New Marijuana Device Has its Advocates and Critics
It’s discreet, disposable, and mild—and they’re changing the way people consume marijuana.
At a recent Seahawks football game in Seattle, Shady Sadis, 41, took a drag on a slim vapor pen that looked like a jet black Marlboro. The tip glowed red as he inhaled.
But the pen contained no nicotine. Instead, it held 250 milligrams of cannabis oil loaded with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
“Nobody noticed,” said Sadis, who owns several marijuana dispensaries in Washington State. “You pull it out of your pocket, take a hit like a cigarette, put it back, and you’re done. It’s so discreet.”
“This day and age, everybody has a vapor pen,” he said. “You don’t know if they’re smoking marijuana or nicotine.”
“It’s the iPod of vaporizers,” said one enthusiast. It’s “very Apple,” his friend agreed.
The device, called a JuJu Joint, heralds a union that seems all but inevitable: marijuana and the e-cigarette, together at last in an e-joint. For years, people have been stuffing marijuana in various forms into portable vaporizers and into the cartridges of e-cigarettes. But the JuJu Joint is disposable, requires no charging of batteries or loading of cartridges, and comes filled with 150 hits.
You take it out of the package and put it to your lips — that’s it. There is no smoke and no smell.
Since their introduction in April, 75,000 JuJu Joints have been sold in Washington State, where marijuana is recreationally and medically legal. The maker says that 500,000 will be sold this year and that there are plans to expand to Colorado and Oregon, where recreational use is legal, and to Nevada, where it is decriminalized.
“I wanted to eliminate every hassle that has to do with smoking marijuana,” said Rick Stevens, 62, the inventor and co-founder of JuJu Joints with Marcus Charles, a Seattle entrepreneur. “I wanted it to be discreet and easy for people to handle. There’s no odor, matches or mess.”
Not everyone is so enthusiastic. Many addiction researchers fear that e-cigarettes will pave the way to reliance on actual cigarettes, especially in teenagers. And THC adversely affects the developing brain, some studies have found, impairing attention and memory in adolescents and exacerbating psychiatric problems.
“In some ways, e-joints are a perfect storm of a problematic delivery system, the e-cigarette, and in addition a problematic substance, cannabis oil,” said Dr. Petros Levounis, the chairman of the psychiatry department at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
Each JuJu Joint contains 100 milligrams of THC, twice as much as a traditional joint, as well as propylene glycol, a chemical normally used to absorb water in foods and cosmetics, said Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine.
“We do not know the effects of inhaling constant doses of this agent,” she said. “We know very little about these products and what they contain.”
Stevens, a former marketing executive who spent 30 years in the tobacco industry, defended the device’s THC content, pointing out that each inhalation is metered by the device. “Our goal is not to get people stoned so they sit in corner and vegetate,” he said.
Local retailers report that JuJu Joints are catching on, especially with women and consumers in their 40s to 60s.
“You wouldn’t believe the demographic this has opened up,” said Ed Vallejo, 60, a manager at New Vansterdam, a recreational store in Vancouver, Wash. “This is the older, retired set. The younger set can’t afford it.”
“I love the convenience of it,” drag queen Jinkx Monsoon said, taking a drag for the first time, pointing out it’s perfect for singers since “you don’t have to burn something and inhale the smoke.”
JuJu Joints for recreational use cost $65 to $100 each, 25 percent of which goes to the state’s Liquor Control Board. It costs a suggested donation of $25 at medical dispensaries. Purchasers must be at least 21.
“The underlying reason people buy it is because of its design and because you can smoke it in public,” said Lindsay Middleton, 21, a bud-tender at Green Lady Marijuana, a recreational store in Olympia. Though smoking marijuana in public is illegal, customers report using JuJu Joints while skiing, hiking and going to concerts.
One may not immediately feel anything after using the JuJu Joint— the company website says to “enjoy three or four hits and give it five minutes.” Even when it does hit its user, it’s a softer high than most are used to. After you’ve taken a few drags, one can slip the device into their pocket without worrying about spilling ashes or weed into their pants.
Law enforcement agencies are concerned that discreet vapor pens filled with cannabis oil are already being abused by teenagers, and that many are sure to lay hands on JuJu Joints.
“If you go on Instagram, you will find hundreds of thousands of postings by kids on how they are using variants of e-cigarettes, or e-cigarettes themselves, to smoke pot in the presence of their parents and at school, and getting by,” said Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Agency.
According to the latest Monitoring the Future Survey, an annual study of 40,000 teenagers conducted by the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014 marked the first year that more teenagers used e-cigarettes than traditional ones.
The study also found that in the past year, 35.1 percent of 12th graders consumed marijuana, making it the most common illicit drug among high school seniors.
But users of medical marijuana may prove to be the largest market for e-joints. The Food and Drug Administration recognizes no legitimate medical use, and there is little high-quality research backing marijuana as a remedy for the scores of conditions for which it is being used.
A few studies, however, suggest ingredients in marijuana may help relieve pain and improve appetite in patients with cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis. Some researchers argue that marijuana — especially in the form of nebulized vapor — could be found beneficial to even more patients, if the federal government loosened research restrictions.
“There may be and probably is a legitimate medical use for vaping cannabis, but we need to do the research to figure out if it’s true and to find out the dosing,” said Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. “But with marijuana being a Schedule 1 drug, it’s so onerous to get the licensure that many people actually skilled to do the research just choose not to.”
Ocean Greens cannabis shop owner Oltion Hyseni says there are a lot of reasons the e-joint is so popular. ”A lot of people that are new to recreational marijuana or are coming back after years of nonsmoking, they prefer vapes over smoke. Juju Joints are good for people who don’t want to get so baked they can’t talk, don’t want to set something on fire, and don’t want to inhale carcinogens. Health-wise, it doesn’t have the agents that smoke has—that’s the number-one benefit,” Hyseni says.
Even though the oil in Juju Joints contains about 40 percent THC—twice the amount of THC as what you’d find in the plant material of a traditional joint— it’s a different experience.
“The first few times I tried one, I didn’t think it was making me high. It smelled lovely and solved all the problems I associated with other vaporizers, but still, where was the high?” Chris Frizelle said. “Only 10 or 15 minutes later did I start to feel something, and when I did, it wasn’t the same high I was used to. It didn’t scramble my brain. I could read a book without getting lost in the shapes of the letters, like I do if I smoke a regular joint.”
“It was fine, but I missed the sensation of smoking a joint,” said one friend after trying it. “I felt sort of stoned but in a different way. It was less intense, but it was kind of weirder.”
The old school way had folks making their own hash oil; grinding up the weed and flushing it with a solvent: alcohol, naphtha, hexane, butane, propane—just about any solvent will do, and stuffing it into a vaporizer by hand.
”People left and right are blowing up their houses doing this,” Stevens said, holding up a bottle of cannabis oil someone had made with butane as the solvent. “It’s dangerous. The other thing about using petrochemicals is that they end up in the final product, so Juju Joints don’t use petrochemicals in the first place.”
After simple trial and error, Stevens devised a system that uses liquid CO2, which is safe to ingest and also acts as a sterilizer—taking care of any bugs, mold, or mildew that might be in the weed.
Stevens is now developing a JuJu Joint that contains only cannabidiol, or CBD, a nonpsychoactive extract of marijuana that advocates say can prevent seizures. This version contains less than 0.3 percent THC, so it would be legal nationwide.
The world belongs to those who build a better mousetrap, and the sky appears to be the limit for cannabis connoisseurs and entrepreneurs alike in this day and age.
~Via MSN News, NYT, The Stranger, YouTube, JuJu Joint
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Want to know more? Here’s the unofficial stoner’s review.