Vaping Basics

If you live in an urban area, you probably can’t walk more than a couple blocks without coming across someone vaping. Usually it’s some type of e-cigarette.

Vaping cannabis is also becoming an increasingly popular method of administration. Vaping cannabis allows you to 1) avoid the combustion process of smoking marijuana, 2) consume more highly concentrated cannabis oil and 3) feel the effects of cannabis more quickly than ingesting or eating cannabis.

For new cannabis consumers, we strongly recommend consuming cannabis in low doses (5mg or less of THC per dose) via an ingestible or edible form of administration. However, when cannabis is consumed via ingestible or edible form of administration, it can take up to two hours to fell the full effect.

As you gain more experience using cannabis and find that you need a faster rate of onset, you may want to consider vaping cannabis. When vaping, it is more difficult to control your dose and the wide array of options available can be overwhelming.

Here are some of the basics so you can make the choice that’s best for you.

Benefits and Risks

The primary benefit for vaping over smoking cannabis is the difference in what you’re really inhaling. When smoking cannabis, the combustion process releases tar and carcinogens, similar to smoking cigarettes. Vaping, however, heats the substance below combustion levels, avoiding these harmful side effects. You’re inhaling the steam that has been pulled from the heating of the plant, and nothing else – as long as there are no chemical additives.

This is the key when deciding what and how to vape. The main advantage vaping has over smoking is that it should be safer. If you are using manufactured cartridges, learn what you can about the company’s extraction process and if there are any additives. Even chemicals used in the extraction process can linger in the resulting oil that you’re inhaling. This means your cannabis oil might also contain artificial flavor additives, or even ethanol, ammonia, or pesticides.

Understand each chemical and additive involved in the product you’re considering purchasing. Most importantly, learn what temperature range each of these are safe to heat to before they become carcinogenic, and make sure your vaporizer doesn’t exceed that temperature.

Portable Vaporizers vs. Vape Pens

The most popular and convenient ways to vape are with portable vaporizers and vape pens. Both have the same core components: the battery (some are rechargeable), the atomizer which heats the substance, the chamber that contains the substance (dry herb, concentrate, or oil, depending on what the chamber is suited for), and the mouth piece that you inhale through.


Portable vaporizers tend to be a bit bigger and more expensive, but more advanced. Depending on the vaporizer, they allow you to vape your choice of dry cannabis flower or concentrated cannabis oil, or both. The PAX 3, for example, let’s you use either dry flower or concentrate, choose your temperature setting, and (with regular charging and cleaning) can be used for years.

Vape pens, on the other hand, are a smaller and simpler option. Most are disposable or designed to be used with manufactured cannabis oil cartridges. For sustainability, look for pens with rechargeable batteries or companies that recycle their used disposable pens. Do your research to make sure any manufactured cartridge/pre-filled pens you’re considering don’t have any dangerous chemical used in the extraction process or added into the oil.

Getting Started

Now that you know the basics of how vaporizers work, it’s time to decide which one is right for you. If you want total control of what you’re inhaling, a vaporizer that let’s you use your own plant, oil, or concentrate might be right for you. For more controlled dosing, pre-filled cartridges might be better for you, since they usually have an estimate of how much THC/CBD is in each puff. As with any new product or method of administration, always start low and slow, and read labels closely! Look for whole plant extractions as well, which will give you the full spectrum benefits of cannabis, including terpenes.

Check out our review page of vape pens to see what we have to say about the vaporizers we’ve tried.