Vaping 101

Over the past decade, vaping cannabis has gone from a tedious process involving an expensive tabletop device to one of the simplest, most portable, and most discrete methods of consuming the plant. The sheer volume and available vaping devices can be overwhelming and confusing for your average consumer. 

What Is Vaping?

Vaping is consuming cannabis flower or concentrate via a device like a Volcano or pen. These devices heat the cannabis to a temperature at which it vaporizes and is then inhaled. The plant or concentrate is never burned, so no smoke is produced. 

Why Do People Vape?

Cannabis enthusiasts choose to vape for many reasons, but the most common is that it produces a more intense high. The plant does not combust, so no smoke is produced, leading many to believe it’s a healthier option. The smell is also less intense than smoking flower. In fact, it can be almost nonexistent, depending on the device you use. The newest devices like pens are discreet, easy to use, and offer consistent dosing.

What Do People Vape?

Flower is the most traditional and old-school product that people vaporize. More common now is THC oil extracted from the cannabis plant through a chemical process. Relatively newer cannabis concentrates like live rosin, an oil made in a flash-freezing process, are growing in popularity.

Regardless of the type of concentrate you use, vape pens are big business. Sales of the devices, or cartridges used with the devices, are seeing double-digit growth each year. People bought more than $2.6 billion worth of them in 2021.

What Do People Vape?
Photo: Andriy Popov via 123RF

Here are three of the most popular types of vaping devices:

The Tabletop/Desktop Device

Before 2010, there was really just one way to vape: Tabletop (or desktop, depending on who you talk to) devices like The Volcano, released in 2001. These devices are comparable monsters next to the prevalent pens. And they’re expensive.

The Volcano itself is an 8-inch wide device that weighs more than 3 pounds and starts at $479.

Vaping with a tabletop device involves vaporizing dry cannabis flower through a convection heating process that can take up to six minutes. The vapor typically fills up a large bag you can inhale it from for an intense high.

Portable Dry Herb and Concentrate Vapes

Recently, technology has emerged that’s allowed for portable devices that work much the same way The Volcano works—except they’ll fit in your pocket.

Typically using either a convection or conduction heating process, these little guys quickly heat dry flower (or concentrates, like wax) to a vapor that can be inhaled discreetly.

An app typically accompanies portable dry vaporizers, allowing you to control and fine-tune the temperature at which you vape. The best will remember your favorite settings for each strain or type of product you’re consuming. 

You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $300 for a dry herb vape.

Vape Pens

Around the same time as over-the-counter nicotine vape devices like the Juul were taking off, the same technology created similar devices for cannabis. In fact, one of the most popular cannabis vape pens— like Pax—were developed by the same company as the nicotine-focused Juul.

These devices are the cheapest option and range from being designed as disposable products to high-end, thoughtfully designed devices with connected smartphone apps that, like the dry herb vapes mentioned above, allow for precise heat settings and remember your preferences.

Disposable vape pens are usually discreet and in the $25 to $50 range, depending on the brand, quality of the product, and the amount of cannabis concentrate. This can range from 35 mg to a whole gram but typically lands at half a gram. And while they’re often the choice of weed tourists and have a reputation for low quality, many now focus on terpene flavors and cannabinoid contents (CBD, CBG, etc.). Some are even made with the newer, terpene- and cannabinoid-rich concentrates like live rosin.

The most common vape pen consists of two pieces: a body (called a “battery”) that looks like a pen and a cartridge containing some sort of cannabis concentrate that screws on the top. Some pens require you to push a button before inhaling, while others turn on automatically when they detect inhalation. Most batteries are rechargeable using a USB connector.

Depending on the simplicity of the tech in the battery, they can range from $5 to hundreds of dollars. Meanwhile, the cartridges—typically 0.5 grams or a full gram— are in the $25 to $50 range, depending on the type of concentrate and quality of the ingredients.

Whether you want to go old school with a desktop conversation starter or are looking for a more discreet method to get that distinct vape high, these options will get you there.