add in turpentine for flavoring, alongside the juniper. And when quinine became popular for malaria, it was mixed with tonic, and gin, to create the gin & tonic.
Is gin a medicine?
There are some hard realities to alcohol, and one of them is that alcohol is supremely bad for human health. To the point that studies tend to indicate there isn’t really a safe amount; or a benefit to be gained. Of course, these studies came out well after gin, so did they miss something? Is all other alcohol bad, but gin works as a medicine?
No, of course not. Gin is an example of how good and bad can be mixed together. It’s not the alcohol in gin that’s beneficial after all, but the juniper berries that give it its medicinal benefits. So its not about gin, its about juniper. If you take juniper at the same time you smoke crack or shoot meth, you might still get a benefit from the juniper, but you’ll also get whatever ills come from the drugs.
Whenever you hear about an alcoholic beverage in the capacity of ‘healthy’ or ‘medicinal,’ what you’re actually hearing, is a testament to some herbal blend within. As alcohol is a good way of extracting plant compounds to form tinctures; its not shocking that a lot of medicinal products throughout history have contained alcohol. Tinctures made today, still do, although the alcohol is in relatively small amounts; and there are alternatives like glycerine.
The better answer for those who want a medicine, is to use the actual juniper plant, instead of gin or jenever. There are a lot of options for products; which involve different methods of extraction, or plant material itself. Its medicinal benefit has 0% to do with alcohol, except for the idea of extracting plant compounds. In fact, given that alcohol is generally bad for the body; those that consume(d) gin regularly, must deal with the alcohol damage, which in the long run erases any benefit of juniper.
This logic, does not stop the plethora of articles out there, from talking about all the reasons that gin is good for your health. These articles mention things like fewer wrinkles, fighting liver and kidney disease, increasing longevity, and help with diabetes. All of this, of course, is relevant to the berries; with little thought by the authors, as to the detriment of consistent alcohol consumption.
Some research touts that there is no safe limit for alcohol, and no benefit. Other sources indicate moderate drinking can be healthful. I go pretty hard on alcohol, but I actually agree with the second point. At least in terms of one specific thing, and how that one thing, affects other things: lowering stress and anxiety. So a healthful benefit can exist; although it does require drinking a poison to get the benefit, and not overdoing it. Consistently going beyond ‘moderation,’ is likely to nullify most any benefit.
With a tincture that uses small amounts of alcohol only, the medicinal elements are not overshadowed. Perhaps drinking a small amount of gin a day is fine as well. But when drinking gin regularly for intoxication (or anything close to that), there should be a much lowered expectation, of gaining positive benefits.
A little more on juniper
That gin was so popular as a medicine, is really just a testament to the power of the juniper plant. This is yet another story of natural medicine, and the benefits of plants. So what is this plant, that helped create one of the most popular alcoholic beverages worldwide, and which was used all throughout ancient history?
Juniper is a coniferous plant from the family Cupressaceae. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-67 species populate the Northern Hemisphere, Asia, and Central America. Though they don’t produce fruit or flowers, they do produce berry-like coalescing scales, that appear to be fruit; and which are referred to as berries. They can be red-brown, orange, or blue. These seeds, or berries, can be used as a spice, and are the basis for the medicinal value of the plant.
The use of juniper oil is noted all throughout history, going back to the Mesopotamians, who believed it could be used to protect against the evil eye. There is also a noted history with American Indians like the Navajo, who use(d) it for diabetes, and as a source of calcium. And, it has a history over toward England and Ireland, where it was used in folkloric tradition and Gaelic Polytheist saining rites; which were performed during holidays and such. Juniper oil is made by steam-distilling the berries of the tree.
The berries of the plant are used as a spice, and added to many dishes. And, of course, gin. Gin can be made with barley or wine from other sources, but it can also be made directly from the juniper plant. In this method, the berries are fermented with water to make a wine; which is further distilled. This concoction is known as juniper brandy, in Eastern Europe. Junniper was/is used medicinally, for all the things jenever and gin were used for, including as a way to ward off the black death. Beyond using the berries, the plant’s young twigs can also be boiled to make tea.
Aside from food and medicine purposes, juniper wood is very dense and resistant to rotting. Its used for fences and firewood, as well as a specialty wood for products like closets and drawers, under the name cedar or red cedar. This is not to be confused with actual cedar, which is an entirely different plant. Often when speaking of juniper and not cedar, its written as redcedar.
I guess if you’re going to get sloshed (or drink moderately), might as well do it on an alcohol that provides a benefit. Gin is not the only one, by the way, so if that’s your thing, you’ve got options. On the other hand, if what you want is something that’s specific to juniper’s medical benefits; you’re better off nixing the alcohol, and just using the plant.
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Giving and ganja can both spark joy—and the holiday season offers a high time to combine them. All across the US and world, Christmas list-making and Black Friday deal-hunting has begun.
Shopping for a white elephant exchange, the family gift assignment, or a lil’ something for yourself? Surely a stoner sits on your list, so don’t be a Scrooge.
Since walking into a head shop is more daunting than ever, Leafly’s cannabis hardware experts traversed the world weed web to locate the best smoking presents of 2023 for budgets of $20 to $500. We personally vouch for all these 20 goodies, from the new Puffco Plus 2.0, to the Flower Mill mini, to Storz & Bickel’s new pocket Volcano, called the Venty.
Remember, the sooner you finish shopping, the sooner you can kick back by the fire and roll up.
Under $50—Secret Santa style
Porous Walker Bag of Buds tote bag
Finally something perfect for a trip to the dispensary or the grocery store. California’s infamous purveyor of irreverent art Porous Waker makes this oversized canvas tote bag with reinforced handles to hold even the heaviest buds. Celebrating the days we called an ounce a ‘zip’, the tote is also available in a mushroom version, or as a white shirt printed on the pocket and comes with the out-of-print clear sticker version as a bonus. $25.
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DaySavers Perfect Pack joint-filling machine
The Perfect Pack from Daysavers fills any size pre-roll tube or cone with cannabis with just the touch of a button. Simply drop your pre-ground weed into the top-loading plastic tray, and watch the machine fill your chosen tube or cone, and drop it right into your hand. The joint too loose? Adjust the dial and you can fine-tune the density to match the stickiness of the strain you’re rolling. The Perfect Pack saves you time when you have to roll for the whole group. If you’re not familiar with rolling or never felt like you got the hang of it, Perfect Pack gives you a joint in a flash. $35 See also: BEED; OTTO.
Flower Mill mini edition grinder
Twist one up like a professional roller using the Flower Mill mini, a more compact version of the game-changing device that altered the fabric of space and grind that’s also semi-magnetic. A Flower Mill takes your cannabis and crumbles the bud up instead of shredding it, giving you a fluffy consistency every time. The mini costs less than your sack of weed, comes in three colors, and has all the perks of its larger cousin. The fineness of the grind is ideal, and the pocket-sized piece weighs only 4.6 ounces and easily fits in most rolling kits. $39.99.
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Fluid Creations Glass Gandalf pipe
If you want to call yourself a stoner, you must own a pipe. It’s step one in getting into this weed game. A good pipe is both your Northstar and your lifesaver so we picked you something functional, but also a little different. Out near Mt. Jefferson in Oregon, Fluid Creations Glass is made up of two passionate individuals: Ben who blows most of the glass smokeware, and Grace who makes pendants and jars, while managing their online shop to make sure there are always fresh selections for you to discover. Their vivid, playful work includes a Gandalf spoon pipe model that particularly catches the eye. $40
The rough and rugged dab tool that’s become the Swiss army knife of any good dabber’s toolkit. The Sabre’s tip heats up so your scoop of sticky hash slides right into the banger and you don’t have to make a mess. Equipped with an additional flashlight, chunky in the hand without being heavy, out in multiple colors, and easy to replace if a tip breaks, Focus V’s Sabre goes great with their CARTA e-rig. Pro tip: you can also use the Sabre to drip some extra rosin down into your hash hole for a ‘re-up.’ $40.
Pelican 10” 1060 Micro Case
Look, when you’re buying those expensive glass tips for your joints, you’re gonna need a way to keep them safe on your way to the session. Pelican’s smaller water and impact-resistant cases are meant for wallets, small phones, and electronics. They are also the perfect way to store your glass joint tips. When you’re looking at up to $60 for one of the more artistic ones, it only makes sense to invest in somewhere safe to store them. They make 6, 8, and 8-inch options that have customizable foam inserts. $42.95. See also: glass tips from Proper Selections; or Rektipz.
Myster SlickBox camouflaged cartridge battery
Disguise your THC cartridge to look like any of those typical disposable tobacco vapes you see around town. The brand Myster sells a variety of SlickBoxes that fit standard 510-thread vape cartridges so you sip THC publicly from what looks like a banal nicotine device. These devices fit your standard 510 cartridges, have a pre-heat mode, and three variable temperatures, and turn on via both an inhale and button system. You can even change the temperature or turn it on and off using a series of quick puffs. $45.
Under $100—Big spender
Alien Labs 4D Traveller Shoulder Bag
Creating a fourth piece for the Alien Labs luggage set, you grab the Alien Labs 4D Shoulder Bag when you don’t need the whole backpack, or clip on your Alien Labs duffel bag before you hit the airport. Great for keeping your mylar bags straight and for having all your rolling kit at your fingertips, the shoulder bag is the smallest and easiest to grab of this interstellar bag quartet. Like the other pieces, this has a five-layer construction, super durable zippers, and that same dope alien galaxy print on the inside. See also: the badass art on their new “Rest In Space” rolling tray. $55.
Banger Baskets alcohol rinsing container
If there’s one thing dabbers have a lot of it’s accessories. From bangers, charmers, slurpers, and control towers, taking multiple dabs means always having the cleaning rotation going. To help with your overstuffed cups of 99% isopropyl alcohol, Canadians have come to answer the call with Banger Baskets—large, ‘dual dunk’ glass containers that have removable interior chambers, tested and designed to hold your big and little glass. Like dishwashing, soak the gunky stuff on one side, and save the other side for fine rinsing. When it’s time to go, snap the four closures down and you can safely transport your alcohol to the next sesh. $70
Dr. Treso glass bubbler
Smoother than a pipe, more compact than a bong, it’s time to re-discover the magic of a bubbler. These Dr. Treso sandblasted glass bubbler beauties available through Witch Dr. studios in Salem, MA look like the kind of pipe Jeff Koons keeps stashed away in his pool house. Part of Witch Dr. Studios, Dr. Treso also has some heady fumed hammers and bubblers up on the website for $100 to $125, but we think the striking, balloon-ish look of these sandblasted pieces, available in five colors, offers a refined addition to anyone’s collection. $75
Puffco Plus loose hash vape pen
After 10 years in business, the very first product from Puffco—the Puffco Plus—gets its own 2.0 version with a refreshed look, better battery, and 510-thread cart compatibility. Meet the one-hitter of the Puffco family. You can load the chamber using the scooper housed within the top. You’ll find yourself surprised by the cloud of smoke you can get. Hardcore fans of the brand will probably stick to their Proxy or Peak when traveling, but the undercover value of the Plus works great around town. Get your hands on the piece founder Roger Volodarsky called, “one of the most important devices in Puffco history.” $89
Under $500—For great friends, family
dabX Rocket Rig
Every smoker needs a rugged, cheap travel bong that won’t hurt your heart if it breaks. The dabX rocket rig fits the bill and can work with hash. The team at dabX designed the Rocket to pair with their electronic hash oven accessory called the mk. 1, but it’s solid for flower, too. The thick glass is the first thing people seem to notice, then they take note of how well it rips. The chug on this glass does just as well with the mk.1 as it does with a Toro slurper or a glass flower bowl and it’s thick enough to take a bruising. It comes with a foam carrying case, but honestly, you could slide this into a backpack and it would still get around just fine. $100
The Magical Gummy Maker
From the makers of the Magic Butter Machine, the world’s most potent herbal infuser, now you can make your very own cannabis gummies at home with the Magical Gummy Maker! Magical Butter provides all you’ll need, minus the cannabis of course, so you and the family can start mixing up your batch together. There are only three steps: 1) throw in your infused oil, or liquids, along with the gummy mix packet (they make Mango, Blue Raspberry, Cherry Lime, Orange, and Watermelon flavors); 2) Hit the button to let the machine do all the heating, blooming, and mixing; 3) Squirt directly from the unit into any gummy mold using the precision nozzle to reduce messiness. See also: the original Magic Butter Machine. $125.
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Frit Glass Cups
What’s great about the handmade, clear cups from artist Anthony Charles? They’re appealing to glass collectors and stoners, but especially beer lovers. Described as “high-end glassware for all your craft beer needs,” the 5 and 6-ounce sippers really spoil your holiday guests. The larger glasses are like pouring your beer into a futuristic alien column. When you’re ready to hit start on the next level, Frit Glass also creates some mind-bending color works that go on auction via his Instagram. Everything is made and shipped within a week of ordering and small variations are due to the handmade nature of each item. $100 to $200.
Kevlar Glass Rigs
The holidays provide an ideal time to invest in a proper water-filtered hash vaping device made from sturdy borosilicate (aka “Pyrex”) glass—a dab rig. Kevlar Glass produces gorgeous rigs that impress you with their recognizable profile. A Boro blower out of Florida, the artistic and whimsical shape of Kevlar Glass rigs almost make you think of what “Rick and Morty” animators could do if they started blowing glass. You can shop for the clear version on Big Al’s website, visit the shop in Berkeley, CA, or contact the artist directly via Instagram to inquire about some of the more colorful and decorated models. See also: Dab Rite + Darby PRO – cactus edition digital thermometer. $375
Puffco Proxy Bloom portable customizable dab pipe
When you raise this sleek, powerful, modular, cutting-edge lavender-tinged electronic hash pipe to the sky, you feel like Samuel L. Jackson when he got his purple lightsaber. Puffco’s 2023 hit portable, customizable dab pipe “Proxy” now comes in the Bloom color with a line of purple attachments, including a glass bubbler. This third color combo should set off a re-gifting era as dabbers give their old Onyx Proxy to friends, and then buy themselves the new purple color for Christmas. $300.
Curidor XL 2.0 weed fridge
The gift for the stoner who has everything but doesn’t know where to put it all. When you suddenly find yourself in possession of too many jars of weed and don’t know how to keep them all as fresh as possible, the Curidor preserves buds much better than the standard mason jar in a cool, dark space. Let’s face it, most of us are “storing” our weed in boxes and containers that freely let air in and are subject to the temperature changes in our houses. The Curidor allows you to set the temperature while housing an impressive 5 lbs. of cannabis products. See also: TerpKooler. $420
Storz & Bickel Venty
Yes, $449’s pricey, but this new pocket Volcano is going to rule Senior Centers where you can’t smoke anything and only medical devices are allowed. We blew big, tasty cool clouds of Strawberry Cherry Gelato off the Venty and got near-instantly medicated. German designer and manufacturer Storz & Bickel spent three years building “the best vaporizer on the planet,” CEO and Dr. Jürgen Bickel told Leafly. The result? A beefy, 1/2-pound flower vape that not only rips but heats up in 20 seconds. The fast-charging battery pumps out 20 amps. Custom firmware maintains the 0.25-gram heating oven’s temperature during fat rips of up to 20 liters of air per minute. Novelty Chinese flower vapes can run under $100, but here you’re paying for a medical-grade pro vape, designed and built in Germany, with UL safety certifications, plus documentation, service, and a three-year warranty. $449.
Over $500—Treat yourself
Stundenglass / Grateful Dead Gravity Infuser
The very first official cannabis collab from this legendary band, Grenco Labs has splashed its Stundenglass and G Pen Dash in the iconic Grateful Dead art style. Designed by an ex-Apple employee in 2012, you can use the Stundenglass Gravity Infuser to smoke weed, hash, tobacco, or even oysters! This thing functions like a professionally machined version of the duct-taped two-liter plastic bottle we used to take gravity bong hits out of back in the day. Inside the box—a full instruction manual to walk you through the simple setup and a bag with everything you’ll need to keep the unit clean. The standard model weighs 13 lbs. before you add water, making it a hefty and impressive showpiece. See also: the Quasar Raas 2 electronic hash hookah heating puck. $599.
Illadelph Glass Bongs
Now you know we wouldn’t make a list without checking off something for the bong enthusiast out there, and trust us, their faces will light up when they unwrap something from Illadelph Glass. A powerful name in the glass world since they started in 2002, these thick, high-performance rugged borosilicate glass tubes come in a rainbow of color options. You could single-handedly save Christmas by gifting one of their medium or tall beakers that you can pick up from our friends The Cave Smoke Shop, who ship all over the US. $660 to $680.