Vaping your medication may be intriguing, but once you start researching all the different types of vaporizers, it can quickly get overwhelming. Along with being relatively easy to use, many medical cannabis patients turn to vape devices because they’re more discreet than smoking flower. Although vape pens can also be used to consume nicotine, we’ll focus on cannabis vaporizers in this article. So, what are the different types of cannabis vapes? Read on to learn more.
What are vape pens?
According to Weedmaps, a vape pen is “a handheld device consisting of a battery attached to a cartridge filled with cannabis concentrate.” Depending on the type of vaporizer you use, the cartridge can also be filled with dried flower. Since vape pens “vaporize” cannabis (rather than burn it), vaping results in vapor instead of smoke. This makes it an attractive alternative to medical cannabis patients who would like to avoid the overwhelming scent of smoke when they take their medication.
Although cannabis vaporizers are generally referred to as “vape pens” (since many devices are shaped like a pen), it’s important to note that there are several different styles and shapes of vaporizing devices. At their core, though, the majority of vaporizer devices contain the following parts:
- Battery* - Every vape pen needs a source of power, and most vape pens use a battery. Battery life varies depending on the model, and many can be recharged. One of the most common batteries is the 510 thread, compatible with many pre-filled vape cartridges.
- Tank - This is where your vape oil is stored before it’s vaporized. The tank can either be refilled or is disposable. If it’s disposable, it’s referred to as a pod. Pods can be replaced on reusable vapes.
- Atomizer - The component of your vaping device responsible for generating vapor.
- Charger* - Often located at the bottom of the device, most vape pen batteries can be recharged via USB. Most reusable models will come with their own charging cord.
- Mouthpiece - The opening where the vapor exits the device. Some vapes, especially tabletop vaporizers, have removable mouthpieces so two patients can sanitarily use the same device.
- Buttons - Not every vaporizer has a button; in some, the atomizer is activated by drawing on the device. If yours has a button, you’ll need to press it to activate the atomizer and produce vapor.
Now that you understand the concept (and basic construction) of a vape pen let’s explore the different types of cannabis vapes you’ll find in a cannabis dispensary.
*Tabletop vaporizing devices do not use batteries or chargers since they’re usually plugged directly into an outlet.
What are the different types of vaporizers?
Although there are a variety of methods by which patients vaporize cannabis, the three main ways are via vape pens, portable dry herb vaporizers, or tabletop vaporizers.
1. VAPE PENS
This type of vaporizer is designed to vaporize distillates and oils. As previously mentioned, they’re called vape pens because their shape often resembles that of a pen. Within the vape pen category are disposable and reusable vape pens. Reusable vape pens consist of a battery and a cartridge. Once the cartridge is empty, you can replace it with another one, allowing you to use the same pen and battery over and over. Disposable vape pens, also referred to as all-in-one vape pens or single-use vape pens, are intended to be used once and then discarded.
Pros of vape pens: easy to use, portable, inexpensive, low odor, ideal for small sessions
Cons of vape pens: wasteful (especially single-use vape pens), can only be used with distillate and oil cartridges, reusable devices require cleaning
2. PORTABLE DRY HERB VAPORIZERS
Ideal for those who want to avoid oils, dry herb vaporizers do just that -- they vaporize dry herb or flower. Some models even allow medical cannabis patients to vaporize badder, budder, and shatter in addition to flower. Before you purchase a portable vaporizer, consider how you’d like to consume cannabis and find one that matches your needs. Although portable vaporizers tend to produce more of a cannabis scent than vape pens, they produce less aroma than traditional consumption methods.
Pros of portable vaporizers: reusable, more flexibility to use whatever flower/concentrates you want, portable
Cons of portable vaporizers: stronger scent than vape pens, can be expensive
3. TABLETOP VAPORIZERS
Tabletop vaporizers are intended for home use since they require a solid surface upon which to sit, hence the name. They come in many varieties, but virtually all of them use a temperature dial to regulate temperature and have a heating chamber, heating element, and a mouthpiece attachment. Some tabletop vaporizers use a bag to create vapor (many claim this is their preferred way to consume cannabis since the vapor is scentless), while others use a long tube similar to hookah.
Pros of tabletop vaporizers: Durable (can last for 15+ years with proper care), very precise temperature control, removable mouthpieces
Cons of tabletop vaporizers: Not portable, has a learning curve, can be very expensive
Things to know when buying a vape pen
If you’ve decided to purchase a vape pen before investing in a more costly portable dry herb vaporizer or tabletop vaporizer, that’s a great idea. This way, you can determine if vaping is right for you before investing in an expensive (and more permanent) smoking device. Before you purchase a vape pen, there are a few important things to keep in mind:
- Buy vape pens from licensed brands and trusted retailers only. (This goes for ALL cannabis products!)
- Consider available features and compare them to your needs.
- Read reviews and/or speak with other medical cannabis patients for their opinions.
- Carefully read product packaging for directions on use, maintenance, etc.
When in doubt, speak with your certifying doctor or a professional budtender for more information. Curious about other ways to consume your medication? Check out our article on vapes, edibles, and tinctures.