Vaping products have been around for about a decade or so as a form of nicotine replacement. While many people use them to stop smoking “analog” cigarettes, there’s another use for vape pens that is rising in popularity – vaping cannabis concentrates and dry herbs.
In an article in CBE Week in July (“Vapes Pull Away From the Pack”), BDS Analytics, one of the leading market research firms in the cannabis industry, called 2017 “the year of the vapes.” Sales for vapes took off during the latter half of 2016 in Colorado, and the trend is gaining traction during 2017. In January of this year, for example, vapes captured 32 percent of the concentrates market, according to BDS.
What are the reasons for the growing popularity of vape pens for concentrates and dry herb? Discretion is one. Another is that vaping delivers more active chemicals than smoking. Others prefer the flexibility of vaping. Whatever the reasons, vaping cannabis is quite popular.
Discretion, as it turns out, is big business. By utilizing a vape pen to vaporize concentrates, there is very little tell-tale odor. This allows people who do not want to smell as though they’ve just consumed marijuana to use it. It also allows for it to be consumed in public in places where they have yet to legalize medical or recreational marijuana with less chance of detection.
In fact, one out of three reviews on Leafly (which is a sort of Yelp of the pot world) are for vape pens. Another testament to the success of vape pens for cannabis is the story of Chris Folkerts who was selling vape pens out of the trunk of his car two years ago. Today, he has 6,000 square feet of prime real estate in central Los Angeles for his company, Grenco Science.
The CEO of OpenVape Ralph Morgan says that marijuana concentrates will be more popular than buds in the next couple of years. Orders for concentrates for vape pens rose 400 percent between 2015 and 2016.
In cannabis stores and dispensaries, 80 percent of all vape-related purchases went to cannabis oil cartridges.
Though there are dry herb vaporizers that can be used to vaporize dry cannabis flowers, the popularity of vapes lies within the concentrates. This leads us into the second reason that they have become so popular: potency.
Vaporized dry herb can be much more potent than carbonized herb from a bong or a bowl. In fact, carbonizing, a fancy word for burning with flame, can cause many of the active compounds in cannabis to go up in smoke. That is, you don’t get their benefit. Vaporizing allows them to be released without destruction, which makes vaporized cannabis much more powerful.
However, most vape pens on the market are used to vaporize concentrated cannabis oil. Marijuana flowers may contain up to 20 percent THC, but concentrates can go much, much higher. They can contain up to 90 percent THC.
With the rise of the popularity of vape pens for the consumption of marijuana concentrates, state authorities where medical marijuana is allowed have become embroiled in debate. Michigan, which allows medical marijuana, has ruled that concentrates like butane hash oil (BHO) are not allowed under their marijuana law. A recently introduced bill in California would do the same statewide. However, other states like Colorado and Washington have gone the opposite direction.
Colorado requires those who make BHO operate out of a facility that is separate from a grow operation. They require that the facility is certified by an industrial hygienist or an engineer. They are also considering limiting the THC potency to 16 percent. Washington allows dispensaries to sell concentrates, but limit individual purchases to seven grams.
Another reason that vape pens have risen in popularity is ease of use and flexibility, particularly among first-time medicinal cannabis users who might not know which strain will benefit them the most. Changing cartridges is as easy as popping the old one out and popping a new one into the device.
Dose control is another reason for their popularity. A patient can take small puffs of the vapor until they feel relief and then store it away discreetly in a pocket or a purse.
The vape pen market for cannabis concentrates has grown sharply and risen in popularity, of that there is no doubt. It is the future of the cannabis industry according to experts and industry insiders. Whether it is for the discretion, the potency, or the flexibility that vape pens allow – or a combination of all these reasons – of one thing there is no doubt: vape pens will continue to rise as a popular method for ingesting cannabis both recreationally and medically.
Photo Courtesy of Lindsey Fox