Journal of the California Cannabis Research Medical
Volcano is to Vaporizer
As Porsche is to Automobile
Nine out of 10 doctors who recommend medicinal cannabis advise their patients
that vaporization is a safer delivery method than smoking.
When cannabis leaves and flowers burn, they release toxins -napthalene, benzene,
toluene, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, and other substances that insult
the lining of the throat and lungs.
But vapors released at temperatures below the burning point contain cannabinoids
-the medically effective components of the plant- minus most of the toxins.
Some flavorful molecules evaporate, too, at a point below combustion.
Markus Storz is an inventor from Tuttlingen, Germany -a town famous for the
manufacture of precision medical instruments. His "Volcano" vaporizer
consists of an electronic heating element and an air pump inside a cone-shaped
stainless steel housing about 9 inches in diameter and 8 inches high. It is
designed to apply a precise level of heat to a precise area -a thimble-sized
strainer in a black plastic cylinder- that snaps onto the neck of the top of
A balloon (a polyester oven bag, actually) attached to a quick-release mechanism
snaps onto the top of the chamber. The user sets a dial to the desired temperature
(180-190O centigrade for cannabis), and after a few minutes a light on the
console indicates that the proper level has been reached. A button is pushed
to start the pump, which forces air through the heated herb, capturing its
evaporated components and wafting them into the balloon.
The filled balloon unsnaps from the heating chamber and snaps onto a mouthpiece/valve that
does not allow any contents to be released until it is depressed -i.e., until
the user directs a stream of vapor into his or her mouth.
Thanks to the valve design, the Volcano's balloon can retain vapors for intermittent
inhalation. The manual suggests that the potency of the vapor begins to diminish
within a half hour, but one fan of the Volcano claims she can prepare a balloon
at bedtime for use in the morning, without noticeable loss of efficacy.
Volcano advocates say the device enables them to use cannabis more efficiently,
i.e. to consume less overall, after they have mastered the technique. "Using
small amounts of bud, on the dry side and ground medium-fine, is most efficient," according
to David Moore, who runs a store in San Francisco that sells Volcanos at a
Moore is an ardent fan of Storz and his invention. After first seeing one,
in the summer of 2002, he headed for Germany to pay his respects and to see
if Storz wanted a business partner. Storz had just taken on a partner, Jurgen
Bickel, but he was a gracious host and Moore has fond memories of hiking in
the green German countryside with him.
" The company was, and remains, a very small, hands-on operation," says
Moore. "Markus is a craftsman with the highest standards," says Moore. "That
won't change as the demand rises and they gear up to produce more."
Markus Storz (right) and partner Jurgen Bickel demonstrating
their Volcano Vaporizer.
" You really have to learn how to use the Volcano," according to Moore. "The
ideal setting seems to be '6' for most people (190o. centigrade). Lower you get
the flavor, but not the medicinal effect. Higher is too harsh."
Moderate inhalation is recommended. "You can take the slightest sip," says
Moore, "and taste the subtle flavors of whatever strain you're using.
It's surprising how flavorful and potent the supposedly lower-grade strains
can be when inhaled through the balloon."
Flavor, Moore notes, is a function of terpenes, flavonoids and other components
of the cannabis plant, not THC and the other cannabinoids.
Because the Volcano is expensive -up to $600 at retail outlets, and even more
some consumers buy just the valve set and use a heat gun to achieve the desired
temperature. Some stores even sell a sleeve designed to fit over the barrel
of a heat gun and receive the Volcano's filling chamber. "The heat gun
is a lot more portable than the Volcano," notes another store proprietor.
Moore counters: "With a heat gun you're breathing hot air and whatever
toxins come off the heating element. The Volcano is a precision medical instrument,
you don't have to worry about overheating or safety issues. Markus chose all
his materials with inhalation in mind."
Moore has been selling the Volcano "at a slight loss" to promote
use among his patrons at Mendocino Healing Alternatives, which is off Howard
St. between 11th and 12th in San Francisco (96 Lafayette St., 415-864-4600).
Storz and Bickel rationalize their pricing structure with a quote from John
Ruskin: "There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make
a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price
alone are that person's prey... When you pay too much, you lose a little money
-that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because
the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do."
is the journal of the CCRMG/SCC. Our primary goals are the same
as the stated goals of any
reputable scientific publication: to bring out findings that are
accurate, duplicable, and useful to the community at large. But in
order to do this, we have to pursue parallel goals such as removing
the impediments to clinical research created by Prohibition, and
educating our colleagues, co-workers and patients as we educate ourselves
about the medical uses of cannabis.
| The Society
of Cannabis Clinicians (SCC) was formed in the Autumn of 2004 by
the member physicians of CCRMG
to aid in the promulgation of voluntary standards for clinicians
engaged in the recommendation and approval of cannabis under California
law (HSC §11362.5).
As the collaborative effort continues to move closer to issueing
guidelines, this site serves as a public venue for airing and
discussing these guidelines.
Visit the SCC Site for more information.