Marijuana Vaporizers: From Bud to Dud, Here’s What You Need to Know
Vaporizing has been with us since before the turn of the century but the current explosion in popularity can be traced to a couple of legal developments. The first of those was the imposition of sweeping anti-smoking legislation. Whereas in your parent’s day you could smoke anywhere you pleased (including on airplanes) today, to put it simply, you can’t. When the anti-smoking laws hit the books, smokers of traditional combustible cigarettes needed to find a way around the rules. As an alternative, they looked to vaporizers in order to get their nicotine fix. The second change was the still ongoing movement to legalize marijuana. As more and more jurisdictions have legalized pot, the market for cannabis consumption technology (like vaporizers) has gone through the roof.
Below we’ll take a close look at the humble marijuana vaporizer, and how this new tech can greatly enhance your next session with that favorite green herb of ours…
First, what is Vaporizing?
A vaporizer is a device that introduces heat, either directly or indirectly, to cannabis flower, buds, ground up herbs or other concentrates (like waxes or oils). This heat rises the temperature of your marijuana to a temperature at which it literally vaporizes (or at least all the good compounds do, you know, THC, CBD, terpenes and other cannabinoids).
This “vapor” produces a cloud (largely invisible) that includes psychotropic and other organic compounds from your herbs. Once vaporized, you take a drag, hit, pull or whatever you want to call it, inhaling the vapor and reaping the benefits of the weed without ever having to inhale smoke from the combustion process.
This process results in a purer, healthier, more flavorful and intense experience that is both discrete and fun to participate in. Below we’ll outline some of these benefits in more detail…
The benefits of vaporizing vs smoking are many and include:
May be better for respiratory health - No matter what you think of anti-smoking laws, you can’t debate the fact that inhaling smoke on a regular basis wreaks havoc with the respiratory system. While smoking weed isn’t necessarily on par with smoking cigarettes, it still involves inhaling smoke from burning plant matter, and that can potentially have long term negative effects on your lungs and heart. By contrast, vaporizing all but eliminates this risk. Various studies, including a 2007NIH funded pilot study found that delivering THC via vaporization was/is a safe and effective means of delivering those oh so good cannabinoids without the negative health consequences associated with smoking them. Of course, they were looking at it from a strictly medical standpoint, but the facts are indisputable nonetheless. The study found that the vapor was free of the nasty toxins that inhabit cigarette smoke, most notably carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a potentially deadly gas found whenever organic materials undergo combustion, and can contribute to cancer risk, among other respiratory ailments.
Discretion - Do a controlled test yourself. Walk down the street smoking a doobie or pipe and see how people react. Then walk down the street using your vaporizer. You’ll likely notice a considerable difference. Pen vaporizers and box mods provide you the ability to go about your business in a discrete, undisturbed fashion. The scent is minimal and doesn’t linger like with smoke, and there’s no ashes or telltale smoke plumes to give you away. If discretion is a concern, vaping marijuana allows you the privacy to enjoy your herbs without letting everyone in a 100 ft radius know about it.
Flavor- When you burn weed it can reach up to 2,000 degrees. But vaporizing doesn’t require the temperature to rise above temperatures ranging around 350 degrees. This is important because at the 2,000 degree mark, most of the oils (terpenes) that provide the flavor you’ve come to love and enjoy are literally burnt off and destroyed. You can smell them leaving in the smoke, but you can’t taste them. With vaping the flavor stays in the cannabis product and is delivered to your taste buds via express mail. Compare this to an exquisite cup of coffee versus one made from burnt roasts. You can still taste the coffee, but the flavor is overpowered by the burnt grounds.
A more potent hit - Let’s be real. Most vapers are drawn to the fact that vaping typically produces a much more potent hit than by smoking. The potency of typical flowers and buds is anywhere from 10 to 25%, while the potency of concentrates and extracts can be as high as 90%. That ginormous difference is enough to send most weed aficionados scurrying to find a vaporizer before you could finish reading the next sentence. And best of all, you don’t even have to hold your breath like a deep sea diver to get the effect. Just breathe in, hold for a couple of seconds and breathe out. But take it easy. This stuff is strong. Being high is fun and enjoyable, but being too high can be a real shitty experience.
You get to keep your lighter - Okay, everyone who hasn’t had a lighter lifted while smoking pot with friends and acquaintances raise their hand... We thought so. No more lost lighters with vaping. In fact, no more wasted money on lighters at all.
Save More Dough– Sure, there is the initial investment in the vaporizer itself, but given the potency of the concentrates and extracts, you’ll end up needing less bud to feel like a stud. This means you’ll likely save more money over the long run.
Vaporizer Buying Guide
Not all vaporizers are built alike. And some are made for marijuana, whilst others are designed to be used only with e-juices. The following are things you should look for in a marijuana vaporizer. Some are essential considerations, while others are more of a matter of personal preference. In the end, the choice is up to you. We suggest looking up reviews and asking friends for advice as a second step in your research process. And if you have any questions, we’re always here to help as well, just drop us a line.
Will You be Vaping Flowers or Concentrates?
Before you buy a vaporizer you’ll need to decide which type of product you’ll be using it for. Those built to vape buds are different than those built to vape concentrates. In general, vapes made for concentrates and extracts are smaller than those made to vape buds. Simply because buds take up a lot more space than, say, a dab of wax or a bit of shatter. Ask your retailer which is right for you.
These fancy terms simply refer to the way in which your marijuana is heated into vapor. Each has their own benefits and downsides.
With a convection vaporizer, a hot mist is introduced to the cannabis product that extracts the active ingredients and presents those to you in the form of an often invisible vapor cloud which you then inhale.
With conduction heating, the shatter, wax or whatever concentrate you’re using is placed directly on a heating element. Once it reaches a critical temperature, the active ingredients are extracted and turned into vapor for you to inhale.
With convection you typically get a cleaner, more even heating of the weed, which is ideal for a more potent and flavorful experience. With conduction you will likely experience a bigger vape cloud due to the direct contact. However, distribution of heat is uneven and you may “overcook” certain portions of your bud. In fact, there are many who argue that conduction may actually produce smoke, or at least a combination of smoke and vapor. This somewhat undermines the health benefits of using a vaporizer.
E-cigs, Pens and Ciggalikes- The vast majority of vaporizers are hand-held e-cigs or pens. The e-cig or e-cigarette was the first type of vaporizer to gain widespread acceptance as smokers sought ways either to quit or to comply with rigid anti-smoking laws that came into effect over the past 20 years. The e-cig however is actually waning in popularity among stoners because its appearance can bring the wrath of the anti-smoking contingent. And who wants to be verbally assaulted while trying to cop a buzz on a nice summer day? If you answered “nobody”, you’re right.
The good news is that there are plenty of other vaporizers out there that are discrete and highly portable such as E-Nails. As it relates to vaping marijuana, you’ll want to seek out a device designed for the particular type of concentrate you wish to vape. For example, most oil vaporizers are not compatible with dry herbs.
Speaking of types of vaporizers, let’s cover the basics below:
Oil vaporizers – Commonly in the form of pen or box vapes, these devices are most effective when used with liquid concentrates for butane hash oil. Some of these devices use what’s called a “cartomizer”. This component combines a cartridge and heating coil (atomizer) into a single unit. Others use what’s called a “clearomizer” which has a heating coil and a wick. The wick extends from atomizer, absorbs liquid concentrate and delivers it to the heating coil. While the mechanisms of the two units are slightly different the end result is essentially the same.
Wax vaporizers - A wax vaporizer is meant to be used with solid concentrates like shatter, budder, crumble and the like. Similar to oil based devices, wax vapes usually run off a rechargeable battery that heats the cartomizer or clearomizer, which in turn heats the wax to a temperature at which it produces vapor for inhalation.
Dry herb vapes - A relatively new innovation in the world of vaping is the dry herb vaporizer. Up until now pens and box mods weren’t all that effective when it came to vaping buds. But thanks to recent technological advancements, you can now enjoy your flowering tops in an ever increasing number of bud friendly hand held appliances.
Box mods - Box mods all but eliminate that possibility of having a screamer in your face at the park, because they look like a box of breath mints, not a cigarette or pipe. The name is derived from the fact that the first such devices were actually modified Altoid tins or other household items that had a boxy shape. So boxy - or “box” - and modified - or “mod” - equals “box mod”. Because the box resembles breath mints, or an iPod, or a card reader, your discretion is assured and your buzz can be copped without fear of reprisals.
Table-top units like the “volcano” are more for socializing. They’re pretty large and serve the same basic function as the hookah. They’re largely a social accessory that facilitates the sharing of cannabis with others. With table top units your wax or buds (or whatever substrate your vaporizing) gets heated to a point where the compounds vaporize and a bag at the top of the unit collects the fumes. With some units you remove the bag and take drag, or pass the bag around for everyone to take a hit. With other devices you inhale through a mouthpiece attached to a tube that inserts into the bag (similar to a hookah). Just don’t Bogart that bag my friend!
It should be noted that table-top units are also popular for the delivery of medical marijuana, particularly among patients that have never smoked weed before and have no interest in its recreational possibilities. They need the relief from pain the weed can provide and find the table-top unit a non-objectionable way to deliver that relief.
Vaporizers have exploded onto the cultural landscape due to a combination of laws making it illegal to smoke cigarettes in most places, and other laws making it legal to smoke weed. It’s an unanticipated series of events to be sure. However, serendipity in this case has produced a happy ending for cannabis enthusiasts, and opened the door for more effective treatment of many types of chronic pain as well. The most important things to remember when selecting a vaporizer is what type of product you intend to use it with, and where you intend to use it. Beyond that it’s all good, so enjoy!