As anyone who has listened to me discuss this topic may recall, I’ve never been a fan of “vaping” — inhaling distillates of marijuana — because there is no safety data on its health consequences. And the recent spate of hospitalizations and deaths attributed to “vaping” confirms my concern.

These unfortunate occurrences are primarily associated with Cannabis product usage, not nicotine. Over 85% of the more than 1000 confirmed cases are related to Cannabis, even though the media and public officials seem to be conflating e-cigarettes with marijuana. Thus far there have been 15 deaths -a tragic reminder that inhaling the wrong stuff can be deadly.

Vape pens (which is how distillate inhalant devices are commonly described) have often been marketed as “safe” and in many cases “safer” than smoking. That claim is wholly without scientific evidence. There are absolutely no studies that assess the short, medium, or long term health effects of inhaling distillates.

What are distillates? The oil extracted from various parts of the cannabis plant through a manufacturing process that can include solvents designed to separate THC and CBD from the remaining components of the plant. The end result is a highly concentrated THC and/or CBD oil. Vape pens are battery powered devices that aerosolize these concentrates (and any additives or by-products of the manufacturing process) for inhalation into the lungs.

Unlike smoking the flower – for which there are numerous long term studies – no one has yet to study what happens to people who inhale distillates over a prolonged period of time. Anyone who claims that vapes are safe should show us the data that proves that claim. Lacking data, it is merely wishful thinking.

I have read much of the scientific literature on inhaling the Cannabis flower itself — either through combusting (i.e., smoking) or inhaling through an herb heater (confusingly also called a vaporizer). The BOTTOM LINE from the data that has been collected since the 1970s: there is NO EVIDENCE that Cannabis combustion leads to any serious disease. Yes — some coughing; Yes – some have an increase in phlegm; Yes – some might have both cough and phlegm; But using an herb vaporizer can significantly reduce the incidence of both cough and phlegm. So there is an option for those who experience mechanical irritation with combustion — an herb vaporizer which heats your flower.

Because there are no serious consequences for inhaling the flower, it is improbable that inhaling distillates will be proven safer. So why have vape pens been the fastest growing market segment of the cannabis industry?

On the consumer side: vape pens are ultra-convenient: they are easy to use, have no stigmatizing smell, and are more discreet. On the seller side: vape pens are more profitable than selling the flower.

In my opinion: inhaled distillates are inferior to inhaling the flower. Distillates are two steps removed from nature, have less components than the flower, are harder to titrate, and are more expensive. No one yet has figured out what is causing the severe lung damage and deaths we are now witnessing. But when they narrow down the toxins causing the recent spate of lung disease and deaths, the vaping industry will do their best to cast vaping as safe again – a claim that hopefully more consumers will hold suspect, now that SMOKING DISTILLATES HAS BEEN PROVEN TO BE DEADLY.

If you want to switch from pen vaporizer to inhaling the flower: sign up for my free Inhalation 101 class. Offered at no charge to current Naturally Healing patients, this course will teach you everything you need to know about inhaling safely for medicinal purposes.The next class is Thursday, November 14, 2019, at 12:30 p