Louis Nayman

Bubbe’s Pot Mitzvah: A Vaping Guide for Kosher Boomers

Stuck on what to get Bubbe and Zaydee for their Golden Anniversary? Looking for a sure-fire way to secure your place in the will? The gift of a portable electronic pot vaporizer just might do the trick.

Don’t confuse portable pot vaporizers with the bulky plug-in appliances that humidify a room when you’ve got a cold. Hand-held electronic vaporizers heat weed to between 350 – 410 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to release marijuana’s active ingredients and flavor, but lower that the 700+ degrees necessary for the pot to ignite. That means no smoke – and none of smoke’s toxic impurities – is created or inhaled, only a soft flavorful vapor that’s easy on the throat and soothing to the disposition. There’s no ash to fuss over and no telltale lingering scent of burnt dope.

A 2013 Gallup Poll found that 44% of Americans aged 50 to 64, and 17% of those 65 and older, have tried marijuana at least once. With approximately 8,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, the demographics of marijuana use are rapidly graying.

But is it kosher?

The Orthodox Union, the world’s largest kashrus certifying authority, says no on the grounds that smoking marijuana is 1) illegal, 2) harmful to health (unless prescribed by a physician), and consequently 3) in violation of the Fifth Commandment, to honor thy father and mother. The OU has long refused to certify tobacco products for reasons of health and recently declined an application from an e-cigarette manufacturer.

But the harm-to-health prohibition, when applied to tobacco (and by implication, pot), is by no means settled law. The Israeli tobacco company Dubek has obtained certification from ultra-Orthodox Sephardic and Ashkenazy agencies, while Senor Solomon Cigars of Miami displays the hekhsher from Kosher Supervision of America (KSA). Star-K, a Baltimore based international kashrus certifier, concludes that hemp and hemp seed (and by implication, pot) are kosher all year round on the same basis as other permitted plants and herbs.

Across the United States, 21 states and the District of Columbia have legalized or decriminalized marijuana use in some form. Now the advent of vapor technology offers a relatively clean alternative to inhaling smoke. With a little resourcefulness, aging boomers in nearly half the country should have no difficulty identifying halakhik authority for vaping pot to their hearts’ content without violating health or legal prohibitions or trashing the Fifth or any other commandment.

And if Bubbe and Zaydee are living out their golden years in a Netanya condominium, so much the better. The Israeli government substantially funds eight domestic pot farms and an extensive research program in support of the country’s medical marijuana industry that amounts to more than $40 million annually and currently serves more than 12,000 users.

But before you go online and buy, this caution: not every device marketed as a vaporizer actually vapes. Stay away from the dozens of battery-powered models the size and shape of ballpoint pens selling from $45 to $110 online or at candy stores and mall kiosks. Most of these function no better than electronic pot burners that produce all the hot smoke, ash, and lingering smell typical of combustion.

So avoid embarrassment and spring for a premium portable device that really vaporizes. You won’t go wrong selecting from among the three reviewed here. Each has been tested for ease of use, portability, maintenance procedures, and mission effectiveness, and in keeping with the tenets of kashrus, no animals were harmed in the process.

Arizer Solo 

Listed at $224, this model can be found online for as low as $129.95 (plus shipping). Introduced in May 2011, the Canadian manufactured Solo looks like it was patched together in a chemistry lab. It consists of a 4 ½ inch black or silver base into which you attach a five-inch glass tube mouthpiece for drawing vapor. With its seven temperature settings, indicator lights, and internal rechargeable lithium ion battery that will heat pot all the way from 220 to 410 degrees F, the Solo will appeal to first adopters and gadget buffs, Chemex coffee maker users, high-fi components nuts, Consumers Reports subscribers and stripped down Saturn owners. Loading it is a bit tricky, so steady hands and good eyesight are required to avoid spillage or broken glass. Its weight – a little over 8 ounces – and protruding glass tube make the Solo a bit conspicuous and bulky for toking on the go, but it is perfectly serviceable if Bubbe and Zaydee are homebodies. The Solo’s upside is performance – the flavor is consistently superb, and it can be fun to watch vapor flow up through the glass straw and into Bubbe’s mouth. While you don’t ordinarily reveal what you paid for a gift, picking up a Solo at heavy discount is bound to translate into grandchild-with-ayiddisher-kup bragging rights for Zaydee at the poker table.

Ploom Pax

This nifty little unit is the most portable of the vaporizers tested, and retails for $249. Brought to market in August, 2012, the Pax has become the favorite for toking on the move. At 3.3 ounces, it’s the lightest and most compact of the devices tested at just over 4 inches long and about as wide and deep as a Tic-Tac box. Powered by an internal lithium ion battery, the Pax features three temperature settings and heats up to 410 F in 40 seconds. It charges in two hours and will stay charged for the same amount of time. The anodized aluminum exterior comes in choice of four sporty metallic colors – green, black, lavender and blue — and the heating chamber and vapor path are constructed of medical grade stainless steel.

Because of its relatively wide mouth and depth, the Pax’s conduction heating oven is easy to load without spilling, and holds slightly more than ½ teaspoon of tightly packed ground herb, twice the capacity of the other units tested.

If Bubbe and Zaydee are outdoors types the Pax will fit their lifestyle to a T. And the ten year warranty – the best of all vape manufacturers –means one less headache to fret over.

The only downside is that the Pax needs to be cleaned at least every two weeks, a process requiring keen vision, patience and nimble fingers. Still, it’s a terrific all-purpose device for inconspicuous vaping indoors and out. 

The Firefly

This powerful convection hand-held sells for $269.95, the high end of the premium portable price range. What you get for your money is exquisite design, top of the line materials and finish, and unmatched heating power and speed. The Firefly runs on a removable/ rechargeable High Output lithium ion battery that operates on 50 watts, compared to 45 for the Solo and 4 for the Pax. It heats to 400 degrees F in 8 to 10 seconds, the speediest of any unit tested, and at 45minutes recharges 2 to 3 times faster than its competitors.

The Firefly consists of an aircraft aluminum chassis – that comes in candy-apple red, pearlescent gray, or gleaming silver — with a fixed mouthpiece on the tapered end and a quartz crystal transparent window, the circumference of a nickel, through which the heating bowl can be viewed at the opposite end. Gently prying off the top cover (which attaches lengthwise via powerful magnetization) reveals an easily accessible borosilicate glass bowl for loading pot effortlessly without spillage. Once the cover has been reattached, a side button turns the device on, while another controls the proprietary Super Alloy heating element. You can see an orange glow and the dope begin to vaporize through the quartz crystal window, a nice intuitive throwback to what you’re used to when smoking, but without the toxins. There’s a learning curve to its use, but the practice required for mastery is likely to increase the Firefly’s mystique and appeal.

Although it comes with a black carrying pouch, the Firefly – which at 9.8 ounces is 3 times heavier than the Pax — won’t do much traveling. Aficionados will display it conspicuously among pieces of Maria Martinez pottery, Vinturi wine and whisky aerators, Ben Avraham Nhamani watercolors, and other conversation ornaments testifying to the elegance and hipness of the owners and the resourcefulness of their thoughtful most favorite grandchild.

A word about customer service

The pot vaporizer industry gets surprisingly high marks for friendly, prompt, attentive customer service. This is especially important for old people who like to be able to talk things through with a live person in real time. With Pax and Firefly I was able to speak with personable customer service representatives within 24 hours. The reps were patient, pleasant, enthusiastic and knowledgeable in response to my questions about how finely to grind or tear herb, how dense or loose to pack it, how deep to inhale, the effects of temperature on buzz, and the number of tokes to expect per fully loaded unit. Arizer Solo responded within 24 hours via email with what appeared to be a boilerplate scripted answer to my question, but disappointingly ignored my request for a conversation by phone.

One last piece of advice

Show Bubbe and Zaydee you were raised like a mensch. Just as you wouldn’t give someone an empty wallet as a gift, make sure their new vaporizer contains a little something in the bowl for getting them off to a good and auspicious start

About the Author
Louis Nayman, a labor union organizer for more than 30 years, has conducted education and training programs for trade unionists in Poland, Russia, Romania, Palestine and Lebanon. His writing has appeared in Tablet Magazine and In These Times.