Holy bowl

One patient’s search for the perfect vaporizer

The Iolite vaporizer vapes in your mouth, not in your hand—but looks like a cellphone.

The Iolite vaporizer vapes in your mouth, not in your hand—but looks like a cellphone.

Tokie Bowles is a medical-cannabis patient writing under a pseudonym

It began in Oakland with Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee. I’d visited the pot mogul back in summer 2009—before Proposition 19 transformed him into medical-cannabis’ public enemy No. 1—when he invited me to Oaksterdam’s “student union,” a once-blighted storefront now turned into a den of pool tables, bongs and even a dispensary in the back. Lee proceeded to roll a joint, but I medicated for the first time using the so-called “Cadillac of vaporizers”: the Volcano.

The Volcano looks like it sounds: mountain-shaped base, about the size of a basketball, that’s connected to a plastic bag. Load the machine with ground cannabis, set the digital temperature, hit the button and boom—the bag fills with vaporized THC.

It’s by far the world’s best vaporizer, a medical-grade device. But, at nearly $700 retail, it’s by no means affordable for most patients. Not to mention that you can’t take it on the go. And do you really want a fake mountain with a plastic bag attached to it decorating your living room?

And so began my quest for the world’s most affordable, efficient and portable vaporizer.

Why a vaporizer, you ask? Well, consuming medical cannabis via vapor can be a lot healthier on the mouth, throat and lungs than smoke; you get all the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without consuming combusted materials. Sounds smart, right? I thought so.

First purchase was Vaporbrothers, a small wood box with a glass vaporizing device inside and a plastic whip for delivery. It takes a while for it to warm up, and it’s both difficult to clean and not all that portable; for $160 it’s a decent entry-level device, but one that perhaps might cause more frustration than satisfaction.

Next, the Magic Box ($99): a hand-held, matchbox-sized, battery-operated vaporizer manufactured by hippies in San Diego. Upside: a good, clean vapor “hit” with a decent-sized bowl. Downside: recharging batteries all the time—they go dead after about three minutes. Batteries, batteries, batteries: kind of a downer.

Perhaps the Vapor Genie ($60), a small, pipelike vaporizer with a bowl encased in a ceramic chamber, would satisfy? You heat the Genie with a normal Bic lighter to create a nice vapor hit. But sometimes there’s a mild butane aftertaste, in addition to occasional smoky hits. Oh, and it can be a pain to clean.

And just when I was about to give up, the Iolite ($129) came into my life. Manufactured by the Irish—the Irish!—the Iolite is a palm-sized, butane-powered portable device that delivers a consistently clean personal vaporizer hit on the go or at home. It’s efficient in its cannabis use, is easy to clean and hardly emits any pot odors.

Some complain that the medicated effects of vaporizing aren’t on par with smoking, but I disagree: the smooth high, a mellow “creeper,” can be a nice change from that sudden bong-hit rush. In fact, gonna partake in the Iolite right about now …