Vape the planet

Ditch the disposable vaporizer pen. Refillable vapes are easy-to-use and an environmental win-win.

illustration by kate mitrano

People love their vape pens. Convenient, discreet and easier on the throat and lungs than smoking a joint or a pipe, vaporizers are pushing sales of cannabis concentrates to new heights.

In 2018, vape cartridges accounted for 58 percent of all cannabis concentrate sales, according to Forbes. Clearly, many people see vaporizers as the modern way to use cannabis. No more seeds and stems, no fumbling around with grinders and papers. Just grab your pen, press a button and boom! Instant nirvana.

Disposable vaporizers do have some problems, though. First, there is a very small chance that the pen may explode. Most people can agree that faces and explosions are not a good mix. Also, many vapes are failing lab tests in California due to high lead content from the heating element. And disposable cartridges are not the most environmentally sensitive or sustainable product in the marketplace. Yes, there are a few dispensaries that have cartridge recycling programs, but these programs are rare.

So what to do?

Fortunately, there are many companies that make great and easy-to-use refillable vaporizers. In the early days of vapor technology, “portable” vapes were unwieldy, cumbersome and needed to be recharged seemingly every 10 minutes, kinda like early cellular phones. But just like cell phones, these new vapes are small, simple to use and the battery lasts all day. Some of them even have their own apps.

When choosing a new refillable vape, a consumer should look for a few different things. A variable temperature heating element is almost a necessity. Instead of burning the plant material, a vaporizer heats all the essential oils in the plant (the terpenes and the THC) until they reach their vapor point and can be inhaled. Because different terpenes have different vapor points, the optimal temperature for proper vaping is a matter of much debate in the cannabis community.

The DaVinci IQ is an expensive device (a little less than $300, ouch), but it is known for having a great temperature range. Plus, you can download an app on your phone that will help you fine-tune your device.

If you like to vape both flowers and concentrates, you will want a vape that has options. Most vapes these days come with two different refillable pods: one for flowers and one for dabs. The challenge, of course, is that cannabis concentrates are kind of sticky and viscous, and it can be a royal pain-in-the-you-know-what to fill your pod without making a mess.

Don’t worry, after a little practice you will be able to refill your pods in a trice. Some of the new portable dabbers such as the Dipstick Dipper double as both a vape and a “honey dipper"—you can place the tip of the pen smack dab (heh) in the middle of your concentrate jar, and the heating element will vaporize the concentrate as you inhale. The Dipper is a nice touch, but it can be a drag to clean if you let it get all gunked up. If you have a lot of money and you really, really like dabs, the Puffco Peak SmartRig may be the way to go. It’s not really portable (it’s about the size of a small bong), but it heats up quickly, is easy to clean and delivers great hits.

My favorite portable vape, though, is still the PAX—easy to hide, fairly easy to refill and very easy to use. The PAX 3 is most likely the best all-around vape on the market right now. And, yes, it also has a phone app that will help you get your preferences dialed in just right.

But those aren’t the only pens on the market. The internet is full of sites that will sell you all manner of vape pen, whether your budget is $50 or $500. Ask your friends, do a little research and find the refillable vape device that bests suits your lifestyle and personality.

Yes, the upfront cost may be a little steep, but you will save money (disposable cartridges cost way more than concentrates in a jar) after a while and maybe even help save the planet in the long run. That’s a win-win.