Mike Force

There is no greater tool in the upperclassman's toolbox than the vape pen. Does your three-hour biology lecture seem tedious? Vape in the bathroom. Is your roommate's girlfriend invading your personal space every weekend? Vape in the bathroom. Need a quick fix as you run from class to your evening job? Vape in the bathroom.

You can also vape in places other than the bathroom, and you'll never need to pack a pipe or worry about stinky smoke killing your high again. And, because vaping activates pot's compounds without actually burning plant material, it might even be healthier than smoking. Welcome to the future, where getting high has never been so easy.

Now that I've convinced you to buy a vape pen, what are your options? Like everything in the world of legal weed, the maze of vape products can be confusing to navigate. Weed vapes can be divided into three categories based on what kind of cannabis material goes into them: flower, wax, or concentrate cartridges.

Ignore the first two forms, which offer none of the convenience you expect from a vape. Flower vapes may be helpful if you're trying to avoid the health effects of smoking, but you still have to carry around loose weed to use them. What's the point of that? Wax vapes, for their part, offer a portable way to dab without the blowtorch, but they're less convenient than cartridges. And if you want to enjoy the amazingness that is dabs—a method of vaporizing hashish or concentrates through a water pipe—you should just do a normal dab.

Vapes that use concentrate cartridges, however, are a different beast altogether. They have two components: the pen-like battery (this is the heating element) and a cartridge filled with cannabis concentrate that slides into the pen. This means you won't need to handle any pot in the process. Just connect the two components and inhale. Boom! You're high!

Most vape pens and cartridges for sale in Washington use a universal cartridge size, called a 510 thread, so you can use the same pen with almost every concentrate. The pens retail for around $20 online, and the cartridges can range from $40 to more than $80 for one gram of concentrate.

A basic vape pen will get the job done, but if you're looking for additional functions, you might want to consider the PAX Era, a brand-new device from one of the country's largest vape manufactures. PAX sent me one (for free) and, frankly, I was blown away by this little gadget. It's about the size of a pack of gum and is incredibly discreet looking. In addition to being able to play some weird games with it—do we really need a spin-the-PAX game?—you can precisely control the heating element. I love this: A high-temperature vape hit makes me cough and gives me an uncomfortable sneeze-like feeling in my nose. The Era's adjustable temperature allowed me to dial in an ideal low-temp hit.

Now that you have a vape pen, what kind of cartridge are you going to use with it? All cartridges are filled with concentrated cannabis, which means the producer has taken pot flower and processed it into a sticky substance that will usually test above 60 percent THC. There is a huge range between top shelf and bottom shelf concentrates, and I would recommend doing some research on what kind of cartridge fits your needs. The state allows concentrate makers to add food-grade flavorings and chemicals like glycerin to their cartridges. And while there isn't evidence that it's unhealthy to inhale flavorings or glycerin, there also isn't a lot of research establishing that it is safe. What is even crazier is that the state does not require producers to label these additives.

How can you tell if your concentrate cartridge is pure cannabis? A few warning signs: If it tastes like an artificial flavor like cotton candy, it's probably artificially flavored. If it creates a massive, thick cloud of smoke, it probably has glycerin. And if the concentrate easily slides around in its cartridge, it has probably been cut with something else.

Some cartridge makers in Washington use only pure cannabis concentrates, and a good budtender will be able to guide you to these. Some of my favorite cartridges come from Avitas and Nectar Craft. Both of these companies produce concentrates that are strain-specific, meaning you can vape the same blend of cannabinoids and terpenes as you would if you smoked that strain's flower.

I tried a cartridge of Blackberry Kush by Avitas (Lemonhaze.com, a site that tracks cannabis prices, says the suggested retail price is $44 for a half gram), and it had a sweet hash flavor and gave me a relaxing high. I also tried a Nectar Black Cherry Soda cartridge (suggested retail price $77 per gram) that was wonderfully fruity and gave me a wide-eyed, energetic high.

Vapes weren't really a thing when I went to school, so I had to sneak out of dorm rooms on cold nights and duck into side streets to smoke some pot. With these vape pens, you'll be able to avoid the hassle and get high wherever you like. Have fun!