It's 4/20 everybody, the High Stoner Holiday where we burn our trees rather than decorate them! The celebrations mark a magical moment when everybody can get the giggles with reckless abandon while satiating their munchies with traditional holiday tidings like Abba-zabba and Taco Bell. Today offers neophyte cannabis enthusiasts and hardcore stoners alike an opportunity to indulge in the mild euphoric of their choice with like-minded friends and family, or really, anybody standing with a dutchie on their right-hand side. But just as Christmas suffers from SantaCon, 4/20 celebrations attract their own brand of red-eyed knuckleheads who make the rest of us look bad. So unless you want to get lumped in with the folks who still proudly display their Scarface poster from college, put down that comically large blunt and read on.
If you're just getting into the world of weed, it's best to begin with the basics. A simple glass pipe costs as little a $5 and can often perform almost as well as more expensive variants. Their basic functionality doesn't differ all that much -- pipes are pipes -- but as you spend more, you get better build quality and more extravagant detailing. You of course can always roll your own. Joints, and their tobacco-wrapped cousin the blunt, are some of the easiest, economic and portable means of consuming cannabis. Really all you need is a flat surface, some rolling papers and a grinder.
If you're intent on rolling your own but don't know how, head over to YouTube for a ludicrous number of tutorials and explanatory videos. The secret to rolling a serviceable joint that won't run (that is, only burn down one side) or clog on you lies in how well you grind up the herb. One of the coolest grinders that I've used recently is the OTTO, though its creators the Banana Bros refer to it as a "smart milling machine." It can sense the kind of botanical material that is in its jaws and subsequently adjust the speed, milling direction and pressure to ensure that it's fully pulverized without being turned into dust. The OTTO can either be used as a straightforward mill or, with the addition of a small tube at its base, automatically grind and fill a preformed cone joint, saving you the hassle of wrapping and tapping one of your own. This is an especially handy feature for folks with issues like arthritis, who might not be capable of hand rolling. The OTTO will be available in June from Amazon for $140.
You could cut out the grinding part altogether and purchase pre-rolled joints and blunts from your local dispensary. What you don't typically see from pre-rolls are rewards programs but that's exactly what Stone Road is offering. Each joint comes with a QR code. Simply download the Stone Road app (iOS and Android) and scan the code with your phone to earn points. You earn 15 points per joint which can be used to bid on a variety of adventurous experiences through the app. These rewards, currently only available in California, are added on a weekly basis and range from rooftop yoga classes in downtown Los Angeles, to art gallery openings and pop-up concerts. Individual joints retail for $10 apiece, 4-packs of the standard J's go for $36 and 4-packs of the hash oil-infused variety cost $56.
On the Go (Flower)
If you enjoy consuming cannabis while out and about but don't want to announce your presence with the stink of burning skunk, there are a number of ways to get high on the sly. Most eschew combustion and gently heat the material until the active ingredients vaporize instead. You'll still need to grind your herb beforehand, but the fact that you aren't inhaling flaming hot smoke drastically reduces the stress on your lungs.
Two of the front-runners in the portable vaporizer field also happen to be my personal favorites: the PAX 3 and the Firefly. The PAX 3 has been called the "MacBook of Vaporizers" (mostly by me, but it's still true) and for good reason. It offers a sleek, futuristic design, simple usability, and packs a potent heating system that will fully vaporize its cannabinoid cargo without emitting conspicuous clouds. Simply pack a gram or so of ground weed into the heating chamber, click on the mouthpiece to activate the unit and wait about 30 seconds for it to sufficiently warm up.
Each bowl lasts around eight to 12 drags before needing to be replaced but, unlike other models, doesn't need to be stirred midway to prevent it from scorching. The PAX 3 is small enough to fit in a handbag or pocket and is easily concealed in your palm, making it perfect for quietly getting lifted in public.
The Firefly isn't as easily-concealed as the PAX 3 but it is alien-looking enough that most folks won't know what you're up to. As opposed to the PAX's chillum-like design, the Firefly is shaped like a futuristic pipe. To use it, you lift off the faceplate to reveal the heating chamber. After packing in a gram of ground weed, simply press and hold the buttons on either side of the bowl to activate it. You'll know it's working by the soft orange glow of the heating mechanism.
Unlike the PAX 3, the Firefly does have a tendency to scorch material, so you're going to want to stir the bowl occasionally to keep everything green. I recommend the Firefly over the PAX 3 for new vapers since you can monitor the bowl (and your weed) as you're heating it. The fact that most people will assume you're speaking into a super fancy cell phone while using this (and not just getting high in public) is an added bonus.
The Mighty from Storz and Bickel, the same company behind the venerable Volcano desktop vaporizer, makes no attempt to hide what it is. It's bigger than a pair of stacked Google Nexus 6P phones and weighs a full half pound. It's also slower than either the PAX 3 or the Firefly, requiring 75 seconds to fully heat. But the wait is more than worth it. The Mighty relies on the same convection air heating system as its tabletop cousin. And, for quicker use on the go, the Mighty employs "dosing capsules". These are small containers that you pre-fill with loose leaf or oil (you'll need a Liquid Pad for the latter) and simply drop in when you're ready to toke. This is the ideal device for group outings and more advanced users looking for a precise vaping experience.
On the Go (Oil)
The problem with the PAX 3 and Firefly is that they require you to carry a bag of ground up, easily spillable looseleaf around with you. That can be a hassle, especially after a couple of bowls. If you don't want to mess with having to load each bowl individually, oil cartridge vapes are for you.
The PAX Era is a marquee oil vape made by the same folks that produce the PAX 3. It's a pencil-sized device that takes sealed half-gram cartridges of hash oil and is even more discreet than its loose-leaf cousin. There is no power button, simply insert the cartridge and begin drawing from the mouthpiece. If you want to unlock the Era's full potential, PAX offers a companion app (iOS and Android) with temperature controls, detailed battery level and even mini-games to pass the time.
The cartridges (or Pods, as the company calls them) are a bit pricey, ranging from $45 to $60. But, in terms of low-profile, easy-to-use oil vapes, the Era is the device to beat, and the unit itself costs just $20.
If you value ease of use above all else, you're going to love the Highlighter and Highlighter Plus from Bloom Farms. Not only are these oil vapes basically foolproof, they're packed with enough THC to knock out an elephant. You simply screw the oil canister onto the base, which holds the battery, then draw. That's it.
The battery will typically last longer than the contents of the canister and the C02 oil within them ranges from 60 - 90 percent THC, which means the only thing that might give out in the middle of a session is you.
Of course, it's 2018, weed is legal (medically) in more than half the country. Why should we have to be constrained to one format of cannabis when on the go? That's where the V2 Series 3X comes in. This 3-in-1 portable pen utilizes a trio of swappable cartridges that can be filled with either loose leaf, oil or wax, depending on your mood. Unlike the Highlighters, the V2's cartridges snap into alignment thanks to magnetic guides, which hold them securely in place.
The device offers three temperature settings, accessed through a series of button presses on the unit body, depending on the material that's being heated. In my experience, the V2 doesn't handle any particular one markedly better than the competition but does perform commendably across all of them. Think of it like choosing a Subaru hatchback as opposed to a Corvette; one goes real fast, the other can fit you, your buddies, your dog and all of your gear. So if you're looking for flexibility over specific performance, the V2 Series 3 is a solid choice.
Staying at home
Some of us prefer spending our Green Days melting into the couch and binge-watching Netflix. For days like that, there are no better options than the Volcano Digit and the Puffco Peak.
The Volcano is the granddaddy gold standard of tabletop vaporizers and has only gotten better with time. Where once users dialed in the preferred temperature using analog controls, they can now set it with digital precision. And, with a temperature range of over 300 degrees F, you'll be able to dictate the exact quantity and quality of vapor you're looking for. The Volcano's convection-style oven gently heats your herb without burning it, removing a lot of the tar and other impurities without fouling the flavor. Even cooler, the food-grade bags into which this vapor is blown can be sealed and stored for hours!
The bag system is a bit more complicated than what you'd find in forced-air setups (that's where the heating element also incorporates a fan that blows the vapor through a tube, into your mouth). You'll have to load the ground herb into a heating chamber, set the chamber on top of the base station, wait for the vapor to heat up and be blown into the bag, then remove the entire stack of stuff that you've placed on the base station and swap out the chamber for a mouthpiece. It's a lot to do, especially when you're just starting out, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. If you're looking for a tabletop rig that's powerful and will last for decades to come even with regular use, the Volcano Digital remains the vape to beat.
The Puffco Peak may not be as imposing as the Volcano, but don't think it doesn't pack a wallop. Namely because instead of ground loose leaf being blown into a bag, the Peak melts C02 oils, waxes and any other kind of cannabis concentrate that you can think of. The Peak is definitely geared for more advanced users (i.e., those who have developed a high enough tolerance to begin dabbling in concentrates).
Using the Peak is straightforward once you figure out the system, but even I had to take a moment and read through the manual a couple times at first. Still, out of all the devices discussed here today, the Peak is my personal favorite. It combines a rapid heating cycle with long battery life and portability comparable to that of the Mighty.
So whether you prefer to smoke, vape or dab your cannabis -- at home or on the go -- you've got plenty of options. These aren't the only ways to get lifted legally, just some of the best. And remember folks, even though you can't technically overdose on weed, doesn't mean that you should try to anyway. The secret to a happy 4/20 is moderation in all things -- other than Abba Zabba.