- The author puffs on a vape pen while contemplating the grand masters who’ve come before.
The other night I was puffing on one of my vaporizers and working on a piece on the history of vaporization. The stories go back millennia, to the Middle East and a nomadic tribe known as Scythians: fierce tattooed warriors often credited for expanding the use of cannabis throughout Russia, Europe, Central Asia and the Mediterranean. They're a fascinating people aside from the connection to cannabis, as they had a form of gender equality that in many cases we are still working to achieve now. (Insert shooting star "The More You Know PSA here...)
Their connection to vaporization was rooted in rituals honoring their departed leaders. They would purify themselves by tossing stalks of flowering hemp onto beds of coals in enclosed structures similar to yurts, which released vapor clouds of THC.
How did that work out?
Pretty great, according to a man named Herodotus, who in approximately 450 B.C, wrote: "...when, therefore, the Scythians have taken some seed of this hemp, they creep under the cloths and put these seeds on the red hot stones; but this being put on smoke, and produces such a steam, that no Grecian vapour-bath would surpass it. The Scythians, transported by the vapour, shout aloud."
For years, I assumed that was about it for creative vaporization methods, save for a homemade woodburner vaporizer I tried in the 90s.
But in the 1960s and 70s, there was a man who took vaporization to a new level. He's a long time music industry player based in the South, and one night, he told me this story, which was confirmed by an old friend of his who was also there. And as cool as it is, I'm emphatically imploring you NOT to try this at home.
This gentleman, who we will call the O.G., lived above a record store in the South. This was during the time that the vast majority of cannabis available came from Mexico. It wasn't what you would consider a "top shelf" dispensary grade offering. To ease the smuggling of the flower, it was pressed into thick slabs, compressed to the point that pulling off enough to roll a few joints required the use of a knife, with the chunks that came off having the density of a dwarf star.
O.G. would have parties inviting his cannabis-friendly friends over in the late evening. Once people were inside, they would make some interesting pre-party modifications to the dwelling. All of the windows were covered up with thick sheets of plastic and the edges taped over. Towels were rolled and stuffed under the door cracks. Many toasters were brought out and plugged in throughout the house. (Again—and I can't emphasize this enough, people: Do not try this at home. This is a scenario that causes firefighters' nightmares.)
The bricks of weed were dissected with surgical precision, resulting in stacks of identical toast-sized pieces of weed. Seeds were removed as much as possible without compromising the integrity of the slabs.
The toasters were turned onto the lowest setting, with each one getting two chunks placed within. As the toaster heated up, so did the slabs of weed, letting off a slow cloud of vapor. When the weed started to smolder or smoke, it was removed and two new pieces of soon-to-be weed toast dropped in.
The vapor would fill the semi-airtight room, and after an hour of this, there would be less attention paid to the timing of toast swapping, resulting in an occasional piece bursting into flames and adding some real burning smoke to the mix. By that time, visibility was greatly reduced, as was anyone's interest or ability to leave or do much more than grin. About the time the sun was coming up, the plastic was taken down, and very, very, stoned guests emerged.
The low cost of the Mexican brick weed made it economically feasible, with each party costing the O.G. about $50. Plus a new round of toasters, which ran more than the cannabis.