The ritual of smoking cannabis is old—really old. Even classical Greek historian Herodotus alludes to it. So, while it’s safe to say that the art of blazing probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, it’s also worth exploring how modern gadgets—namely, vaporizers—provide us with new ways to appreciate cannabis’s effects.
Unlike the primitive tools necessary to smoking weed, the technology required to vape is only a few years old. It’s only fair, then, to question whether its massive popularity is just a fad or is there are indeed benefits to vaping. Let’s take a closer look at what sets these two methods of consuming cannabis apart.
How Do Weed Vaporizers Work?
The central difference between a vaporizer and a joint (apart from the obvious fact that one’s made of paper and the other’s manufactured from metal) is that cannabis vaporizers heat the plant to just below its combustion point. The weed doesn’t get hot enough to burn but rather, just hot enough for its cannabinoids to turn into vapor. Vaporizing cannabis instead of burning it prevents the plant’s delicate cannabinoids and terpenes from being destroyed by pyrolysis (the technical term for “being burned off”).
Basic Components of a Vape Pen
Atomizers, e-coils, cartomizers… the list of terms used to describe vaporizers is a long one. Yet despite all the jargon, a weed vape pen is, ultimately, a pretty simple device. It’s made up of three parts: a battery, a heating chamber (also called an atomizer), and a mouthpiece. Oil, wax, or dry herb goes into the heating chamber. The battery, usually activated by a button, powers the chamber and heats up the cannabis, producing vapor that expels from the mouthpiece.
Conduction vs. Convection
The device heats the plant in one of two ways: conduction or convection. Conduction works by directly touching the bud to the heat source—it’s the same principle as using a pan on top of a stove. Convection heats the air around the bud until the bud itself gets hot.
Conduction is most common for vape pens because it’s a simple mechanism that is easy to produce and thus, cheaper. The drawback to conduction is that it tends to heat the plant unevenly and risks combusting, producing unwanted smoke.
A convection vaporizer is usually more of an investment and often a bit harder to fit in your pocket. But it offers an exceptionally smooth and, if it has a temperature gauge, highly customizable experience.
Is Vaping Weed Safer Than Smoking it?
Vaping cannabis is often touted as being safer than smoking it. This claim is more than just a schoolyard rumour. There are clear health advantages to choosing to vape. It all comes down to the fact that smoke inhalation is never ideal for your health.
Vaping Releases Fewer Carcinogens
Almost all smoke—whether it comes from burning gasoline, a BBQ, or a cigarette—contains PAHs, organic compounds that are known carcinogens. Cannabis is no exception. But if you don’t combust your cannabis by smoking it, these compounds are never released. You’re skipping the stage where the flower burns.
When people talk about the safety of smoking cannabis, it’s usually relative to tobacco. Tobacco smoke and cannabis smoke contain roughly equal amounts of carcinogens. But while the nicotine in tobacco smoke increases the risk of smoking-related cancers, cannabinoids actually regulate your immune response to cancel that effect.
However, at the end of the day, inhaling smoke of any kind is tough on your lungs, especially if you do it on a regular basis. The particulates and gases released by combusting cannabis have been linked to bronchitis and other respiratory infections.
Are Impurities a Concern with Vape Pens?
The safety of using a vape pen largely depends on what’s put in it. When it comes to buds, pesticides are something to be aware of regardless of whether you’re smoking or using a dry herb vaporizer. Waxes have traditionally had impurities leftover from the extraction process, but the development of the CO2 supercritical fluid extraction method in recent years has put high-quality, incredibly pure waxes on the market. In the realm of concentrates and e-liquids, the jury is still out as to whether some commonly used additives are safe in the long term.
What Gets You Higher: Vaping Weed or Smoking It?
The short answer: definitely vaping. This is one of the great advantages of choosing vaping over smoking—vaporized cannabis, gram for gram, can produce more of a high than the same amount would if smoked. You get more bang for your bud.
What’s the Best Temperature for Vaping Weed?
Depends on your meaning of “best.” Cannabinoids vaporize within the range from 155 to 220 C. The ideal temperature for you depends on the effect you’re looking for as well as the strain you’re working with.
Different Temperatures Have Different Effects
Cannabis contains cannabinoids other than just THC and CBD (more than 100, if you’re counting)—and each one is associated with unique effects such as relaxation, productivity, pain relief, and euphoria. The plant also contains more than 100 terpenes, the essential oils that give strains their distinctive aromas and work with the cannabinoids to create a symbiosis of compounds called the entourage effect.
Every cannabinoid or terpene has a unique boiling point. If you’re using a weed vaporizer with a controllable temperature gauge, you can regulate which cannabinoids and terpenes are released and customize your high.
Keep in mind that different temperatures do not “create” effects—you’re still working with the weed you’ve got. For instance, a strain low in CBD can’t magically produce more of it if you heat the bud to 180 C—but at least you’ll know that you’re maximizing the small amount of CBD it has, and not accidentally burning it off.
What Temperature Does Weed Start to Burn At?
When experimenting with different temperatures, it’s always good to keep your ceiling in mind. Cannabis starts to burn at 232 C, so if you heat your bud all the way up to get at that THCV (220 C), know that you might hit the combustion point and accidentally inhale smoke.
Does Vaping Weed Smell?
If you’re using dry herb, the plant has a strong aroma even before you heat it. However, vaping dry herb does create considerably less of a smell than smoking it does. Keep your vaporizer clean to minimize lingering odors. To be even more discreet, use a dab pen or oil pen. These vape pens create very little odor.
Does Vaping Weed Affect the Flavour?
Each terpene in cannabis has a distinct aroma. For instance, caryophyllene is also found in black pepper and releases a peppery smell; the same goes for linalool and lavender. Vaping at specific temperatures pinpoints the release of the desired terpenes. It doesn’t torch their delicate flavours like smoking does. Vaping helps express the rich aromas of the plant to their full potential.
What’s More Expensive, Vaping Cannabis or Smoking it?
If you’ve shopped for weed vaporizers online and balked at some of the prices, you’re not alone. Most people are used to picking up papers for pocket change and saving their money for the plant itself. So why should you invest in an expensive vape?
In the short term, it’s true that smoking can be the cheapest way to consume cannabis. A joint is next to free to roll, so you’re only paying the price of the bud. Of course, once you get into bongs and pipes, smoking can get expensive as you make it.
Unlike smoking, vaporizing cannabis does require a significant up-front investment. But once you’ve made that initial purchase, your costs immediately go down. Why? Since vaping helps you get the most out of your weed, you can buy far less of it. Vaporizing allows you to maximize the potential of every gram, saving you money in the long run.
Types of weed vaporizers
Of course, your upfront investment will depend largely on the type of machine you’re buying. Products can range anywhere from $20 to $500. Here’s a quick overview of the most commonly available product types:
A disposable weed vape pen is the traveler’s best friend. These ultra-light and discreet models can last from a few days to several months, depending on the rate of use. They generally contain cannabis e-liquid or cannabis oil. Of course, if you’re buying disposable vape pens all the time, they start to get expensive. Nevertheless, they’re a great short-term solution when you don’t want to carry a rechargeable weed vaporizer or other paraphernalia.
Some of our Disposable Vapes:
Vaporizers for extracts
Whereas dry herb vaporizers use a heat chamber, vape pens designed for cannabis extracts have an atomizer. The concentrate heats up, melts onto a wick, and is vaporized. Dab pens or wax pens let you bypass the complicated process of dabbing and deliver a powerful punch of THC. Vape pens for cannabis oils and e-liquids feature refillable or disposable cartridges.
There are also hybrid wax pens that can vape not only concentrates but e-liquids and dry herbs. Be sure to use the correct heating chamber or cartridge based on what you’re vaping, or you risk damaging the device.
While neither portable nor cheap, tabletop or desktop vaporizers have just about everything else going for them. Tabletop vaporizers are more powerful, reliable, and efficient than their lighter counterparts. Many have fully adjustable temperature controls. Best of all, they usually use convection to heat the plant.
But Isn’t Smoking Just Easier?
Like any machine, a vape pen requires some maintenance. Regularly cleaning the device is necessary to prevent residue from building up and possibly combusting. A vape pen is easiest to clean when it’s warm, so run it for a few minutes before starting. Use rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip to scour the chamber clean and disinfect the mouthpiece. Be careful not to damage the coil.
Conversely, if discretion is what you’re after, vaping creates less odor and attracts less attention than traditional smoking methods. Given the prevalence of tobacco e-cigarettes, it’s possible to vape weed without others even realizing it. While more high-tech vapes tend to be a little bulky, ultra-slim disposable vapes are barely even noticeable in your pocket.
A Different Kind of Ritual
Many people enjoy the ritualistic aspect of smoking cannabis: using the grinder, rolling the joint, etc. And while vaping may not yet have the same iconic resonance as smoking, it can still be ritualistic in its own right—cleaning the machine, taking your time to load it, adjusting the heat to create the desired effect…
Cannabis isn’t meant to be enjoyed any one particular way. Today, with the endless array of products on the market, it’s defiantly worth exploring different consumption techniques, particularly those that pose fewer health risks.