Most industry vaporizers, from the acclaimed Volcano to the portable PAX, reach a max temperature of somewhere between 420 to 450 degrees. This is the upper limit because “auto-ignition” of most dry plant matter occurs around this temperature and above. Even vaporized herb will blaze, producing plumes of smoke and tar. While some people claim the effect from smoking cannabis is “stronger,” nearly 90 percent of combusted cannabis contains no recognizable cannabinoid and terpene components at all. It’s mostly unidentifiable, harsh-tasting tars that may even be carcinogenic depending on how your cannabis was grown.
Compare vaporizing to a lit blunt or joint—which burn both cannabis and paper or tobacco products at approximately 2,000 degrees—and you’re essentially inhaling light-ash straight, and whatever else, into your lungs...and subsequently, your bloodstream. It’s for this reason and others that cannabis growing and vaporization practices are largely important. Clean consumption reigns supreme.
With cannabis concentrates like Butane Hash Oil or CO2 Oil, modern methods of cannabis extraction eliminate much of the excess plant material, leaving behind puddles of purified cannabis compounds in the form of translucent waxes and oils. It’s these waxes and oils, with their significant absence of excess plant matter available to combust, that have become the holy grail of cannabis consumption. But beware, not only is this a fractionated approach to consumption, diverting away from whole-plant medicine, these concentrates also concentrate whatever fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, solvents, and whathaveyous originally present in the flower into the end product.
Furthermore, the popular practice of “dabbing” concentrates using high-temperature blow-torches and hot-nails is still a combustion-based method. Not only are you combusting concentrated cannabis, you’re also potentially inhaling the smoke of any concentrated chemicals and synthetics used in shoddy growing and shady extraction practices.
True and pure “vaporization” of cannabis occurs well under 450 degrees through two primary processes: either convection or conduction heating. With regards to vaporizers using conduction heating, an element, usually metal, heats the cannabis material until its cannabinoid and terpene compounds turn to gas. With convection heating, air is circulated around the cannabis matter, heating the product until its cannabinoid and terpene compounds turn to gas.
Conduction vaporizers tend to be more affordable and portable, though less adjustable, while convection products tend to heat more accurately, producing a purer tasting vapor at a more expensive price. Whichever you choose, the purer your cannabis matter, from seed to sale, and the better the vaporizer, the purer the vapor.
To properly maximize the purest vaporization of flower, hash, or concentrates, you’re wise choosing a device that allows you to dial-in your vaporization temperatures. Take the terpene myrcene, for example, which is found in many strains of cannabis and known for its earthy, sweet aroma and hyper relaxing properties: It vaporizes at a temperature of 330–334 Fahrenheit. THC vaporizes around 315 degrees, while reaping the benefits of the cannabinoid Cannabichromene (CBC) requires a vaporization temperature of 428 degrees.
There are hundreds of known beneficial compounds in cannabis, each with fairly unique vaporization points. Here’s a handy chart of the most studied and revered cannabinoids and terpene compounds and the corresponding temperatures at which they vaporize. This can be really fun—knowing these vaporization points enables you to better control your experience, stretch how long your stash lasts, and enjoy some of the sweet unadulterated components of chronic.