Tis the season for "harm reduction." This school of psychology assumes that rational adults sometimes engage in risky, unhealthy behavior. Teaching them to reduce the associated harms picks up where outright banning and criminalizing fail. With more than 300,000 qualified medical cannabis patients in California alone, and Arizona becoming the fifteenth medical marijuana state, there's a huge demand for safer, more sustainable ways of cannabinoid administration, and the market is meeting that demand head on this holiday season. Legalization Nation consulted doctors, dispensary operators, growers, and Haight Street retailers to round up six legit items in a nebulous, largely unregulated field.
Vapor Brothers Hands-Free Vaporizer
Back in pre-history, the Scythians of the central Asian steppes reportedly heated stalks of psychoactive weed on hot stones inside a teepee and inhaled the medicinal vapor. Three thousand years later, vaporization remains a leading harm-reduction technique in medical cannabis. It provides much of cannabis' medical qualities without creating the carcinogens of burning plant matter. Despite several years on the market, the German-made, $669 Volcano Vaporizer is the Mercedes-Benz of vaporizers — known globally for its quality materials and construction, and impeccable warranty. Out in Los Angeles, Vapor Brothers has created a sensible domestic product backed by a limited lifetime warranty. Their Hands-Free Vaporizer is a traditional box-style device with a stone heating element, à la the Scythians. MSRP: $165
Space Case Grinder
Grinding has emerged as a most effective way to create more surface area out of buds, mandatory for vaporizing, and quite effective for rolling or packing in a pipe. But not all grinders are created equal. Shoddily made, imported metal grinders can chip away at themselves, creating tiny metallic shavings in herb, and that's not very medicinal. Space Case makes a top-shelf, two-piece grinder, precision machined from high-quality aerospace aluminum, with super sharp cutting edges that will not dull. The large, three-and-one-quarter-inch-wide grinder goes for $49.61.
Keeping cannabis in plastic bags is actually a no-no. THC is an acid, which means it breaks down soft plastic like sandwich bags, causing leaching of petrochemicals into the plant matter. Best stick to glass containers, Pyrex jars, or the popular Tightvac line of vacuum-sealed, super-hard plastic containers. Tightvac jars have a button on the top of them. Squeeze the release button to pull the top off. Fill up the Tightvac. When the top is pushed back down, the jar sucks out air, creating a vacuum seal that's smell-proof, air-tight, and highly water-resistant. Containers come in a range of colors and sizes — from tiny, pocket containers, all the way up to bread-loaf-size. Based out of Venice. Tightvac Minivac TV-1 (.12 liter; 2 7/8-inches tall), $8.25
It's always surprising to see hard-core foodies, environmentalists, and health nuts using a standard butane lighter to do anything, let alone ignite plant matter going directly into the lungs. Lighters run on butane, and contain sulfur and flint, which are highly poisonous if inhaled. Long-term butane exposure causes internal organ and nervous system problems. Made from hemp and bee wax, the Ital Hempwick is a six-inch-long piece of thin twine. Light the Hempwick and then use the strong, clean-burning wick flame to combust medicinals. Made from Sacramento company Ital, they're waterproof and work well even in the wind. $1.25 per pack
RAW King Size Natural Unrefined Rolling Papers
Organic, vegan, and sustainable has come to rolling papers. Normal rolling papers can contain unneeded chemicals and flavors. Sodium, potassium, and magnesium are used as accelerants, and papers are often bleached white. The RAW brand of rolling papers came out of Spain to awe the market this year with an additive- and bleach-free rolling paper that's thin and translucent, holds fast with a natural hemp-based gum, and burns clean with no taste. The RAW King Size comes with forty, one-and-a-quarter-inch-wide, unbleached hemp fiber papers packaged so artfully, they don't even have a crease — the culmination of twelve years of research, RAW says. $2.50
There's nothing safe or sane about flying with medical marijuana and supplies. The rarely seen Fold-A-Bowl makes the practice a little safer with its line of disposable, foldable stainless-steel pipes. Each Fold-A-Bowl is the size of a credit card, and comes with a tiny instruction sheet, explaining how to fold the stamped, medical-grade steel into a palm-sized smoking utensil. No need to buy cheap paraphernalia in shady parts of a strange town. And no regrets about tossing a low-cost Fold-A-Bowl before a return flight home. $4.95 for four.
Thanks to Dr. Julie Holland, Harm Reduction Consultant Jennifer Janichek, and the staffs of SPARC Dispensary, Green Cross Dispensary, Sunshine Coast, and Pipe Dreams.