Vaping is quickly emerging as one of the most convenient and beginner-friendly methods of consuming plant compounds in oil, isolate and concentrate form. As of this writing, cannabinoids, terpenes and full spectrum products can all be used in a lightweight and portable device in either commercially-available or homemade cartridges.
Unlike THC or CBD however, only the most inquisitive DIYers have tried to vape Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) using a vape pen or dab rig. Due to lack of information on the safety and practicality of vaping RSO, most consumers are hesitant to try it — which is probably a good thing.
What is Rick Simpson Oil?
RSO is essentially a cannabis oil with a higher concentration of THC than other full-spectrum oil products. Canadian marijuana activist Rick Simpson developed RSO as an alternative to medical marijuana strains commonly prescribed during cancer treatments. However, many users of RSO report also having used it for health issues like mood or anxiety disorders with impressive results.
RSO is derived from cannabis indicas, which explains its success in use against pain from conditions like multiple sclerosis and arthritis. Indicas contain higher doses of THC than sativas, along with a peripheral sedative effect. It’s also worth noting that indicas are heavily preferred over sativas when prescribing medical cannabis to cancer patients.
While comparable in potency to cannabis distillates, RSO retains more plant matter, as it undergoes a less expensive extraction and stripping process.
Because other cannabis extract products like CBD oils and terpene isolates are so commonly infused into vaporizer e-liquids, it might seem like a no-brainer to vape RSO. In this post, we’ll go over important reasons why you shouldn’t vape RSO, and stick to more conventional methods of consumption instead.
Can You Vape RSO?
Currently, the recommended method of consuming RSO is either sublingually (i.e. placed under the tongue, inside of the cheek etc) or by using it in cooking, just as you would with canna-oils and canna-butters. There’s a reason RSO isn’t readily available in cartridge form, and it’s that it shouldn’t be vaped.
Of course any DIYer can use RSO with a bit of wax liquidizer and incorporate it into a homemade cartridge, but here are three of the most important reasons you shouldn’t vape RSO in most cases:
- Ethanol extraction is the most commonly used method for creating RSO today, which presents many issues for its prospective use with a vaporizer device. First, there’s no way of knowing the amount of unpurged alcohol left in any bottle of RSO, as there is no standardization for it in existing industry regulations. More importantly, there is no standardization for it because ethanol-extracted RSO is designed to be used sublingually.
Subpar RSO oil products may yet contain significant leftover trace amounts of unpurged alcohol, which is safe enough for ingestion, but not for inhaling. Inhaling unpurged alcohol could lead to irritated or inflamed sinuses or tonsils, headaches and pain in the lungs.
- Naphtha extraction is the most common method for producing homemade RSO oil among DIYers. Naphtha is more commonly known as lighter fluid, and functions as a passable extraction solvent when cutting costs.
The issue with naphtha extraction is in the stripping process: trace amounts of several unwanted compounds including chlorophyll and other plant particulates remain in the final solution even after the solvent is evaporated, creating RSO oil with a strong smell and taste. Vaping naphtha extracted RSO oil isn’t only likely to be an unpleasant experience, but likely to damage, clog or burn out your vaping hardware as well.
- Synthetic thinning agents like propylene glycol (PG) are considered “generally safe” by the FDA. However, many vapers report feelings of nausea or vertigo with prolonged vaping of e-liquids with a significant proportion of PG. Because RSO is quite thick and sticky, any homemade vapeable RSO mixture is bound to contain a thinning agent, which is something to be wary of.
Knowing What You Vape
The inherent risk in vaping RSO is in not knowing the particulars of the extraction process, trace residues and thinning agents in any given RSO product. Theoretically, an RSO mixture extracted with 190 proof non-GMO ethanol and thinned down entirely with organic vegetable glycerin might be safe to vape. However, nearly all vapeable RSO products in circulation are extracted using solvents like hexane, butane or ethanol to cut production costs.
As of this writing, the only way to be sure an RSO mixture is safe to vape is through association with a skilled DIYer with exacting standards, or by purchasing only RSO products certified by reputable third-party testing laboratories. This would eliminate all possibility of obfuscation with regards to formulation, processing and ingredient composition.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that virtually all vapeable RSO is a homemade or ad-hoc amalgamation of thinned down RSO mixed into either e-liquid, CBD oil or terpene isolates. Until vapeable RSO formally enters the legal cannabis industry and regulators set safety standards for vaping RSO in stone, it’s probably best to use these products sublingually, which is how they’re designed to be consumed.