Every day I receive countless messages from inquisitive VICE readers who are eager to learn more about the mysterious world of psychoactive chemicals. I will select the most intelligent question I am asked each week and answer it with my chemist friend Jason Wallach for the edification of the VICE blog readership and mankind in general.
After smoking, eating, vaporizing, injecting, and absorbing cannabis through sublingual, buccal and anal membranes, a time must come when the enterprising cannabis consumer asks, “its possible pulverizer marijuana for later snort?” Yes, my friend, it is most certainly possible, but the question is one of efficacy. Ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes hypothesized that early man discovered the psychoactive effects of cannabis sap through its delicious achenes while foraging for food. Doubtlessly, it was not long before the plant's medicinal properties were discovered and pioneering physicians began to experiment with non-oral routes of administration. The first recorded reference to nasal cannabis dates back to 900 C.E. and is attributed to the author al-Dima, who stated that hemp-seed juice administered through the nose behaves as a brain purgative. By 1,000 C.E. the juice of cannabis leaves was being used intranasally as an anti-epileptic, and the tradition is still alive today with a 2002 patent detailing a bi-phasic delivery system that could usher emulsified cannabinoids into our nasal mucosa with untold rapidity and efficiency.
Nasal cannabis has much to recommend it; unlike smoking, nasal administration does not liberate carbon monoxide and other toxic hydrocarbons that are the inevitable result of pyrolytic combustion, nor does it introduce obstructive tars to the lungs. Yet the trend of nasal cannabis never gained the widespread popularity of oral and smoked routes. To find out why, let's examine cannabinoid pharmacokinetics in detail.
Several factors make intranasal ingestion of cannabis a poor route of administration. First is the fact that cannabis plants produce and store their cannabinoids, including the active Δ9-THC, in the carboxylic acid form (THCA). These carboxylic acids lack cannabis-like psychoactive effects, however they can be easily converted (via decarboxylation) to the active THC-form with a little heat or base. Since most of the THC in cannabis exists as THCA, a conversion reaction is typically performed prior to ingestion. This explains why all common methods of cannabis ingestion for psychoactive purposes--smoking, vaporizing, or cooking--involve heat.
Based on this knowledge, you may now be asking yourself, “its possible can heat marijuana for later snort?” Unfortunately, even if you preheat your cannabis snuff, you are still likely to find yourself disappointed. The reason for this is simple: Cannabinoids, like Δ9-THC, are hydrophobic and lipophilic, meaning they prefer fatty environments like oil over water. On their own, these properties make active cannabinoids good candidates for absorption; however, when combined with cannabis’s high resin content this becomes an issue. Cannabis resin is a sticky chemical cocktail of hydrophobic cannabinoids, flavanoids, and terpenoids packaged in a thin wax membrane. Although these membranes can be broken up with a little “pulverizing,” the wax and resin will stick together and to the plant material. When one has a “later snort,” he or she will find the resin insoluble in the water-based environment of the nasal cavity. In addition to being insoluble, hydrophobic molecules clump together in an aqueous environment. Clumping occurs to decrease the available surface area exposed to water, satisfying the second law of thermodynamics by increasing the entropy of your nasal mucous. Unfortunately for prospective cannabis insufflator, clumping greatly limits the cannabinoids available for absorption, as they are largely stuck to the resin and plant material with no way to escape. So while the second law of thermodynamics may be satisfied, you most likely will not!
If one spends a few moments online, he or she will find numerous reports of people claiming to get effects from insufflating kief (cannabis trichomes containing high concentrations of cannabinoids). While these reports may be true, efficacy will be highly variable depending on the preparation, age, storage method, phenotype, and genetics of the parent plant. Cannabinoid containing resins can be dissolved by adding an emulsifier, a chemical that allows the mixing of oils and water. Although nasal mucous has some emulsifying properties, they are not sufficient to dissolve cannabis resin. Emulsifier enriched cannabis snuff can be prepared fairly easily and is outlined in the previously mentioned patent. Although relatively simple, these preparations require physical and chemical processing of cannabis that would be too time consuming for anyone other than the most dedicated cannabis insufflators.
So to conclude, if you're willing to go through the trouble of heating up your pulverized, emulsifier-laced cannabis prior to your “later snort,” then yes, it is possible to get psychoactive effects from insufflated cannabis, otherwise it will be wildly inefficient. Godspeed.
Next week we will examine the question, “how I going to cook up meth from my atteralls for?”
HAMILTON MORRIS AND JASON WALLACH