By: Benjamin Brody – Hofstra Law Student Contributor
With the way things are presently going in the United States, it is hard to say whether Marijuana will be fully legal or illegal in the next few years. “Fully” meaning both medical and recreational. As it currently stands, Marijuana is both medicinally and recreationally illegal on the federal level. This means that no matter what each and every state decides to do with its constitutionally granted sovereign power in regards to legalizing marijuana, the federal government can crack down on the state and arrest all of those involved in committing an illegal act. For now, I will be assuming with the rest of the states who have legalized either medical and/or recreational marijuana that the federal government will keep its distance until further decisions are made.
Now that a few states have legalized marijuana (Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon), different forms of the federally recognized schedule one drug have come to light more so then in the past. Within marijuana, the important pieces are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannibidol (CBD). The common understanding is THC gets you “high” and CBD is for medical treatment. As marijuana enthusiasts have come to realize, you can change the chemical structure of marijuana to take shape in a few different forms. Some of the common forms are extract oils and concentrates, marijuana as a plant, wax, and E-juice (liquid). The typical methods for intake of these different forms are smoking it, eating it, vaporizing it or dabbing it. There is a lot of controversy and information out there that supports smoking over vaporizing and vice versa.
What is vaporizing exactly? Well, it is similar to the idea of burning your marijuana or other forms; however, the temperature is much lower providing more beneficial then detrimental effects. Vaporizing is a common technique for consuming marijuana, while at the same time negating many irritating respiratory toxins that exist within the grown marijuana flower and are released when smoked. Conversely, vaporizing allows one to get all of the psychoactive ingredients (cannabinoids) available within that specific strain of marijuana, minus the combustion that ordinarily takes place during consumption.
In essence, when someone decides to vaporize their THC, they are more so baking it then burning it. Some skeptics may say at this point that if you are only baking it and not burning it, the effects must clearly be different if not worse. It is true, the effects may be different sometimes, but usually, those are for explainable reasons. Vaporizers come in different sizes with different settings allowing them to do different things then just simply burning marijuana. When one smokes a joint, or hits a bong, approximately 88% of the combusted smoke gases contain non-cannabinoid elements, most of which do not get you high and provide potential health risks. On the flip side, when one uses a vaporizer, the smoke/gases that they are inhaling consist of approximately 95% cannabinoids. Of course there is always the problem of how much one should vaporize or smoke but that is to be discussed at another point.
The point I’m trying to make is that the vapor is different from smoke. Vaporizing is more beneficial than smoking because it eliminates harmful toxins that smoking produces from the burning of marijuana, it is healthier for your lungs because it is just vapor and not smoke containing carcinogens, it can sometimes afford a faster “high,” there is rarely any smell, there is less of an effect on energy and stamina and overall, it is cheaper because vaporizing maximizes the THC content. A good analogy I saw online was that dabbing and other harsh ways of smoking are like the scotch and spirits of the marijuana world whereas vaporizing is like wine. Even some doctors prefer to inform patients and explain to them that vaporizing is a better and healthier way of consuming marijuana. The only issue is I could just imagine the medical malpractice lawsuits that might occur if a doctor proscribes marijuana as a treatment and then the patient gets lung cancer. If the doctor recommended vaporizing instead of smoking, maybe that patient would not suffer from the same fate.
The next thing I want to discuss is where a person can actually use a marijuana vaporizer. Common sense would indicate that where you can or cannot smoke marijuana, vaporizing should be subject to the same rules. I personally have an issue with this. If a person is using a vaporizer and all they are blowing out of their mouths is water vapor, then why should water vapor be subject to the same rules and regulations as smoke? I can understand the other sides’ argument that vapor looks to the naked eye like smoke and can sometimes give off the visual and social effect of smoke to uninformed individuals. In my opinion, if you can use an inhaler indoors to take medicine, you should be allowed to vaporize indoors.
The actual rules governing vaporizing in non-smoking zones is state specific and sometimes even town/city or establishment specific. I am focusing on the state level. The states that have state wide bans on vaporizing indoors are as follows: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, and Utah. All the other states prohibit and permit vaporizing in certain areas. In New York, the new law that was recently passed allows doctors to prescribe marijuana compounds to patients but the patients are limited to taking a pill, using oils or extracts, or vaporizing it. Does this mean that doctors can tell a patient to medicinally take marijuana via vaporizing? Let us take this one step further. A doctor has prescribed me medicinal marijuana and I need to take it sometimes when it isn’t so convenient. Should I not be allowed to vaporize my medicine in no-smoking zones?
In my opinion, due to the nature of vaporizing and the lack of causing a scene, it should be treated like taking other medicine. I understand that there are some places in which even blowing out vapor might not be so appropriate. For instance, vaporizing in a courtroom is probably very inappropriate whether it is legal or not. But vaporizing in the hallway of a courthouse might not be as bad. I think that since New York is not one of the states I mentioned before that has a total ban on indoor vaporizing, the ban against it should be location specific. A company, entity or the like does enjoy the freedom of sovereignty to a certain extent. If they decide to ban vaporizing on the premises then that is up to them and not he individual vaporizing.
A big problem with this freedom to ban vaporizing is what if someone is recommended medicinal marijuana for things like seizures and they are not allowed to vaporize indoors and that directly correlates to an epileptic occurrence, there could be a major lawsuit. This could be avoided be either allowing vaporizing indoors or by actually making vaporizing zones indoors. The latter is unlikely to occur but maybe a total lack of banning could be bad as well. This is just my opinion and I hope you have enjoyed this reading.