Photo by Jake Lewis.
In a few months time, Parliament is expected to approve C-45, also known as the Cannabis Act. True, Health Canada’s proposed packaging looks like an ambitious crossover between David’s Tea and your local hospital’s medical waste disposal department. But, on the bright side, there’s never been a better time to finally kick that weed-smoking habit and pick up a cannabis vape instead.The Cannabis Act will legalize the use of recreational marijuana for adults aged 18 years and above. You can read all about the proposed regulations and limitations here. As you all know, weed is one versatile plant. Roll a blunt, DIY yourself a bong, get mashed on some hash brownies, or even sneak a suppository in your vagina—the possibilities go on and on. Over in the US, a handful of states are already fully recreational and some weed smokers are switching to vaping. Sure, everyone loves to laugh at cloud-chasing e-cigarette dickheads, but when it comes to cannabis, vapers might have the last laugh. Why? It’s less smelly, more economically efficient, gives a cleaner high and is probably much better for your health.
Unfortunately, scientific research into cannabis vaping is somewhat limited by its illegality around the world. So, we had a quick (unscientific) chat with three US weed vapers to find out why vaping is their preferred method of herb consumption. Thirty-year-old Denver smoked weed for around eight years before switching to vaping four years ago. Twenty-year-old A.V., who runs his own vape info website FMVaporizers, only smoked for a couple of months and picked up vaping two years ago. Mark, 43, smoked for seven years and discovered vaping back in the early days of 2004. He now runs a small business 420EDC selling US-made designer portable vapes.
Each of the three vapers have noticed a marked change in their general respiratory health since they switched over. “I've not experienced any of the negative side effects of cannabis smoking since dedicating my regimen to vaporization,” Mark tells me, before listing a number of regular smoking side-effects, like chronic coughing, wheezing, and coughing up phlegm. A.V. explains how his lungs and throat would ache during that short stint of smoking cannabis. “Vapor is much cooler in temperature and allows for long draws without any of the pain of smoking,” he says. When it comes to e-cigarettes, scientific reviews tend to indicate that they’re less harmful than smoking.Another key feature of vapes is that they don’t stink the place up. “Smoke is stinky and gets on your clothes, car, hair, face, whatever,” says A.V. “Vaporizers produce a smell that disappears in around 15 minutes.” This view is shared by other vapers, such as this one on Drugs Forum, who claimed that his handheld device created the innocuous scent of popcorn. In his own words: “Perfect for a movie theatre.” As a result, you won’t have to worry about making the wrong impression prior to that big interview or first date. Plus, you can happily enjoy your weed in public without drawing unwanted attention.
If the above two advantages seem somewhat obvious, this next one came as a surprise to us. When you smoke a spliff, you expose your cannabis to something like 426 C. “Vaporizing is more efficient because you are not literally burning half the material trying to get to the benefit of the other half,” Mark explains. Alongside extracting 70-80 percent of the cannabinoids—the parts of the plant that give it flavour and get you high—you can also cook edibles with the leftover vaporized material. A.V. agrees with Mark on this point, suggesting that he uses 1/10th of the weed in his vape compared to what he was previously filling blunts with. And, as Denver tells me, this also means that you’ll be saving money by not visiting your local dispensary so much. “A small amount of weed goes a long way when vaping!”A final benefit to vaping cannabis is that it gives you a cleaner high. “Usually when smoking, you’ll feel a rush to the head, sometimes your eyes will even get watery,” Denver says. “That's not part of getting high, you’re inhaling all the toxins that come from combustion.” On the other hand, vaping highs tend to feel more subtle, although they’re not necessarily any less powerful. “The high is more pure, lasts longer and is much more functional compared to a high from combustion,” Mark adds. As well as reducing the number of toxins, many devices allow you to vape at specific temperatures. THC (the psychoactive constituent that makes you feel stoned) is initially released at a temperature of 157 C. CBD (the psychoactive constituent that makes you feel mellow) is activated later at 180 C. By controlling your vaping temperature, you can moderate your high.
Jean-François Etter, professor of public health at the University of Geneva, broadly agrees with the benefits that the three American cannabis vapers outline above. “In our survey, some users also said that vaping cannabis helped them reduce their total cannabis consumption,” he explained over email. “They smoke fewer joints and do not completely compensate by vaping.” In addition, he told us that some stoners are attracted to vaping because it allows them to use cannabis where smoking isn’t permitted. Etter also described a few disadvantages to vaping weed in e-cigarettes, such as equipment becoming clogged and batteries running dry while users are out and about.So far, the Canadian federal government has been fairly coy about cannabis vaporizers. A recent report suggests that dry herb vaporizers would be categorized as accessories and be available for purchase if safety-approved and appropriately labelled. Anyone seeking to vape liquid concentrates would need to wait another year while more specific regulations are developed. There’s no direct advice on vaping cannabis, but perhaps this will change as increased research is carried out. Regardless, it’s worth thinking about buying a vape to celebrate this year’s summer of bud.Follow Richard on Twitter.Sign up for the VICE Canada Newsletter to get the best of VICE Canada delivered to your inbox daily.