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Gen Z & Cannabis “Weed” Vaping: THC Dab Pens Are the New JUUL – Part 1.

By January 5, 2024February 14th, 2024Dangerous Drugs

It’s clear that the United States is moving toward federal cannabis legalization, and young people have been on the front lines of this debate. And while I would say that Gen Z, in particular, has a tolerant view of marijuana, older generations are getting on board, too. I personally know people (of all ages) who use weed to help them deal with chronic illness, insomnia, and anxiety. 

I’m using the terms cannabis, vape, THC, and marijuana interchangeably. So, too, does the market.

But it has become questionable whether all the time, money, and pulling wisdom teeth that goes into federally enforcing anti-weed laws are worth it. States can make billions in taxes off legal weed. And many, many paying customers can enjoy the benefits of weed safely – or maybe not. As with consumption of alcohol and nicotine, any psychoactive drug, we should be mindful about underage consumption and how these products are deceptively marketed to younger generations.

Vaping THC is by far more potent than smoking it or eating gummies (edibles). The question centers on THC potency, the same chemical that elicits a marijuana high. Or low.

Vaping THC may cause chronic anxiety, paranoia, vomiting, or psychotic meltdowns in teens before their brains are fully formed, especially when used long-term. As we saw with JUUL and other e-cigarette companies, flavoring addictive products with THC oils has helped get another generation hooked on anxiety-easing substances. These kinds of products, with harmless-sounding names like “Cherry Lifted Limeade,” are consistently used by teens and young people, who otherwise aren’t considered “stoners.” Corporations can play as dumb as they’d like, but they know their audience and how these vapes are being received in a viral climate. I have personally experienced the way this phenomenon has affected my generation, having seen kids sneaking vapes into the bathroom stalls in high school, getting lost on the way to class, self-reporting to the school nurse that they’re “too high,” and continuing the behavior at college. 

The Dab Pen Craze. 

For some reason, I think we all viewed dab pens as being safer than smoking a joint – and it was certainly easier to hide from parents because there’s no smell. 

In a recent study published by the National Library of Medicine, scientists found that between 2015-2018 cannabis smoking decreased and cannabis vaping increased among 12th– grade students. But vaping THC may cause psychiatric turmoil – it’s like playing with fire. This is more prevalent among black market cannabis vapes, which I have personally seen and used. I wish I could go back to shake my teenage self’s shoulders and tell her to stop. Stop buying sketchy dab pen cartridges from strangers. Stop using one of the strongest forms of cannabis well before your brain develops. Stop trying to grow up so fast and let yourself be a kid.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Vaping THC oils is six times more likely to cause mental upheaval as smoking, eating edibles, or applying topical tinctures.

-Palmer Boothe, ACFW Intern


Niskan Akpan & Jamie Leventhal, “Is CBD legal? Here’s what you need to know, according to science,” PBS, July 12, 2019.

Bobby Caina Calvan, “Flavored cannabis marketing criticized for targeting children,” Associated Press, January 19, 2023.

Grinspoon, MD, contributor, “Cannabidiol: What We Know and What We Don’t,” Harvard Medical School, September 24, 2021.