Beginner’s Guide to Vaping Marijuana
You might be interested in vaping weed for medicinal purposes or for recreation. Your doctor might have suggested it, or you might be experimenting with alternative ways to treat some ailment, or you might simply be looking for an optimal way to relax after a hectic day at the office. There are many reasons to be interested in cannabis but they all have one thing in common: you usually end up inhaling it.
“Inhaling it”, in most cases, means smoking it. Like a typical cigarette. And that includes combustion. The main reason vaping has been rapidly pushing cigarettes into obsolescence is exactly because it doesn’t rely on combustion – which, as we now know, is very-very bad for us.
Vaping is all about turning a liquid into vapor by using heat while avoiding combustion. That’s one of the most important reasons it’s considered safer. Apart from all the additives in cigarettes, the burning that turns tobacco into smoke is one of the main culprits for the carcinogenic properties of cigarettes. Inhaling smoke, either from tobacco or cannabis, can lead to inflammation of the lungs and even bronchitis. Long term smoking has been associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
So, why burn your cannabis, like a typical cigarette of the 20th century, when you’re living in the here and now and you can vape it?
Why smoke weed when you can vape it?
Wait, I can vape cannabis?
Vaping is mostly presented as an alternative to typical tobacco smoking. That’s probably why most people don’t realize that it’s not “a different type of cigarette designed only for nicotine” but an alternative to the whole “having to burn stuff to inhale some of its active ingredients”. It’s not (just) “another option for nicotine consumption” but the swapping of burning with the vaporization of… Well, that’s where it gets a bit more complicated than “simple” vaping.
“Typical” vaping, when we’re talking about nicotine, in most cases refers to the vaporization of “juices”. Liquids made from a combination of Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerine, Nicotine and flavorings. And, in some cases, distilled water. Vaping cannabis, though, can refer to both the vaporization of a similar liquid, but with CBD and/or THC (where legal) instead of nicotine as its “primary ingredient”, or of solids or wax. And each option also needs different gear and a somewhat different approach.
Yes, you can vape this and it’s awesome.
Different types of vapes for weed
Let’s take things from the beginning. Cannabis originally comes in the form of plant leaves. You can crumble them, put them in a rolling paper, add some tobacco if you like, turn them into a cigarette and smoke it. That’s how people have been doing it for eons. That way you don’t deviate from the original form of cannabis in nature. Apart from the whole crumbling and burning it to turn it into smoke, that is. As it is, it can be considered “a solid”.
For something different, more “advanced” and arguably better, some people turn to waxes. No, nothing to do with shoe polish or candle making. Cannabis can be mutated from its plant form into a wax-like substance. It is, obviously, different than its original form, but it still remains “solid-y” and is mostly used in the same ways (aka: smoked). Mostly. We’ll get to that later.
Finally, you can find cannabis in liquid, “oil” form. There are different processes through which the active elements of cannabis can be extracted, transfigured to liquid form. The result is usually found as Hemp Oil. This was usually used “to give a cannabis twist to a normal cigarette”, with the user wetting a tobacco cigarette with some drops of Hemp Oil. Nowadays it’s what most people vaping cannabis know as the main ingredient of their juices. If you’re interested in cannabis in its liquid form, you could try to morph it yourself from plant form to a liquid. Even the easiest procedure of doing that is somewhat complicated, though, takes time and wouldn’t probably be successful until you’ve tried it out a few times. For those reasons, we think it’s better if you start with a commercially available product, like the Hemp Bombs line of CBD oil we’ve reviewed right here. If you have nearby recreational or medical marijuana dispensaries, then you can swing by and purchase legal THC oil.
CBD oil is derived from the hemp plant but contains no THC and is completely legal in the United States.
Different gear for different needs
Just like you can vaporize different “materials”, liquids, waxes or solids, you also have different options on how to vaporize them. Or, rather, you’ll have to pair the optimal method of vaporization with the material you’re going to be using. Yes, that means that there are different types of vaporization, each following a different approach than the other, each better tailored to a specific type of “material”.
This makes it almost impossible using two different kinds of materials with the same gear, forcing you to make a decision – and be sure about it – before buying an expensive vaporizer. An even simpler way to explain it would be “no, you (probably) can’t use liquids in an atomizer for solids, or wax in an atomizer made for liquids”. And, to explain the “probably” in the parenthesis, we should add a “well, up to a point, it depends on the atomizer”.
The Cloudious 9 Hydrology 9 is a dry herb vape that features water filtration, giving you a bong-like experience.
Wait, I’m already a vaper, can I use my existing equipment for marijuana?
Yes and no. When you say “I’m probably a vaper” you probably mean that you’re using either an All-In-One (AIO) kit, like a Joyetech eGo, or a pair of a box mod and an atomizer, like a Smoant Charon mod with a Dead Rabbit RDA. Using them to vaporize some kind of “juice”. In liquid form. Quite different from waxes or solids. If your cannabis is in liquid form, there’s nothing stopping you from vaping it in that kind of “kit“.
It would be better, though, instead of vaping it as it is, to first try only adding some drops in some juice you’re already vaping. Your cannabis liquid might be too strong to vape on its own. Since this kind of equipment is designed for vaping liquids, you can’t vape cannabis in wax or solid form with it. Those forms need different equipment.
Your DNA-powered squonker might be awesome for getting your cinnamon cookies – flavored nicotine fix, but it simply can’t do what a device like the PAX 3 will offer you. Tailored for dual dry herb and extract use, more than sixty temperature settings, vibration notifications and more fine-tuned control when communicating through Bluetooth with its smartphone app, the PAX is one of the most high-end experiences for anyone interested in vaping cannabis. Note that we don’t mean that DNA-based mods are bad when compared with the PAX. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, like wondering if a Vespa would be enough when moving house (hint: it’s not). One is best for vaporizing nicotine-based liquids. The other for dry herbs and concentrates, translating primarily to cannabis. Twin worlds, but worlds apart.
Yep, that’s some marijuana in front of a million dollars in cash.
But a friend of mine *does* vape nicotine and cannabis with the same gear!
OK, we lied: you *can* use your DNA-powered mod for vaping solids and wax. Or any other regulated or, even better, Temperature Control – supporting mod. What you need for this is a specialized Dry Herb / Wax atomizer, you can screw on your mods 510 connector instead of your typical one. But you’ll probably find the experience far from optimal. This type of atomizers isn’t something ultra-advanced, bringing missing features and “proper” herb/wax support to your usual box mod.
Quite the opposite, since in most cases they work simply like this: instead of having a small, swirly metal coil, wrapped around some wick, they’ve got a metal or ceramic coil either shaped like a bowl or in contact with one (so as to heat it up). You place the dry herb or wax in them and then… Well… That’s the problem: the fiddling. There’s no definitive guide on how to “tune” such a setup for vaping cannabis in solid or wax form. Too low settings will lead to a subpar experience. Too high and you’ll scorch your materials. And when you find the middle ground, after lots of trial and error, you realize you might have destroyed your coil. And need to replace it. And start hunting for never-to-be-found replacements on every online and offline retailer you might have heard about.
Temperature Control also helps in that you can tune-in a low temperature and increase it step by step, until you find a sweet spot where you have vaporization without scorching. The ability of a TC-supporting mod to “lock” a specific temperature means your coils won’t go higher, like when using a “simple” Wattage / Power mode, offering a better end result. Of course, that holds *if* the coils for the atomizer you bought *also* support TC. And that’s not always the case.
If you just want to try the experience of vaping cannabis, though, and you’ve already got a mod for vaping liquids, The Price Is Right for such atomizers can usually be found for around $20. A search for dry herb vaporizers on popular Chinese online shops will show you results from companies like Longmada or Seego, that won’t give the PAX a run for its money but are worth their (relatively low) cost. It’s for the best if you treat this kind of “add-ons” to your existing mod as more of a “demo”, a “sampler taste” and not something you’ll end up using in the long run. Most people who start with such gear find themselves upgrading to higher-grade, specialized equipment some time later. To something like Storz & Bickel’s Mighty vaporizer.
If you want to use your box mod with dry herb or wax, you’ll need a specialized atomizer.
And then, two more paths: Conduction VS Convection vaporizers
You might think that the hardest choice would be finally deciding to splash the cash for a specialized piece of gear. Instead of buying a cheap vape pen or starting a (usually, for most people) fruitless quest to find the perfect dry herb / wax atomizer for your existing mod. And then you realize there are two more choices, two more paths in your journey: Conduction and Convection. Which should you choose?
Theoretically, Convection is the best of those two choices. Each term refers to the way each piece of gear vaporizes the solid/wax content you provide. With Conduction, the to-be-vaporized material is in contact with a heated element, just like the aforementioned relatively cheap atomizers you can screw on an existing mod of yours. The problem with this method is that the side of the to-be-vaporized material, touching the heated element, *will* scorch sooner or later. It’s not hard to cross the line between heating and burning. On paper, Convection solves this problem.
Much more advanced in design (and, usually, appropriately more expensive), Convection atomizers use hot air to heat up the to-be-vaporized material. Thus, no scorching. Perfect, isn’t it? Well, nothing really is. Convection sounds much better than Conduction, until you try it out in action. Pricey kits “get it right”, but for cheaper equipment, many people believe Conduction offers a better experience when actually vaping, with larger clouds and higher temperatures. Yeah, your solid will burn faster – at least, on one side, forcing you to fiddle with it, turn it around. Some people even smoke the remains of such a vaping session instead of throwing them away – they might not be as potent as before, but they’re also far from waste.
Many high-end atomizers, like Storz & Bickel’s Mighty, offer a mix of both methods for the best possible results. Unfortunately, like with most things in this life, there’s no ten-buck option that offers a stellar experience. It’s another case of “you get what you pay for”, so there’s no point in us saying you should pick one or the other. The combination of the two methods, offered by high-end atomizers, is the better option. But it’s, of course, costly. For something a bit cheaper, when in the middle-to-high-end segment of the market, choose Convection. For even more affordable options, prefer Conduction. Instead of choosing specific brands and models for you, we’ll explain the logic behind this reasoning.
- If you can afford the best of the best, there’s no reason to choose one or the other method, when “the best of the best ” options already support both. And use them in parallel for optimal results.
- If you can’t afford the top of the crop, but are prepared to invest a significant amount of money in a really good atomizer, you’re in the space where Convection works without having to cut many corners. Why pay more than you should for a Conduction-only atomizer?
- Most affordable devices (read it as: “cheap”) can’t offer a really good Convection experience. That would demand a more complicated setup. Prefer a good conduction device that works as you’d expect, instead of a half-hearted attempt at convection that aims for the stars and fails at liftoff.
- For even cheaper, hey, as we said, you can pick up an atomizer for your existing vape-mod, but don’t expect wonders. It would be better buying some pre-made CBD e-liquid for the atomizers you’re already using, instead of trying to use your mod for something it wasn’t designed for.
Convection vaporizers, like the PAX 3, are much better than conduction vaporizers. But they are more expensive.
How do I use this thing?
OK, you got you an atomizer. Now, how do you use it? We can’t help. It’s not that we don’t want to, but we’re not over your shoulder, watching the specific gear you got for you, and the “element” you want to vaporize. So, the short version is “it depends on what you’ve got, read your device’s manual”. Vaping cannabis usually goes like this, depending on its form at hand and the available equipment:
- If you’ve got cannabis in its most common, solid, plant form, as well as an atomizer for solids, you’ll first want to grind it. The cannabis, not the atomizer, Will-It-Blend fans! You then fill the cup of your atomizer with the resulting powder. Depending on your atomizer’s design, some might suggest packing its cup as tightly as you can. Usually, for conduction-based atomizers. Note that you might also have to “steer” and “re-mix” the to-be-vaporized material every now and then, for equal heating and avoiding burning. Others might work better without grinding, by using whole buds and “packing” them in the atomizer tray “loosely”, letting air travel through them (as you might have guessed, usually the rule for convection-based atomizers).
- Cannabis in wax form is used mostly with conduction-based atomizers. It doesn’t need as much “attention” from you, though, since it’s harder to scorch it compared to true solid form.
- Cannabis in liquid form can be used in “typical” vape equipment. Since vaping most such juices on their own could give too much of a buzz to many people, it’s suggested you first try them out by adding some drops of them in one of your existing vaping juices. Ask your vendor beforehand for their potency and how he’d suggest you use them, for even between the same brand, same “strength” of juice, there’s a lot of variability even from batch to batch.
If you want to vape dry herb, you’ll need to grind it first.
Any more tips for vaping weed?
We mentioned before how some hemp juices might feel more “light” and that you should ask the seller for the potency of the exact one you’re ordering. This is more important than you think, since one drop from one juice might end up being stronger than a whole bottle of another. This vast difference in strength will also lead to a vastly different end experience. So, ask before ordering. If not, you might end up buying something other than what you expected. If you know your hemp juice is just what you like, for example, you’re still using the same bottle you used the week before, but you feel the experience you get is subpar, try playing around with the temperature of your vape or, if your gear doesn’t support TC, its “strength”, power, Watts.
Lucky you if you live in state where recreational marijuana is legal, like Nevada.
What are the effects of vaping weed?
The effects of vaporized cannabis can be different depending on not only its variant but also the temperature used for its vaporization. Higher temps will give you more energetic “highs” and lower the opposite, help you calm after a busy day.
It’s also worth keeping in mind, when traveling, that the use of cannabis is still considered illegal in some states and most countries. Even though CBD oils (the type that contains no THC) are completely legal in the United States, they are still illegal in most of the world. Make sure it’s allowed wherever you are before you start clouding the room. If not, restrict yourself to vaping in private, if unable to postpone it altogether for a while. You could try “camouflaging” the very nature of the juice you’re using by adding different flavors to the mix, but keep in mind that cannabis smell is strong and easily recognizable by lots of people, even if mixed with bananas. Plus, that wouldn’t auto-magically turn your juice “legal” if it’s considered the opposite where you are.
Lastly, if you want to avoid inhaling anything into your lungs altogether, there’s always an alternative: you can eat some edibles. Take a look into our guide for CBD edibles.
Everything you need to know about vaping weed. Includes info on dry herb vaping, THC oil vaping, the difference between conduction and convection, and more.
What are cannabis vapes and how do you use them?
Copy article link to clipboard.
Link copied to clipboard.
- What are vaporizers?
- Tabletop vaporizers
- Portable vaporizers
- Vape pens
Cannabis vaporization is growing in popularity among people interested in consuming cannabis in an easy, discreet manner that’s healthier than traditional smoking methods. Both flower and concentrates can be vaporized using a wide range of devices.
Both flower and concentrates can be vaporized using a wide range of devices. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The leading benefit for vaping weed is that it’s a healthier alternative to smoking flower, as vapor doesn’t release the tar and carcinogens created during combustion (the process of burning flower). Instead, vaporization entails a slightly more complex process that creates a phase transition from liquid to vapor.
Additionally, portable vaporizers allow for easy and discreet use as the cannabis vapor creates a less potent aroma. Learning how to vape weed is generally easier than learning how to smoke it. Portable vaporizers are easy to use and fit in your pocket. Like flower and concentrates, the onset time is rapid.
What are vaporizers?
The process of vaping weed involves heating cannabis flower or concentrates to a temperature that turns the active compounds (cannabinoids and terpenes) into vapor. Vaporization is a healthier alternative to smoking as it occurs at temperatures that do not allow the flower to combust, which releases harmful tar and carcinogens.
Most vaporization devices are engineered to heat cannabis products just below the point of combustion, which ranges between 180 to 190 degrees Celsius (356 to 374 degrees Fahrenheit). Compared to smoking, vaping cannabis increases the amount of cannabis by-products that are activated, potentially bolstering health benefits for medical marijuana patients.
More research into the long term health effects of cannabis vaporization is needed, but there are studies backing up the perceived health benefits of this consumption method. A 2007 study, for example, observed self-reported respiratory symptoms in participants who used cigarettes and cannabis. The researchers found that while vaporization increased the amount of cannabis consumed, it also decreased respiratory symptoms in regular cannabis users who smoke. They concluded that the vaporization temperature was “cool enough to avoid the smoke and toxins associated with combustion.”
There are many methods by which people vaporize cannabis. The three main types are tabletop vaporizers, portable vaporizers, and vape or “hash oil” pens.
Tabletop vaporizers are stationary temperature control units that require a solid surface upon which to sit. Tabletop vaporizers come in many varieties, but all include four main features:
- A temperature dial to regulate the temperature
- A healing element that heats the flower or concentrates
- A heating chamber where you put the flower or concentrates
- A mouthpiece attachment
Some tabletop vaporizers use a bag to collect the vapor, which is detached prior to inhalation, while others use a long tube that is attached to the heating chamber and allows the vapor to move directly from the heating chamber to the person using the vaporizer. Most tabletop vaporizers of this style are used to vaporize cannabis flower. Once you know how to vape weed with one tabletop vaporizer, it’s very likely you’ll be able to use others.
Based on function, e-nail (electric nail) dab rigs could also be considered tabletop vaporizers. This method allows people to vaporize concentrates using an electric nail. However, a reference to the term “vaporizer” generally applies to a device that vaporizes cannabis flowers.
Portable vaporizers are small, discreet vaporizers that operate in much the same way as tabletop vaporizers. Portable vaporizers include a chamber to hold the cannabis flower or concentrate, a heating element and a battery. Most portable vaporizers contain variable temperature control devices that are operated with the click of a button or turn of a small dial. This activates the battery, which heats the element and vaporizes the flower or concentrate contained within the chamber, sending it into the mouthpiece for inhalation.
Portable vaporizers include a chamber to hold the cannabis flower or concentrate, a heating element and a battery. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Portable vaporizers can be used to consume many forms of concentrate including badder, budder, and shatter as well as flower in some cases. Before purchasing a portable vaporizer, consider the ways you intended to consume cannabis and look for one designed to accommodate that product. It’s important to distinguish the difference between portable dry herb vaporizers, wax vaporizers, and hybrids. While dry herb vapes and wax vapes are designed to work with specific types of cannabis products, hybrid vaporizers like the PAX 3 offer consumers the best of both worlds – compatible with both flower and concentrates.
Vape or “hash oil” pens are a type of vaporizer designed specifically to vaporize cannabis distillates and oils. They are called pens because the compact design of the vape device closely resembles that of a traditional pen. A vape pen consists of two pieces: a battery and cartridge.
Vape batteries come in a variety of styles – button or buttonless, cylindrical or rectangular, large or small – there is a shape and style to fit many personal preferences. One of the most popular weed pen batteries is the 510 thread, which is compatible with a large portion of pre-filled vape cartridges on the medical and adult-use concentrate market.
Hash oil” vape cartridges contain a mouthpiece, chamber and heating element, which is activated upon initiated contact with a vape battery. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
“Hash oil” vape cartridges contain a mouthpiece, chamber and heating element, which is activated upon initiated contact with a vape battery. The chamber of a vape cartridge is filled with oil or distillate, which contains concentrated amounts of cannabis cannabinoids and terpenes.
There are a number of considerations to make when shopping for the right vape pen for your consumption needs. For example, the battery capacity and type will dictate factors like the device’s heat up time and overall lifespan.
What is a dab pen?
Unlike a standard vape pen, which is designed for compatibility with vape cartridges filled with oil or distillite, a dab pen is used to consume dabs, which can be defined as an unspecified dosage of concentrate. Most dab pens, also known as wax pens, are essentially made up of the same components as a vape pen: a battery and heating element. With dab pens, the concentrate is placed into the heating chamber rather than loaded into a vape cartridge in liquid form. With this type of pen, users are not limited to cartridges, and can consume many forms of concentrate, including wax, badder, budder, and shatter.
With dab pens, the concentrate is placed into the heating chamber rather than loaded into a vape cartridge in liquid form. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
How much is a vape pen?
The answer depends on the quality of the vape pen device and what comes with it. There are many options available on the medical and adult-use cannabis market. For example, you can find a vape pen starter kit that couples the battery with various tools and a device charger, disposable vape pens that arealy come with pre-filled vape cartridge, and cheaper replacement batteries that are sold separately.
In the case of disposable vape pens that come with a preloaded cartridge of cannabis oil, the price will also be contingent on the location it’s being sold, as the market can vary between different states. You can sort through a massive selection of verified vape pen products from reputable brands on Weedmaps.
What’s in a vape cartridge?
When choosing a vape cartridge, it’s important to know the type of oil contained within, whether and how it’s flavored and what cutting agents, if any, have been used to dilute the solution. This helps you anticipate the type of vaping experience to expect.
Vape cartridges are all filled with cannabis distillate that’s designed for optimal vaporization using a portable battery. During the distillation process, the cannabis oil is stripped of all flavor and aromatic compounds. At this point, it can be left in its raw form (flavorless/tasteless), it can be mixed with terpenes for extra flavor, or with some form of glycol (PG, VG, PEG) to give the vapor extra mouthfeel (thin versus thick, smooth versus chalky, dry versus buttery).
Raw vape cartridges
While all cartridges contain cannabinoids, not all cartridges contain terpenes. Terpenes are organic compounds that give plants their aroma and flavors. “Raw cartridges” are vape cartridges that do not contain any additional cutting agent or terpenes, just the pure cannabis distillate.
Strain-specific and natural terpene cartridges
The reintroduction of terpenes is common in distillate-filled cartridges, as the distillation process removes the natural plant terpenes and results in an odorless, flavorless viscous liquid. Some extractors have mastered a technique that allows them to remove the terpenes from the plant during the distillation process and reintroduce them prior to filling the vape cartridges. These cartridges are known as strain-specific vape cartridges that use cannabis-derived terpenes to retain the same aroma and flavor of the plant that the oil was derived from.
It’s also common for cartridges to be filled with naturally derived terpenes that create exotic flavors that smell and taste like fruits and candies. The reintroduction of terpenes after extraction allows manufacturers to create countless cannabinoid and terpene combinations to suit a variety of needs. These terpenes can also change the viscosity and color of the distillate in the cartridge.
Some THC vape juice contains cutting agents similar to those used in e-cigarettes, added to improve vape cloud production and the mouthfeel of the cartridge. The most common cutting agents include polyethylene glycol (PEG), propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG).
Polyethylene glycol has many medical, commercial and industrial applications and is used as a cutting agent in vape liquids to maintain an evenly mixed product that increases overall vapor production.
Propylene glycol is a binding agent that blends with solvents for use in food, hygiene, industrial and lab applications. It’s a common cutting agent in “hash oil” vape pen liquids due to its promotion of even draws.
Vegetable glycerin is used as a preservative in the food, pharmaceutical, bath and body and e-cigarette industries, among others. Vegetable glycerin is used in vape liquids to create large vapor clouds.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has labeled these various cutting agents as safe for human ingestion, but there are still concerns about what happens when these compounds are inhaled. A 2010 study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, concluded that inhaling PG could potentially exacerbate asthma and allergies. Additional research also suggests that, when vaporized at high temperatures, both PEG and PG breaks down into the carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
More research is required to fully understand the effects of inhaling these cuttings agents, but if you prefer to avoid them, look for raw vape cartridges or other products that don’t utilize these cutting agents.
What are cannabis vapes and how do you use them? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents What are vaporizers? Tabletop vaporizers Portable