One of the most important steps on your journey towards healing is figuring out which methods of taking cannabis work best for you. In this article, part of a series for folks new to cannabis, we’ll go over the ins and outs of vaping medical marijuana. While vaping is relatively new to the cannabis community, it has quickly become one of the leading methods of consuming medical marijuana and seems to be growing in popularity by leaps and bounds.
Vaping is a method of cannabis consumption in which the patient uses low heat to turn the active compounds in marijuana into an inhalable vapor. No combustion or burning takes place—as it does with smoking—at these lower temperatures. This light cannabis vapor is quite different from cannabis smoke both in taste and effect, and for some it’s the ideal way to medicate.
That said, not all vaping is the same. There are a variety of ways patients can vape, and these choices can make a big difference when it comes to the resulting medicinal experience. For one, you can vape either cannabis flower or cannabis concentrates. While there are some vaporizers that allow patients to vape either of these interchangeably, most vaporizers specialize in one or the other. If you have a preference, make sure you’re purchasing the right type of vaporizing device to consume your cannabis.
Vaporizers designed for flower are usually either portable handheld devices—which usually involve a slot to put your flower in, a button and something to inhale through—or large table-top vapes—which often involve a base that heats the flower and an airtight bag that fills with vapor. Once filled with vapor, the bags are then taken off the base and patients inhale the contents.
While some of these flower vaporizers come with attachments that allow users to vape concentrates as well, there are many vaporizers designed particularly for concentrates. E-pens for example are small personal vaporizers about the size of a pen. These primarily consist of a battery, which works with a variety of attachments. You can find pre-filled vape cartridges or get a refillable heating component to use with any concentrate you choose. You can also find fancier options that go beyond the average e-pen with larger batteries that hold more power or ones that let you adjust the temperature to your exact preferences.
Dabbing is another way that people vaporize concentrates, but not all dabbing is actually vaping. (We’ll cover dabbing in more depth later on in the series.) Dabbing—which involves additional equipment and some finesse—isn’t ideal for folks who are new to vaping medical marijuana. We recommend sticking with simpler options such as an e-pen, other handheld device or a table-top vaporizer if you’re just starting out.
Vaping is a great option for folks who want a convenient and fast-acting method of administration. For those who need the effects of their medicine to kick in quickly, inhaled methods are hard to beat. And it’s easy and convenient to carry a small vaporizing device when you’re on the go.
When it comes to inhaling cannabis, many people prefer vaping over smoking because it involves fewer side effects and risks to the respiratory system. While hot, ashy smoke can irritate the lungs, cause allergies and lead to symptoms of chronic bronchitis—specifically chronic coughing and phlegm, vaping is much easier on the respiratory system. Although the risks to your cardiovascular system are relatively small when smoking cannabis, vaporizing might suit you more if you’re sensitive to smoke.
Some folks also prefer vaping because they love its light taste and reduced odor. You can taste all of the complex flavors of the flower when vaping, while the aroma is usually sweeter when compared to smoking. As well, the scent produced when vaping is often lighter and tends to diffuse more quickly, making it a more discreet option.
You may also find that you prefer the effects from vaping. Because heat alters many of the compounds in cannabis, the effects of vapor can be quite different from that of smoke. With lower heat, cannabis vapor often produces more cerebral effects, affecting the mind more than the body. It can also create more energetic effects. If you’re looking for a more energetic and cerebral effect, then vaping may be right up your alley.
The basics of vaping are simple. You put your flower or concentrate into a vaporizing device, heat it to the desired temperature and then inhale the vapor. Of course, the specific details will vary based on the vaporizer you use. To get started, find a vaporizer that suits your needs and make sure to carefully read all of the instructions.
If you’re interested in vaping cannabis concentrate, we’ve created a how-to video on using e-pens and pre-filled cartridges:
In the next installment of the Cannabis for Newbies guide, we’ll get into another popular method of cannabis administration: smoking joints. And we’ll talk about why smoking may work for certain medical marijuana patients.
Photo credit: Lindsay Fox
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