An e-cigarette, also known as a vaporizer or a vape pen, is an electronic device that heats up your marijuana and enables you to consume it in vapor form. Proponents claim that vaping is far healthier than smoking cannabis, and it appears as if consumers agree; the global e-cigarette market as a whole was worth over $10 billion in 2017, and is expected to grow by at least 8% per year and be worth over $23 billion by 2023, according to a report by Mordor Intelligence.
The e-cigarettes available today ensure you can consume dry herb, wax concentrate, or hash oil depending on your preference. They contain a heating element that rapidly heats the substance which produces cool vapor, rather than smoke, for you to inhale.
And while there are disposable varieties, the majority of marijuana e-cigarettes are reusable. We believe in impartiality on this website, so in this article, we look at the most pertinent pros and cons of cannabis e-cigarettes.
Advantage #1: E-Cigs (Probably) Produce Fewer Carcinogens Than Smoking
When you smoke a joint, you are potentially placing your health at risk because it causes combustion. Remember, a joint will burn at up to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit, effectively causing you to inhale tar and a multitude of carcinogens. Admittedly, you ingest far fewer bad chemicals than you would with tobacco cigarettes, but it is still far from ideal.
In contrast, a cannabis e-cigarette’s heating element typically heats whatever substance you put in it to no more than 300 or 400-degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, there is NO combustion, so the vapor you inhale contains far fewer harmful chemicals. As a bonus, you should feel less irritation in your throat as you vape, which means no coughing fits!
Advantage #2: E-Cigs Offer a More Flavorful & Potent Experience
Marijuana contains over 100 known cannabinoids and an array of terpenes and flavonoids. Terpenes are aromatic, organic hydrocarbons which are a primary ingredient of essential oils. Why? For one thing, they provide a wonderful scent and are the main reason why your marijuana strain smells so good. Well-known terpenes include Limonene, Linalool, Myrcene, and Eucalyptol.
The best-known cannabinoids are THC (responsible for the ‘high’ you experience) and CBD (which apparently has a host of medical benefits). When you smoke marijuana, the combusted smoke gases consist of 88% non-cannabinoids. In contrast, an incredible 95% of the THC and other cannabinoids in weed is absorbed in the first few seconds of inhalation when you use a cannabis e-cigarette.
There is a suggestion that terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids work together in what is known as the ‘entourage effect.’ In simple terms, they potentially offer a ‘synergistic’ effect whereby they provide users with a greater level of medical benefits than if they are consumed separately. This is why manufacturers of marijuana products are keen to state that their weed is of the ‘full-spectrum’ variety.
Advantage #3: E-Cigs are Cost Effective & Discreet
One thing about cannabis e-cigarettes that is often perceived as a disadvantage is the initial start-up cost. High-end vaporizers such as the Firefly 2 can cost you north of $300. However, there are plenty of less sophisticated reusable devices on the market for under $100, and a few available for as little as $50. And once you have the e-cigarette, you still have to purchase the weed, which is often available in oil-filled cartridge form.
However, after you have paid for the device up front, you pay for the weed, just as you would when smoking marijuana. If you are a joint fan, you still are paying for rolling papers, plus you need the expertise to roll properly in the first place! Otherwise, you have to pay for a bong or water pipe, which is usually a more expensive endeavor than purchasing a vaping device.
The most important difference is efficiency. A 2004 study* published in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, was a joint enterprise by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and the California branch of NORML. It looked at how using a vaporizer reduced the toxins in marijuana smoke, and also found that the famous Volcano Vaporizer turned 46% of weed’s THC into vapor.
In contrast, the average marijuana joint may produce as little as half that amount. In other words, you will get higher faster with a cannabis e-cigarette, which means you save money in the long-term.
Also, an e-cigarette is ideal if you fancy a “discreet” session, as an increasing number of devices are designed with discretion in mind. This includes designs that allow you to fit the device into your pocket, right down to incorporating dim LED lights. Vapor doesn’t leave a pungent odor, so you don’t have to worry about smelly clothes giving the game away.
In contrast, marijuana smoke is known for its powerful smell. While you might find that the scent of a particularly strong strain is a joy to behold, not everyone feels the same way. People can smell your weed a hundred yards away, and of course, the smoke sticks to your clothes and hair so you reek like Jack Herer after a particularly hard session.
Risk #1: Vaping is Still an Unregulated Market
The electronic cigarette industry as a whole is poorly regulated, even when you consider companies that sell these devices with nicotine-laden e-juices. The market is rife with cheap imitations, so it is entirely possible that you will pay money for a defective (or dangerous) device. There are a host of cheap e-cigarettes that combust your marijuana rather than vaporizing the THC, so you end up smoking a fancy-looking bowl!
If you purchase a device capable of vaporizing dry herb, you should be fine, because you can buy it at your local dispensary. It gets a little murkier if you buy THC oil online, though, because the online market is rampant with inaccurately-labeled products.
There are still plenty of disreputable vendors who sell you oil that has been extracted from the marijuana plant using butane or other harmful chemicals. If you purchase THC oil, make sure it has been extracted with supercritical CO2 extraction rather than harsh chemical solvents.
Risk #2: E-Cigs Could Expose Teenagers to Marijuana
This is one of the chief complaints about e-cigarettes as a whole. For instance, the FDA recently warned e-cigarette manufacturers that they had to produce plans to help fix the teenage use ‘epidemic.’ When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted its National Youth Tobacco Survey in 2016, it was shocked by the findings: over 25% of middle and high school students admitted to using e-cigarettes.
More pertinently, 9% admitted to using an e-cigarette that contained THC. If you extrapolate this data across the entire United States, it means that up to two million teenagers have vaped cannabis! Bear in mind that the study relied on the kids providing honest answers. In reality, the figure could be a LOT higher.
Although medical marijuana could have a positive effect on people, there are dangers associated with starting too early before the brain has fully developed. The long-term effects of marijuana are still unknown, although it could cause a reduction in mental acuity if used regularly over a long period.
Risk #3: There is Limited Data on the Impact of Long-Term E-Cigarette Use
Although there are numerous initial studies which suggest that vaping cannabis is safer than smoking it, there is no long-term evidence because it is such a recent phenomenon. For instance, we have no idea what happens to the compounds in cannabis when heated in an e-cigarette if they are inhaled regularly for several years.
Cannabis oils are one of the fastest-growing products in the market, and they often contain a THC content well over 50%. When it comes to researching concentrates, there isn’t enough evidence available to draw a conclusion about the level of contaminants and residues contained in these oils. For instance, researchers still don’t know how much of a solvent remains in the extract, or whether they carry dangerous pesticide levels.
As for the process of vaping itself, initial studies suggest that it has a less deleterious pulmonary effect, but again, long-term data is lacking.
Remember, you are ingesting a significant amount of THC in a short space of time; although it is unlikely to cause problems in the short-term, frequent usage over the course of several years (or decades) could result in health issues. It will take decades to reach a proper conclusion, so, for now, we suggest that you vape sensibly.
Final Thoughts on the Pros and Cons of Cannabis E-Cigarettes
There is a lot to like about e-cigarettes and the process of vaping marijuana. It seems to be a healthier alternative to smoking, it (usually) provides you with better value for money in the long-term, and it ensures you can have a quiet smoke without smelling like an ashtray. Also, most e-cigarettes are reasonably priced and are designed for easy use.
The big question mark over e-cigarettes is the lack of long-term data; there is no way of knowing the impact of vaping over a span of 20+ years, and we won’t have that evidence for a long time. Also, the market itself is poorly regulated, which means it is a case of ‘buyer beware.’ Our goal is to steer you in the right direction by providing unbiased reviews of brands and their products, along with the latest research about vaping marijuana.