Vaporizer Highs, Part I

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?


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?

A Clearer High

The Storz&Bickel precision vaporizer „Plenty“
The Storz&Bickel precision vaporizer „Plenty“

There are many discussions about these and other question 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 coming from burnt cannabis smoked either from a bong, pipe, or from a joint with tobacco. 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 loosing the thread so often when talking about a certain subject, 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. If cannabis is heated beyond 200 ºC (392 ºF), some unwanted substances are produced:

“(…) traceable amounts of benzene are found in the vapor mist. Benzene contributes to couch lock (…) [1]

But the clarity of the vaporizer high compared to highs from burning cannabis cannot only be explained by the absence of some toxins. A cannabis plant contains around 80 cannabinoids. It also contains more than 120 terpenes and more than 20 flavonoids, which 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) 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 for various purposes (anxiolytic, analgesic, antipsychotic, antispasmotic, etc.) 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 cannabinoids which 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 to 200 ºC and more, it should be clear that they can produce a range of markedly different highs at different temperatures. Many experienced users of vaporizers agree with the following statement by Steve Davis that lower vape temperatures leave you with a more cerebral, uplifting, euphoriant high:

“(…) when you have a precision vaporizer, you can set the temperature so it only produces THC. The magic is, THC vaporizes after you hit about 305 degrees Fahrenheit but other cannabinoids don’t vaporize (and won’t be delivered into your lungs) unless you set the vaporizer to approximately 380-415 degrees Fahrenheit. So no matter what marijuana strain you have, if you only want to experience THC effects, you dial 305-320º F. You only get vaporized THC, and you avoid CBD and CBN completely.”[2]

Vaporizer technology and user experiences

Note the important qualification in Davis’ statement, who is talking about “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 known 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 have to 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 let them join a grown up discussion about the differences of a high coming from a certain strain produced with a vaporizer at 160ºC (320 ºF) or 180ºC (356 ºF).

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 messing with their short-term memory. Often, these users are initially disappointed by 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 have 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 they are not used to being so cognitively functional.

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 and, therefore, often do not know exactly what 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 anecdotal reports about vaporizer highs and generalizations about how using a vaporizer affects the high in a systematic way have to be considered with care and are presumably wrong. Many opinions are based on consumers using bad quality marijuana with vaporizers which do not really allow for a precise temperature control, and many user reports are influenced by their bias from smoking marijuana. This also explains the many contradictory reports from users. In part II, we will therefore take a closer view at an approach to better research vaporizer highs in the future and how to produce valuable insights into the diverse effects of the many cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids in cannabis.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Alexander Martin (2012), “Tailoring Your High: Compunds in Cannabis, Properties and Boiling Points”, http://www.weedist.com/2012/07/tailoring-high-compounds-in-cannabis-properties-boiling-points/
  2. Steve Davis (2014) „Marihuana Vaporizer: Your Way to Incredible New Marihuana Highs“, http://bigbudsmag.com/grow/article/Marihuana-vaporizers-thc-cbd-cbn-vaping

Comment Section

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Mr. C

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

07/11/2014

sk

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.

04/10/2016

Felipe

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

10/11/2014

vapes for weed

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

03/05/2017

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