How to Get High on the Planet of the Vapes

They’re taking over. Might as well get used to it.

Illustration by James the Stanton

Illustration by James the Stanton

Vape pens are this generation’s version of a “sneak-a-toke,” and they are quickly becoming the go-to form of consuming cannabis for many folks. The good folks at Eaze, a massive cannabis delivery service in California, reported a 400 percent jump in sales of vape supplies between 2015 and 2016. And while vaping is a convenient and private form of ingesting weed, it’s not perfect. Let’s get caught up to speed on the highs and lows of this latest cannabis trend.

Vape pens are super discreet. They usually give off little to no scent, and it’s impossible to tell a cannabis vape pen from a tobacco vape pen without a close inspection. Vape pens are also incredibly convenient. You only need one hand to use one, you never need a lighter or papers, you just pull out your pen and inhale. You do, of course, need a little electricity now and then, but most pens will hold a charge for weeks at a time. And vape pens provide a pretty consistent dose time after time. Once you know what a single inhale is like from that pen, you’ll know exactly how much cannabis you are taking in. No more guessing.

But most importantly, vaping is almost always safer than smoking, even when vaping dry herb. There’s sort of an odd fear or stigma in the U.S. around vaping, but the attitude is different across the Atlantic. In the U.K., the group Public Health England issued a paper in 2015 declaring that they believed vaping could be up to 95 percent safer. This is in part due to the temperature range used to heat your smoking material, usually around 285 degrees Fahrenheit, which produces a vapor, compared to combustion which happens around 445 degrees and produces smoke.

Vape pens are also available in a variety of styles, giving you the choice of vaping dry flower, concentrates like wax, shatter and kief, and cartridges filled with oil, so you don’t necessarily have to stop smoking what you prefer to smoke now. They also come in every size, color, and shape imaginable. Many have super-refined temperature controls, and some even have bluetooth capacities so you can control your smoking experience with an app on your phone.

Not all vape pens are made alike, however. The amount you spend can really make a difference in terms of overall quality of your vape experience, as well as the longevity and durability of your pen. And it seems that no two companies are alike. Every pen out there has it’s little odd behaviors, some need to warm up, some have to be loaded a certain way, some need to be opened up and stirred between uses. So, unlike a bong or a pipe, you’ll want to do some research before you purchase your pen to avoid buyer’s remorse. Also unlike traditional smoking tools, you need to clean most pens every three to four sessions to get best results, and not put too much strain on the device.

And while it’s possible to find a vape pen to vape any form of cannabis, most people vape hash oil in cartridges or “carts.” Hash oil is generally pretty viscous, so producers will mix it with other oils to thin it, creating a more even burn. However, some makers have used a variety of thinning agents that, when heated, produce everything from a funky aftertaste to formaldehyde. Thankfully, reputable vape cartridge producers are turning en masse to using terpenes as the new, safer thinning agent. Talk to your budtender for more information.

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