Vaporizing cannabis, raw flower and oil, has grown in popularity in recent years and for good reason. Vaping is portable, the potency is stronger, and vaporizers are generally easy to use. It’s also very discrete, with some devices resembling small USB drives and many can be confused for a pen. Vaporizing also doesn’t produce the tell-tale smell of burnt marijuana flower, although there can be a faint odor of cannabis, depending on the vaping device and method.
Why vaping doesn’t smell like marijuana is in the science of how each method delivers a high. Through a process called decarboxylation, heat applied to raw flower alters the precursor tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) into the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). But raw flower also contains many other organic compounds, many of which, like terpenes, are also altered during combustion and responsible for burnt marijuana’s distinctive odor.
Vaporizing cannabis oil works a little differently. Vaporizers heat up oils and concentrates to a temperature that converts THCA to THC without burning it. Flower vapes also designed to heat up buds only enough to initiate the chemistry that makes the high happen.
For as stealth as vaping is, it is not without some drawbacks. Cannabis oils and concentrates tend to be produced for maximum THC concentration, oftentimes by refining and then distilling inexpensive weed trim. Marijuana flowers have hundreds of compounds besides THC that work together to produce a high unique to smoking flower. This however is changing as concentrate producers are creating “full spectrum” oils that include terpenes, as well as cannabinoids besides THC, such as CBD.
Another drawback are counterfeit vape cartridges and devices. Vape batteries contain batteries that can explode or cause a fire if it’s left in a high temperature area, like a locked car, or it’s exposed to air or water. Some malfunction due to poor quality. Counterfeit cartridges can contain harmful chemicals, or little to no cannabis in it. Cheaply made carts can also malfunction or leak, making whatever oil is left wasted and unusable.
Being able to conveniently and discreetly get high with a vape is great, made all the better, consistent, and trouble-free when manufacturer’s instructions are followed and you consume responsibility.