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NORML/MAPS Study Shows Vaporizers Reduce Toxins In Marijuana Smoke

Thursday, 11 January 2001

Medical marijuana patients may be able to protect themselves from harmful toxins in marijuana smoke by inhaling their medicine using an electric vaporizer, according to initial results of a study by California NORML and Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
The study showed that it is possible to vaporize medically active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by heating marijuana to a temperature short of the point of combustion, thereby eliminating or substantially reducing potentially harmful smoke toxins that are normally present in marijuana smoke. Vaporizers may therefore substantially reduce what is widely regarded as the leading health concern associated with marijuana, namely respiratory harm due to smoking.
NORML and MAPS sponsored the study in the hopes of helping medical marijuana patients and others reduce the health risks of smoking marijuana. A major obstacle to approval of natural cannabis by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in its 1999 report, "Marijuana and Medicine," was that smoking is an unhealthy delivery method. The IOM report failed to note the possibility of vaporization.
The NORML-MAPS study tested a device called the M1 Volatizer®, an aromatherapy vaporizer developed by Alternative Delivery Systems, Inc. It consisted of an electric heating element in a chamber that radiates heat downwards over a sample of marijuana contained in a standard bowl. Output from the vaporizer was analyzed and compared to smoke produced by burning the sample.
The vaporizer produced THC at a temperature of 185° C. (365° F.) while completely eliminating three measured toxins - benzene, a known carcinogen, plus toluene and naphthalene. Carbon monoxide and smoke tars were both qualitatively reduced by the vaporizer, but additional testing is needed to quantify the extent of the decrease.
The vaporizer study was undertaken as a follow-up to a previous NORML-MAPS marijuana smoking device study which concluded that vaporizers offered the best prospects for smoke harm reduction.
"Many medical marijuana patients say they prefer vaporizers because they deliver smoother, less irritating medication," said Dale Gieringer, NORML California State Coordinator.
NORML and MAPS are currently seeking support for further research and development of vaporizers. Research is presently underway to explore the optimal temperature and conditions for vaporization. An additional $85,000 is needed to provide accurate measurement of carbon monoxide and other toxins, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Further studies may be needed to explore alternative device designs and the effects of different marijuana sample consistency, potency and preparation.
For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer, California NORML State Coordinator at (415) 563-5858.