The rise of vape shops on the heels of cannabis legalization is spreading across the country, reports Reuters. The number of US vape stores has swelled to 8,500 since 2008 while the sale of electronic cigarettes has grown to $3.5 billion, says Wells Fargo Securities analyst Bonnie Herzog.
Medical cannabis use is allowed in 23 states and the District of Columbia for various conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, severe pain and HIV/AIDS, as stated by the Marijuana Policy Project. In addition, 15 states allow patients who have severe seizure disorders to use a few strains of weed for treatment.
Cannabis constitutes a profitable, ancillary market; and the growth and popularity of cannabis oils and waxes have been a surprising driver in the marijuana industry. Cannabis oils, devices, and edibles now inhabit a sizeable amount of the retail space in any dispensary in recreationally legal-use states, such as Washington, Colorado or Oregon. It’s estimated that roughly 50% of dispensaries sell edibles and concentrates, while the other half is in raw marijuana flowers.
States like New York and Minnesota ban patients from smoking marijuana. But in a vape apparatus, the cannabis leaves are heated to a temperature lower than what is required for combustion. Some vape machines are as small as a ballpoint pen and give marijuana users more privacy, since the vapor released is virtually odorless. Texas recently legalized cannabis oils for use in mitigating seizures.
“Vaporized cannabis is a really significant trend in both medical and adult use,” Christie Lunsford, a Colorado-based consultant who specializes on cannabis issues, said. “It’s consistent, it’s almost instantaneous, and it’s appropriate for a wide variety of consumers.”
Just as e-cigarettes have changed international debate over tobacco smoking, e-cigarette devices and vaping are transforming the cannabis culture and industry. In fact, vaping has become so popular that “vape” was named the Oxford Dictionary “word of the year” in 2014.
Many vape shops are seeing new customers who tend to be older non-smokers who are afflicted with serious illness and looking to quell symptoms. Medical cannabis groups and patients say they favor vaping cannabis instead of smoking it because they feel there are aren’t as many risks.
Steve DeAngelo, a cannabis activist and entrepreneur who founded the Harborside Health Center medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, told USA Today that the arrival of compact, portable, electronic vaporizers and new developments in extracting ingredients from cannabis plants have created a shift in public demand.
“The percentage of raw (pot) flowers we sell has been dropping steadily,” DeAngelo said. “The percent of extracts and concentrates … has been rising steadily.”
Even with marijuana becoming mainstream, and use of oils and waxes increasing, law enforcement groups still overwhelmingly oppose legalization. And vaping poses a challenge for authorities because it makes marijuana use seem innocuous and benign.
Home extraction of cannabis concentrates can be hazardous since dangerous solvents like butane are used. Potency can sometimes be as much as 80 or 90 percent THC. There’s also the risk of youths vaping because it’s easier to attain, has no odor, and can be done discretely.
But regardless of opposition, it seems vaping is here to stay and show no signs of stopping.