Smoking Weed vs Vaporizing CO2 Extract What’s the Difference?

stoner scientistSmoking weed vs vaporizing CO2 extract?

Now that marijuana more mainstream than ever it’s important to kick down some information that many newbies might miss and will help arm them if they’re confronted by drug warriors looking to throw some shade on the herb. So our buds at Brite Labs decided to tackle questions about the difference between smoking weed and vaporizing it—particularly Co2 extraction on this week’s Ask A STONER Scientist. Tweet @stoner_stuff or @britelabs or email your THC extraction questions to askastonerscientist at

Are there differences between smoking weed and vaporizing CO2 extract?

The reason you smoke weed, let’s say in a joint, or vaporize is the same: getting the medicinal compounds found inside the cannabis plant into the body. But how each works is quite different.

What happens when you smoke weed?

When you burn cannabis, the heat that you use to light the joint activates the plant’s medicinal compounds—cannabinoids like THC, CBD and CBG—and releases them from the cannabis. But it also burns up the plant material, so that the smoke you inhale contains a mix of medicinal compounds and incinerated plant. By the way so does the second hand smoke, but that’s a whole other story.

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second hand weed smokeWhat’s in the weed smoke then?

When you inhale the smoke from the joint, your lungs absorb the psychoactive compounds (and pass them along to the blood stream), but the other material that is burned is left behind in the form of tar that can irritate the lungs and can, over time, lead to the same health problems created by smoking tobacco.

What’s different about vaporizing then?

Vaporizing works differently because no burning takes place. The vaporizer cartridge that holds the cannabis extract, and the battery that attaches to it, are designed to heat the cannabis extract inside the vaporizer cartridge to a temperature that releases the cannabinoids without actually burning the extract itself.

So what’s in vape “smoke” then?

When you inhale from your vape pen, you are breathing in a vapor that is almost entirely made up of medicinal compounds and contains almost no other particulates or plant matter. Your lungs absorb these compounds readily, and pass them into your blood stream. The small cloud that you exhale is just left over water vapor.

You can see the difference between combustion and vaping by what’s left behind: a joint leaves behind ash while a vape cart simply gets used up until the cartridge is empty.

Any other differences between smoking weed vs vaping it?

We would argue that vaporizing cannabis extract has three main advantages over combustion:

  1. Focused delivery. Cannabis extract is almost entirely made up of medicinal compounds like cannabinoids, so you are only ingesting healthful compounds without any of the potential health risks associated with smoking.
  2. Discretion. There is no odor or smoke left behind, so vaping can be done in public or private without attracting attention.
  3. Ease and accessibility. Patients new to cannabis concentrates can get started without specialized know-how or equipment. All that is required is an inexpensive battery and extract cartridge, often sold together at medical dispensaries.

Have you ever tried a co2 extraction? What’d ya think of it? Tell us in the comments below. And don’t forget to Tweet @stoner_stuff, @britelabs or email your questions for Ask A STONER Scientist to askastonerscientist at

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