As interest in the benefits of medical marijuana continues to grow, patients and providers are always on the lookout for new and improved ways to consume it. The needs of patients facing a wide range of symptoms has given rise to innovation aimed at making cannabis safer, more convenient, and more enjoyable to use. Among these, the vaporizer stands out as one of the most important and popular products to become available to medical marijuana patients.
What is a Vaporizer?
Put simply, vaporization technology offers patients all the benefits of smoked cannabis, while minimizing the drawbacks. By heating the material at a lower temperature than an open flame, vaporizers allow patients to inhale cannabis in vapor form, rather than smoke. Inhalation allows medicinal cannabinoids contained within the plant to enter the bloodstream and reach the brain quickly, providing fast-acting relief of unpleasant symptoms. This process also avoids combustion of the material, thereby reducing the presense of potentially harmful irritants that may be contained in cannabis smoke.
Additional benefits include:
- Convenience: Many new vaporizer models are small and simple to use, enabling patients to medicate with ease whenever the need for symptom relief arises.
- Discretion: The aroma produced by vaporized cannabis is milder and dissipates more quickly than smoked cannabis, enabling patients to medicate without disturbing others.
- Flavor: Low-temperature heating is effictive at activating terpenes within the plant material, bringing out pleasant flavors that might go unnoticed when smoking.
- Flexibility: Vaporizers designed for flowers can be used to consume any flower strain on the dispensary menu, enabling patients to sample a wide range of products with unique effects. Other smoke-free consumption methods such as edibles and capsules do not offer the same range of options.
- Controlling Dose: Vaporizers allow patients to carefully control their dose by taking small inhalations until the desired level of symptom relief is achieved.
How Do You Use It?
Many vaporizer products are available for use with cannabis flowers. We’ll cover the basics of how they work, but please consult the instructions for any product you purchase since individual devices can vary widely in their functionality. Please note that vaporizers designed for cannabis concentrates are discussed in a separate article available here.
Many popular units include these basic parts:
- Heating Chamber: This section, sometimes referred to as the “oven,” is where cannabis flowers are inserted and heated to produce vapor for inhalation. The size, shape, and location of the heating chamber will vary for one unit to the next. High-quality vaporizers are designed to heat the material from multiple sides and maximize “convection” or airflow through the material.
- Power Supply: Some vaporizers are powered by rechargeable batteries, while others plug directly into the wall.
- Mouthpiece: This is the part of the device through which cannabis vapor is directly inhaled. Common designs range from small rubber or glass pathways, to longer hose-style sections, to inflatable bags that fill with vapor for multiple inhalations.
- Temperature Control: Some units permit patients to adjust temperature to their liking. A dial or button control is common for adjusting temperature.
- Cleaning Supplies: Vaporizers often come with small brushes, swabs, and replacment parts to keep the product functioning properly.
Tips for using a vaporizer:
- Warming Up the Unit: Vaporizers typically require a minute of two to warm up. This process tyically begins as soon as you turn on the device. Most units have an indicator light that tells you when the desired temperature has been reached.
- Loading the Chamber: Before loading flowers into a vaporizer, it is essential that they be finely ground. This allows heat to penetrate the material and activate the cannabinoids efficiently. If your unit didn’t include a grinder, you may purchase one at the dispensary. Grinding cannabis by hand is not recommended because the cannabinoid-rich content of the flowers may stick to your fingers and reduce potency. For most units, between .25 and .5 grams of ground cannabis is a good quntity to start with. After loading the chamber, be sure to seal it properly.
- Adjusting Temperature: Some units are set to a fixed temperature ideal for vaporization, while others allow custom control. Many devices offer low, medium, and high settings, which allow you to customize your experience. A few vaporizer products even allow the user to set an exact temperature. A range of about 360-380° F is commonly used, but lower or higher temperature can be used depending on your preferences. Temperatures below 350° F produce a mild and clear effect suitable for inexperienced users, while temperatures over 400° F produce a heavier effect ideal for severe symptom relief.
- Inhalation: Once the device is activated and warmed up, you may begin inhaling through the mouthpiece. When exhaling, you should be able to see and taste the vapor, which indicates that the unit is working properly. Remember to pace yourself to achieve the desired effect for your symptoms.
- Completion: When vaporizing, the quantity of cannabinoids you’re consuming will gradually decrease from one inhalation to the next as the vaporizer removes essential oils from the flower. This process turns the flowers from green to brown during use, but keep in mind that the flower material will not combust and turn to ash like smoked cannabis. If the vapor becomes thin and begins to lose flavor, this means the flowers you’ve loaded have released most of their cannabinoid content and the vaporizer should be refilled with fresh cannabis before further use. Cannabis that is left over after vaping can be discarded, although some patients save it for other uses, such as producing mild edibles. The potency of this left over material will depend on much it was initially heated in the vaporizer.
Purchasing a Vaporizer for Flowers
The popularity of vaporizers in recent years has led to an enormous number of products entering the market. Some brands are more reliable than other and the products we carry at the dispensary are carefully selected for quality. Consider the following tips to help you select a product that best suits your needs:
- Flowers vs. Concentrates: Usually vaporizers are designed differently depnding on whether they are intended for use with flowers or concentrates. Many concentrate vaporizers are smaller and lower in price, but will not work for vaporizing flowers. Before making a purchase, make sure the device is designed for the cannabis product you’re planning to use. Be advised that some manufacturers advertise vaporizers for use with either flowers or concentrates, but many of these products do not perform well. High-end vaporizers sometimes do work well with both product types, but low-cost options typically fail to offer versatility without sacrificing quality.
- Price & Features: Vaporizers designed for flowers usually range in price from around $80 to $300 or more. The lower priced products offer more limited features and functionality, but provide the basic benefits of vaporized cannabis. Higher priced vaporizers frequently offer an exceptional user experience and can be a sensible investment for patients who plan to medicate frequently with the device.
- Authenticity: Like most electronics, vaporizers are often counterfeited, so there are risks associated with ordering online. If you spot a great deal on a popular product, it might be too good to be true. Purchasing from a licensed retailer is a good way to make sure you’re getting an authentic product. Feel free to inquire at the dispensary if you’d like to learn more about the models we have in stock.
- Size and Shape: Vaporizers vary in size from small hand-held units that fit in your pocket to larger units more suited to a desktop. If you have a strong preference between a portable unit with a rechargeable battery as opposed to a stationary unit that plugs into the wall, this will influence your product selection.
Vaporizers offer an innovative solution for patients seeking a smoke-free option that still provides fast-acting symptom relief. If you’re new to vaporizing, our staff is always available to assist you in selecting the right product for your needs and understanding how to use it properly. Many of our patients have discovered the benefits of vaporizing cannabis and we hope you’ll find this option helpful as well.