There is no debate within the scientific or medical communities regarding the harm reduction and overall safety profile that is inherent in the vaporization of loose-leaf (“dry herb”) cannabis flower with regard to other types of inhalation — most notably, smoking. This fact regarding loose-leaf vaporization, however, can easily be misconstrued or misinterpreted by laypeople and experts alike for a variety of reasons.
“Cannabis ‘vaporization’ is a technique aimed at suppressing irritating respiratory toxins by heating cannabis to a temperature where active cannabinoid vapors form, but below the point of combustion where smoke and associated toxins are produced,” reported a peer-reviewed research study published in 2006.
Too often, patients and wellness professionals assume that all loose-leaf vaporizers are safe or “harm reducing,” posing fewer physical threats than the smoking of the herb. This is, unfortunately, untrue. Inferior quality hardware, tainted or contaminated cannabis (containing mold, mildew, fungi, or pesticides), and misuse of equipment all can result in “unsafe” cannabis vapor that poses a health threat to users.
Many characteristics of loose-leaf vaporization affect or potentially decrease this consumption avenue’s ability to deliver health-giving effects, including the hardware engineering employed to design or manufacture a vapor delivery device. Models built using inferior materials may involve a process called off-gassing during which potentially harmful and sometimes carcinogenic chemicals are emitted by parts of the vapor path (such as cheap plastics) when they are heated.
Often, these chemicals have been deemed by oversight bodies (such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) to be safe for ingestion (eating), but not necessarily for inhalation. Inhalation and ingestion are completely different metabolic pathways by which the cannabinoids and terpenes offered by herbs such as hemp enter the human body.
Why Vapor Temperature Matters
A critical element in determining the quality or medicinal value of the vaporization of loose-leaf cannabis flower is temperature. A variety of factors make the exact temperature at which cannabis flowers are vaporized a serious issue for medical and adult-use (“recreational”) consumers.
According to Leafly, the key to experiencing and enjoying loose-leaf vapor is the “array of…