In this blog, we are taking an indepth look at vaporizers. With so many different options available, we wanted to share how they work and why you might prefer one over the other depending on your own preferences. The technology behind vaporizers has jumped leaps and bounds in the last decade due to an increased demand for patients to find a healthier way to inhale their medical cannabis. Vaporizers can be separated into 2 categories – those that you fill yourself with a flower or concentrate, and the pre-filled vaporizers that are often referred to as cartridges or vape pens. We’re going to take a look at the differences between all the options available to you including a flower or prefilled, convection vs conduction, and desktop vs portable vaporizers.
What’s a Vaporizer?
A vaporizer is a device that allows you to inhale cannabis vapor in a smokeless, efficient form of inhalation. Vaporizing is the process of heating up dried cannabis to a temperature below its combustion point of 392°F. The key difference between vaporizers and smoking medical cannabis is to minimize unnecessary combustion of the medical cannabis, providing a healthier way to inhale it.
Research has shown that vaporization can be up to 80% more effective than smoking, which means that with vaporization you are able to use less medication for the same effect, then if you smoked it. Additionally, vaporization produces approximately 95% fewer carcinogens and is less likely to irritate the upper airway, versus smoking cannabis.
Health Canada and Apollo Clinics recommend that medical cannabis be administered by vaporization over smoking.
Traditional Flower & Concentrate Vaporizers
When using a vaporizer for cannabis, different models have different features and temperature settings. The temperature range will generally be between 280 to 446 degrees Fahrenheit. Traditionally, vaporizers come in either tabletop or handheld/portable form, and they all consist of at least a heating component, a battery, the chamber (or oven), and the mouthpiece.
Depending on the type of vaporizer, it will use either convection or conductive heating. Conductive heat is created through heating a surface in the device to an exact temperature, which causes vaporization of the contents in the “oven”. This allows the cannabinoids and terpenes to then rise through the mouthpiece and be inhaled.
Convection heating uses air to move the heat, either with a fan or inhalation, pulling hot air past or through the flower or concentrating in the chamber. While both these oven types have their pros and cons, they are relatively similar for someone just learning about vaporizers. The biggest difference is that because the flower or oil is touching the element directly in a conductive vaporizer, there could be a higher chance of combustion and/or uneven heating.
There are two types of traditional vaporizers, portable or desktop. Portable vaporizers are handheld devices powered by a rechargeable battery. There are a wide range of styles & price points for these vaporizers. There is one portable vaporizer that is Health Canada approved as an official medical device, called the Mighty Medic, which can be claimed on your taxes. Portable vaporizers are great on the go and have a battery life of around 60-90 minutes. They will all come with a charger that can be plugged into the wall or a USB port.
Desktop vaporizers are larger devices that use external power such as a wall plug instead of a battery. These devices are renowned for their quality of vapor, alongside other beneficial features such as precise temperature control. The Volcano Medic 2 vaporizer is also Health Canada approved as an official medical device. With most desktop vaporizers, you have the choice of inhaling medical cannabis by filling a bag or through a whip or hose. The bag is beneficial for those with poor lung capacity or those who consume a large amount of medical cannabis in one sitting.
An Apollo educator can help you if you have any questions around your vaporizer such as power, temperature, warranties, cleaning your device, and how to use it. We also sell a wide variety of vaporizers and accessories such as cleaning kits for our patients, including both the Mighty Medic and the Volcano Medic.
These devices have a few different nicknames, such as disposable vapes, carts, cartridges, or pens. Vape cartridges (or pens) are glass chambers that are prefilled by the Licensed Producer with cannabis concentrate and terpenes that attach to your rechargeable battery. It can sometimes be an all-in-one disposable pen. They work similarly by heating up the concentrate into a vapor form, and allowing the user to inhale the cannabinoids. Similar to cannabis flower, different strains and strengths can be found in the prefilled cartridges. These devices are very simple to use. Some may not even require an on/off button, but are activated just by inhaling on the device.
The oil contains various combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes that have been extracted from cannabis plants. Legal cartridges are filled with either a pure distillate (refined cannabis) and terpenes, or uses a CO2 oil with terpenes, and does not use any additional additives. When buying pre-filled cartridges, it is important to remember to buy from Licensed Producers approved to sell by Health Canada to avoid purchasing a cartridge that could be filled with contaminants. You will want to avoid cartridges with additives or thinning agents.
These devices generally only consist of two pieces which is the cartridge and the battery. Some vape pens may even be an all-in-one piece, where the whole thing is disposable so that you’re not buying a cartridge and a battery. There are different brands and models with different attachment styles – the most common being the 510 thread which screws on easily to connect the cartridge and battery with just a few twists. Be sure you have the corresponding battery when purchasing a cartridge. Once finished, the cartridge is thrown out, but the battery is reusable and rechargeable.
Unfortunately, there is less long-term research on these devices in regards to health-related risks as they are relatively new in the world of cannabis.
The safety of our patients is top priority at Apollo. Based on what each patient is comfortable with and their level of experience with cannabis, we help them find what methods will work best for their symptom management. Vaporizers are often used for patients who are looking to find immediate relief from acute symptoms. These include conditions such as anxiety and associated panic or anxiety attacks, PTSD symptoms, breakthrough pain from chronic or acute conditions, and migraines.
Whether you would like to vaporize or use another method is always up to you, and we are just here to support and educate you on how to best utilize your medication. If you do use a vaporizer, it is important to always ensure the cannabis or pre-filled cartridges come from a Licensed Producer, which are Health Canada approved and undergo rigorous testing for their products to ensure their safety and quality.
While smoking, cannabis burns the flower at around 1000 degrees C, THC activates around 190 degrees C. This is one of the main reasons vaporizers can efficiently utilize and activate cannabinoids without producing carcinogens. In a move that is being praised by medical marijuana patients all across Canada, BMO and Sun Life recently announced that they no longer require cannabis users to select the “smokers” box on their respective life insurance questionnaires. This move could save many medical cannabis users money on their insurance premiums.
It is important to mention that these cannabis vaporizers are different from nicotine vapes and vape pens. There are some concerns around the additives placed in them and the potential role they may play in causing “popcorn lung”, which you may have heard about in the news recently. The additives of concern, such as Vitamin E acetate are not found in any Health Canada approved cannabis vaporizing cartridges or pens.
Which Type of Vaporizer Is Right For Me?
So with all these different types of vaporizers, what are the benefits of using a dry herb vaporizer versus a vape pen. With a traditional vaporizer, you can use any dry product you like, and you are not restricted to a certain strain. It’s more economical in the long term, and patients often report a smoother experience compared to a vape pen. There is a lot more temperature control, and this helps bring out specific cannabinoids and terpenes.
However, vape pens are very convenient and you can easily take them on the go. They are very discreet because of their size. The cartridge may actually last a while, but that depends on your consumption. Depending on what is important to you, you can utilize vaporizers, vape pens, or both.
Good To Know Vaporization Facts
Patient Starts to Feel Effects: Within seconds or minutes inhalation.
Duration of Effects: Effects usually peak around 30 minutes and can last between couple of hours.
Benefits of Vaporizing: Known as one of the safest ways to consume dried cannabis flower, for instant relief. Minimal odour, which dissipates quickly. Portability or home units are available for convenience.
Drawbacks of Vaporizing: Vaporizing dried cannabis is a short-acting method of consumption and may only provide relief for a few short hours. Patients looking for longer-acting symptom control may wish to consider combining vaporizing with other forms of administration.
Cannabis Vaporizer Q&A
Q: Does vaporizing cannabis flower have the same strong smell as when it is smoked?
A: Vaporizing cannabis flower can definitely lessen the strong smell associated with smoking cannabis. However, some say that vaporizing also brings out more nuanced and unique flavors and aromas found in each cannabis strain due to their varying terpenes.
Q: How much flower should I be vaporizing?
A: We get this one alot. This is highly dependent on each patient’s needs. When you are vaporizing a new strain for the first time, we recommend taking about 5 minutes in between each inhale to assess if you need more or not. That way next time you use that strain, you know how many inhales you need to take to find the right effect.
Q: Can I vaporize with just CBD?
A: Absolutely. There are many dried flower strains that are predominantly CBD with less than <1% THC.
Q: Where can I get a vaporizer?
A: Here at Apollo, we carry the most popular vaporizers used by our patients. We can show you how to use them, and the pros and cons of each one. However, you can also get your vaporizer from a Licensed Producer who also carry a variety of different types.
Where Can I Buy a Vaporizer?
You can purchase a Vaporizer directly from Apollo. Not only do we sell many Vaporizers, but our patient educators have the knowledge and expertise to assist you in recommending a Vaporizer tailored to your specific wants and needs.
Apollo Cannabis Clinics Can Help
We hope we were able to share some new knowledge with you around all the options you have when it comes to using vaporizers to intake your medical cannabis. One of our goals at Apollo is to educate our patients so that they are able to make informed decisions when it comes to their healthcare and medicinal cannabis options. Our support team can help you choose the right products, get you started on dosing and guide you along the way. If you have any questions about vaporizers, please send them to us at Support@apolloresearch.ca. We offer free virtual appointments across Canada and hope to see you soon!
If you are interested in speaking with a physician about how medical cannabis could help improve your quality of life, you can book your free virtual appointment here.