Cannabis has grown up quite a bit in recent years, ever since entrepreneurs in the United States set their minds to creating products that appeal to adults who need to medicate discreetly. Vaporization is the new craze taking over the cannabis industry, as it uses less cannabis, is better for your health and doesn’t leave that lingering, unmistakable odor of burnt cannabis. Vaporization of medicinal cannabis is nothing new, but there are a few new developments set to make profound changes to how people consume cannabis as medicine.
The Herbal Vape
The herbal cannabis vaporizer has been around for at least 30 years and works by gently heating cannabis to around 200˚F, until the active ingredients become vapors without the harmful compounds that are created by burning cannabis. Vaporization is more efficient because in smoked cannabis, a lot of the active ingredients are burnt before your body can use them. Vaporizer users need less than half the medicine than those who smoke it. As well, more of the pleasant-smelling terpenes and other compounds in cannabis can be tasted.
The Portable Vaporizer
Thanks to improvements to battery technology and manufacturing, portable vaporizers let you take the high-quality vapor of the large desktop versions on the go. The only downfall is having to charge the batteries, load new cannabis and get rid of spent cannabis, which can be a real hassle when away from home.
The Oil Pen
The next breakthrough in cannabis consumption is the oil pen. Patients, care providers and compassion clubs have been developing methods of extracting high-quality cannabis oil from their resinous plants. The oil can then be loaded into an electronic device with a coil that heats up to vaporize the oil.
The issue with this method is that often the oil is created using solvents such as butane, hexane, alcohol or other organic solvents. The liquid solution of solvent and plant extract is then heated or subjected to a vacuum to remove the solvents, leaving a sticky, clear, sometimes solid plant extract that can be as high as 90% THC.
These solvents are great at removing the oils from the plant, but the product is often left with trace amounts of the solvent, which can be hazardous to human health over time, not to mention the process can be dangerous when done at home. The other issue is that it can be a messy, sticky business trying to get the oil into the pen, which can be nearly solid at room temperature. Pre-filled oil pen cartridges have had a big impact on cannabis distribution and consumption.
Some thoughtful patients have adapted e-cigarette technology to be used as a cannabis delivery device with a bit of at-home ingenuity. Simply soaking a mixture of heated cannabis, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin in a crockpot can produce a tincture that can be used in a standard, refillable e-pen. It does not make the most potent tincture, unless you ingest a few milliliters of it, and the medicating experience is discreet, easy and enjoyable.
New products are now on the market that use e-cigarette technology with only high-quality, CO2-extracted oils. Known as oil cartridges, these somewhat disposable cartridges with rechargeable battery units come with strain and potency labels. Made from solvent-free CO2 oil, all the negative points of current smoking and vaping methods go away.
The Future of Vaping
The biggest development in vaping technology is that the active ingredients in cannabis can now be extracted in the form of an oil that can then be loaded into vape pens. New industrial methods of extracting plant ingredients, such as supercritical CO2 extraction, are revolutionizing the extraction process. Supercritical CO2 extraction uses huge machinery and is expensive, but is the most efficient and safest way to produce the potent extracts the medicinal community needs.
The emergence of CO2 extraction has created highly potent, safe and consistent oils that can then be loaded into vape cartridges and sold to the public. The pens are sensitive to the pressure change when the user inhales and turn on automatically, so there is no button to press. You don’t have to know how to roll a joint, or how to program a vaporizer, just inhale from this device to get your medicine.
I believe the portable, pre-filled oil pen has the most potential to reach the cannabis-naïve masses and help those who suffer from the stigma associated with its use to avoid scrutiny from others. People who would never have considered cannabis as medication may think twice about conventional forms of treatment such as opiates and choose cannabis instead.