The emergence of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) has given cannabis smokers a new method of inhaling cannabinoids. E-cigs differ from traditional marijuana cigarettes in several respects. First, it is assumed that vaporizing cannabinoids at lower temperatures is safer because it produces smaller amounts of toxic substances than the hot combustion of a marijuana cigarette. Recreational cannabis users can discretely “vape” deodorized cannabis extracts with minimal annoyance to the people around them and less chance of detection. There are nevertheless several drawbacks worth mentioning: although manufacturing commercial (or homemade) cannabinoid-enriched electronic liquids (e-liquids) requires lengthy, complex processing, some are readily on the Internet despite their lack of quality control, expiry date, and conditions of preservation and, above all, any toxicological and clinical assessment. Besides these safety problems, the regulatory situation surrounding e-liquids is often unclear. More simply ground cannabis flowering heads or concentrated, oily THC extracts (such as butane honey oil or BHO) can be vaped in specially designed, pen-sized marijuana vaporizers. Analysis of a commercial e-liquid rich in cannabidiol showed that it contained a smaller dose of active ingredient than advertised; testing our laboratory-made, purified BHO, however, confirmed that it could be vaped in an e-cig to deliver a psychoactive dose of THC. The health consequences specific to vaping these cannabis preparations remain largely unknown and speculative due to the absence of comprehensive, robust scientific studies. The most significant health concerns involve the vaping of cannabinoids by children and teenagers. E-cigs could provide an alternative gateway to cannabis use for young people. Furthermore, vaping cannabinoids could lead to environmental and passive contamination.
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