I frequently have conversations with my patients about vaporizers.
With regards to the vape pens that use premade cartridges, I think the jury is still out. There are some unanswered questions about the heating elements, distillation process, and additives. They may be safe, but there is almost no real research on them and they are not well regulated. In the ER, I have taken care of enough patients with burns from exploded vape pens that I do not recommend them.
However, I do recommend using an herbal vaporizer for whole plant flower. Until the processing labs catch up and begin producing edibles, a vaporizer is the best and safest way to use medical marijuana in Ohio. Many of my patients are unfamiliar with this method of delivery, however, and I wanted to provide some basic information on the process. I do not recommend any specific product, only the method in general.
Assuming you have legally purchased medical marijuana, the first step is to store is in a glass container in low light. When ready for consumption, use a grinder to increase the surface area of the marijuana. Grinders are relatively inexpensive and typically pay for themselves by decreasing the amount of marijuana you will need to use. Many grinders store kief (the fine powder resulting from grinding and sifted through a scree) in a separate chamber. This is of debatable value given the oxidation that occurs when the trichromes are ground this way.
Once the marijuana is ground, warm up the vaporizer and place a small pinch into the glass end of the vaporization hose. Most vaporizers have a temperature setting. Start at 200 degrees. Although THC’s vapor point is considerably higher, the heating elements usually provide higher temperatures than they indicate. If you see smoke or the marijuana appears burnt, turn the temperature down. As you vaporize, you should notice the marijuana becoming lighter/browner in color and brittle/dry to touch. You will initially taste the terpenes which vaporize at lower temperatures and then THC which has a buttery popcorn flavor.
This method fully extracts all of the medicinal compounds in marijuana. Many people feel concern because the plant matter remains and appears relatively unchanged, but when used properly, a good vaporizer easily provides all fo the available THC, CBD, and terpenes to the patient. Importantly, it does so without the harmful products of combustion, making it relatively benign on the lungs and without any unnatural processing or additives.