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There's no one perfect way to enjoy cannabis, but vaping has many upsides 

click to enlarge DARRIN HARRIS FRISBY/DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE PHOTO
  • Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance photo

A few years back, I was gifted my first vaporizer pen. The subtle metallic cylinder held a charge and a threaded cartridge like a champ. We were often inseparable, finding the perfect level of medicating while not worrying about air raiding my immediate location with a pungent stink.

And with the proliferation of concentrate cartridges, vaping seems to be the option for enthusiasts on the go. No longer do you have to worry about packing a kit or finding paper. You can forget about steadying your hands to a surgeon's composure when dealing with waxes or oils.

For the unfamiliar, a serviceable and perfectly good vape will run you about $20, often offering you anywhere between one to three heating temperatures, which affects the harshness of each hit. You'll need to buy the cartridge along with the pen, which come in at 1 gram and range anywhere from $40-$100.

At this point, most, if not all, concentrates are strain-specific, allowing you to peruse cartridges like you would a farms' flowers. Knowing the profile of terpenes and cannabinoids makes vaporizing even harder to pass up. You'll be able to get a distinct experience to match your potentially active and on-the-go pace.

Similar to the e-cigarette movement, there are still health concerns with using vaporizers for heating up weed. Inhaling anything heated up is less than ideal, but the real danger is in the additives that concentrates can often contain. Concentrate companies have used thinning agents to optimize the performance of cannabis oils. Those thinning agents can turn into harmful carbonyl compounds when heated.

And Washington state allows companies to add food-grade flavorings and chemicals to their cartridges. These additives have had minimal testing to see if there are any health effects when heated and inhaled, and Washington does not require concentrate makers to label any of these additives on their products.

When in doubt, prospective buyers should note if a concentrate has an artificial flavoring to make the hit taste exceptionally sweet (like candy) or if their vape plumes are exaggeratedly big. And it never hurts to ask a budtender, who should be well versed in the farms that source their product.

And still, the research that has been conducted on comparing the two forms of getting high has shown there are still many benefits to heating over combustion. If you can find as minimally altered a product as possible, your lungs and respiratory system will thank you. ♦

The original print version of this article was headlined "The Case for Vaping"

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