Vapour Madness:  Preloaded vs. fill-your-own vapes

Background and Context

A lot of crazy news and misinformation has been spinning out of control about vaping lately! But that isn't unusual.  Cannabis and nicotine vaping have been lumped together for a while in Ontario.  In 2016 we closed our vapour lounge 420 Session in response to changes to the Smoke Free Ontario Act (that eventually became law) which had been amended to include cannabis smoke and vapour to be considered the same as tobacco smoke and vapour.  These changes meant in essence we were not allowed to expose our employees and customers to cannabis smoke, just like tobacco smoke, or we would face serious fines.  We received numerous visits from the Health Unit to ensure that we had closed.  The SFOA has gotten even more limiting forcing stores like ours to keep vapes hidden just like cigarettes. 

Then there were also stories like these about exploding vaporizers that would blow up while charging or even in peoples faces while using them that gained popularity in 2015.  These incidents all happened with the nicotine/e-juice style vaporizers and had to do with the lithium batteries in some way (overcharged, charged on the wrong charger, wrong battery voltage, after market batteries, improperly stored batteries, etc.).  People conflated the cannabis vapes (which had had no issues up to this point) with these exploding e-cig vapes and were afraid their cannabis vapes would blow up in their faces!  It was understandable because the media was reporting on them like they are the same.

Pre-loaded vs. Fill-your-own Vapes

Most of these products are very new to the general public.  When we first started selling accessories cannabis vaporizers were basically a soldering iron in a glass jar and now some are activated with apps.  E-cigs didn't even exist.  Over the last couple weeks we have been bombarded with scary news articles about "cannabis vaporizer deaths" like these and these.  Is it more Reefer Madness or rather, Vape Madness?  Is there any cause for concern or truth to it?  Let's separate the different vaporizer types and the hype surrounding them:


-Used with ejuice 
-Usually contain nicotine but there are some with 0 mg (for people who just want to replace the smoking feeling or like to blow fruity clouds).
-Nicotine is suspended in a vegetable glycerine or propylene glycol (which is what makes fog machines foggy).
-Possibly contain toxic thickening agents in the suspension fluid like Vitamin E (tocopheryl-acetate) oil which the CDC in the US has reported 1080 confirmed cases of severe accute respiratory distress syndrome that led to 20 deaths and was POSSIBLY linked to illegally produced and sold THC and/or nicotine cartridges. 
-Popular in helping with smoking cessation (users start with a high dose and aim to wean themselves to the lowest concentration).
-You load these yourself with little drop bottles.
-Notorious for battery explosions in units that have defective/improperly cared for lithium-ion batteries.  
-Produce giant sweet smelling fruity clouds.

Our take:  We have sold some ejuices before but are in the process of clearing them out of our inventory.  It's not really a product we want to get behind nor is it our area of expertise.  I certainly don't want to be responsible for a battery explosion.  We can appreciate that people use them to quit smoking.  Literally anything is better for you than smoking cigs.  We have NO idea what long-term side effects of these products will be (although there is news emerging about the suspension fluid).  Also, the big clouds usually look goofy and smell like blue raspberry (or root beer or whatever).  If I am one car over I definitely shouldn't smell OR taste them.  Yuck.  +1 point for harm reduction.  -5 points for basically everything else.

Pre-loaded pod-style e-cigs (like JUUL)

-Used with ejuice pods.
-Just like a regular e-cig except you load little pre-filled cartridges into a chamber instead of a raw e-liquid.
-If a regular e-cig is like a regular drip coffee maker, the JUUL is like a keurig.
-Usually contain nicotine but there are some with 0 mg (for people who just want to replace the smoking feeling or blow clouds).
-Nicotine is suspended in a vegetable glycerine or propylene glycol (which is what makes fog machines foggy).
-The JUUL is brought to you by the same people who created the PAX Vaporizer
-Popular in helping with smoking cessation (users start with a high dose and aim to wean themselves to the lowest concentration).
-No reported cases of battery explosions.
-Notoriously popular with teens (it's discrete and has fruity flavours).
-Has a much more discrete exhale scent.
-JUUL in particular is being sued by a few different parties including a few school boards and a teen who claims JUUL gave him the lungs of a 70 year old.

Our take:  Much like the other e-cigs in our inventory, we are in the process of clearing them out (with everything gone by the time we get our cannabis license).  Again, it's not really a product we want to get behind and it isn't our area of expertise but we appreciate the harm reduction factor in principal.  We have always sold them with a dash of skepticism (and always been very transparent with customers suggesting a dry herb vape--even for smoking cessation--instead).  JUUL should be getting sued--they have found a way to modernize nicotine addiction among youth.  Nicotine high is the lamest of all highs so we just don't get it.

Vaporizer Pens (like Puffco or YoCan)

-Usually open coil that gets red hot that you would put pure hash concentrate on (like shatter or wax that you would dab with). 
-Can also come in an open chamber format with a wick.
-No legal concentrates on the market yet so unless you make your own concentrates from your harvest (which we strongly advise even intermediate level growers against) you would be driven to the black market for this (until mid-January once legal products hit the shelves).
-No reported cases of battery explosions.
-At worst can be a little messy and sometimes wasteful if overloaded.
-Produces an unnoticeable scent on the exhale, very discrete.
-Long term risk of using solvent based concentrates (like BHO) is unknown, but it is thought to be low or non-existent. 

Our take:  Vape pens are like....okay.  Unless you go with a specific pen (from Puffco--that has no coil and a ceramic wick style chamber) the chambers can be very easily overloaded and most of the concentrate melts below the red hot element, and never really vaporizes (or cleans properly for that matter).  The elements also burn out, and the batteries only last a couple sessions before needing a recharge.  Concentrates are usually around $60+ per gram retail so to lose any of it really sucks.  As someone who dabs, I find them to be extremely wasteful.  In a pinch it might be okay but for me personally it is just a placebo.  If you have access to quality concentrates I would sooner recommend getting a rig (a bong used specifically for concentrates) and torch/enail and just enjoying those at home.  In fact this is the rig I use at home 95% of the time.   At least this way there is no waste and you are getting all of the dab.  When I am on the go I use a portable dry herb vape (more about those later) or just smoke joints (especially if I am going to be in a group setting--they are more social).

Pre-loaded vape pens (no legal brands in Canada yet)

-Comes as a cartridge (that usually has a window or is clear so you can see a liquid that looks like honey) that connects to a battery.
-Pure concentrate like shatter or wax is suspended in a fluid like vegetable glycerine or propylene glycol (which is what makes fog machines foggy).
-Currently available ONLY on the black market in Canada.
-Mostly disposable, although some "brands" (we use that loosely because again there are no legal brands that exist for these in Canada yet) make cartridges you can just screw onto a battery.
-No reported cases of battery explosions.
-Affiliated with cannabis vape pen deaths.
-Produces an unnoticeable scent on the exhale, very discrete.
-Possibly contains toxic thickening agents like Vitamin E (tocopheryl-acetate) oil which the CDC in the US has reported 1080 confirmed cases of severe accute respiratory distress syndrome that led to 20 deaths and was POSSIBLY linked to illegally produced and sold THC and/or nicotine cartridges. 

Our Take:  I hate pre-loaded pens--they are overpriced trash.  Pen makers--fight me.  I have tried 10 or 15 (that range in taste from chemically to ginger ale) and absolutely none got me stoned.  I have a few friends that use them that pretend they work, but I don't believe them.  They are expensive and quite frankly not worth the risk.  It isn't the cannabis that makes these potentially dangerous, it is the suspending fluid that has been linked to illness and death.  I don't like any chemical diluting my cannabis at all (its already bad enough my preferred concentrate is made with butane--which is purged out--but still).  To be clear these products won't be legally on the shelves until 2020--if you purchased them from a reservation or online dispensary you have purchased an illegally manufactured product.  I think we will see Licensed Producers have difficulty with these products and the controversy surrounding them.  I would much rather see pre-ground dry herb pods (which I am pretty sure 7 Acres will be making with PAX).

Dry herb vaporizers (Arizer Air, PAX, Volcano, etc.)

-Used with dried cannabis that has been ground up with a hand grinder.
-There are no dangerous chemicals added to the cannabis.  The cannabis is as pure as you would put into a joint.
-Have an oven that heats up the trichomes on the cannabis which creates a vapour.  
-There is no combustion and no inhalation of a crude burning product and carbon.
-Doctors recommend patients vaporize over smoking.
-You use a fraction of the cannabis that you would put in a joint and would puff on the same chamber for about the same amount of time, so they are super economical.
-Gives the purest taste of the cannabis in the first few tokes (other than puffing on an unlit joint).
-Not usable with tobacco (and a great option to help people stop mixing their cannabis with tobacco and consume cannabis pure.
-Virtually odorless on the exhale.
-No reported cases of battery explosions.
-Users can control the temperature--if its too warm or if there is any irritation the device can be turned down.
-Gets associated with all other vaporizers because legislators and the media for the most part don't understand the difference. 
-Because of the Smoke Free Ontario Act we can't SAY that dry herb vapes are the safest way to consume cannabis but you can make your own deductions.

Our take:  Yes, there is usually an initial investment when purchasing a quality vaporizer.  Because they are so efficient and use so little cannabis they usually pay for themselves in a few weeks though.  My cannabis license is for 20 grams a day.  If I were paying retail for that cannabis it would be something like $73,000+ per year to cover my prescription.  If I were smoking 20 kingsize joints I would have very little time to get much else done in a day.  In my Arizer Argo or Air (yes I have both which I love and are Canadian made), I am using about a thimble of cannabis or 0.1 grams but puffing for the same amount of time.  I can use them anywhere because they are discrete and the toke of vapour is the same density that I would get if I were puffing on a joint (but no smell of a joint).  If I get a tickle in my throat I can always turn it down a little bit and if I find the vapour isn't thick enough I can turn it up.  On my Arizer products, I can even use them while charging!  There is basically no downtime because even the mouthpieces just need to be soaked in alcohol or bong cleaner, and it comes with 2 so you can use one and soak the other.  We tend to recommend the Arizer products above all the others because we know that the functionality is best, maintenance is lowest and customers are happiest with them.  So yes, we strongly recommend dry herb vapes by a long shot, and don't want them to get caught up in the hysteria of Vapour Madness!

1 comment

Terry O'Hara

Terry O'Hara

Very informative and useful information in this newsletter!! I’m continuing to learn more and more. Thanks and well done.

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