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Vaporizer can drastically reduce toxins

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California NORML Release - May 2 2003




Harmful toxins in marijuana smoke can be effectively avoided by a

vaporization device, according to a new study by California NORML and MAPS

(Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) with support from a

grant from the MPP (Marijuana Policy Project).


The study, conducted by Chemic Labs in Canton, Mass., tested vapors from

cannabis heated in an herbal vaporizer known as the Volcano® (manufactured

by Storz & Bickel GmbH&Co. KG, Tuttlingen, Germany;

http://www.storz-bickel.com) and compared them to smoke produced by

combusted marijuana. The Volcano® is designed to heat material to

temperatures of 130° to 230° C (266° to 446° F) where medically active

vapors are produced, but below the threshold of combustion where smoke is



The vapors from the Volcano® were found to consist overwhelmingly of THC,

the major active component in marijuana, whereas the combusted smoke

contained over 100 other chemicals, including several polynuclear aromatic

hydrocarbons (PAHs), carcinogenic toxins that are common in tobacco

smoke.  The respiratory hazards of marijuana and tobacco smoke are due to

toxic byproducts of combustion, not the active ingredients in the plant,

known as cannabinoids.


The study suggests that medical marijuana patients can avoid the

respiratory hazards of smoking by using a vaporizer.  In its 1999 report on

medical marijuana, the Institute of Medicine recommended against long-term

use of smoked marijuana because of the health risks of smoking. However,

the IOM failed to take account of vaporizers.


Previous studies have found that vaporizers can reduce harmful toxins in

cannabis smoke. However, this is the first study to analyze the gas phase

of the vapor for a wide range of toxins. A previous NORML/MAPS study

conducted by Chemic Labs found that a vaporizer known as the M-1 Volatizer®

(http:// www.volatizer.com) completely eliminated three specific toxins

(naphthalene, benzene and toluene) in. the solid phase of the vapor (D.

Gieringer, "Cannabis Vaporization: A Promising Strategy for Smoke Harm

Reduction," Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics Vol. 1#3-4: 153-70 (2001);

http://www.canorml.org/healthfacts/vaporiz...izerstudy1.html ).


The new study used a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (GCMS) to examine

the gas components of the vapor.  .The analysis showed that the Volcano®

vapor was remarkably clean, consisting 95% of THC with traces of cannabinol

(CBN), another cannabinoid.  The remaining 5% consisted of small amounts of

three other components: one suspected cannabinoid relative, one suspected

PAH, and caryophyllene, a fragrant oil in cannabis and other plants.  In

contrast over 111 different components appeared in the gas of the combusted

smoke, including a half dozen known PAHs. Non-cannabinoids accounted for as

much as 88% of the total gas content of the smoke.


The study used standard NIDA cannabis with 4% THC content. A quantitative

analysis found that the Volcano® delivered 46% of the THC into vapor

following three 45-second exposures of the sample to the heat.  This

compares favorably with the typical efficiency of marijuana cigarettes as

observed in other studies, which depending on conditions can fall below 25%

due to loss of THC in sidestream smoke. An important feature of the

Volcano® is that it uses a balloon to capture the vapor, thereby avoiding

leakage to the air.  It is possible that higher THC efficiencies could have

been reached with the Volcano® by stirring the sample around and exposing

it to more heat.


The combusted sample achieved a relatively high THC efficiency of 78% upon

complete combustion. The high efficiency seems due to the fact that the

sample was completely consumed by combustion, and that smoke leakage was

effectively prevented by the laboratory setup.  Similar conditions do not

obtain under normal circumstances when a marijuana cigarette is smoked and

much of the THC is lost to the air or left in the unburned "roach."


Two other cannabinoids , cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN), were

detected in the NIDA cannabis in trace amounts of 0.1%. Both the Volcano®

and combustion delivered an apparent increase in CBD and CBN, but the

variance of the data was too high to reach statistically significant



Sponsors believe that the study results lend support for wider use of

vaporizers by medical marijuana patients and researchers.  At present, the

only FDA-approved method for administering marijuana to human research

subjects is via smoking NIDA cigarettes.  NORML and MAPS are supporting

efforts to have vaporizers approved by the FDA.  As a first step in this

effort, Dr. Donald Abrams of the University of California, San Francisco,

has submitted a grant proposal to the California Center for Medical

Cannabis Research in San Diego to test the Volcano® in human subjects.  If

the protocol is funded and the Volcano® approved by the FDA for human

research, it will be the first human study using a vaporizer.  If the FDA

requests additional laboratory data about the Volcano@, additional funding

may be necessary.


For more information on vaporizers, see




Well pipeman, smart choise! :D :)

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