Vape High vs. Smoke High: What’s the Difference?

What characterizes a vaporizer high? How much of a difference is there between a vaporizer high and the high from a joint or bong? How different are various vaporizers on the market as to the high they produce? How much does the temperature setting on a vaporizer matter to the quality and character of the high? Let’s find out!

When a person starts vaping, it is like entering a whole new world of cannabis consumption. The experience of vaping varies depending on the vaporizer, and is very different than smoking. Plus, there are virtually endless possibilities when it comes to choosing a vaporizer and the kind of thing you want to put inside a vaporizer (buds or extracts?).

Let’s have a look at the different kinds of vaporizers on the market, and how vaping produces a different effect to smoking a joint or bong. Even though smoking and vaporizing are both inhalation methods, they are almost completely different ways to consume cannabis in terms of their effects.

Vaping gives a clearer high

There are many discussions about these and other questions concerning the vaporizer high. After reading various online threads from a number of cannabis websites, I would say that there is at least one thing almost every vaporizer user agrees on: the vaporizer high is much ‘clearer’ than the high from cannabis smoked in a bong, pipe, or joint.

Going from my own experiences and from reports of many other users, a ‘clear’ high is a high that leaves you cognitively more functional; there are less short-term memory disruptions, you are not losing the thread so often when talking about a certain subject, and you feel less disoriented and confused.

One reason for this is presumably the absence of various toxins otherwise created by burning cannabis at high temperatures. On top of this, if cannabis is mixed with tobacco for smoking, the addition of nicotine to the mix might contribute to a less clear high. This was investigated in one study, where hippocampal capacity was decreased in those who combined nicotine with THC.

But the clarity of the vaporizer high compared to highs from burning cannabis cannot only be explained by the absence of some toxins. At least 113 different cannabinoids have been identified, and over 480 active compounds in total have been identified. A single cannabis specimen may contain any number of these compounds, although it is not known how different strains or varieties differ from each other in this regard.

Terpenes especially are responsible not only for the distinct aroma of a strain, but also have an important influence on the high. If we want to understand the character of vaporizer highs better, we first need to look at the different boiling points of some of the relevant cannabinoids.

THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), known to give you a more heady, cerebral, energetic high, already boils at 157ºC (314.6 ºF). CBN (cannabinol), an oxidation breakdown product, which is known to be sedative and to generate a more confusing, disorienting high, boils at 185 ºC (365 ºF). CBD (cannabidiol), now getting famous for its medical value boils between 160-180 ºC. The cannabinoid THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin), known to act as a euphoriant as well as being analgesic, boils at 220 ºC (428 ºF). For the sake of brevity I’ll leave it at that; but there are other multiple other cannabinoids that we know have an influence on the high.

Now, given that vaporizers can be set to different temperatures ranging from as low as 130 ºC all the way to 200 ºC and more, one might expect that they can produce a range of markedly different highs at different temperatures.

Vaporizer technology and user experiences

Attention should be paid to the use of “precision vaporizers”. If we want to evaluate experiential reports about vaporizers, we have to look very closely at what kind of vaporizers have been used to generate a high. Markus Storz, the inventor of the German Volcano vaporizer, presumably the best precision vaporizer in the world, explained to me in a personal interview:

“Vaporizers which are heating up only the chamber, but don’t heat up the incoming air to vaporizing temperature cannot consistently heat up the plant material.”

Many experimental reports from users of vaporizers with an inferior heating technology must be considered with care. While most vaporizers presumably still deliver a much better, cleaner high than that coming from a joint or bong, users of many inferior vaporizers do not get the precision temperature control to really optimize their vaping experience. Then, their experiential reports somewhat taint the reputation of vaporizing, as their experience wasn’t as good as it could have been.

And there are other factors we have to keep in mind when evaluating personal reports about the vaporizer high from users. Many users have smoked joints for a long time before using vaporizers, mostly made of low-quality black market cannabis mixed with inferior cigarette tobacco. They tend to equate the ‘real’ high with the resulting effects of burned, inferior cannabis and bad tobacco– which are usually more disruptive, disorienting, sedating, and mess with their short-term memory.

Often, these users are initially disappointed with the vaporizer high from pure cannabis because they miss a certain nicotine kick from the tobacco, or because they actually have been seeking out only a ‘mind-crippling’- effect which helps with sedation and forgetting the strains of their day.

I’ve talked to many users who told me they seek a state of mind in which they simply get a body stone relaxation coupled with a high that cripples their mind, messes with their short-term memory, so that they can get relief from their daily stress, mentally and physically. A clearer high coming from a precision vaporizer set to a lower temperature usually does not give them that. Many of those users do not even recognize the altered state of mind coming from a vaporizer as a real high, because it’s not as mind-crippling as what they’re used to.

When we look at discussions about the vaporizer high in various internet forums we also have to keep in mind that many users receive their cannabis from the black market. Therefore, they often do not know exactly which strain they are buying, under which conditions it has been produced and stored, and what the cannabinoid profile of their material is. Briefly, then, many of the critical reports about vaporizer highs are based on the bias towards smoking joints.

Many opinions are based on consumers using bad quality cannabis with vaporizers which do not really allow for a precise temperature control, and many user reports are influenced by their bias from smoking cannabis. This also explains the many contradictory reports from users. Choosing a good, precision vaporizer that it is available thanks to modern technology, can mitigate many of these inferior experiences.

Precision vaporizers and the future of cannabis research

When we look at the various cannabinoids and their boiling points, we can certainly make some rough predictions about the systematic influences of a vaporizer on the character of a high.

Temperatures higher than 185 ºC (365 ºF) will, for instance, produce more CBN vapour, which is known to produce a more sedative, confusing effect. A vaporizer high will always strongly depend not only on a certain strain and its cannabinoid and terpene profile, but also on the exact temperature at which it is vaped. Essentially, the vaporizer chosen affects the high just as much as the strain of cannabis.

This sounds like a futile enterprise for nerdy high aficionados. But to answer these questions will help millions of users to experience the potential of cannabis in a more meaningful and inspiring way.

Many people use the cannabis high to better remember long gone events, to work creatively, to find new patterns in music or art, to better appreciate nature, to get in touch with their feelings and have a better introspective access to themselves, to enhance their empathic understanding of others, to make love, to generate great and life changing insights and to personally grow. 

Many of those users are on a voyage, exploring a new world, and the use of marijuana can be crucially important for their lives – and the lives of everybody around them. They may profit greatly from understanding how the various cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids affect a high.

Naturally, medical patients will immensely profit from this development, too. For them, other questions play a bigger role: at what temperature should I vape what strain to get the best analgesic properties while staying mentally functional? At what temperature should I vape my strain to get relief from my neuropathic pain without getting tired during the day?

Precision vaporizers are magnificent tools for researching the psychoactive properties of the various cannabinoids and terpenes, and we are certainly only at the very beginning when it comes to understanding these substances and their psychoactive and medical potential.

Terpenes and flavonoids affect the high

Many plants (and some insects) produce terpenoids for a whole variety of reasons. When ingested, terpenes have a wide range of effects such as anti-oxidant, analgesic, anti-microbial, anti-carcinogenic, muscle relaxant, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, sedative, psychoactive in various ways, and have various other effects. Plants also sometimes use terpenes to defend themselves against pests and herbivores:

“Many plants that rely on animals to disperse their seeds must limit feeding rather than kill the animal directly because it might lose a valuable seed carrier. Lipids (…) perform this function. The most interesting lipids are terpenes, which have a strong aromatic flavor. For example, myristicin, found in nutmeg and many other spices, prevents animals from seasoning their diet too heavily with those plants. If taken in sufficient quantities, myristicin causes dizziness and loss of motor coordination.”

Like the various cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids are biosynthesized and humans have found various medical and culinary uses for them. The distinctive terpene profile of a certain strain importantly contributes, and – in addition to the cannabinoid profile – defines the character of the high coming from that strain. The boiling points of terpenoids (when dried and cured, terpenes turn into terpenoids) are also distributed over a whole range of temperatures.

Myrcene, the most prevalent terpene found in marijuana has clove-like, earthy, citrus, mango and minty nuances, boils between 166-168ºC (330-334 ºF) and is said to be analgesic  and anti-inflammatory.

D-limonene boils at 177 ºC (350 ºF) and has hints of citrus fruits, rosemary, juniper and peppermint. It is anti-bacterial, repulsive for predators and is found in many rinds of fruits and flowers. It can also be anti-carcinogenic and anti-depressant.

The sedative terpineol-4-OL boils only at 209 ºC (408 ºF) and has hints of lilac, citrus, apple blossoms and lime. The flavonoid apigenin boils at 178 ºC and is believed to have anxiolytic properties.

This short list should illustrate that we do not only have to look at dozens of cannabinoids, but also at a whole variety of terpenes and flavonoids, as well as their respective boiling points, to understand the effects of vaped cannabis.

Also, vaporizers do not burn terpenes and can therefore bring out their full aromatic potential. You will not only get a different high from that of burned cannabis, but also a richer, fuller flavour profile. Your high will be positively affected by a distinctive sensual aromatic experience. When you drink a 30-year old Port Ellen whisky, your consciousness is not only affected by the alcohol in your beverage. The complex aromatic experience opens up your mind, makes you sensitive, and lets you go on a sensuous trip. Users of vaporizers can have more of this aficionado component in their use, especially when vaping cannabis at lower temperatures.

Vaporizing: A whole new way to consume cannabis

Precision vaporizers offer new dimensions in exploring the mind-altering potential of cannabis. A cannabis high is the result of the effect of dozens of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, which all have different boiling points and therefore vaporize at different temperatures. Many of the critical generalizations about vaporizer highs that can be found in forums are biased and are reported by those used to smoking. The truth is that vaporizers can optimise the cannabis experience and personalise it as different temperatures are chosen.

In the next years, our knowledge about the psychoactive role of the various cannabinoids and terpenes is expected to grow. Knowledge in medical dispensaries in the USA is already exceptional and growing fast. I hope that users will soon have access to higher quality cannabis to enjoy its effects in precision vaporizers. Vaporizing, when done correctly, can assist many users on a new, much more profound journey with medicinal cannabis.

  • Disclaimer:
    Laws and regulations regarding cannabis use differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.


8 thoughts on “Vape High vs. Smoke High: What’s the Difference?”

  1. Who smokes joins with tobacco mixed in them? That’s crazy talk! This article was awesome though.

    1. Once I was hanging out in portand with a bunch of street kids and this weird israeli tourist. He passed around a joint, and we were all hacking like crazy. Once thoroughly stoned and lost all social quams one of the kids asked “whats wrong with this joint?!”

      Apparently “spliffs” are pretty common in some parts of the world. But we had about the same reaction.

      Anyway, I’m glad that the guy had a good time with “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight AMERICAN HIPPIES!”. We later saw the guy in Colorado at the Steamboat Rainbow Gathering exactly as we were packing out after heat from The Fuzz got a little too intense. Crazy coincidences.

  2. When I look at vaporizers, I feel overwhelmed by all the choices. I bought a cheap one (still, over $100) a few years ago that turned out to be a waste of money, and don’t want to make that mistake again. At the same time, I can’t afford to drop $500 on one of these hardcore models. How precise can I get for less?

    I’m not just looking for reviews, I’ve Googled reviews, but I need advice that’s a little more specific to someone who has no idea where to start. Can anyone help narrow it down for me?

    1. Flowemate V 5.0 Pro

      Probably this answer comes many years too late but still I want to tell any futur readers of this comment that I’m using the Flowermate V 5.0 which only costs about a hundred € and I am a big fan

  3. Very good article,

    I got alot of good information from it.

    If you have time could you write a article about using others herds(Black Papper, Mint …) to create a uniqui effect when vaporizing with canabis.

    Thanks you very much

  4. vapes for weed

    Ex client work and i appreciate your information about the vapes for weed it’s good work.

  5. “Many opinions are based on consumers using bad quality cannabis with vaporizers which do not really allow for a precise temperature control, and many user reports are influenced by their bias from smoking cannabis. This also explains the many contradictory reports from users. Choosing a good, precision vaporizer that it is available thanks to modern technology, can mitigate many of these inferior experiences.”

    This, so much! Also, be open minded and don’t think that the confused high is the only way of being high.

    Godd job in this article! Very informative and complete 🙂

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    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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    Sanjai Sinha

    Dr Sanjai Sinha is an academic faculty member at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. He spends his time seeing patients, teaching residents and medical students, and doing health services research. He enjoys patient education and practicing evidence-based medicine. His strong interest in medical review comes from these passions.
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