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Medicinal cannabis has been available on prescription in NZ since 2018, and since then an ever-growing number of patients have been able to access these medicines. We recently told you that the very first medical cannabis flower was verified as meeting the quality standards in New Zealand but, at the time, this was only for use when brewed as a tea. Well, good news! Medicinal cannabis flower has now also been verified for inhalation via a vaporiser.
New Zealand is following through with its plan to roll out the country’s medicinal cannabis program, and the industry has evolved significantly since the initial law change. There is now a wider variety of medical cannabis products available for doctors to prescribe for a range of complex health conditions.
Depending on their condition and medical needs, patients may now be prescribed medicinal cannabis in the form of oils, as well as medical cannabis flower for tea and vaporising. We’ve put together a helpful article for you below.
Types of vaporisers
When it comes to vaporising, our doctors recommend that the prescribed flower product be consumed by a medically approved vaping device. Although there are many vaporising devices available in New Zealand, they may not be approved as medically compliant. We give patients the option of two legal medical devices for our patients, known as the Storz & Bickel Mighty Medic and Volcano Medic 2.
How does a vaporiser work?
Vaporiser devices heat the inserted cannabis flower to a temperature hot enough to evaporate the cannabinoid compounds. This allows the user to inhale the products and the effects are felt within a couple of minutes. The medically approved vaporisers from Storz and Bickel will heat the cannabis flower to the correct temperature (without burning) to achieve the greatest effect.
Is vaping better than smoking?
Vaporising cannabis may be a great option for patients needing quick, short-term symptom relief. Although only a small number of studies have been conducted on vaporising cannabis, these studies have shown that it is healthier compared to smoking the flower.
One study suggested that frequent cannabis users who reported respiratory problems after smoking the substance, described that their symptoms improved after just a month of switching to a vaporiser. Another study tested the difference in compounds that is inhaled between a vaporiser and smoking. The vapor produced from a high-quality medically approved vaporiser mostly contained therapeutic compounds. In comparison, cannabis smoke contained some toxic compounds, specifically pyrene and other polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Another benefit of vaporising cannabis is that it is far more efficient and uses less flower compared to smoking. Only a small percentage of the plant’s medicinal compounds are made available when a user smokes cannabis as a lot of the cannabinoids are burnt up when the flower is lit on fire. In contrast, a high-quality vaporiser typically makes over 50% of the flower’s medicinal compounds available to the user.
Users can also vape the same batch of flower more than once and at varying temperatures (which is described in more detail below).
Types of devices and how to use them
There are two main ‘formats’ of vaporising devices to consider; portable or tabletop (stationary). We provide the option between two legal medical devices for our patients, known as the Storz & Bickel Mighty Medic and Volcano Medic 2.
Both devices use the same process of heating combining both convection and conduction methods, ensuring an efficient vaporisation effect from the first draw. However, aside from both being suitable for dried flowers, the Volcano also allows users to insert liquid cannabinoids.
When being prescribed medicinal flower products by one of our doctors, talk to us to help you decide which vaporiser is better suited for you. Simply follow the device instructions on how to use the product. A detailed video on how to use the Mighty Medic can be found here.
Both Storz & Bickel products contain a temperature control, allowing you to choose the temperature at which the flower vaporises at. At lower temperatures, the vapor will be lower in cannabinoids and will be dominated by terpenes which can be helpful for stress, anxiety, and sleep. At higher temperatures, the cannabinoids (THC & CBD) become more dominant, allowing the user to experience the medicinal effects of the flower.
Vaporisation vs tea – which flower administration method is best?
This is a decision that must be discussed with your doctor in a consultation. There are a few important differences between the two methods of medical cannabis administration including onset, estimated duration effect, absorption and bioavailability.
We hope that you have learnt more about vaporising cannabis flower. Book an appointment with one of our experienced doctors to discuss whether cannabis flower and vaporising is right for your medical journey.
Van Dam, N. T., & Earleywine, M. (2010). Pulmonary function in cannabis users: support for a clinical trial of the vaporizer. International Journal of Drug Policy, 21(6), 511-513.
Sheehan, T. J., Hamnett, H. J., Beasley, R., & Fitzmaurice, P. S. (2018). Chemical and physical variations of cannabis smoke from a variety of cannabis samples in New Zealand. Forensic Sciences Research, 1-11.
Hazekamp, A., Ruhaak, R., Zuurman, L., van Gerven, J., & Verpoorte, R. (2006). Evaluation of a vaporizing device (Volcano®) for the pulmonary administration of tetrahydrocannabinol. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 95(6), 1308-1317.
Lanz, C., Mattsson, J., Soydaner, U., & Brenneisen, R. (2016). Medicinal cannabis: in vitro validation of vaporizers for the smoke-free inhalation of cannabis. PLoS One, 11(1), e0147286.
Disclaimer – medicinal cannabis and CBD oil are unapproved medicines in NZ which means that there is no conclusive evidence for their effect, apart from Sativex. Many doctors do not routinely prescribe cannabis medicines. The above article was written for general educational purposes and does not intend to suggest that medicinal cannabis can be used to treat any health condition. Please consult with your healthcare provider.