It’s a beautiful marijuana plant, with a terrific yield.
The leaves have been manicured, the buds have been dried and harvested. Even the resin has been salvaged and stored.
All that’s left to deal with are the stems – leading to the question that just about every cannabis user has asked at one time or another: can you smoke weed stems?
The answer comes in two parts. You can. But you shouldn’t.
Smoking Weed Stems Won’t Get You High
The stem of a marijuana plant is essential to a healthy plant’s growth. It not only supports the plant’s weight, but it also transports nutrients and fluids from the roots to the rest of the plant.
But the stem itself contains relatively negligible amounts of THC. That’s because the psychoactive compound is produced by the plant’s trichomes which are found primarily on the leaves, flowers and, buds. Any trichomes that develop on the stem are extremely small and close to the surface, with very little THC in them. How little? The buds on a normal, healthy pot plant can have a THC concentration as high as 30%; by comparison, the leaves may have just 3-5%, and the stems have even less.
That’s the long way of saying that you won’t get high when you smoke marijuana stems. There’s so little THC in them that it’s not even worth the effort. In fact, you’ll be sober enough after smoking them to clearly recognize the negative effects you’re likely to experience.
Health Repercussions of Smoking Weed Stems
The nasty taste and smell of burning pot stems might be worth enduring if there was a decent buzz to be had. There isn’t. Even worse, smoking the stems can make you sick.
The most common issue is headaches. Many people suffer them after trying to smoke stems, particularly people who are already prone to headaches or migraines. The pain from a “stem headache” can be excruciating, and the headache can linger for a very long time. Some users also suffer serious abdominal pain, or nausea and vomiting, after they’ve tried smoking weed stems; researchers don’t yet understand why that happens, but it does.
Finally (even though no one likes thinking about it), inhaling large amounts of smoke isn’t the best thing to do to your respiratory system, especially if you have asthma or other breathing issues. When you’re experiencing medical benefits and/or getting a good high from smoking, the good may outweigh the bad. Since there’s so little THC in cannabis plant stems, though, smoking them taxes your lungs for no good reason.
That doesn’t mean you should just throw the stems out, though. There’s a lot you can do with them.
Good Uses for Weed Stems
Stem Weed Tea or Alcohol
Cannabis-infused tea or alcohol usually won’t get you completely baked, even if you make them with buds. So using the stems to make tea or a cocktail definitely won’t produce a strong high, but it can definitely provide some relaxation and perhaps even slight euphoria. Using a combination of stems and buds will give you a better high, while saving some of the “good stuff” for smoking. Just be sure not to grind them all the way into powder because that will make their taste bitter.
One important note: the process of smoking cannabis activates the plant’s THC. Otherwise, stems – just like other parts of the plant – have to be “decarboxylated” in order to activate the THC, before they’re consumed internally or used for other purposes like the manufacture of tinctures. It’s a relatively easy step in which the stems are baked in the oven, and it shouldn’t be skipped.
Stem Cannabutter or Edibles
Cannabutter or edibles made with decarboxylated stems can create a cooking ingredient or snack that adds a relaxing element to your food, even though they won’t be as potent as versions made from the much-stronger buds. The stems can also be used to infuse topical creams, providing a gentle, therapeutic benefit.
Stem Hash Oil
You can create hash oil with stems, although smoking it won’t deliver the mind-blowing high you’d expect with higher-quality oil. Simply grind the stems to a fine powder before mixing them with isopropyl alcohol, straining the liquid and then letting the alcohol evaporate.
If none of these alternatives sounds like they’re worth bothering with, you can always use the stems as barbeque skewers to infuse your shish kabob ingredients with a slight pot flavor and smell. Or if you’re the crafty type, you can make hemp bracelets or baskets with them. Neither use will get you buzzed, but truthfully, that’s a job for the buds – not the stems.