Up until recently the most often used methods of marijuana consumption were joints, pipes or bongs. All of these involve smoke inhalation and can arguably be compared to smoking tobacco – many people do combine tobacco with their weed when rolling a joint. So it is known that the combustion of any plant material releases toxic compounds and irritants, and marijuana is no exception to this rule. Actually, smoking a joint without a filter will probably deposit more tar on your lungs than an equal amount of tobacco. In fear of these horrible threats, many have turned to vaporizers as safe and healthier alternative that is able to circumvent this whole combustion thing and gently heat marijuana to a thermal sweet spot that releases its active compounds without creating any smoke – that is, without burning anything.
Enjoying cannabis without the toxic by-products
By hitting temperatures above the boiling point of cannabinoids like THC, but below the combustion point of the cannabis plant, vaporizers are able to deliver that sweet, aromatic vapor that resembles a steam and, in theory, contains only the compounds you want in your system, whether it is THC or CBD (like that’s all there is inside the cannabis plant). The vaporizers that people are most familiar with heat up dry pieces of plant. There’s also a subtype of devices that heat up concentrated cannabis oil or wax – and there’s also the hybrid vaporizer that can do both. Cannabis oils are very potent, meaning they can contain up to 80% THC compared to a laughable 10 to 20 % THC in cannabis flowers. Because of this, vaporizers that utilize oils deliver higher doses of THC than vaporizers that utilize dry plants. There are many different producers of oils out there and they have different extraction processes – some might use additives, which means their marijuana oils might also contain chemicals that would pollute the vapor more than it would be the case with vapor coming from dry leaves.
Different and subtler high
Many users have reported their high coming from a vaporizer to be different and more subtle than the high coming from a bong or joint, which is weird, considering the potency of some oils, as described earlier. So what’s the reason for that? I mean, THC is THC no matter how you consume it, right? The reason is chemistry. Your vaping experience is influenced by not just the one active compound of cannabis such as THC, but by the entire chemical input to your brain as well. Take alcohol for example. The active ingredient that is responsible for making you drunk is always the same – ethanol, yet somehow, wine can make you feel sleepy, vodka can make you more vocal than usually, and tequila can drive you all the way to the slut-town (this one goes for both genders). In the same way, the combination of THC and other compounds will make a difference between smoke and vapor, and the effects will vary by the distinctive chemical cocktail that you consumed.
What about CBD?
There are still a lot of unknown things regarding marijuana. Take CBD, the medically relevant, but not psychoactive brother of THC, for example. Although it doesn’t share the same qualities as THC, CBD still binds neurons and can modulate the effects produced by THC. And due to the fact that CBD has a higher boiling point than THC, it will be present in your smoke but there won’t be any of it in vapor produced at lower temperatures (because you wanted to feel the aroma of your weed). This is something to have in mind if you’re using marijuana for medicinal reasons and relying on CBD to make you feel better. And because vapor does not contain some smoke toxins like benzene and carbon monoxide, you won’t feel any drowsiness while vaping. In other words, although vaping produces plenty of THC to get you high, the chemical and physical experience is different. And that is why you feel like bong is hitting you stronger than vape.
So is vaping safer than smoking?
We made you read all the way through here only to let you know that we have no idea. Some people claim it is safer, while other claim it’s not. The truth is, no one knows yet and you shouldn’t trust anyone who confidently claims one thing or another, without scientific studies to back them up – not just one study. A handful of studies do exist, and their limited results do support vaping over smoking. Besides, we do know that smoking is terrible for you and you should avoid it, which automatically gives advantage to vaping. Cannabis research is on its way, as Obama administration has finally started making it easier for scientists to research marijuana – a plant that is legal across half of the country, but illegal for our federal government.
Marijuana is still illegal? Wait, what?
Yep, it’s true. The state and federal law are in major conflict – while all those states have legalized some form of marijuana, the federal level has done nothing to change its stance towards the drug. Under federal law, marijuana is considered the same like every other drug, or how they like to call it – a controlled substance. For federal level, marijuana is equal to drugs such as cocaine, LSD and heroin. It is a Schedule I drug. You see, the federal government places every controlled substance in a schedule, which is a category, according to drug’s relative potential for abuse and/or medicinal value. This little issue is causing headaches for scientists who want to research the plant. Only a handful of them are permitted to research a Schedule I drug and the application process is full of unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. Even the doctors aren’t allowed to prescribe it to their patients; instead they are allowed to recommend it, under the First Amendment. So it seems as if marijuana prohibition is over, but not really. Hopefully, things will start changing soon.