(Ben Livingston, The Cannabist)

Stealth PUFFiT vaporizer mimics asthma inhaler (review)

If you’re like me, you want to get high in public. All of the city’s people are so much nicer when you’re high: the bosses, the beggars, the bicyclists, the bus and taxi drivers. Sidewalk skateboarders seem to have such fun, shallow-conversationed shoppers are such a hoot, and you enjoy banter with proof-of-payment-demanding private transit police when you’re high.

The problem — the one and only problem, of course — is that our society, now waking from 80 years of paranoid pot prohibition, hasn’t yet come to appreciate the great communal benefit we could realize by allowing urban potheads their lunchtime puff to help deal with all of the damn people around them. So public pot smoking is still illegal, even in places where pot is now legal. Serious bummer, I know.

The solution — the one and only solution, of course — is to be super sneaky when getting high in public. Unless you’re aiming for civil disobedience, keep the herb on the down low. On a deeper political level, discretion can help stave off negative backlash by the suits and the squares who lump all pot smokers together as jobless hippies best legislated against. But mostly, you just don’t want to get caught by police, because the fuzz can totally buzzkill your sweet high.

Because of this, many stoners now carry vape pens — electronic cigarettes that are typically filled with hash oil. So in order to obtain the discretion they’d prefer, on-the-go stoners need to smoke the strongest stuff on the pot store shelves. Hash oil’s cool, for sure, but most cannabis consumers don’t need or want to get as high as possible all the damn time.

You can get electronic cigarettes that handle cannabis flowers, but generally those either suck, combust your marijuana, or both. Thankfully, there are a bunch of quality portable flower vaporizers on the market now, like the Firefly, Da Vinci Ascent and the Pax Ploom, but they aren’t as discreet as an electronic cigarette. I think the festival cops are even catching on to the chunky pen-style vapes like the Pinnacle Pro.

Which is why I love the idea of a vaporizer that imitates an asthma inhaler. The PUFFiT vaporizer is designed for discretion, and public tokers should have reason to rejoice. What insensitive jerk is gonna question your inhaler use in public? (“It’s called HIPAA! Look it up, a-hole!”)

The new cannabis lexicon: Dabs, fatties, trichomes and beyond — we’ve got all the lingo, from alcohol extraction to zips.

The PUFFiT has a gold-plated herb chamber in its top, heated by a gold-plated brass element and topped by an aluminum cap. There’s also a silicone cover, because the cap gets fairly hot and the heating cycle is activated by pushing down on that hot cap. The air path is a silicone tube that connects to a small hole in the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece also contains a temperature dial that reads from 1-8, representing a range of 250-430 degrees Fahrenheit, and a mini USB connector that charges the lithium-ion battery.

To operate the PUFFiT, remove the mouthpiece cover and it turns on — a red LED indicates it’s ready. Make sure to fill the chamber with cannabis — experiences vary, but a fine grind is typically recommended, as is a fairly full bowl. There are two different inserts for the cap, which either help compress or stir the pot. Push down on the cap a few seconds, and the PUFFiT starts heating up. When the red light switches to green, draw in slowly. The heat will run for ten seconds, then you need to push the cap again.

It’s a great idea and a decent design, but the PUFFiT is hit or miss, finicky and frustrating, with a discouraging learning curve. It took me a day of trial and error to get it to function decently. I found a very full bowl and the stirring-tool cap insert worked best, as did running the thing on the hottest setting with minimal delay between heating cycles. I also found that blowing into the PUFFiT first, just ever so slightly, helped gauge whether any vapor would be produced, and likely helped create more vapor by sending hot air upward from the heating element into the cannabis.

Figuring all of this out isn’t fun. And like that time you realized you were spending far too much time having virtual sex in Second Life rather than getting laid, at some point in the journey, you realize you’ve dedicated hours, perhaps days, trying to figure out and give the benefit of the doubt to a handful of plastic, brass and silicone, and you’re not super high. It’s me, it’s my fault, you keep telling yourself, but at some point we all come to recognize that some relationships just don’t work out, that some design fails our expectations.

Marijuana reviews: So many strains — Sweet Island Skunk, Poochie Love, Super Lemon Haze, Green Crack, Headband, Oaktown Crippler, Larry OG, Grape Stomper, Stevie Wonder & more

It doesn’t have to be that way. The PUFFiT can, and should, work better. Other portable vapes have figured it out — even knockoff designs manage to get the job done. Potheads are clamoring to buy these products; they will pay a premium if they work well. Maybe the basic challenge is how to place the heating element in the airflow path after the herb chamber rather than before it, as nearly all other portable vapes do. I don’t know. I’m not trying to design vaporizers here. I just want to get high in public, remember?

The PUFFiT vaporizer retails for $119.99 at VaporNation — who were kind enough to send me one free of charge so I could tell you I don’t really like it — and other online retailers. It is super discreet, in theory, and if you can work with the PUFFiT, it just may work for you.