The art of vaping

A great cannabis experience starts with quality vape products

illustration by kate mitrano

Many cannabis users prefer vaping for its convenience and discretion, while others get frustrated with the apparatus and its relatively new way of “smoking” and toss it into a junk drawer.

Yet, compared to pipes or pre-rolls, vaping offers the user strong cannabis oil in a simple delivery device that doesn’t burn, and won’t stink up the room as its smoke dissipates fairly quickly.

For Forrest Heise, dispensary director at Green Solutions in Midtown Sacramento, vaping is not only accessible, but he also says that it’s one method of consumption that is much easier on the lungs.

“The portability and sheer ease of use make vapes ideal for medicating throughout the day,” Heise adds.

But, whether you swear by the vape, gave it up altogether in allegiance to flowers, or are simply curious and want to try its method, these useful tips can significantly improve the overall experience.

Better batteries

Cannabis cartridges, called “carts,” attach to a battery that heats the oil and delivers a hit. Many cartridge manufacturers oftentimes design batteries customized for their specific product using built-in, rechargeable power units. The device typically has a single heat setting and activates by the touch of a button, or by inhaling. It doesn’t overheat the oil, and is a good choice for infrequent users.

But to sample different brands of cartridges, universal batteries work best because they accept any cartridge with a 510 thread and come in cylindrical “pen” or rectangular “concealed” styles. Some have multiple power settings.

A common question among those with a desire to vape is: Do the batteries catch fire? The answer: yes and no.

“The hardware is of a much higher caliber than it was a few years ago,” Heise said. He adds that because their power usage is so low, the pen- and palm-style versions rarely cause problems.

Higher-voltage “mod” units with replaceable batteries, however, can short-circuit and catch fire, according to Jordan Cho, a sales associate at Hella Glass, a smoke shop on Fulton Avenue in Sacramento.

To be safe, he suggests spacing out use and putting down any battery when it gets warm. Manufacturers also warn against getting batteries wet, charging them overnight or using chargers designed for other electronics.

Quality cartridges

Lower quality plastic cartridges can leak, and the plastic may affect the oil’s flavor. Glass cartridges don’t have these issues. The most common cart tip is flat on the end, with a small hole to lengthen one’s draw and reduce over-inhaling. Cylindrical style tips sometimes have a larger hole, which can deliver a more substantial hit.

Co2 oil vs. BHO

Co2 oil is better than BHO, which is better than distillate. Distillates are highly refined oils made from the entire cannabis plant. Flavor terpenes lost in the processing are replaced with flavor additives. Thinners such as propylene glycol or coconut oil are then added. Distillates are inexpensive, make lots of vapor and come in exotic flavors. But when heated to 230 F, these additives are capable of producing formaldehyde, according to a 2017 study by the Medical Marijuana Research Institute in Tempe, Arizona. Butane Hash Oil, or BHO, is made with butane, which is thoroughly purged in a final rinse. The best BHOs rely on the quality of the rinse, so buy only tested products from reputable manufacturers. Co2 cannabis oils are made using supercritical extraction (sc-CO2), a safe process similarly used in decaffeinating coffee. Co2 oils are solvent-free, additive-free and retain the plant’s signature terpene flavors.

Won’t hit? Fiddle with it

Ever get a headache trying so hard to inhale a hit from a clogged vape pen? It might not be clogged. Unscrew the cart a bit and it often starts to draw again. Sometimes, the cart’s bottom isn’t connecting to the battery’s hot spot. Store cartridges upright and clean the connections with isopropyl alcohol. If a tip is clogged, run a pin through the holes. If the cart is cold, warm it under a desk lamp or in the sun for a few minutes.

(This story has been amended from the version that appeared in print.)