Whenever one wanders the streets of Manchester, he or she is more than likely to get a whiff of the distinctive, dark aroma of pot wafting in the breeze. However, experts explain how advanced technology is making it easier for people to smoke in public without attracting unwanted attention from the law. Vapes, or vaporizers, are similar to e-cigarettes, and they are growing in popularity among pot users.
Since their arrival from China 10 years ago, e-cigarettes have been gradually growing in acceptance and demand. According to a YouGov study conducted back in May, at least 2.9 million people are vaping on a regular basis in the United Kingdom. Although conclusive evidence is lacking to show the number of people vaping cannabis, vape pens are widely available throughout Manchester, more than ever before.
You can buy them in ‘head shops,’ such as found in the Northern Quarter, or in other specialist outlets. People can purchase them online easily, and in an array of colors and customized to pot use too. For just $50, anyone can buy vaporizers on the high street, with some creatively designed to resemble stopwatches, grenades, and even traditional smoking pipes.
Dr. Robert Ralphs, a senior criminology lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University with two decades of experience researching trends in recreational drug use, believes pot consumers are using vaporizers because doing so makes it less likely for police to catch them. He explained that vaporizers create no smoke, and because of this, they produce almost no smell. They are perfectly discreet.
“You could be vaping quite openly on the street and nobody would know, mainly because of the lack of smoke and smell,” Ralphs said. “If you compare that to smoking a skunk spliff, you can smell that up to 30 meters away.” Less commonly, some consumers use vapes to avoid the dangerously potent skunk that many drug dealers sell across the United Kingdom.
“The herbs, oils and waxes used in vapes are quite often less potent than skunk. Many people do not like skunk because of its potency, but they cannot get hold of anything else. You have got more options if you are vaping, and there is also a better taste, a kind of cleaner taste,” Ralphs noted. Because of the lack of smoke, vaporizers certainly offer a healthier alternative to smoking, as well.
Understanding How Vaping Works
There are two active ingredients in cannabis plants, namely THC, or tetrahydrocannabinols, which are the psychoactive agents that make users stoned, and cannabinoids, of which there are many with medical qualities able to help victims of multiple sclerosis, severe arthritis, cystic fibrosis, and literally countless other qualifying health conditions.
Vaporizers only heat marijuana products, such as oils, waxes, and similar concentrates. Temperature never exceeds combustion point: The heat is sufficient to release both chemicals without actually burning them, which in itself prevents the inhalation of almost 100 different toxins released by smoke. Vapes are also portable. They fit into the palm of your hand and you can use them on the run.
Although plenty of evidence suggests that vaping cannabis is not as harmful as smoking it, there are risks involved, and they are the usual, serious ones. Potential side effects include anxiety, but coronary heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases are possibilities too. Coordinating an online network of drug information at UK Drug Watch, Michael Linnell chipped in:
“It has been happening for donkey’s years,” he explained. “Cannabis is a Class B drug, but derivatives of it, like cannabinoids, are legal because they do not have psychoactive effects.” He added, “For a few years now, there has been a very large industry selling cannabis pills, oils and potions. In virtually any e-cigarette shop, you will find CBD oils in all the different flavors, like blueberry and blackberry.”
People are vaporizing cannabis entirely legally, and with minimal risk to themselves. However, what about those who vape illegal forms of marijuana? Janine Day, Area Business Manager for Early Break, a non-profit charity based in Bury and Rochdale, which assists the youth struggling with drug addiction, thinks the increase in vaping numbers more likely experimental.
Day does not think it will last as a recreational method of consumption. Day has only seen two or three adolescents experimenting with cannabis vaporizers. All of them resumed smoking skunk eventually. According to Dr. Ralphs, this behavior occurs for a number of complex reasons. He said, “The whole social experience of ‘skinning up’ and passing around the spliff between a few of you, you lose that social interaction and ritual with vaping.”
There are other reasons why people turn from vaping. The equipment is expensive to buy, and it requires frequent cleaning and sometimes-costly maintenance. The bigger “desktop” varieties require preheating prior to use, which can take as long as 15 minutes. Of even greater concern is the suggestion that people will use vapes for “legal highs,” by filling them with synthetic cannabinoids so popular among rough sleepers and inmates in Manchester.
“Spice” and “Black Mamba” are two of the dangerous substances people could put into their vaporizers. Dr. Ralphs tells us that on the street and in jail, users prefer consumption methods that do not require the use of tobacco, which is difficult and expensive to procure behind bars. Instead, they use bongs and pipes, but he does not see either group ever replacing them with vaporizers.
Dr. Ralphs voices his opinion, “I do not think they will become popular among rough sleepers and the homeless community, as long as they can craft a handmade pipe or something similar.” The price of vapes alone could make it that, for the moment at least; the use of them remains the exclusive preserve of those with the money to pay for them.