Q&A: Is dry vaping cannabis or hemp flower better than smoking it?

Most of us recognize instinctively that inhaling burnt plant matter, of any kind, is not the best thing for our lungs. That's why so many people were using the Juul and other vaping devices. But in the summer of 2019, after people started getting sick and even dying due to vaping-related conditions, a lot of vapers started looking for another option.

And there is another option. If you are interested in immediate access to the medical benefits of cannabis or CBD (and other cannabinoids, including CBG), and you would like to avoid inhaling smoke and / or the carrier liquids in vape juice or e-liquid, then dry vaping cannabis flower may be an alternative.

Q: Is vaping dry cannabis flower safer than smoking?

People have inhaled smoke (tobacco as well as cannabis) for centuries, and we know that inhaling burnt plant matter can cause diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer. Inhaling the steam from heated plant material is different. Most dry vaporizers heat to 330 to 370°F (165-187°C). At these temperatures, there is no combustion, nor release of carcinogenic chemicals. You are inhaling warm air that’s been pulled over the plant, without the plant matter being incinerated.

Q: How does a dry herb vaporizer work?

Dry vaping cannabis requires a vaporizer that’s designed for that purpose (rather than blowing billowing clouds of vaporized e-juice). Dry vaping is pretty simple:

  • First you put some cannabis flower into the chamber of the vaporizer. Vaporizers have different designs, but in addition to the chamber and a rechargeable battery, they will also have a heating element and a mouthpiece.
  • Once the unit is turned on and heated up, you place your lips on the mouthpiece and draw in your breath.
  • This pulls heated air over the cannabis, converting the resins on the cannabis flower into a steam or vapor that you inhale.

Q: At what temperature should I be dry vaping my herb?

Temperature matters when you're dry vaping.

Terpenes, the aromatic compounds that give cannabis its distinctive flavor and smell, will vaporize at different temperatures. Many vaporizers allow you to control the temperature of the vapor. In this way, when you dry vape cannabis flower, you have more control over the terpenes you’ll be inhaling. Most cannabis vaporizers heat to 330 to 370°F (165-187°C).

With some research, (see chart) you can discover the variable temperatures at which the various terpenes convert to vapor, and adjust the heat of your vaporizer according to the terpene profile you’re after.

Q: Do I need to prepare the cannabis flower before I place it in the vaporizer?

You’ll need to clean your cannabis to separate the stems and seeds, just as you would if you were going to smoke it in a pipe or joint. Grinding the flower will expose more of the resins to the hot air, making for a more efficient extraction process — and allowing you to get more out of your cannabis.

Q: Do you need a special vaporizer to vape dry cannabis?

Yes, you will need a vaporizer that’s designed for dry vaping. There are tabletop models such as the Volcano, and many portable units that are more convenient and discreet.

Q: Does dry vaping cannabis flower irritate your lungs as much as smoking?

You’ll have to try it, but in my experience, the vapor you get from a dry herb vaporizer is mild and flavorful, compared to the burnt taste of inhaled smoke. Dry vaping does not produce the cough impulse I so often get when inhaling smoke. And you’re really only pulling a bit of steam through your lungs; don’t expect the billowing clouds that e-juice vapers are producing.

Q: Do you get a ‘clearer” high from dry vaping cannabis?

The effects of cannabis can be subjective; if you want to objectively measure your cannabis experience, there’s a lot of value in tracking your use.

In my experience, the effects of dry vaping cannabis are milder than smoking it. I dry vaped an indica strain and it gave me an energetic lift, with none of the anxiousness or paranoia. I tried it at different temperatures, and definitely got different flavors, from piney and citrus-like at low temps (320 to 330 F) to grassy at about 380 F.

Q: How much does a dry vaporizer cost?

MIQROAs with most things, you can pay a little less, and get a lesser model, and overpay and get something really deluxe. Good-quality vaporizers are available for less than $120. One that we’ve tried and like is the DaVinci MIQRO. It’s solidly built and it fits in your pocket, and at this writing, it's on sale for $99. 

The Atomic9 from Cloudious9 is also a nice little powerhouse of a vaporizer, for only $59.99.

Q: Can I dry vape CBD and other hemp?

You certainly can dry vape high-CBD cultivars for immediate relief. There are also high-CBG cultivars now available, and you can expect to see more of these coming onto the market as demand for this form of medicinal hemp grows.

Q: If you grow your own cannabis, is dry vaping the ultimate ‘farm-to-table' way to consume?

If consuming organically grown plants is important to you, you might want to dry vape cannabis flower. When you dry vape cannabis that you’ve grown yourself, you can be confident it doesn’t include pesticides, for instance. There are other vaporizers that let you vape concentrates or oils. With some work, you could make your own THC or CBD concentrate, otherwise you’ll have to purchase it, and trust that it’s high-quality and does not include additives that you don’t want to inhale.

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