A generation ago, a cannabis user might have just a handful of ways to enjoy their favorite strain: if they did not want to smoke it directly, the only other option was to melt the cannabis into butter and make some baked treats. Today, cannabis use has expanded to many new areas and markets, while the technology behind the substance has expanded as well. Edibles are now far more diverse; vaporizers mitigate the harm of combustion; concentrates pack a huge heft in a small package and even craft cannabis has launched a wave of experimentation similar to that of craft beers. The new technology of a cannabis inhaler pushes the envelope of this hobby even further, promising safer, more targeted dosing of cannabis. But how do these inhalers work, and are they right for you?
At first glance, a cannabis inhaler looks rather like an asthma inhaler: small, cylindrical, easy to store in a pocket or a purse. Push a button and a marijuana inhaler releases a puff of THC and/or CBD distillate. As the name suggests, you breathe in this dose and go about your day. No need to pull out rolling papers, grind a tough bud down, or put on some incense to mask the smell. A cartridge for a THC inhaler may cost about $50 to $100 and contain about one hundred doses.
These “weed inhalers” act as bronchodilators, a long word that simply means any medical device that causes your throat and airways to relax, opening space for more air to flow through. Asthma inhalers function in this way so that a person does not run out of air when an asthma attack causes their airways to contract. Cannabis as a bronchodilator actually has a lot of research behind it: a study as far back as the 1970s revealed that cannabis smoke, unlike tobacco smoke, causes the airways to loosen, meaning weed for asthma can be beneficial. Furthermore, cannabis use affects our CB1 receptors of the nervous system, not only loosening muscle groups but reducing pain. Even so, a cannabis inhaler is not a suitable substitute for an asthma inhaler, although these devices can be used medically as best fits a person’s needs.
As cannabis research has grown, we’ve found a huge number of health benefits from the use of this particular plant, ranging from anti-cancer properties to anti-anxiety properties. Yet consuming cannabis by smoking is not the healthiest choice. Not only does the combustion of cannabis draw carbon dioxide into your lungs, but the burning of a lighter means a person smoking marijuana will also inhale butane – on top of whatever particles or chemicals might be present in the plant itself.
By contrast, using a cannabis inhaler means no combustion, smoke or coughing! Better still, these inhalers have better bioavailability, meaning that the THC and/or CBD in their vapor gets into the bloodstream in higher quantities and at greater speeds. Smoking a joint creates a bioavailability of about 30% of the total THC, while an edible clocks in at less than 20%. Inhalers blow both these methods out of the water, creating bioavailability as high as 80%. This means that you might feel the effects of a puff of a weed inhaler threefold over a joint or bowl of your favorite bud. This improvement is also true of vapen inhalers, yet these vape pens are facing a host of issues including fierce government regulation, while no such barriers exist for direct inhalers.
Finally, an inhaler provides a specific quantity of THC and/or CBD with a single hit. For those who need specific dosages, this can be a particularly practical product to have in their back pocket. Inhalers ensure you don’t have to fuss around with scales or measuring equipment or even microdosing to make sure you get what you need with every puff.
Which Inhalers To Use?
The first consideration for any person interested in an inhaler is whether they need it for THC, CBD, or both. Not all medical marijuana patients need (or want) a dose of THC to control their particular health issues, meaning that CBD inhalers skip the high and give the relief. Of course, many patients prefer inhalers with THC to improve mood, appetite or emotional state. Whether you prefer one or both, make certain the inhaler you purchase provides the relief you need.
One of the most popular THC inhalers on the market is the Aeroinhaler, produced by R2 Aerosols and distributed in Colorado-based dispensaries. The Santana Smooth is its main competitor at the moment, an inhaler manufactured by, yes, Carlos Santana of the band Santana, named after their hit 1999 song. The Bison & Rose inhaler offers not just CBD-THC blends but also the “sport” inhaler of essential oils for those who train hard and need relief from aching joints or sore muscles.