There are upsides and downsides to every means of cannabis consumption. Consumers must decide which method works best for them.
One method that predates legal cannabis is to ‘roll it up and smoke it.’ Smoking joints, spliffs or blunts are an easy, social way to consume your THC. There is something about the communal aspect of sharing the experience with others. More often than not, however, it can be one of the most wasteful and physically harming approaches.
Burning cannabis can result in over-rolling one’s stash, over-cooked weed, scorched lungs and/or a residual lingering smoke-like odor. As if wasted flower wasn’t bad enough, scorched lungs and smoke-stank are the result of the dangerous carcinogens that are inhaled during the smoking process. Carcinogens are agents, natural or artificial, that induce genetic mutation and have the capacity to cause cancer. In the last decade or so, the prevalence of a smoking alternative has emerged and swept the cannabis market — vaping.
What is Vaping?
For those who enjoy the quick effects or social aspects of smoking but want a ‘cleaner alternative,’ the emergence of vaping is a game changer.
Vaporizing is the process of utilizing either conduction (transfer of thermal energy through direct contact) or convection (transfer of thermal energy through the movement of a liquid or gas) to activate THC. By heating it to 356 to 392 degrees Fahrenheit, it activates the THC and other cannabinoids in the dry flower or concentrate (depending on the vape) and turns it into a vapor without burning the product. The resulting vapor is fine and often scentless; it dissipates into the air after just seconds.
Some studies even suggest that vaping can help tobacco smokers quit smoking. However, neither the Federal Drug and Food Administration (FDA) nor do any independent researchers consider vaping the lesser of two evils.
The Importance of Clean, Tested Products
There are few long-term studies on the effects of vaping because it is such a new-age form of consumption. The rise of vaping opened the door for black market cartridges. Use of some of those cartridges resulted in the sickness and death of 60+ people. This became known as the “Vape Gate” scandal which raised serious concerns amongst the cannabis community.
More Specifically, the Vape Gate crisis occurred after health officials traced an outbreak of lung illnesses and deaths to the use of illicit vape products, reports The New York Times. The culprit — vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent used to dilute product and increase profits. The publication further reported that the outbreak “revealed the existence of a vast, unregulated, shadowy marketplace of illicit or bootleg vaping products [full] of unknown chemicals concocted, packed and sold by unknown manufacturers and sellers.”
So using clean vape products in moderation and closely monitoring research — like with anything we consume — is essential moving forward. Cannabis companies now provide test results so consumers can check for harmful additives.
Vaping weed instead of smoking it is contestably safer, but certainly just as expensive. Vapes, on average, cost anywhere between $20 and $200; that’s without even considering the cost of the cannabis product itself.
Cartridges, the pre-filled glass containers containing the cannabis oil or hash, can be expensive and come in a variety of forms; distillate, CO2 oil, live resin, or full-spectrum oils.
At a local dispensary, a half gram cartridge typically costs anywhere between $40 and $60. In the same vein, the gram cartridge can run anywhere between $75 and $120 on average. With the right vaper and cartridge, however, the longevity of the vaping experience will increase due to the efficiency and potency of the product; less will be more.
What’s on the Market?
There are three primary types of vapes on the market: portable oil vapes, portable flower vapes and tabletop vaporizers. Each vape serves its own purpose and has its own quirks.
Portable Oil Vapes: Portable oil vapes are discrete and useful for on-the go consumers. They operate off of rechargeable batteries. Upon the click of a button, depending on the make and model, the vapes heats the oil and activates the THC. A pitfall of portable oil vapes is that CO2 oil cartridges aren’t as versatile as using flower.
This writer’s portable oil vape recommendation: Kandypen’s Special-K Vape Pen
Portable Flower Vapes: Like portable oil vapes, portable flower vapes are preferred by on-the-go cannabis enthusiasts. However, like the name implies, flower vapes heat ground-up flower. Because these vapes use flower, their convenience is a double edged sword. On one hand, packing and repacking a portable flower vape in public can be terribly inconvenient because it requires the user to bring a portion of their supply with them wherever they go. On the other hand, if the user has taken this into consideration then the portable flower vape allows them to enjoy their supply when traveling.
This writer’s recommendation: Pax 3
TableTop Vapes: Tabletop vapes are the outlier amongst these three as they are reserved for at-home consumption. While the portable flower and oil vapes are compact and easy to transport, the tabletop vapes are built for precision. Portable oil and flower vapes have limited heat settings due to their small battery capacities. Whereas tabletop vapes have larger controlled heating capacities that affords consumers the opportunity to explore vaping their favorite flower at different temperatures.
This writer’s recommendation: Volcano Hybrid