Posted on April 23 2019
People have been smoking cannabis for quite some time. In fact, cannabis is recorded for its therapeutic value in ancient texts across many cultures, including as an ancient Indian, Chinese, and Nordic medicine. Over time, though, many of the things about cannabis have changed. For instance, strains are now being cultivated for their therapeutic value. Now, consumers and medicinal users have more opportunity than ever to find a strain that is cultivated to fit their needs.
Along with making cannabis stronger and more effective for medicinal users, we’ve also found new ways to consume cannabis. You can find cannabis-infused candy, high-potency oils and wax, THC-filled capsules, and even whole-plant lotions. Many people still prefer the age-old method of smoking cannabis flower, but a new consumption method may be opening cannabis users up to a new world of product.
Vaping cannabis has become especially popular in recent years, both for medicinal and recreational purposes. Vaping and smoking cannabis have many similarities, but there are quite a few differences that set them apart. If you’re a new user looking for an effective consumption method or a seasoned smoker looking for alternatives, vaping cannabis may be the best next step for you.
Effects and Therapeutic Value of Vaping vs Smoking Cannabis
In general, the effects of smoking cannabis and vaping cannabis are identical. When using traditional smoking methods, called combustion, the THC is activated by heat and then inhaled into the lungs. From there, the THC (and other cannabinoids) make their way into the bloodstream through the many blood vessels in the lungs. Then, the cannabinoids find their way to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and major organs. When vaping cannabis, the THC is still heated with the vaping mechanism, just at low enough temperatures to avoid combustion. The vapor is inhaled into the lungs, and THC molecules enter the bloodstream the same way.
When using whole plant cannabis or THC, whether vaping or smoking, you will experience the psychoactive effects frequently referred to as a “weed high.” For most, these effects are mild, lightly euphoric, and either relaxing or stimulating (depending on the strain used). The effects of smoking should take effect quickly, in about 10-20 minutes. Vaping may be slightly quicker, with effects starting about 5-10 minutes after the first dose.
The effects of both methods have a similar duration which depends on the dose used, and the user’s metabolism, health conditions, weight, tolerance, and more. For many, the effects of vaping and smoking both last anywhere from 2-4 hours, with higher doses resulting in euphoric effects that can last 5-6 hours.
The therapeutic or medicinal value of THC and other cannabinoids is what usually drives users to smoke cannabis. There has been some buzz about vaping increasing the bioavailability and efficacy of cannabis when compared to smoking, but studies show no real difference in the therapeutic value between the two. Instead, vaping cannabis may be more frequently recommended than smoking because it potentially reduces health risks.
Risks Associated with Smoking and Vaping THC
As with smoking any substance, there are potential risks to lung health when smoking cannabis. When cannabis is heated to the point of combustion, it results in the release of certain dangerous chemicals and carbon monoxide. A study from 2001 shows that switching to a vaping mechanism reduced the intake of potentially carcinogenic chemicals found in cannabis smoke. There seems to be a general acceptance for the idea that vaping reduces risk and may lower the impact on lung health when compared to smoking cannabis.
However, the research regarding vaping is limited. Many health activists actively warn users about the potential harms of certain vaping ingredients, like propylene glycol (PG), a chemical found in many processed foods and antifreeze. Luckily, high-quality cannabis manufacturers tend to avoid such ingredients and prefer organic formulations instead. More research is needed to determine if vaping cannabis is any safer than smoking it, but still vaping carries many benefits that make it attractive to regular cannabis users.
Price of Smoking vs Vaping Cannabis
The price point is one promising difference that often puts vaping in the lead. The price of cannabis flower (in legal markets) varies by location and can cost anywhere from $7-$20 a gram. The price of cannabis vape cartridges vary, too, and may be anywhere from $20-$50 each. Buying the necessary equipment for vaping (which is often only a one time purchase) may add extra costs (approximately $20-$100, depending on the equipment you choose). However, vaping cannabis offers an efficiency you won’t get with smoking dry bud.
When cannabis is smoked or vaporized, only a small amount of the total THC content makes it into the bloodstream. The amount of cannabis that is utilized is believed to be much higher when vaping vs smoking. In fact, studies show that vaping cannabis may allow you to utilize almost half of the available THC content. Compared to smoking, this amount is much higher.
When cannabis is combusted, up to 20% of the THC content is destroyed on contact with the flame. From there, some of it is inhaled, and another sizeable portion is wasted din smoke runoff. The same study shows that utilization of THC in dry bud can often fall below 25% when smoking. Vaping cannabis may be more costly on the front end but often saves money by increasing efficiency and preventing waste.
The Convenience Factor of Vaping
There is one thing that definitely sets vaping and smoking cannabis apart: portability and discretion. Smoking cannabis is still popular, and many people are more comfortable with the traditional route. However, smoking often requires a variety of tools and supplies, including bud, a lighter, and papers or a smoking piece. Sometimes, tools will be required to maintain your smoking piece, too. Plus, smoking cannabis creates a distinct, undeniable smell that makes it difficult to smoke discreetly.
On the other hand, vaping cannabis only requires the vape cartridge and vape battery (which screw together into one handy piece). Plus, vaping cannabis is much more discreet, as the smell is mild and often masked with the scent of the flavor you chose.While it’s debatable if vaping cannabis produces stronger effects or has any health benefits compared to smoking, there are still many undeniable benefits to choosing a cannabis vape. If you’re interested in trying a THC vape for yourself, you can shop for vape carts online. If you’ve decided vaping isn’t your style but still want to save money on cannabis, you may be interested in reading “Cannabis Tips: How to Preserve Weed.”