When I was around fifteen years old I started smoking cigarettes. I had made a friend that was a grade higher than me, had a car, gauges, cool taste in music and the ability to buy me Starbucks before class. This was it, I had thought, this was as cool as I could possibly get while I was in high school. On the Starbucks patio or riding around in the car together, my friend would hold out his lighter for me and I’d light my cigarette, but I eventually had to teach myself how to use a traditional lighter. Part of picking up an addictive habit is the addiction, and I soon found myself scrounging around for a lighter that I - a person with a disability that pretty severely limits my fine motor skills - could figure out how to use quickly. Fortunately for me, that came in the form of a promotional Camel lighter that I dug out of somewhere. The lighter was shaped like a kind of thick, oblong metal coin with a sliding mechanism at the top to light it. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I could hold the lighter with one hand and light it with the other, and I used that lighter committedly until it eventually ran out of lighter fluid and I reluctantly let it go.
Part of my disability has forced me to find ways around things my whole life, and although I generally loathe to speak for any community, I think that’s true for a lot of us in the disabled community. Accessibility may not always be as simple as finding disability friendly solutions online because sometimes what you're looking for just might not exist yet. Or what I find to be the worst outcome: it exists but it is prohibitively expensive. Often what works for me aren’t things I’ve actively sought out but are tools that I’ve fallen in love with or tips that have come in handy. Staring into my grinder today I thought that I might share some of the tools and “tricks” I use or have tried that make my life easier in the hope that it may help someone else.
A large part of the cannabis consuming community are people with disabilities, chronic pain, mobility limitations and other conditions that may limit a person’s ability to easily use some of the more traditional smoking implements used for cannabis consumption. I can use a Bic lighter pretty well now but it’s not a lie when I say it’s taken years of practice, lots of child safety stripped lighters, and it’s still kind of a hassle for me to use a traditional lighter to light a pipe or a bong. That being said, I’ve found a few things in my time as a cannabis consumer that have helped ease the frustration a little bit.
The trouble with lighters for me is that my fingers don't really bend and my thumbs don’t bend at all, so gripping and lighting a “regular” lighter is just not a thing I’ve ever really been able to pull off. Sometimes the lighter flies out of my hand, I still drop them constantly, and they have to be stripped of the little child safety mechanism or it’s game over for me. I don’t currently have one, but one of the best tools I’ve ever had to assist with lighting all kinds of combustible cannabis apparati was a hemp wick lighter. When I first discovered these, it was just a case that you slid your lighter into that had a bunch of hemp wick cord wrapped around it. Nothing fancy, but I could light the wick with my lighter and keep it lit while I hit a bowl a few times. Having the ability to have essentially a little hemp candle to light my bowl meant I had time to make sure I had a secure grip on my pipe or bowl and could take my time.
Now, you can get hemp wick lighter cases that come with an aluminum tube for dispensing and snuffing out the wick. The low burn temperature can also mean max flavor from your flower.
Grinders have always been very difficult for me. I have really poor grip strength so grabbing and twisting little metal tubes - that can often be pretty heavy as well - is a struggle and a half for me. Now, just because something is a struggle doesn’t mean I won’t do it, especially when it comes to my cannabis consumption, so I’ve struggled my way through plenty of grinders but we have one right now that’s probably the easiest I’ve ever used. The grinder we’re using currently was a gift from my partner’s parents for Christmas, and the name on the actual grinder is “LEVEL”, but I can’t for the life of me find our particular one on the internet at the moment. Hopefully my evocative description of its features will help you find a similar one to this one that has blessed me with its usefulness.
First and foremost, this is a hand crank grinder, meaning it has a little handle mechanism on the top for grinding up your flower. Compared to the traditional twist grinder we had before, this is a huge upgrade for me. The crank handle folds down and to be honest, I find it much easier to use the grinder like this initially to start breaking up the bigger pieces of flower that I loaded in. Once the larger pieces are broken up, I flip up the handle and finish grinding it up. Besides the super hand crank handle, this particular grinder is hourglass shaped. For me, seeing a grinder shaped like this was revolutionary. The shape of the grinder is perfect for me to hold it down on a surface while I grind up the flower and it’s big enough that it fits in my hand without being too big or too small. The grinder itself is much bigger than most of the grinders I’ve used before, but that means the shape doesn’t take any space away from the inside for product. It also has a kief chamber at the very bottom.
Honorable mention for grinders goes out to the Diamond Grind “traditional” twist type grinder that my partner and I have had for almost a decade that’s still in basically perfect condition and the flashlight-modified-into-a-grinder I got at the swap mart forever ago that was like a tiny weed blender. If you can get your hands on a small, relatively cheap weed blender I still highly recommend it.
I’ve never been a huge joint smoker, but I know lots and lots of people love them, and if you’re one of those people and you haven’t tried an automatic joint roller, you may be missing out. From literal machines that will grind your flower for you and fill “20 - 30 cones per charge” to smaller, manual joint fillers, there are a plethora of devices now to ease your joint rolling or cone filling process.
My preferred consumption apparatus is always going to be glass, and I think there’s an upside and a downside to this for me. Upside is that if you do it right, your glass pieces can last you a really long time. Downside is that if you are me, you’re probably going to end up dropping it at least once so you better hope that baby bounces. When I first started smoking, I was a chillum loyalist. Mostly because I could hold it in my mouth like the cigarettes I had become so familiar with and fumble around with the lighter if I needed to. They were also pretty cheap and I broke them all the time. Now, I have a much more respectable little collection of bongs, bubblers and pipes, but a big part of their posterity is that I very rarely touch them. We have one pipe that is our “daily driver” so to speak, and the rest of the pieces pretty much only get pulled out for special occasions. Our “daily driver” is a run of the mill spoon pipe that we got at a local chain smoke shop that’s taken a tumble or two and still held strong. We’re hoping to get another five years out of it, fingers crossed. Also, if you can find any kind of ceramic bong or similar piece with a handle, I highly recommend it. Mine is heavy enough to feel sturdy without being too heavy to move around, and the handle is a really nice touch.
As long as I remain a cannabis consumer, I’m sure I’ll continue to find quality of life improvements for how I go about consuming said cannabis. As we rocket into the future with cannabis, it’s exciting to see all of the advancements that may make the lives of so many consumers with disabilities, pain or mobility limitations easier when it comes to consuming the medicine that brings so much relief.