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Blog 丨 2021.06.11

The History of Cannabis Vaping

Back in the Ancient Times

Cannabis vaping might seem like a new phenomenon or even a temporary fad, but its storied history dates back to the ancient times, inadvertently tied to the history of cannabis usage itself.  In fact, the earliest record of cannabis vaping can be found in the first known historical work, The Histories by renowned ancient Greek writer Herodotus.  The work, first published in 430 BC, describes the vaping experience of an ancient nomadic people called the Scythians, whom at the time of the story were based in ancient Egypt.  The Scythians would put hemp seed on red-hot stones until they vaporized, resulting in vapors which they would inhale.  While the exact effects of the vapors are unknown, the Scythians were said to “shout for joy” during the experience.  While the process is quite different to the vaping we are familiar with today, the fundamental elements remain the same.  Cannabinoid substances (the hemp seeds) are heated to a high temperature, but not burnt, so that they release vapors.

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Modern-Day Inventions

The history of cannabis vaping devices dates back to the early 20th century, when Joseph Robinson patented the mechanical butane ignition vaporizer.  The patent for the device, published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 1927, was the earliest documented form of the vaporizer in the country.  It wasn’t until 1960 when, Herbert Gilbert, a scrap metal dealer and Korean War veteran, patented an invention called the Smokeless, that the vaporizer form of today came to be.  Gilbert’s invention contained a liquid that was warmed by a battery-powered device, creating a vapor that the user inhales.  While the invention has been referred to as the first electronic cigarette, his patent cited countless times by today’s inventors, the Smokeless contained no tobacco or nicotine.  Gilbert is still alive today and has said that he is proud that his invention made way for devices that help people have safer and healthier experiences.


Vaporizers and the Cannabis Community

In 1989, High Times, a US-based magazine advocating for the legalization of marijuana and other countercultural ideas, published an article written by a mysterious article called Dr. Lunglife.  The article contained detailed instructions for transforming easily obtained parts into a low-cost vaporizer, along with a guide to making a highly potent cannabis concentrate to use with the vaporizer.  The vaporizing process involved brushing the concentrate or oil onto a lightbulb thread, which served as the heating element.  Five years later, in 1993, a Native American medicine man named Eagle Bill invented the Shake & Vape, the first publicly available vaporizer.  The Shake & Vape is a small glass pipe with a chamber at the end into which herbs are inserted.  The user would then use a strong lighter to heat the bottom side of the chamber until vapor is released and inhaled through the pipe.  The device gained popularity when Eagle Bill attended the 7th Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam the year after its invention.  Attendees were blown away, the device became the most popular exhibit at the event for 10 years, and the cannabis community began to embrace vaping.


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21st Century Technology

Since then, there has been numerous inventions and advancements in the field of cannabis vaping.  Notable devices include The Volcano, a tabletop vaporizer first developed in 1996 by German entrepreneur Markus Storz.  He obtained a patent for the device in 1999 and the device entered the United States in 2003.  The device, meant for use with dry herb, was popular for its ability to produce powerful vapors, although it was quite expensive at the time.  Next, cannabis entrepreneurs came up with cannabis oil for use with vaporizers on a commercial scale.  In the past, a small segment of cannabis users would bathe cannabis plant in alcohol to extract THC, creating an informal market of “hash oil”.  This time, the oil is extracted by bathing cannabis leaf in ethanol or butane, filtering out any solid material, then evaporating the solvent to leave the concentrated oil.  They also discovered that extracting oil meant being able to use the entire plant rather than having to discard stems and other parts, which meant more product for the same amount of raw cannabis material.  In addition, the oil could be mixed with flavorings and other additives to give it various flavors or create bigger vapor clouds.  The availability of cannabis oil drove the popularity of portable vaporizer devices.  In 2003, Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik invented a device that was to become the first modern vaporizer pen, which included a battery, a cartridge to contain the solution or concentrate, and an atomizer.  The first vape pen entered the US market in 2007 and instantly became a hit, inspiring inventors to develop similar devices for use with cannabis and cannabinoid products.


The Future of Cannabis Vaping

Nowadays, the cannabis vaporizer market is deeply entwined with Silicon Valley and the tech industry.  Mark Williams, a co-founder of a leading brand of cannabis vapes, was previously a product developer at Apple.  PAX Labs, which also produces weed vaporizers, started as a startup in San Francisco.  Nowadays, cannabis dispensaries want to look like Apple stores, while vaping devices increasingly resemble USB drives and smart devices.  Product lines are getting sleeker and incorporating more features like LED displays and Bluetooth app synchronization.  There are more variations in form and quality of vaporizers than ever before.  According to many industry insiders, the cannabis vape market is also trending toward devices which use disposable pre-filled cartridges of cannabis extract or oil.  These pre-dosed, self-contained devices are more convenient, user-friendly, and perceived as more medicinal.  The industry continues to invest more resources into research and development in order to enhance the experience of vaping, making it safer, easier, and more enjoyable.  Our team at CILICON  is focused on staying ahead of the curve, bringing you devices that not only look good, but make you feel good.  We are committed to advancing our devices and cartridges in order to become a key part in the continuing history of cannabis vaping.