Vaporizing is taking the marijuana industry to new heights (sponsored)
And the technology just keeps getting better
June 13, 2018
Anyone who has ever smoked cannabis has likely experienced the aftermath of taking too big of a hit — it can result in a coughing fit that can last for several minutes.
It's easy to understand why other methods of ingesting cannabis, and its beloved psychoactive ingredient THC, are gaining popularity in states like Colorado where marijuana is legal. If someone is looking for a smoother and easier way to get high, there are now plenty of other options.
Vaporizers are one of those options, and their use has been steadily increasing in recent years as more and more technologies become available — both in devices used and in actual cannabis products.
"There are so many options for consumers in the industry now," says Victoria Osborne, a budtender at Organix in Breckenridge. "People view vaporizing as a cleaner way to smoke, with a better high."
Many cannabis users tend to prefer this particular method, but Osborne says it's just one of many exciting ways to consume cannabis these days.
For those interested in trying vaporizing, here are some of the things you need to know before you get started.
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In order to consume cannabis through a vaporizer, you need the right cannabis products that work with your specific vaporizer. For example, if you have an oil vaporizer, you can't just shove cannabis flower or bud into it.
Cannabis concentrates might seem overwhelming for new users, but don't worry — that's what budtenders are for.
"People usually have a lot of questions about these products as there is just so much out there," Osborne says. "It's up to us as budtenders to research and understand the products that are available and what they have to offer."
Concentrates are much like they sound — products with highly concentrated amounts of THC that have been extracted from cannabis flowers. While cannabis flowers might have 20 percent THC, concentrates could contain 70 percent or more.
There are many different forms of concentrates, depending on the extraction method. Some of the most common forms of concentrates used in vaporizers are butane hash oil, which uses butane to extract THC, and distillate oils, which further refine already extracted cannabis. Generally speaking, concentrates come in some kind of oil or wax form.
"The method of extraction determines what kind of concentrate you're going to get," Osborne says. "Thanks to technology, there are so many ways you can do it now."
How vaporizers work
Vaporizers are one of the more user-friendly ways to inhale cannabis, once you get all the devices necessary to do it. Vaporizers work by heating the cannabis concentrate or flower up to a specific temperature, which releases cannabinoids and terpenes as vapor rather than smoke.
"Consumers feel more at ease knowing that they have better control over their consumption of the product," Osborne says.
Vaporizer batteries are not universal, though. Osborne says it's important for users to know what types of batteries they have so they can purchase the proper cartridges for their vaporizers (see factbox).
Vaporizing is a discreet way of inhaling marijuana. You might notice someone pull a vape pen out of their pocket and take a puff — no lighters or fumbling around with buds and bowls required. This makes it highly portable and convenient.
There are many kinds of vaporizers both large and small. More experienced users are more likely to have larger, less portable devices at home, but most customers who are relatively new to vaping are interested in the more portable devices, called vape pens.
Is vaporizing healthier than smoking?
Because the cannabis concentrate is not being burned, vaporizing doesn't produce a huge cloud of smoke after a user takes a hit. This is attractive to users for many reasons, one of them being health-related.
"Vaporization releases the main components of the marijuana plant before combustion occurs and at lower temperatures, thus avoiding the release of toxic by-products associated with combustion," according to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington.
Osborne notes this is one of the big reasons she sees more interest in vaporizing from customers at Organix. People also enjoy the flavor of the cannabis, which can be more pronounced when vaping concentrates.
"When THC is turned into an oil for vaporizing, the unwanted toxins and other matter have been removed, and terpenes have been reintroduced, making this product smooth-tasting and easy going on the lungs," she says. That's part of the allure."
While research has shown that vaporizing is safer for a person's respiratory system than smoking, the Drug Abuse Institute notes that research still lags on how much of the solvents — such as butane, isopentane, propane and hexane, among others — remain in concentrates and whether these concentrates carry any dangerous amounts of pesticides or other contaminants.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are volatile organic compounds found in plants. These aromatic oils give cannabis distinct scents and flavors, which you'll often see in the names of various strains — such as lemon, blueberry, skunk or banana, to name a few.
There are hundreds of cannabis terpenes, which are also thought to be responsible for various cannabis effects. Here's a list of common terpenes and the aromas and their effects/benefits:
Limonene: Citrus; stress relief, elevating moods.
Pinene: Pinewood; good for pain, anxiety, alertness.
Myrcene: Musky. Relaxing, treats insomnia, inflammation.
Humulene: Hops, earthy; anti-inflammatory.
Linalool: Floral, citrus; sedating, calming.
Caryophyllene: Pepper, wood; insomnia, muscle spasms.
Source: Leafly, SC Labs.
Don't leave home without your vaporizer battery
The budtenders at Organix see it a lot — someone comes into the shop to buy a concentrate and they end up returning later because they need another component for their set-up.
"When shopping for a vaporizer, bring the battery with you," says Organix budtender Victoria Osborne. "There are so many kinds out there, and not every part fits and works with every part. If you know what kind of cartridge you normally buy, we can help you match the battery."
(Cartridges are the pieces that are pre-filled with cannabis concentrate.)
Vaporizing has become such a big part of the industry that it can be easy to get overwhelmed by it all.
"Just keep an open mind and be willing to explore and try new things," Osborne says.
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