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If you live in one of the 29 states (or Washington D.C.) that have legalized either recreational or medical marijuana, it’s likely you’ve been asked the question, “Do you even vape, bro?” Smoking weed through the use of vaporized marijuana is one of the safest and least smoky ways to get high. But even if you’re, like, so down, you have to know how to vape weed properly.
By heating cannabis below burning point (451°F), tokers can enjoy the physical and medical benefits of the herb, without the bronchial irritants and carcinogens traditionally found weed smoke. Vaping also saves you money in the long run. One study, conducted by California NORML, found that “vaporizers could convert 46 percent of available THC into vapor, whereas the average marijuana joint converted less than 25 percent of THC.”
But there’s one major downside to vaping pot: There’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using actual vaporizers. So, for the first couple of tries, it may feel like you’re just inhaling air—especially if you’re unsure of how to use your vaping device. If you’re curious, or you just picked up a new vape, there are ways you can get the most out of your high. Here’s everything you need to know about vaping weed.
How to vape weed like a pro
Toking with a tabletop vaporizer
Tabletop vapes are the OG method to getting high on vapor. They’re not really portable and must be plugged into a wall. However, temperature control (which allows different terpenes to release and change your experience) and a focus on flavor make them popular with their fans. Be warned: Tabletop vapes are pretty expensive, ranging from $150-$600 and beyond.
There are two types of desktop vaporizers: whip-style and forced-air vapes. We’ll focus on whip-style for now. These type of vapes typically have a hose (that resembles a whip), a loading chamber, and a mouthpiece. The whip tube carries the vapor from your device to your mouth.
If you’re just starting out, you may want to look into Da Buddha. At $190, it’s a whip vape and easy to use.
- Get your weed. Make sure it’s fresh—not freshly harvested, but not years old. You’ll also need to make sure that it’s dry to the touch and free of moisture.
- Grind your herb into a fine consistency using a grinder. This helps increase its surface area for vaporizing. Tip: Make sure to grind only as much that can fit into a single chamber, because leftover ground-up weed dries out super fast.
- Plug in and turn on your vape. This will warm up the heating element and could take a couple of minutes, so be patient. Only move onto the next step once it’s hot and ready.
- Check the temperature. The general rule of thumb is that you should vape weed somewhere between 356-410°F. You’ll have to consult your device’s user manual in case the dial or temperature settings have their own (1-10 level) scale, and find out what degrees those numbers correlate to.
- Load your ground flower into the vape by packing the wand (or loading chamber) tightly with your weed.
- Insert your packed loading chamber inside the heating element and inhale slowly. Warm vapor should fill the tube as you suck in.
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How to vape weed with forced-air vaporizers
Forced-air vaporizers work differently as they have a built-in fan. They’re great for vaping with friends since they provide massive hits. The fan blows vapor out into either a whip or a detachable balloon. The Volcano is the most famous of these vaporizers, but there are many comparable ones on the market.
Steps 1-4 are exactly the same with these types of vapes as they are for tabletops, but for Step 5, you may find yourself packing a loading chamber at the base of where you’ll eventually put your balloon bag. Here are the additional steps you’ll need to take to smoke a forced-air vape:
- Make sure to turn your air on. Most forced-air style vapes have a button that can be flipped to turn on the fan. Now’s a good time to do this.
- Snap your balloon bag into place. Now, the bag should be filling with vapor quickly. Fill the bag as much as you’d desire. Vapor will hold its strength and flavor for about 10 minutes, so only fill up what you need.
- Once the bag is filled to your desired size, turn off the air and snap off the balloon.
- Add your mouthpiece to the bag. Sometimes this piece doubles as the cap for the loading chamber on certain devices. Now you’re ready to inhale!
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Getting high with a portable vape
Portable vapes are incredibly popular and completely stealthy. Sometimes they even purposefully resemble USB drives or even asthma inhalers for maximum stealth. Most portable vapes come in two varieties: oil and plant-based, meaning you can pack the flower directly into the pen. Let’s focus on the latter first. The most popular and most luxe-feeling portable flower vape is the Pax. Here’s how to pack it, and other similar vaporizers.
- Plug it in. Many portable vapes will come pre-charged, but some won’t and you’re going to want a full charge on the go. One of the most awesome things about portable vapes is that many come with a USB adaptor so you can plug them straight into your laptop and watch them juice up.
- Do a dry run. If this vape is straight out of the box, you’ll want to turn it on without anything in it, to get rid of that factory smell, dust, or any other weird first-time nonsense that could be in it. To do this, turn it to its highest setting for 30-90 seconds.
- Remove the loading chamber. Grind your weed and pack it. When you’re done, put the loading chamber back in its place.
- Begin inhaling to activate the vaporizer. Pull your lips away when you’ve had enough. Some vapes turn on with a push button, and if yours has one, do that before inhaling. Keep going until you’re high AF.
Oil vape pens work similarly to their plant-based cousins. Instead of smoking ground nugs, you’ll be taking hits of cannabis extract. Lots of pens are actually completely disposable and come with oil pre-loaded. Others require you to keep the base but buy replaceable oil cartridges. This could not be easier. Once your first cartridge is done, unscrew it, throw it away, and screw on a new one. Pretty easy. You’ll have to make sure to check that the cartridge is compatible with your vape, so we recommend bringing your pen base to the dispensary.
It may look easy, but there are some tricks to getting the most out of your inhale while vaping. Unlike traditional smoking, using a bong or a hookah pipe, vaping actually requires less effort. There’s a mantra within the vaping world to “start low and go slow,” and that’s the best advice. Fill your chamber with less than you’d normally put in a pipe since your body isn’t used to how powerful vaping can be. And when you inhale, sip your mouthpiece slowly, like a fine whiskey.
For beginners, we recommend pushing the vapors into just your mouth and throat. For more advanced tokers, let the vapors fill your lungs and try to hold it a second for maximum effect. When you exhale, you can take your time. Since traditional weed smoking often results in a burning sensation in the throat, most people are used to getting the smoke out ASAP. But with vaping, it’s nice to exhale confidently and fully! After all, your day’s about to get a lot better.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Claire Downs is a tech reporter who covers the intersection of the internet and pop culture. A third-generation worker in the Chicago futures industry, she specializes in cryptocurrencies and altcoins. Her work can also be seen in Cosmopolitan, Vice Motherboard, VH1.com, and Merry Jane.