The recent news about vaping-related illnesses and deaths has a lot of people concerned about vaping risks. While there is a lot of research needed, current research is showing that trusted products sold in licensed dispensaries are not linked to any cases of vaping injuries. The only sources of illness have been from unregulated products that contain substances that are dangerous to inhale. Read our insights into the vaping illness outbreak.
Up until the recent health scares, interest in vaping cannabis had been rapidly increasing in recent years. In fact, 20% of cannabis sales in some U.S. states were from vapes last year, doubling from the 10% in 2017. Vaping has been increasing in popularity because it is a discrete method of consumption and the effects are felt much quicker than an edible (check our vaping basics post). The trickiest thing about vaping is controlling the dose. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Understanding the Label
A lot of people try to give simple rules of thumb for vaping cannabis. One puff for some daytime stress relief. Two puffs for a night on the town. We wish it were that simple, but every vaping product has a unique formula. Some have a very high THC content, while others have a high, or no, CBD content. Some extractions are full spectrum, offering the full scope of cannabinoids and terpenes within the cannabis plant, while others incorporate only isolated THC or CBD.
Any vaping product you buy should have clear labeling, especially the THC and CBD content. Unfortunately, not all vape pens and cartridges give you an estimate of puffs per product, making it impossible for you to estimate how much you’re consuming. Some only give you the percentage of the components, like THC. If you’re hoping to be careful in controlling your dose, find products that give you the estimated puffs per pen, and do a little math to figure out what you’re inhaling with each puff. The formula is: total mg of product ÷ possible puffs x percentage of the cannabinoid (THC/CBD).
Take, for example, Mozen vape pens. They estimate that their pens have about 200 puffs per cartridge. This “puff” estimate will vary of course depending on how long or deeply the consumer inhales. Mozen’s 500 mg pen (“Seize the Day”) contains a total of 40% THC and 10% CBD. If the total capacity of 500 mg is divided by the 200 puffs, one puff equals about 2.5 mg of total product. Factoring in the percentages of the cannabinoids, this means each puff is about 1 mg of THC and 0.25 mg of CBD. Mozen’s “Good Night” blend, however is 80% THC, with no CBD, which shakes out to 2 mg of THC per puff, double the THC dosage of the other pen. A few puffs of Sieze the Day gets you 3 mg of THC and .75 mg of CBD, while Good Night would get you 6 mg of THC, a bit over our definition of a low dose (>5 mg).
Fortunately, companies are popping up with more detailed labeling that help consumers more confidently understand and control their dosing. Evoxe Labs is coming out with a line of pens that have the math figured out for you. Their pens come with guidelines of about how much THC is dispersed per 1 second of inhalation. To make things a little more exact, Dosist pens actually give a slight vibration when 2.5 mg of product has been dispensed. So if the pen is 64% THC, like their Bliss formula, you know that when the pen vibrates, exactly 1.6 mg of THC has been dispensed. No guess work required.
Even though dosing can be a little trickier with vaping, the good thing is the effects are felt a lot quicker, so it doesn’t take as long to figure out what amount works for you. Unlike with edibles, where it can take up to two hours to feel the effects, the effects of vaping are felt within 10-20 minutes. So, if you don’t feel your desired effect, you only have to wait 20 minutes to try taking another dose. In summary, the effects last a shorter duration (only 1-3 hours) and may be felt more immediately, but it’s much less precise and harder to control the dose. For this reason, vaping is not something we recommend for people who are new to cannabis and interested in low dosing.