The Beginner's Guide to Vaping Marijuana
They lied to us. Smoking marijuana is NOT harmful to the lungs. Smoking a joint a day can actually improve lung capacity.
Smoke does, however, irritate throat tissue, stinks up the house and makes an ashy mess. But inhaling cannabis medicine is fast, powerful pain relief, so what do we do?
Vaping is smoking without the smoke. A vaporizer is a device that heats cannabis at a lower temperature than combustion (smoking). This lower temperature heat produces a vapor that we inhale, free of the irritants and toxic gases of smoke. Vapor doesn't smell like smoke. The effects are felt almost immediately, and can last for hours.
In the last few years, vaping has exploded in popularity, which means that vaporizers have, too. Apple and NASA designers are creating sleek and elegant vaporizers that are easy to use, clean and store.
For beginners, vaping is intimidating. There are hundreds of different vaporizers to choose from, and some of them have a steep learning curve. Plus, vaping means learning about and using marijuana concentrates. When I worked as a budtender, just a few years ago, people my age didn't use concentrates. I could tell if a patient was going to buy wax or flower based simply on age. The twenty-somethings had "rigs" and "torches" and they ignored the flower in the jars. The forty-somethings only bought flower and had no interest in concentrates. Gentleman of a certain age have a particular love for hash, for some reason, but Grandpa didn't want any BHO or CO2 concentrates.
Today, vaporizers are so easy to use with concentrates, even the Olds like me are stocking up on shatter. Start with easy, basic vaporizers and work your way up to more complicated devices.
BABY STEPS TO VAPING
1. Buying a Vaporizer
There are three categories of vaporizers - pens, portables and desktops. Desktop vaporizers are best for home use, while portable vaporizers work well on the go. Pens are discreet and simple to use. Be prepared to spend a little money. It's worth a few extra dollars for good design and more durable materials and parts.
The easiest way to start vaping is with pre-filled vaporizer cartridges. Simply buy a cartridge and battery at the dispensary and gently inhale your medicine. When they are empty, we simply throw them away, charge the battery and buy a new cartridge. Cartridges are small vials of cannabis oil that have up to a gram of oil for vaping. Cartridges are available in indica, sativa and CBD rich strains. Simply inhale from the mouthpiece to activate the vapor and recharge the battery in any USB port. Almost all cartridges fit a 510 thread battery, so you can use the same battery with different brands of cartridges.
Cartridges are the easiest way to vape, so they are great for beginners. But cartridges also break easily. They leak, they clog and they have the highest failure rate of any product in the dispensary.
When you want to upgrade from cartridges, portable vaporizers are a good option. They hold just enough marijuana and battery charge to to keep you medicated throughout the day, but they don't have the power to get a group of people high at the same time, so if you want to throw a party, get a desktop vape.
Another simple concentrate vape is a "wax pen". These pen sized vaporizers only vape marijuana concentrates like wax, shatter, live rein, budder, rosin, etc and they are much less expensive than tabletop or portable vapes. I think of them as a stepping stone between disposable cartridges and portable vapes. A good pen like these Kandypens Elite Vaporizers costs between $100-$200, and marijuana concentrates can be expensive in dispensaries, but when you medicate with it, you only need a single inhale or two to feel good, so that $50 gram of marijuana concentrate can last for days, even weeks.
Years ago, my first portable vaporizer was a Magic Flight Launch Box. It is the simplest portable vaporizer you can use for marijuana flower, but it does not vape concentrates. It's so basic, but perfectly designed to heat up a small pinch of ground marijuana flower. And since it pre-dates USB ports, you just need a battery to make it work.
But now, I use a Firefly vaporizer. The intuitive, Apple-like design and ability to vape both flower and concentrates at low temperatures is everything I need from my vape, and nothing I don't. The lid makes such a satisfying thwack sound when I snap it on, I love it. To use it, I just scoop a small dab of marijuana concentrate like wax, shatter, live resin, co2 oil, budder or rosin (I prefer live resin, but to be honest, I buy whatever is on sale and has the potency results I'm looking for) and place the goo onto the small pad in the chamber. I snap the lid on - thwack - and press the button on the side for a few seconds. When the light turns green, I inhale. I take my finger off the button and set the Firefly down. That's it.
Desktop vaporizers stay at home and offer big hits for lots of people. They plugin to any wall outlet, so you don't have to worry about charging a battery. They come in two different styles: whip-style or forced air. Whip-style vaporizers utilize a piece of medical grade tubing called a “whip” to inhale vapor as it’s drawn from the heating element, like a hookah. Forced air vaporizers are a bit more advanced, and utilize a fan that propels the heat over the flower and fills a balloon bag or whip attachment with vapor. Some desktop vaporizers are referred to as “dual-function,” and are capable of both a forced air and whip-style delivery.
If you plan to only vape at home, a desktop vaporizer is more powerful and easier to use at home than a portable vape that needs to be cleaned, recharged and repacked more often.
I love the Herbalizer Desktop Vaporizer because it has both whip-style and forced air attachments, so it works for everyone. And it was designed by former NASA engineers, so if the smart kids think it's great, so do I. It has an aromatherapy mode, so when you aren't using it to get high, use it to fill your home with lovely smells.
2. Buying marijuana to vape
Vaporizers can either be used for marijuana flower, just like smoking, or marijuana concentrates like wax, shatter, live resin, budder, rosin, etc. Some vapes do both, and some only do one or the other. Decide if you prefer flower or concentrate, then choose a vape. Don't choose your medicine based on the vape you have. If you choose a vape that does both, buy an expensive one. The cheaper vapes have a harder time switching between flower and concentrate.
Concentrates are very, very potent, so take them in small, single inhalations until you know your ideal dose.
3. Vaping Accessories
Some vapes have parts that need to be replaced occasionally, like coils or pads. If you buy your vaporizer online, think about stocking up on extra parts. Dispensaries, smoke and vape shops also stock popular coils and other accessories.
If you are vaping marijuana flower, you need to grind the flower buds, just like smoking.
For concentrates, you need a "dab tool", something to scoop up the gooey concentrates and load it into your vaporizer. I like shatter because it's so solid it doesn't need a dab tool, but budder and wax definitely need one. Concentrates are so concentrated that a single drop can contain a dose or two of effective medicine, so we don't want to smear it all over our fingers. If you want to buy your own concentrate storage containers, make sure to use silicone so concentrates don't stick to the container and get wasted.
Make sure to use low temperatures when vaping concentrates. High temperatures can release carcinogens and destroy terpenes, some of the most medicinally beneficial compounds in marijuana.
If you have any questions about vaping, concentrates, or cannabis in general, leave them in the comments.