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Are you a consumer of cannabis? If so, then the odds are that you’re a cannabis smoker.
According to a recent government survey, over 20 million Americans smoked cannabis in the last year alone. And over 14 million do so on a regular basis, despite living in an illegal or legal state. There’s a whole lot of smoking going on.
let’s first talk about some of the basic differences between smoking and vaping. For this we should first talk about the differences in temperature between the two.
As many of you know, the cannabinoids and terpenes are the components of cannabis that provide all of the wonderful benefits that we all know and love. Their boiling points are in the range of around 300 degrees to around 440 degrees Fahrenheit, or so.
This means that at when exposed to temperatures in this narrow range, the cannabinoids and terpenes, change from an oil to a gas. This is a good thing. This makes the medicinal components of the cannabis available to absorb quickly into your bloodstream via your lungs.
And most of the vapor is comprised of the cannabinoids and terpenes. It is estimated that up to 95% of the vapor is carcinogen free.
Compare that to the fact that up to 90% of the smoke resulting from combustion, or smoking, cannabis is non-cannabinoid material with a much higher concentration of carcinogens and other substances. Smoking cannabis exposes the cannabis to temperatures exceeding 1300 degrees which burns up a lot of the cannabinoids and terpenes, as well as adding a lot more chemicals to the smoke.
In fact, over 100 toxins are released when smoking cannabis.
Now before you go off on me about how cannabis has never been shown to cause lung cancer, which, by the way, is true, let me say that it can and does cause lung irritation and even lung damage, particularly in long-term and heavy users, though the damage does not seem to inhibit lung function itself.
In fact, surprisingly, smoking cannabis actually has been shown to provide positive benefits to the lungs.
Suffice it to say that vaping cannabis is easier on your lungs, and less likely to cause actual damage, compared to smoking. Though you can still irritate your lungs and throat from vaping.
I always recommend that people take a small puff, hold it in your mouth for a second to cool the vapor, and then inhale and hold it for only about 2 seconds. That’s all you need to saturate your lungs with the cannabinoid full vapor.
It’s actually a myth that you should hold the smoke OR vapor as long as possible to get all the cannabinoids into your system. After about 2 – 3 seconds, you will receive no more benefit from it.
But, comparing just the particulate matter AND the percentage of cannabinoids and terpenes in the vapor vs smoke, it is fairly clear, pun intended, that vaping definitely has it over smoking for delivering cleaner and medically superior vapor to your lungs.
You can mitigate a significant portion of the potential damage AND inhalation of non-cannabis substances in the smoke by using a water-pipe or water-filled bong. This works as both a filter and a coolant for the smoke thus removing a lot of the garbage in the smoke as well as lowering the temperature to more comfortable smoking levels.
This can make smoking it much more enjoyable, but it still has its potential problems. The first being that due to the higher comfort level, the likelihood of taking in too much and thus getting too high, may be a problem for some. Especially those imbibing for medicinal purposes.
And secondly, you still burn up and lose a lot of the cannabinoids and terpenes due to the high smoking temps that still exist with the burning cannabis.
And that is a very important point for us medical cannabis users. While smoking cannabis is very effective at getting us high, you do sacrifice a lot of the medicinal benefits due to burning them up at the higher smoking temps.
Many people also feel that the high received from smoking it is superior to vaping. While this may seem to be true on the surface, I believe that this is more a factor of how much more THC you typically ingest when smoking compared to vaping.
If your end-game is to get high then you can smoke waxes and concentrates in vapes that will take to you new heights. And even with the CO2 vape pens, you can get strains that are very potent. You may need to take more then one puff, but trust me, You can still talk to God.
For many people, including me, the high that you obtain from vaping is much more clear-headed. I am one of those people who gets very socially awkward and paranoid when smoking it but I notice when vaping, I am quite comfortable in a social environment.
Vaping lends itself to taking much smaller doses of the cannabinoids and terpenes in each and every dose and therefore makes it less likely to get a large dose at first puff. Taking a long drag on a waterpipe typically delivers way more THC into the lungs then a single puff of a vape.
This is why the vapes lend themselves so much more to micro-dosing. Micro-dosing is the ability to take very small, measured amounts, of cannabis thus enabling the user to dial in the optimal amount for treating their conditions. It’s much harder to do this when you smoke it.
Here is a good place to point out that many people, either consciously, or sub-consciously, associate the level of medicinal benefits that they are receiving from the cannabis with the level of psycho-activity that it produces. It’s because of this that many people feel that they are not getting the benefits of the cannabis from the vape, beca use they do not feel as high as when they smoke it.
Some people also feel that they are not receiving a good dose from a vape because there is much less perceptible smoke compared to smoking it. Some people make the mistake of turning the temperature of their vapes up to their highest levels in order to invoke more smoke and what they perceive as more medicine.
Unfortunately, this only results in burning up more cannabis and thus destroying some of the cannabinoids that can’t take the higher temperatures. In reality the actual vapor is very faint and transparent.
These are both the wrong way to determine the best dose for what ails you.
The most accurate way to measure the medical benefits of the cannabis, is to take a small dose. Wait about 20 minutes and then check in with yourself to see if your pain or whatever you’re treating, has improved. If it has then you know that it’s working, if not, then take another dose and check in with yourself again 20 minutes later. If it still isn’t working, try it again. If after 3 tries, you’re not deriving benefit, then you should try another form or strain of cannabis.
That’s the basics of micro dosing. For more information on that listen to my last podcast, number 44. Medical Cannabis 101.
And as an aside, using a vape effectively means that your cannabis will go a lot further. You won’t be burning it all up in smoke. And, if you really do follow the microdosing protocol, you will more then likely avoid the problem of building up a tolerance to cannabis.
Many people smoke it get so much that they develop a tolerance and thus need to smoke larger amounts for the same benefit. This means that eventually they will need to lay off of cannabis for a few days to a week or so to reset their tolerance levels.
This is typically not an issue if you keep to the lower dosing levels with the vapes. This can make your cannabis go further and save you a lot of money in the long run. Cool huh?
Okay, let’s go to another obvious comparison between smoking and vaping cannabis; The flavor of the cannabis.
Here is where smoking cannabis, for some, is more enjoyable then vaping. With smoking cannabis, you usually get the full-flavor of the cannabis, terpenes and all.
Plus, there is nothing more satisfying to creating your own impromptu cannabis pipe from carving out an apple or soda can.
While vaping the flower can still provide a more nuanced, yet still very aromatic experience, typically with a more pronounced terpene bouquet, so to speak. Vaping CO2 cartridges really lose much of that due to fact that the process of distilling cannabis with CO2 removes a lot of the terpenes, thus leaving a subtler, more tea-like aroma and taste.
While some traditional smokers may poo-poo this lesser odoriferous experience, many who partake in the CO2 vapes point out that this is one of the true benefits of vaping it due to the ability to vape anywhere without the tell-tale skinniness of cannabis. The stealth factor is very high, especially when combined with the very portable benefits of the vape pens themselves. They easily slip into your pocket and you can whip those bad-boys out, take a puff, and return it to your pocket almost anywhere without detection.
Smoking cannabis causes that tell-tale skunky smell to attach itself to anything that the actual smoke comes in contact with. There is really no way to avoid it. This could be a real problem if you are going to be attending a social event where you don’t want to stand out like you’re radioactive OR even worse, if you’re pulled over by a constable of the law.
So how about the cost of vaping versus smoking.
Let’s look at smoking it first. Technically, other then obtaining the cannabis, you can smoke cannabis for little or nothing. A pack of zig-zag cigarette papers can be obtained for less then a buck. Plus, there is nothing more satisfying to creating your own impromptu cannabis pipe from carving out an apple or soda can.
Yes, you can also spend some bucks pipes, water-pipes and the trusty bongs. For a bit of exotic flair you can even get yourself a hookah. Some of my most interesting experiences have involved a hookah. If you’re interested, just ask me about my experience of going down the tube. It never gets old.
Now with vapes, you really do need some form of device to vaporize your cannabis. If you don’t want to stray too far from your purist smoking experiences, then I’d recommend that you obtain a vape that will vape flower or cannabis buds. This way you’ll still maintain the ceremony AND terpene aromas which are akin to smoking cannabis.
If getting a vape for flower, then you should get a vape that heats with convection, as opposed to conduction. Convection uses indirect heat, which is basically evenly heated air that passes through the dried flower to produce the vapor while conduction uses direct heat from the heating element to create the vapor. This actually increases your risk of actually burning your precious flower. So I recommend springing for a convection vaporizer if your vaping flower.
You can spend big bucks and get yourself a volcano, which is fairly large, thus making it less than desirable for going secretly off into the world. There are some very cool portable ones that you can pick up for around $100 – $200 bucks. I highly recommend that you pick up one with an good thermometer, so you can accurately dial in the temperature desired to obtain the cannabinoids that you know and love.
I love the CO2 cartridge vape pens. They cost around $15. The CO2 oil is reasonable in legal states. $30 or so for ½ gram which equals around 100+ puffs and they are so easy and handy to use. Honestly, I haven’t smoked cannabis since a bud of mine gave me one about 2 years ago. They are that good.
Already then. That’s the poop on vaping vs smoking. To me, the bottom line is that for medicinal purposes, using a vape is far superior then smoking. But I know that for many of you purists, smoking is the only real way to partake of the herb superb.
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These are excellent resources for new patients looking for more information on medical cannabis
The United Patients Group (UPG) is an unparalleled resource and trusted leader in Medical Cannabis for physicians, patients and organizations. UPG acts as a virtual hand for patients, by helping them navigate through this ever-changing industry.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation’s leading organization promoting drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.
Aunt Zelda’s is a pioneering, data-driven, developer of cannabis-based plant medicines. Their products are the result of years of research and development by founders, Mara Gordon and Stewart Smith, in consultation with knowledgeable physicians and world-renowned researchers.
NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable. They have an excellent site packed with information regarding their mission to change the laws of cannabis. They have an excellent database with a detailed summary of each state’s laws for cannabis.
Medical Jane serves a vital and multi-faceted role in the cannabis community. Since its founding in 2012, Medical Jane has grown to be a respected voice for patients, caregivers, and advocates of legalized cannabis.
PubMed is an excellent source for peer-reviewed research. PubMed comprises more than 26 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites