Jim Makoso is the Vice President of Business Development at Vuber Technologies, a vaporizer manufacturer based in Washington State. In this podcast, Shango and Jim discuss how vaporizing cannabis differs from smoking it, how carcinogens come into play when combustion occurs, and how Vuber Technologies has worked with physicists and extract producers to ensure a high-quality product and vaping experience.
Listen to the interview on iTunes, via the Ganjapreneur mobile app, or using the media player below! You can also scroll down to read the full transcript.
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Shango Los: Hi there and welcome to the Ganjapreneur.com podcast. I am your host Shango Los. The Ganjapreneur.com podcast gives us the opportunity to speak directly to entrepreneurs, cannabis growers, product developers and cannabis medicine researchers. All focused on making the most of cannabis normalization. As your host I do my best to bring you original cannabis industry ideas, that will ignite your own entrepreneurial spark and give you actionable information to improve your business strategy, and improve your health and the health of cannabis patients everywhere. Today my guest is Jim Makoso, vice president of business development at Vuber Technologies. Vuber Technologies is a developer of premium vaping pens and other products for cannabis concentrates, cartridges and flowers. Over several years of research and product revisions, they have developed not only an exceptionally high quality line of products, but also a knowledge base about vaping that is exceptionally valuable. Welcome Jim.
Jim Makoso: Hello Shango. Thanks a lot for having me.
Shango Los: Jim, vaporizing has come into existence in response to the dangers of combustion smoking. What’s so off putting about smoking joints that cannabis enthusiasts are turning to vape technology all of a sudden?
Jim Makoso: That’s an interesting question. Specifically what we’re seeing out there is that joints in general or other combustible forms of consumption … it leaves users with that smell of cannabis. Although it’s legal in this state and Washington, there’s still a stigma nationwide about the smell of cannabis, as it being a grey area type of substance. Vaporization is different in that when you’re vaporizing these products, you usually don’t get that lingering smell that’s associated with smoking joints.
Shango Los: In addition to that Jim, isn’t there something that combustion does to the lung that you don’t get with vaporization?
Jim Makoso: Absolutely. There’s a whole different process of vaporization when compared to combustion smoking. Vaporizing cannabis is a more efficient way to consume the product, in that it utilizes more of the essential cannabinoids and terpenes of the product, more so than combustion smoking. There is a scientific process that’s happening there, which makes it more beneficial to the user in the efficiency or the amount of cannabinoids consumed in the same volume. Let’s say in a gram.
Shango Los: You’re going to get more bang for your buck essentially? You’re using it more efficiently so your money and your medicine goes farther than it would normally, if you were just burning the plant straight?
Jim Makoso: That’s right.
Shango Los: How about the effect on the lungs? I know that a lot of folks are moving to vaporization just because they feel that their lungs stay healthier overtime.
Jim Makoso: Yeah. That’s an interesting point. Basically what happens when you combust or when you burn cannabis, you’re getting up to really high temperatures. Those high temperatures are changing the actual chemical compounds, the nature of those products, into something else. Some of those things are carcinogenic or have known to be cancer causing. Vaporization is different in that when you vaporize these products you’re only heating it up to the point at which it vaporizes, or changes from a solid to a vapor which you inhale. It doesn’t go past that point. It’s a lot cleaner product to consume where you don’t get as many of the nasty carcinogens, or any at all if you’re using a good vaporizer.
Shango Los: I can almost hear our audience ears perk up when you mentioned cancer causing attributes in cannabis, which people will be like, “No, it’s not in there anywhere.” Let’s drill on down on that a little bit. Can you get really specific about what cancer causing agents you’re talking about?
Jim Makoso: Yeah. Absolutely. Specifically and this has been scientifically proven … I’m not a scientist, but obviously we’ve worked with a few scientists and have read a number of reports, as we’ve done our research into vaporization for our own purposes. There are specific compounds when heated up to higher temperatures, terpenes in specific, which are the aromatic or the flavor producing products within cannabis. When you heat them up to very high temperatures, i.e. combustion … When you’re burning these things it’s changing the state of these compounds from what they are, aromatic terpenes, to some of these nasties called carcinogens. Specifically the ones that people are the most concerned about are one called benzene and another called toluene. I’m not a scientist so I don’t want to get into the details of those compounds. What has been proven is some of those compounds, as well as many others, have been known to cause cancer in certain instances and in certain concentrations over longer periods of time.
Probably the reason why people aren’t seeing these compounds as associated with cannabis, is because cannabis has compounds in it that work against these compounds to help prevent those things from happening. But certainly anytime you heat up these products to exceptionally high temperatures through burning them, you are getting some of these carcinogens.
Shango Los: Jim one of the things that people really like about vaporizers is that you can choose the temperature. Both for the efficiency like you were talking before, and so that you can release specifically the terpenes and the different cannabinoids that you’re targeting. Tell us a little bit about the different temperatures and volatility of the cannabinoids. Why using a pen is a different experience than for example, using your bong?
Jim Makoso: That’s a great question. Here at Vuber Technologies, one of the biggest things we do is offer people the opportunity and share with them the opportunity to understand that this is a different experience. This is a new way to consume cannabis, unlike maybe the traditional ways that they consume. Specifically when it comes to terpenes and cannabinoids, you have hundred and hundreds of different compounds in any given flower. Of those compounds obviously we know of THC, which is what Dr. Meshulam isolated back in the sixties, as the psychoactive compound. Of course the buzz word these days is about CBD or cannabidiol as well as many other compounds that are in the plant. Those are cannabinoids. Those are unique to this plant, to cannabis specifically. The terpenes in the plant … those are not unique to cannabis. Terpenes you see across the board in all flora and fauna in the plant kingdom.
Specifically these compounds, everyone of them have their own boiling point. Or their own point at which they change from a solid compound to a vapor in the case of terpenes where you smell it. Or in the case of cannabinoids where you’re able to consume it to get the beneficial effects. The different boiling points are what ultimately allow you to get that full experience. When you … Let’s say hit your cannabis on a bong with the lighter, you’re basically burning up all the terpenes and cannabinoids in that product. You’re getting what they call entourage effect of all those compounds combined. Of course you’re getting some of the nasties there. It’s been proven that you’re only consuming about ten to fifteen percent efficiency, that’s what you’re getting out of it. Whereas compared to vaporization, you’re hitting those boiling points at every point on the way up. We’ve seen studies of vaporizers getting an eighty to eighty five percent efficiency in the same mass of material.
The benefit in that vaporizer is that you’re hitting all of the boiling points all the way up the profile. All the way up to those higher boiling points of those cannabinoids, the really high cannabinoids.
Shango Los: I follow what you’re saying. By using the efficient targeting of the temperature we’re getting more of what we want and less of what we don’t?
Jim Makoso: Yes. That was a very simple and a lot easier way of saying what I just said.
Shango Los: Right on, thanks Jim. Well hey Jim we’re going to take a short break and be right back. You are listening to the ganjapreneur.com podcast.
Shango Los: Welcome back you are listening to the ganjapreneur.com podcast. I am your host Shango Los. Our guest this week is Jim Makoso of Vuber technologies. Before the break we were talking about how much healthier it is to use vaping technology, either vaping pens or cannabis flower pens versus traditional ways of smoking a joint of a bong. Specifically because being able to choose your temperature means that you’re going to get more of what you want and less of what you don’t. Jim I can imagine that there are certain things that you’re missing from the traditional marijuana smoking, experience when you go over to vaping. A lot of people talk about vaping having a different kind of a buzz. For better or for worse it does seem to have a little bit of different feeling to it. What explains that?
Jim Makoso: You’ll see a lot of different studies about this specific debate. This is a hot debate for those of us that are in the vaporization space. I’m not a scientist. I’ve said that earlier in this podcast. But specifically what I think – this is just my opinion – what I think the real difference is when you are smoking or combusting some of these products … I do believe that, that smoke that has some of those nasties in it or let’s just say higher temperature carcinogens in it, are also adding to the effect. From a vaporization standpoint if you ask somebody who say does a dab, for those that don’t know what that is, just a really specific high temperature concentrate vaporized experience. Some of those people are getting stronger sensations than say when they just consume. Some of those people are getting stronger sensations than say when they just consume flower and still have that whole effect, of the extent of time in which they have the experience. As well as the level at which they have that heightened experience or the sensation of being high. It really depends on two things. One, the person. Every single person is going to have a different experience. Two, also is what they use to consume. How they vaporize it. Be it a dab, a high temp vaporizer, or some of these cheaply made Chinese vaporizers, which definitely aren’t getting the job done.
Shango Los: I don’t want to go down this path too far, but it has been brought up on this podcast before that folks are looking into dabbing. Especially really hot temperature dabs that they vaporize so much terpene at once, that terpenes at a certain point become toxic. That is why sometimes when people are going to do … especially a monster dab. That they get something in addition to the traditional cannabis experience, where their head feels like it’s going to explode or something. I’m going to be really interested to see how that research plays out about whether or not dabbing gives us terpene toxicity. It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays.
Jim Makoso: Absolutely.
Shango Los: Some people say that with vaporization you get less of a stoney buzz. It’s a little bit more of a clean headed buzz. You do a lot of focus groups with patients and just recreational enthusiasts. What kind of feedback do you get about that?
Jim Makoso: That’s a great question. Specifically what we’re finding as people who work in these spaces and deal with consumers first hand, as well as other folks that sell these products. What we’re finding is that really the experience is based on the products being used. Specifically the vaporizers being used, as well as the concentrate or flower being consumed. Typically, when it comes to effect … let’s exclude the vaporizer. If you have a very efficient vaporizer to consume it, the effect is based on just the person’s endocannabinoid system. In other words their body and the way that they consume it, as well as the products that they’re consuming. Different terpenes are responsible for different affects. Different concentrations of cannabinoids are responsible for different effects. You add that into the pharmacological aspects of how a person’s body works, you’re going to get a different effect. Two people with the same substance can have two totally different effects in the way in which it affects them.
That’s what we’re seeing here. We’re not seeing a static situation where every person is having the same level of effectiveness given a product.
Shango Los: I’ve had that experience myself with just taking the same flower out of the same bag and using it two different ways. Say for example take some Blue Dream and have it in a joint. Later on take that same Blue Dream, put it in the vaporizer and I’m having two different kind of medicated experiences. From what we’re talking about that’s likely because when I’m smoking the joint it’s releasing one full set of terpenes and cannabinoids into my body. When I vaporize it, it’s targeting a different set. Really I am intaking two different sets which would give me two different experiences.
Jim Makoso: Absolutely.
Shango Los: You mentioned some of the cheaper pens that are coming from China. God knows that I’ve been passed those at events. They feel different in the hand and they hit oddly. What would you suggest that people look for when choosing a vape pen. It seems like everybody’s in the market now selling these things. From local head shops that have got them branded with their own logo on them, to new startups from outside the cannabis industry, who are jumping in to make a quick buck. What should folks who are shopping for one look for in a decent pen?
Jim Makoso: That’s a interesting question because when we first got in the market we were one of those people that was shopping … Let’s say less quality product and just trying to find a niche in the market as we were learning. Keep in mind this was a couple years ago. It took us some time to understand the nuisances of vaporization technology and how to improve them. Thankfully Shango, you’ve been a very big critic as it were, to help us get to a better level of finding product. One of the most important things when it comes to vaporization is specifically the atomizer. The atomizer is the heating element inside of every single vaporizer that you will find. From the e-cigarettes that you see out there where people are blowing these big clouds, to the vaporizers that we’re creating, consumes specifically flower, concentrate and some of these pre-filled cartridges. The heating element is what ultimately determines the level of quality of the vapor being produced, the efficiency of that vapor production. As well as the long term potential health benefits or negative impacts that it could have.
What you want to look for in a vaporizer specifically, a quality heating element or a atomizer that has well known substances inside of it. For instance with our vaporizer, specifically with our concentrate vaporizer, we use a ceramic wick and a titanium coil. We find that that produces the most consistent quality of vapor, as well as has the best in terms of long term health benefits, is the most well known to be the safest. Obviously as we develop and as we become a little bit more knowledgeable about the longer term effects of these substances, obviously we’ll be able to address that in more detail. But specifically the quality of that atomizer is what is ultimately going to determine the quality of the vapor production.
Shango Los: What you just said about your product will evolve as the industry learns more. With cannabis still being a Schedule 1, a lot of the basic manufacturing and usage research that you would want as a manufacturer, probably doesn’t even exist yet. Because the science community has not been able to go at cannabis extracts and concentrates, like it would other products in other industries. Because they just can’t set up trials and do all the testing because it’s been illegal.
Jim Makoso: That’s absolutely right. We’re hoping to become a bigger part of that equation. Currently we do not have a scientist … Let’s say per say, on staff. We do continually consult with PhD level scientists, thermophysicists. There’s one in particular that works at the University of Washington, owns his own company, that consults with us on things that we should be thinking about in order to be better at this. Keep in mind we’re a small Washington startup that is just trying to make a difference in this space. As we’ve grown and become more successful, we’re finding that a lot of the questions that we have are questions that are industry issues. We find that as we solve some of these issues and become more knowledgeable, we’re able to add value and speak with folks like you and educate people on specifically what to look for, what to be aware of and how to use these products effectively.
Shango Los: I can see how that would be a two sided coin for sure. Because since you’re one of the earliest folks in the market, in one of the earliest states to begin normalization, you’re kind of reinventing the wheel. You are having to do a lot of the groundbreaking research to figure out how best to meet your customers needs. Once you nail this down, folks who come to the market after you will be able to learn from your successes and errors, just to get the benefit of all that. I guess that’s one of the challenging parts of being a trailblazer.
Jim Makoso: Absolutely. As a business person it can be very rewarding. As a consumer and a cannabis enthusiast myself, this is fun. We’re doing something different. We’re a part of history in changing the way that people experience cannabis. Here at Vuber Technologies, that’s been our credo since the beginning as a vaporizing company. It’s not glamorous. It’s not as sexy, if you will, as growing pot or creating extracts. It is just as important in telling the story of this new generation of educated and informed cannabis consumers.
Shango Los: Yeah. Jim in the last six minutes I want to hit the other two kinds of pens that we’ve talked around, but not hit. I want to talk about the cartridges. Specifically I’d like you to speak to propylene glycol because I’m going to talk about how to choose a good cartridge. Also talk about vaping flowers and the differences between that kind of a pen and an oil pen. We’ll wrap up and get out, alright?
Jim Makoso: Sounds good.
Shango Los: Welcome back. You are listening to the Ganjapreneur.com podcast. I am your host Shango Los and our guest this week is Jim Makoso of Vuber Technologies. Jim, we been talking about oil vaporization pens. Mostly the kinds that has got the ceramic bowl on the inside. You go ahead, you slather some of your own wax or oil inside of that and you go ahead and vaporize. The cartridges themselves are starting to get very popular. In fact I really like my cartridge pen for when I’m on the go, or at a cannabis convention because of its overall convenience. For folks who aren’t familiar, the cartridges are these clear vials if you will and they’ve got the cannabis oil in there. It’s more a viscous. It goes down a little bit of a wick, it hits a heating point on a battery and it vaporizes that way. Those themselves normally don’t fill yourself at home with wax that you may have produced. These are something that you’re going to more usually buy at a medical or a rec store.
Jim let’s talk about these: they’re super convenient, people really like them, and there’s a lot of variety in them too. Some folks are better extracting oil for that purpose than others. Some folks are delivering a cartridge that is just oil. Some folks are using a fluid to help bring it to the right viscosity. Sometimes they add propylene glycol, sometimes I’ve seen coconut oil and also vegetable glycerin. As somebody who makes the pens that accepts the cartridges, what would you suggest for people to consider when they’re choosing a cartridge to use in their vaporizer?
Jim Makoso: That’s a great question. Let me preface this with a disclaimer. I sell hardware to every manner of processor there is. Some of those who use coconut oil to cut their … or so called dilute their cannabis extract in order to be able to vaporize in a cartridge. Some that don’t. From a business perspective we were very happy to educate and work alongside a lot of our customers, to help them figure out whatever their solutions is. Whatever they want to produce, we help them get to that end product. That’s something we do here at Vuber vaporizers. As a consumer, personally I prefer the products that don’t use propylene glycol, coconut oil or any other cutting agent to dilute my cannabis extract. There are companies out there that produce a product that is clean. That has no additives, that is just cannabis and some terpenes. That’s the product that I prefer. Typically for any consumer out there, for their own knowledge, you should do a bit of homework on the product that you’re picking up.
If they’re cutting it with propylene glycol in order to get it to vaporize in a cartridge, do your research. As of right now propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and coconut oil are all what they call generally safe to consume. There is no real long term research on the health impacts of consuming, inhaling, in other words vaporizing these products and inhaling them. All of those studies that deemed it generally safe to consume are based in ingesting it. You know, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin … vegetable glycerin is just vegetable oil, similar to the vegetable oil you would cook with at home. It’s just a purified version of it. Propylene glycol is basically an additive in many of the foods, candies and things like that, that you find out there in the market. These are things that we’ve been putting into our bodies for the last forty years or so. The difference is we don’t really know from an inhalation standpoint, the long term impact that some of these compounds have.
With that being said, we work with all of our customers that do in fact … Some of them use propylene glycol. Some of them use vegetable glycerin. Some of them use coconut oil. Some of them use as substance called PEG or polyethylene glycol. We work with all of these companies and we just advise end consumers: do your homework and find the ones that work best for you.
Shango Los: It brings out the fact that doing extraction is continually an evolving art form, and these artisans that are able to use their extractors to bring out a final product that’s properly viscous to go down the wick without any adulterants .. That’s a pretty talented team to do that.
Jim Makoso: It definitely requires some skill for sure.
Shango Los: Well thanks Jim. That’s actually quite a bit to consider when thinking about buying a cartridge. Thanks for joining us today.
Jim Makoso: Thanks for having me Shango.
Shango Los: Jim Makoso is vice president of business development of Vuber Technologies. You can find the Ganjapreneur podcast in the podcast section of Ganjapreneur.com. You can also find us on the Cannabis Radio Network website and in the Apple iTunes store. You can read interview transcriptions on our home website at Ganjapreneur.com. Thanks to Brasco for producing the show. As always I am your host Shango Los.