Most people first use cannabis by smoking it. While this has it’s benefits – it’s quick and easy to titrate, smoking has the obvious drawbacks. For many it’s irritating, harsh, and just best avoided. Vaporizing, or vaping, cannabis is a cleaner alternative to smoking the plant and allows you to really stretch your dollar. Over 75% of the plant is destroyed when smoking. No destruction happens with vaping and you can even reuse the left over already vaped bud. It’s the ultimate medicating method!
What is Vaporizing?
Vaporizing a substance means heating it to the point that it converts to it’s vapor form – like boiling water until it turns to a steam. The cannabinoids in the cannabis plant can be heated to above their boiling point, turning them into an inhalable vapor instead of the harsh smoke that is produced via combustion.
Many cannabis patients are first introduced to vaporizing through vape pens, or oil cartridges. While oil cartridges are convenient, patients often find they feel somewhat hollow in comparison to experiences smoking cannabis flower. This is due to the entourage effect – the synergy between cannabis and all of its parts – including parts that are destroyed when making distillate vape oils.
Vaporizing cannabis flower involves heating the dry plant to a temperature below it’s combustion (burn) point and above the boiling point of individual terpenes and cannabinoids. This allows for more precise control over vapor quality, flavor, and effects. It also reduces the potentially damaging/or irritating side effects of smoke.
Choosing A Vaporizer Device
Vaporizers are a get what you pay for type of investment. There are a variety of different types of vaporizers on the market, and it’s worth taking the time to research devices within your budget to get the most bang for your buck. Investing in a higher quality product will result in better vapor, less wasted medicine, and an all around better experience. Low end vaporizers often function too hot, burning plant material, and leading users to head back to their preferred smoking method.
Conduction vs Convection
Vaporizers come with convection heating, conduction heating, or both. You can think of conduction vaporizers much like a skillet on a stovetop. The stovetop heats the skillet, which heats the food inside. With a conduction vaporizer, the battery heats a metal plate, which then heats the plant matter (and inevitably burns some). Typically more expensive, convection vaporizers work more like an oven. Hot air circulates around the plant material instead of the heat source touching it directly, providing for a cleaner and more quality vapor. Vaporizers that utilize both methods typically allow for quick and thick vapor production.
Portable vs Desktop
Vaporizers also come in different styles – portable for on the go use and desktop for more regular at home consumption. Both have benefits and cons, but my all time favorite vaporizer definitely has to go to the Volcano Hybrid Desktop. Desktop vaporizers typically come in whip or bag style (or both), are great for groups, and have the potential to produce a thicker and more consistent vapor quality than portable counterparts. Portable vaporizers range from super discreet with no electronics to more noticeable, and are typically more appropriate for solo consumption.
Tips for Vaping
Experiment with temperature. Various cannabinoids and terpenes boil off at different temperatures. You can control your experience by learning the effects of different terpene/cannabinoid combinations at different temperatures.
Remember that terpenes vaporize first. Continue vaping your bud past the point of good flavor to ensure full extraction.
Depending on the device you are using, the color of your cannabis flower after vaping can vary. Using moisture content can be a better indicator of when the flower is finished for vaping. If it feels completely dry and crumbles, it’s finished for vaping. If it still has some moisture and give to it, load it back up.
Regrind your flower between vaping sessions can increase vapor quality by increasing surface area.
Save your already vaped bud to cook with. There is still medicine left!
The temperature that you vaporize your cannabis will change the experience as the different cannabinoids and terpenes boil off at different temperatures. Many patients prefer to use lower temperatures earlier in the day and increase into the evening where a more relaxing and sedative effect is desired.
This is the best range for patients looking for a cerebral dominant, lightly euphoric experience. Vapor will be cool with the least potential for irritation or coughing, rich in flavorful terpenes. Temperatures in the range tend to be more energizing than sedating in nature.
Vaping within this range will produce a more psychoactive and body dominant experience, with greater potential for irritation. I personally do not like anything over 380F or it causes a sore throat. Temperatures in this range tend to be more suitable for experienced smokers, as vapor will be thicker and warmer.
Vaping within this range will be much hotter, with potential for irritation. This will be the most sedating and psychoactive experience as the large majority of cannabinoids will vaporize. This is not the setting for flavor lovers as many terpenes will be destroyed quickly.
Advantages of Vaping
Typically less irritating, cooler than smoke
Onset is immediate
More discreet than smoking (smell is much less and dissipates almost immediately)
Titration is easy to adjust
No harmful byproducts of smoking
Cost effective – doesn’t burn away and already vaped bud can be re-used
Cons of Vaping
Device cost/investment. Cheaper devices can be frustrating and poor quality
Device must be cleaned and maintained for best flavor and vapor production.
Like most things in life, vaping comes with a learning curve.
My Experience with Dry Herb Vaping
I’ve been using cannabis since I was a teenager. Since this time I’ve purchased and experimented with a variety of delivery methods and devices, including a multitude of vaporizers. My first vaporizer was an awful device purchased on Amazon, before Amazon was much of a thing (it was literally one of my first non-book purchases). When heated you could smell melting plastic more than cannabis, but it was a bit of college student budget meets the technology at the time. The experience was less than stellar, so I found myself smoking more than anything else. When I became a medical patient I knew I wanted to try dry herb vaping again and have since cycled through a variety of devices, ultimately landing on the top of the line Volcano Hybrid for home and the Dynavap for on the go. Looking back I would have saved myself a ton of money and headache shelling out for the quality from the beginning, but there are other quality mid level and beginner devices on the market.
Not a Florida Medical Cannabis Patient? Check out www.flmedcannabis.org to get certified and obtain your card.