pen vaporizer user
(Last Updated On: April 16, 2015)

Mention of cannabis usually prompts thoughts of smoking joints among friends or private social groups. But all that is changing as the legalization of recreational marijuana use sweeps across more states in the country, giving pot dispensaries opportunities to offer different forms of cannabis concentrates and edibles. And, as connoisseurs, we couldn’t be more excited with the growing options.

And for those in the medical perspective, these relatively new ways of consuming medical marijuana has never been more than welcome. Of course, with recreational pot legalized, those that seek the therapeutic benefits of weed can do so without the inconvenience of prescriptions anymore.

Before we round up how marijuana is best consumed for that optimum effect to your health, here’s a closer look at the definition of medical marijuana. Plus, a list of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s FDA’s approved medications.

What “Medical Marijuana” Means

[Tweet “Marijuana is hugely beneficial when used correctly for medicinal purposes” – Dr. Mehmet Oz”]

Previous definitions of medical cannabis generally refer to the unprocessed marijuana plant or its  raw derivatives. Although the FDA had not previously recognized the herb for medicinal purposes,  new discoveries of the benefits of cannabinoids have resulted in FDA-approved drugs that focus on  the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids without the harmful side effects otherwise associated with  consuming unprocessed marijuana or its extracts.

 Today, there are already a number of FDA-approved drugs that target particular physical  conditions ranging from headache to seizures. The drug Dronabinol (Marinol®), for example, is  used to treat nausea brought about by chemotherapy and AIDS-related wasting disease (known for extreme weight loss). In the UK and in a number of countries in Europe, Sativex®, a drug that contains both THC and CBD, has been approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) complications, particularly muscle stiffness.

While more pharmaceutical companies seek approval for new cannabis-derived drugs, one might ask why the FDA has not approved the raw marijuana plant material as medicine in itself. The answer lies on the rigorous requirements set by the government agency prior to approval of any drug. One mandatory requirement is that those who seek approval should conduct large-scale studies usually involving thousands of patients. And to date, research of such magnitude has yet to materialize.

Even so, medical professionals across more than 20 states where medical cannabis is legalized continue to prescribe the use of marijuana for health reasons. This means that the positive effects of using pot have become undeniably obvious, supported by the stories and testimonies spoken by thousands of patients across the country.

Even celebrities are now joining the bandwagon in using and promoting the use of medical marijuana. American comedian Whoopi Goldberg, in her The Cannabist column, wrote, “I used to take Advil by the handful for this very reason, and I don’t take Advil anymore — not for my eye. You’re not supposed to eat Advil every day, and I was eating them every day, these man-made things. But I can do this without hurting myself.” And this fairly makes sense, given the all-natural compounds found in weed.

In an interview with Dr. Mehmet Oz on CNN’s Larry King Live, Dr. Oz, who now publicly supports medical cannabis, said, “…I think most of us have come around to the believe that marijuana is hugely beneficial when used correctly for medicinal purposes.” So, even medical professionals are now coming to a realization, based on anecdotes and growing body of research, that marijuana is indeed a potentially potent source of drugs that could treat various physical ailments.

How to Use Medical Marijuana

Well, at Smokazon, we don’t necessarily constrict the definition of medical cannabis to those drugs from large pharmaceutical companies. As long as you follow the guidelines set by your state, you should be fine with the natural, unprocessed cannabis leaves or flowers, and even the more potent concentrates. So, here are the ways that you, the connoisseur, can take advantage of the benefits of weed.

Smoking Cannabis

Although not very popular among health professionals because of its possible health risks, smoking marijuana from a pipe, bong, or joint still proves very popular because of the instant effects of THC and cannabinoids from the herb. In fact, it only takes less than three minutes to experience that “high” because the respiratory system readily absorbs and introduces these compounds in the bloodstream when inhaled. Perhaps the greatest advantage of instantly experiencing these effects is knowing your dosage or tolerance, helping you decide just went to stop or keep going.

And just recently, more scientific and commercialized way of producing these cannabis products would mean specific and consistent dosage for each unit of the cannabis product sold.

But unfortunately, smoking pot is the least thing we recommend because of the presence of toxins produced when burning plant materials. There are, however, no long-term studies yet that could link smoking marijuana to the diseases commonly associated with smoking tobacco. One reason is the difficulty in finding subjects with a long history of smoking only pot. In other words, most individuals who smoke tobacco also use joints, making it difficult for researchers to single out the effects of marijuana smoke alone.

Although THC and cannabinoids are not carcinogenic — and on the contrary may help treat cancer — there have been studies that suggest the presence of carbon monoxide, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, tar and acetaldehyde, among many others harmful chemicals also found in tobacco smoke. One type of toxin, hydrogen cyanide, could result in rapid breathing, dizziness, headache, restlessness, vomiting, convulsions, loss of consciousness and erratic blood pressure. Higher doses could result in death. In fact the Germans used this poisonous gas as a weapon of mass destruction during World War II.

So if you wish to use cannabis for medical reasons, smoking should be the last option if there are other means. But to date, no long-term research has ever been done to show whether the effects of marijuana smoke outweighs the benefits of cannabis in the long run.

Pros:

  • Instant effects (2-5 minutes after inhalation)
  • Cheaper to prepare. With joints,just roll your favorite herbs with a piece of paper and smoke it.

Cons:

  • Presence of toxic compounds because of combustion.
  • Strong marijuana odor especially in enclosed spaces such as apartments

So, how do we inhale all the healthy goodness without the cancer-causing compounds? The answer is vaping or the use of vaporizers.

Vaporizing Dry Cannabis Leaves/Flowers

Well, vaporizers are exactly the reason why we’re here. Yes, we at Smokazon.com recognize the countless numbers of benefits of medical marijuana. And what better ways to take advantage of these then by using vaporizers?

Vaping devices work by making use of internal heating element to raise the temperature of the herb to a level that’s hot enough to vaporize the active compounds, but not too hot to ignite the material and produce smoke. As we now know, different vaporizer categories feature different heating mechanisms, yet the same goal of vaporization is the end result.

For example, pen-style vaporizers, the most popular category of vaping devices because of their lightweight and compact design, make use of heating coils that usually directly come in contact with the dry herbs or concentrates inside. This form of vaping, however, is more likely to cause some level of combustion because the coils can reach well beyond the burning point of plant materials. But while this has been an issue for the health-conscious, others find the combustion a bonus because of the more intense “highs” with every draw.

If you still wish to go for pen-style designs and yet prefer to inhale pure vapors medical reasons, we recommend the Atmos Boss dry herb vaporizer pen. The heating element of the Boss is designed not to come in contact with the dry flowers, and the chamber itself is enclosed so that no combustion takes places as you vape.

On the other hand, larger portable or desktop vaporizers offer more room for advanced features like temperature control settings and more efficient heating elements that make use of hot air to vaporize herbs. This convection form of heating the materials does away with combustion, thus giving off pure, clean and healthier vapors.

A good example of a true portable vaporizer is the Arizer Solo, which features a ceramic heating element for pure and cleaner vapors. Inside the chamber, herbs do not come in direct contact with the heat source. Instead, heated air vaporizes the herbs, doing away with combustion. The Arizer Solo sports seven temperature options, which means any beginner can start vaping at low heat setting, gradually increasing it as tolerance increases.

If you prefer the non-portable desktop models because of their greater vaping power and the more intense vapors they exude, the Volcano Vaporizer  always tops our list — that is, if price is not an issue. With a large chamber, you can pack in more of the medical cannabis and set the temperature with an accuracy of one degree Celsius. Also, the Volcano’s forced-air heating system makes use of internal fans to force the vapors out, allowing easier draw and making it possible to use a balloon, an inflatable plastic bag that you can fill with vapor and carry with you anywhere inside your home. Talk about semi-portability.

Pros:

  • Instant effects (2-5 minutes after inhalation)
  • Healthier alternative to smoking because of the absence of toxic substances otherwise present in smoke.
  • Lesser marijuana odor because of the absence of combustion.
  • Some models are designed to support dry herbs and concentrates for greater functionality.
  • Portable models immediately function with the press of a button. No more lighting up.
  • Easier to choose the dosage.

Cons:

  • Some vaporizers can be expensive
  • For vape pens or portables, recharging means getting connected to an outlet for hours.

Vaporizing Concentrates

If there’s one good thing about using concentrates such as hash, kief, budder oil and other concentrates, it’s getting more with less. These concentrates have been processed to contain much more THC and other cannabinoids for every gram. So obviously, you’d need only a few dabs or drops of your favorite concentrate to achieve the same effects with a few more grams of dry weed. Depending on the quality of the concentrate, one hit of its vapor is equivalent to about four to six hits of dry herb vapor.

To avoid leaking problems, choose oil vaporizers that feature oil cartridges with wicks inside. However, for waxes, exposed heating coils work best. So usually, dry herb vaporizers also work with budder or any harder or more solid concentrates.

For wax and dry herbs in one, we recommend the Atmos R2 vaporizer. The anodized heating element makes it possible to use either dry flowers or wax. And for oils or e-juices, the SToK and the Atmos Optimus vaporizers are the most popular choices because of their high quality and excellent vapor quality, plus their simple, user-friendly design.

Pros: 

  • Cleaner to use. No need for grinders and no mess.
  • Concentrates vaporizer pens are generally cheaper than dry-herb vaporizers
  • Instant effects (2-5 minutes after inhalation)
  • Healthier alternative to smoking because of the absence of toxic substances otherwise present in smoke.
  • Lesser marijuana odor because of the absence of combustion.
  • Portable models immediately function with the press of a button. No more lighting up.
  • Easier to choose the dosage.

Cons:

  • For vape pens or portables, recharging means getting connected to an outlet for hours.
  • The thick vapors could mean limited areas where you can freely vape, especially in public.

Cannabis Edibles

Despite the advantages of vaporizing cannabis, there are health enthusiasts who still prefer edibles, or what are known as food infused with marijuana. So instead of inhaling THC and cannabinoids, one would introduce cannabis to the body through the digestive tract by eating food that contains these therapeutic compounds. Unlike in healing THC directly, it first goes through the liver and is converted into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is more potent and can induce more relaxing sensation. This particular sedative effect is ideal for those diagnosed with insomnia, or for people who suffer other sleep disorders or chronic physical pain.

The most common edibles are cookies, brownies and candies because these treats make use of butter or oil infused with cannabis. Because THC and other cannabinoids are fat soluble, these compounds easily mix with butter, forming what we call “cannabutter.” So any food with butter as the main ingredient would likely be a marijuana-infused edible. Then there salads that make use of oil (with dissolved cannabinoids) as the dressing.

So, how do edibles compare with smoking or vaporizing weed?

With edibles, the effects come in slow, taking about 45 to 90 minutes to set in and lasting from six to 10 hours. So, what does this mean for you? If you prefer ingesting your medical cannabis with salads, brownies, cakes or candies, make sure you know the amount of marijuana used per serving of your favorite food. Remember, long before the first effects kick in, you could have consumed more THC than you can handle, and it would be too late before realizing your dosage.

Fortunately, there is no lethal dosage of any known cannabinoid. It is because there are no cannabinoid receptors in the human brain stem, that part responsible for the most essential body functions such as breathing. But overdose of THC does have extremely nauseating effects. Impaired motor coordination, vomiting, dizziness or extreme lethargy are just some symptoms of large dosage of cannabinoids.

To counter this challenge, get to know the source of the edibles to be constantly certain of the THC dosage. Or, better yet, create your own salad or brownies so you’d have control over how much marijuana to use.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of using edibles is the absence if possible byproducts brought about by smoking. All you get are the cannabinoids and nutrients as they are. But if you are a little impatient for the effects to take place, edibles might not be for you. And that one good reason for eating cannabis infused food is when your underlying medical problem is internal. Now, what about external conditions such as skin cancer?

Pros:

  • Zero toxic chemicals otherwise present from combustion.
  • Can be eaten anywhere without raising suspicion of the food’s THC content. Ideal when travelling especially in places where publicly consuming cannabis is illegal.
  • Longer lasting effects mean you won’t have to take further dosages of your cannabis more frequently. Effects may last the entire night or day.

Cons:

  • Delayed effects (45 minutes to 1.5 hours), which means it is harder to estimate your dosage and might inadvertently ingest more than you intended.
  • Not suited for those who need instant relief or desired effects.
  • Along with the cannabinoids are the additional calories and sugar in candies, brownies and salads.
  • Edibles are easily confused with ordinary food, especially when these are not kept away from children’s reach.

Cannabis Tinctures

You might not have heard of cannabis tinctures, but such easy-to-use product has been around since the 1800’s. During those early years, many pharmaceutical companies produced cannabis tinctures because of the growing demand.

To create a marijuana tincture, cannabis plant is mixed with alcohol to dissolve the fat-soluble cannabinoids. The end product may be used as drops that, when placed under your tongue, would easily be absorbed in your bloodstream to achieve the desired effects within minutes. That’s comparable with smoking or vaporizing marijuana, only that no inhalation of vapor takes place.

You can also add cannabis tinctures to your food or drink and expect the same effects as when ingesting edibles. So, the THC will undergo the same digestive process and be converted to the more potent 11-hydroxy-THC and takes time for the effects to kick in. Yet the relief experienced will last for hours, just like the effects brought about by edibles.

And just like marijuana-infused food, it might take a few tries to get your dosage especially when combining the tincture with food. Also, make sure to store your cannabis tincture in airtight container because the volatile alcohol will evaporate faster when left exposed to air. And as the amount of alcohol diminishes, the concentrations of the cannabinoids increase in each drop.

Pros: 

  • Zero toxic chemicals otherwise present from combustion.
  • When added to food, the longer lasting effects mean you won’t have to take further dosages of your cannabis more frequently. Effects may last the entire night or day.
  • No additional calories, unless added to food.
  • Because of its special packaging, cannabis tincture is not easily confused with every day food or drink.
  • You can choose to add a few drops right under your tongue for faster effects. Or, add the tincture to food for longer lasting results.
  • Does not look suspicious and can be taken anywhere without raising suspicions.
  • Because the cannabinoids and THC are not inhaled, there is lesser chance for throat and lung irritation.

Cons:

  • Not for patients who do not prefer alcohol as the carrier of the cannabinoid compounds.
  • The experience of directly ingesting the tincture through the tongue might offer unpleasant taste.
  • Because alcohol evaporates easily, concentrations of THC gradually increase per drop of the tincture. Hence, the need for proper precaution.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to using medical cannabis, you have the freedom to choose which route of ingestion is best for you, both in terms of efficiency and convenience. Of course, pleasure is also one factor you can’t ignore. After all, while most pharmaceutical medicines leave a bitter taste, why not enjoy every draw of marijuana vapor? Or, how about savor the taste of your favorite salad, cookie or brownie?

The wonderful medical benefits of marijuana are just beginning to emerge as medical and recreational cannabis becomes legalized in more states. So, we expect to see more diversity when it comes to using medical cannabis. Traditionalists may stick to joints and bongs, while for the health conscious and purists, the use of vaporizers, edibles or tinctures.

Whatever your choice, what’s important is that the end result — the therapeutic benefits of marijuana — should far outweigh the negative side effects, if any, and that safety is not compromised. Of course, choose the one that gives you the greatest pleasure too!

Written by Donald Evans