Pipes and joints are so last year, dude. The new toys among stoners are handheld, pocket-size, battery-powered vaporizers.
A recent article in the New York Post examined the influx of professionals partaking in the herb. The article focused mainly on Pax, a $250 vaporizer about the size of a USB drive.
"Small enough to fit in your pocket, Pax heats, never burns your tobacco, releasing a delicious, satisfying vapor. It's the world's most pocketable, premium loose-leaf vaporizer," the Pax website says.
Much of the appeal relates to the discreetness of tiny vaporizers.
"I have used it in Brooklyn Bowl, the Gutter, Yankee Stadium, many streets, bars, parks, people's homes," one 29-year-old man told the Post.Also, vaporizers tend to leave less of a tell-tale smell than traditional pipes or joints.
And there are health benefits. Studies have shown vaporizing marijuana reduces respiratory hazards to users.
"My doctor is happy I use it," one California woman told me. She recently switched from smoking buds to inhaling vaporized concentrates and her lungs feel noticibly healthier.
But not all vaporizers are the same. Some use marijuana flowers (the leafy green buds), while others use a highly concentrated form of THC that looks a lot like ear wax (and it's even sold under that name, sometimes). A vaporizer that is meant to vaporize flowers won't work with wax, and vice versa -- they are two different heating mechanisms, an important point that the Post glossed over.
Handheld vaporizers for wax are less expensive and cost about $30-$200. Portable vaporizers for flowers are slightly more expensive, starting around $250. Still, that's considerably less than the tabletop alternative, a $600 Volcano, which is the gold standard of vaporizers.
The small vaporizers seem to be just one step in the trend toward more socially-acceptable marijuana use. Or maybe technology is just giving us more ways to be discreet. Possibly, unnecessarily so.
Medical marijuana is legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Recreational marijuana is legal in two states.