Not long ago, the consumption avenues available to the average cannabis consumer were pretty limited: Bongs, bowls, and joints. Then blunts came along to shake things up a bit and further diversify the cannabis culture.
A relatively radical shift in pot consumption occurred between 10 and 15 years ago: Cannabis consumers began vaporizing their herb. This has come to be known as vaping and, until recently, was accomplished using desktop devices like the infamous (and expensive, at $500-600) German Storz & Bickel Volcano and domestic efforts like the Vapolution Vaporizer (a family of $100-250 glass-on-glass devices from Chico, California).
Then vape pens came along. Available in a wide range of price points and in many different quality levels, these portable and pocketable vaporization devices allow one to discretely—and typically without the tell-tale odor—consume their cannabis flowers or concentrate when on the go.
Or on the sofa. The flexibility of these devices is quite amazing and truly a game changer. Mark my word, vape pens and mobile vape devices are no fad. Just look around a recreationally legal state and anecdotally note the adoption rate. It’s through the roof. And it’s more than bohemian hipsters wanting to surf the latest trend.
In fact, the vape pen will play a significant role in competing with the slim aluminum gen three Apple TV remote and pocket coins for most likely to get lost in the cushions of the living room sofa. (“Dude, don’t harsh my mellow. Seriously, where the hell is my vape pen?!”)
Sure, a joint is one of the ultimate forms of portability and convenience for pot consumers. But the smell and the smoke reveal one’s activity—or simply piss off those around one, like a vape pen never will. Let’s face it: While adoption might be highest in legal states, vape pens arguably offer the greatest utility to those in prohibitionist areas who must hide their medicine or lifestyle.
When combined with state-of-the-art concentrates, such as those that can be produced only by industrial laboratories run by real and regulated companies, vape pens can deliver amazing, relatively predictable efficacy for patients and uber-efficient euphoria and psychoactive effects for recreational users. Many vape pen manufacturers employ a cartridge design that allows their customers to purchase a base pen and then feed it what are basically THC cartridges, made with either BHO, CO2 oil, or another extraction concentrate.
Bloom Farms in San Francisco is a great example of a company that produces affordable vape pens that charge via USB (one of the slickest new features being offered by companies like Bloom Farms and O.penVAPE) and can be refilled via 400 mg cartridges available in either indica or sativa.
Vape Pen Advantages
Vape pens offer several advantages over their old school joint and bowl cousins. First, there’s the health benefits of vaporizing cannabis herb or oil instead of combusting it. Second, most areas of the country have robust anti-smoking laws designed to curb and discourage the smoking of tobacco cigarettes. By vaping—regardless of what is being vaped—tokers take advantage of a technical loophole that allows them freedom of consumption where traditional smokers of cannabis or tobacco are left empty handed (and possibly facing hefty fines if they turn rogue and get tagged).
Vape pens also offer tremendous advantages for severely ill patients. Those suffering from intense pain or nausea (like people undergoing chemotherapy) can very quickly give themselves a supersized toke of relief that begins to hit them in only minutes. High-quality concentrates and reputable vape pen devices can deliver, in one vape hit, roughly the same amount of THC and other cannabinoids that would be obtained from an entire joint of mid-grade cannabis flower. All without the harmful tars and carcinogens.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention portable vape devices, commonly known as mobile vapes or pocket units. While not as small or discreet as a vape pen, mobile vapes typically offer better performance, accuracy, and reliability. They are simply more like a mini version of a desktop vaporizer. In fact, it might be easiest to consider a mobile vaporizer to be the love child of a desktop unit and a vape pen. Imagine that a Neos USB pen slept with a Volcano and had a Vapir Prima as a child.
Of course, mobile vaporizers are also considerably more expensive, ranging from about $200 to $400 for reputable models actually worth having. The Vapir Prima, pictured below, is a standout based on its high quality, ease-of-use, and five-year warranty.
In legal states, CBD-based concentrates are becoming available, many of which contain very little psychoactive THC. For child patients and those who don’t desire to get high (or who simply can’t because of their job, especially if it involves unannounced and regular drug tests), CBD concentrates and vape pens are a small medical miracle.
One example of a company catering to this concentrate-via-vape-pen market is Denver-based Neos. The company pre-decarboxylates its proprietary “EVO” oil cartridges to allow for vaporization at lower temperatures, delivering what it claims is a better terpene profile from these molecules that are notoriously volatile and prone to breaking down under heat.
Neos may be the only vape pen company to explicitly embrace the entourage effect in its marketing materials and how it preserves the cannabinoid profile. While many concentrate companies promote the pure potency of their products, Neos seems concerned with quality and user safety—achieved via the use of “state-of-the-art technology previously unavailable to the industry.”
Neos is one of the more progressive, enlightened vape pen companies on the market. Some companies take a more medical approach to their product development and advertising, while others full-on target the recreational market and boast of nothing but THC and potency. But beware: There are some totally shit products available at nearly all price ranges. Before making a purchase decision, read product reviews from trusted sources and speak with experienced colleagues and budtenders.
Vaping of any variety, be it the desktop type or via a miraculous pocketable model, is inherently cleaner and less offensive than smoking, regardless of whether one is a recreational or medical user. While tokers will always enjoy smoking, does modern technology afford the average cannabis consumer a better avenue? I know many hardcore cannabis users who are mostly vaping concentrates with vape pens.
Is this not only the new wave, but also a healthy, superior route of consumption that offers tons of convenience and doesn’t threaten to burn a hole in one’s jeans or catch the bedroom drapes on fire?
Technology is great for presenting consumers with options, and options are good. While automotive consumers once could choose from only internal combustion engine vehicles, they now also can opt for a battery electric car. Many of those who were relegated to getting their power from a local coal-burning power plant can now lease or purchase solar panels to gain energy independence.
Likewise, new technology is changing the way cannabis is cultivated, regulated, distributed, packaged, and consumed. While most of us will never fully give up on smoking marijuana and few would shy away when offered a joint of top-shelf Jack Herer or Durban Poison, the best route for one’s daily driver may not involve a Bic lighter and rolling papers or spoon-shaped glass.
Those who live in states where cannabis is legal at the recreational level obviously can much more easily be purveyors of pot, especially if they want to indulge in concentrates. By simply driving to their nearest dispensary or retail outlet—there are more in Denver than there are Starbucks and McDonald’s combined—lucky fans of the culture in these states can easily obtain the advice, equipment, and flower or concentrate with which to fill a sexy, efficient, and affordable vape pen. Intelligent, well-trained budtenders rock; those lucky enough to have access to them should leverage the opportunity to increase their knowledge while purchasing the most appropriate cannabis products.
Those residing in prohibitionist states are increasingly choosing to travel to a legal rec destination like Seattle, Portland, or Denver to get the advice and hardware necessary to discretely vape, in private or public, back in their home state.
Of course, those who must deal with black market bingo may remain somewhat frustrated because they experience shady dealers, high prices, and uncertain strains and quality. Not to mention that high-quality examples of concentrates are often simply not widely available in black markets and are often priced outside what the average patient or rec consumer can afford.
Those who have the option of traveling to a more progressive area of the country when it comes to cannabis—or who already live there—should seriously consider the best that technology has to offer and how it can both protect consumers in states where pot remains illegal and also deliver quick, potent relief to patients in need (many of whom, like us, also have jobs and families and daily commutes).
So get yourself a vape pen and pump it full of some flower, CO2 oil, or live resin. Your lungs—and your arrest record—may thank you.
All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003-2017 Gooey Rabinski. All Rights Reserved.
Gooey Rabinski is a technical writer, photographer, and compliance documentation specialist for cannabis businesses who has contributed feature articles to magazines and media outlets such as High Times, CannaBiz Journal, MERRY JANE, Emerald Magazine, Grow Magazine, Herb.co, The Kind, Skunk, Cannabis Culture, Whaxy, Heads, Weed World, Green Flower Media, Cannabis Health Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself.
He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle.