A quick how-to guide for vaping cannabis safely AND discreetly…
Some of my friends use cannabis for pain relief. They love using oil for long-lived relief, but they smoke joints occasionally for fast results, especially with ‘breakthrough’ pain. One friend has been on prescription Tramadol tablets and Fentonyl patches for years, for fibromyalgia and arthritis – but since starting cannabis oil (full-spectrum with THC, not just CBD) and occasionally smoking joints she’s STOPPED taking Tramadol and cut down the Fentonyl patches by around 50%. This is absolutely extraordinary and a huge testament to the medical efficacy of cannabis!
I wanted to help her deal with her pain without having to use old-school joints, so she isn’t inhaling actual smoke. I know smoking cannabis on its own is far less harmful than tobacco, but it’s still not great. So vaping seemed like a good way forward.
We know smoking isn’t ideal, thanks to carcinogens produced by burning plant material. Smoking cannabis is nowhere near as bad as smoking tobacco, but it’s still not *good* for us. Vaping seemed to be relatively better… until the recent medical nightmares about lung damage and comas cropped up. Okay, those do seem entirely about additives used to thin the oil to work in regular cartridges; vitamin E acetate is implicated in more than half of cases, and in Colorado, where this is legal, the ONLY case involves a black-market vape cartridge brought in from a different state. More tellingly, if the problem was THC (as some idiots have claimed), why hasn’t it always been a problem?
So it is nonsensical to blame THC itself. But on a practical front, IS there a safer way to vape cannabis? The short answer is yes, and here’s how to do it:
I have been researching how to vape cannabis oil as safely as reasonably possible, considering all the methods people recommend for turning FECO – pure cannabis oil – into thinner diluted ‘vape juice’ that works in regular vape cartridges. The answer is surprisingly simple: don’t dilute it, as that’s where the potential for harm from additives comes in. Instead, use neat, undiluted FECO in a ‘thick oil cartridge’ attached to a regular vape battery. These have slightly larger holes for the thick oil to seep through to the heating element, which means no thinners (and no flavorings, also part of the thinning recipes) are required.
Assuming you have made or obtained pure undiluted FECO (see Making Your Own Medicine for instructions on making that), here’s how to do it:
First, get yourself a suitable vape cartridge and battery…
Cartridge: Search Amazon or similar for ‘thick oil cartridge,’ and go for one with a ceramic heating element, not one with a wick; fibre wicks are better with runnier vape liquids.
Battery: The ‘510 thread’ fitting is a widespread standard for attaching a cartridge to a vape battery, so check that the cart has this connection and look for a vape battery with the same connection type. You don’t need to get a high-priced ‘mod’ battery unit or something with variable voltage controls – stick to some thing basic and inexpensive until you are sure the concept works for you. You should be able to get a thick oil cartridge, pen-style vape battery and a 510-thread USB charger for $10 (€10, £10) or so.
FECO: Use the cleanest, most thoroughly filtered FECO that you can make. I only use my ‘first wash’ oil for this: I freeze both the rough-chopped plant material and alcohol, then soak for just two minutes before straining, filtering (and filtering again) and processing to get the oil. This minimizes the amount of waxes and chlorophyll that get pulled out along with the oil, so the final result vapes more cleanly. (Afterwards I will then do a long second soak for a few hours and get as much oil again, but this is a little darker and works better as oil to ingest rather than vape.)
Filling: Heat the FECO to make it a bit runnier than its normal ‘molasses in winter’ consistency. I find a hairdryer is easier than sitting a container in hot water – be creative, but watch out for your container tipping over. Then use a narrow-ended dropper to put maybe 0.5ml (a few drops – the carts I found are all measured in metric) and leave it to sit for 15-20 minutes. That lets the oil slowly work its way into the heating elements. A hairdryer can help keep the thick oil warm if it seems reluctant to settle to the bottom of the cartridge.
This won’t produce thick, rolling clouds of vape ‘smoke’ as there’s none of what makes that possible in regular vape juice. But you’ll see a small amount of smoke-like vapor when you exhale. It will also smell a little, but of course nowhere near as much as sparking up a joint.
A fringe benefit is the relative lack of smell. You can vape fairly discreetly even in a bar, if you’re casual about it. I find it takes a few minutes to take effect rather than the ~1 minute or so of a regular joint, but it will affect you just as much. So if you prefer to be chilling at home when you blaze keep this in mind!