Hotboxing Explained: What, How & Where To Do It
Estimated 7-minute read
For some inexplicable reason, when I think about hotboxing the image that pops into my head is the following: A group of nerdy teenagers chain smoking joints inside a car; the pilot and copilot have been stoned a few times already, and the friend in the backseat really wants to try weed out but they’re a bit afraid to do it directly from a joint. Since their friends are very supportive and they don’t want their dearest friend to miss out on the experience, they suggest another way: Hotboxing.
(The latter sounds like the silly anecdote is about me but I promise it’s not.)
(Okay, a friend actually suggested that but we never tried it out.)
Leafly defines hotboxing as the act of smoking in a small and unventilated space with the objective of getting high from first hand smoke and getting an extra kick from second hand smoke. This modern practice is usually done in a car: joint in hand, windows rolled up and air vents shut. But did you know that this actually dates back to ancient BCE?
Stick to this article to get your nerd on with a bit of history, the explanation behind getting high with second hand smoke, hotboxing side effects and if you’re feeling brave after all this information… some (responsible) ideas on how and where to hotbox with your friends.
Hotboxing History With Herodotus, As Shown By The Scythians
A long time ago, around 450 BCE (Before the Common Era, or Before the Christian Era), there was a Greek man known by the name of Herodotus, who is modernly referred to as the father of history. Being a historian and a geographer, Herodotus wrote The Histories, a detailed account of the Greco-Persian Wars in which the Greeks and the mighty empire of Persia collisioned when Cyrus the Great conquered the region of Ionia.
Being a historian and a geographer, it’s only natural that Herodotus moved around a lot. It is known that he once traveled north to the region of Scythia in search of a mysterious plant called cannabis, where he encountered a nomadic tribe of traders from the Altai Mountains in Southern Siberia. According to SandRhoman History, Herodotus learned that in addition to making carpets, clothing and rope, the Scythians also used cannabis for burials.
The mourning ritual had the goal of purifying and cleansing their bodies and spirits. The people got together in a sealed tent, lit a fire in the middle, and burned hemp to grieve the loss of a member of their tribe until the smoke was completely dissipated.
I bet hotboxing cannabis made the Scythian people feel lighter and more calm despite the tragic situation of their tribe. Perhaps it even helped them speak wiser words about life and death and the cycle of life.
Does Hotbox Really Get You Higher? Here’s The Actual Research
Maybe Scythians didn’t exactly hotbox with the excuse to get more high, but people in the 21st century sure do. But does this actually work?
About seven years ago, the John Hopkins School of Medicine came through and did their research about the effects of room ventilation from non-smoker exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke.
The study consisted of getting six smokers and non-smokers together, where researchers placed them inside a transparent thermoplastic and aluminum chamber for an hour. Each smoker received 10 joints containing 1 gram of cannabis with a THC content of 11.3% –which is relatively low– and were instructed to smoke deliberately. The participants went through two forms of exposure: ventilated and unventilated.
The research found that exposure from secondhand smoke under unventilated conditions did produce detectable levels of THC in the participant’s blood and urine. In the researcher's words, it also showed minor increases in their heart rate, mild to moderate physiological and subjective effects, as well as minor impairment on a task requiring psychomotor ability and working memory.
On the other hand, the exposure under ventilated conditions resulted in much lower blood cannabinoid levels. And what we all want to know: secondhand cannabis smoke did not produce sedative drug effects, impairments in performance, or positive urine screen results.
So yes folks, science says hotboxing works under extreme unventilated circumstances!
The Benefits & Side Effects Of Hotboxing
As we often do in these articles, it’s important we have to look at the side effects of filling a room with cannabis where there’s no ventilation whatsoever. Experts at Recreate Life Counseling are persistent on hotboxing and its short term effects on the body:
- An increase in appetite
- An increase in heart rate
- Bloodshot eyes
- Hypercapnia, which is consists of excessive carbon dioxide in the bloodstream
- Hypertension, a condition where blood pressure is higher than normal
It’s only natural that this activity presents long term effects on the body as well:
- A suppressed immune system
- Bronchial asthma
- Emphysema, or shortness of breath
However, the benefits that stand out –at least to me– are the following:
- A different and adventurous smoking experience
- Another way of consuming weed
- If you’re not looking forward to get very high, hotboxing will give you a buzz without the need of smoking or eating an edible
Where To Carry Out Your Hotbox Session
So you read about the history, science and effects of hotboxing and you really want to try it out. Here’s some ideas of where to carry out your plan:
Inside A Car
Vehicles are usually the most preferable place to hotbox thanks to the seal and isolation they provide, as well as the facility to manipulate ventilation and obviously, the included sound system.
There’s obviously some downsides, like the lingering smell and the potential dangers of exposing yourself in the open or out on the street, especially if you live in a place where cannabis is prohibited.
If you want to use your car, I implore you to never drive under the influence of marijuana; instead, remain parked outside your house or a safe place where you’re not bothered by anything or anyone. If it’s too dangerous, then try something else like.
The downside is that there’s usually no comfortable seating space and you may have to cover the doors and windows with towels or something of the sort to really seal the space.
On the bright side, the smell won’t linger and it will be easier to clean up once you’re done; just open the windows, sweep the floor, turn up the extractor fan and spray with deodorizer or an aromatic candle.
Inside A Tent
Remember the Scythian nomads? If one could ask them right now, they’d probably confirm that tents are ideal for hotboxing because they seal and trap smell effectively. However, as much as modern tents are fire resistant, you could drop your joint during the smoking sesh and leave burns and tiny holes. Nevertheless, if you feel brave enough, be prepared to bring a lot of ashtrays, preferably portable ones.
And Last But Not Least, Some Tips For Your Hotboxing Experience
1. Gather round with friends you trust and choose a safe space where everyone feels comfortable.
2. Make preparations in advance! For instance, have some snacks and water at the ready.
3. Grind and roll all your joints beforehand, you don’t want to waste time, precious haze and stress out by giving yourself another task.
4. Remember to have some ashtrays, blankets, pillows and music in the setting of your choice.
5. Do not forget to seal any gaps so your secondhand smoke can be neatly trapped inside the place.
6. Listen to your body and know when smoke is too much smoke. Tell yourself and your friends you can always stop if somebody starts feeling uncomfortable, you can always leave it for another day.
Author: Mary Jane
Herrmann, E. S., Cone, E. J., Mitchell, J. M., Bigelow, G. E., LoDico, C., Flegel, R., & Vandrey, R. (2015). Non-smoker exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke II: Effect of room ventilation on the physiological, subjective, and behavioral/cognitive effects. Drug and alcohol dependence, 151, 194–202. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.03.019
Recreate Life Counseling. Why is Hotboxing Dangerous. Retrieved from https://www.recreatelifecounseling.com/why-is-hotboxing-dangerous/
Sumpter, L. (2021) What Is Hotboxing? (And How To Do It) Royal Queen Seeds. Retrieved from https://www.royalqueenseeds.com/blog-a-quick-guide-to-hotboxing-n922
SandRhoman History (2019). How Herodotus Might Have Come to Know the Scythians (Herodotus’ Histories Book 4). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/Tpjk9p-bckA?t=13
What is hotboxing with cannabis and does it work? (2022) Leafly. Retrieved from https://www.leafly.com/learn/consume/smoke/what-is-hotboxing