'Vaporizers' helping people get high; drug experts weigh in

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- As the marijuana movement gains momentum, so do the various methods of getting high.

And now, police are warning of a new one: People getting high anywhere, anytime. You could be sitting right beside them at a game or at a restaurant and never even know.

That's all thanks to marijuana vaporizers, a controversial new way to get high.

"It absolutely could be considered a secret way to get stoned," says substance abuse prevention expert Shelley Mowrey.

Mowrey says it's much less obvious than lighting a joint or a bowl or a bong. "With this, you really don't get too much of a smell at all," she says. "Would you be able to smell it at all, if someone was using a vaporizer in this room, would I know? Probably not."

But the key features of discreet design and lack of smell have drug experts concerned people will toke up anywhere they want. "Some people use them on their break at work," Mowrey tells 3TV. "Some kids use them at school, outside of school, in places where there is actually no smoking, because you can't smell it."

"Parents don't have a clue what's going on with this," she says, adding that law enforcement is out of the loop, too. 3TV checked with several Valley police departments - two of the biggest - Scottsdale and Phoenix. Both said vaporizers aren't on their radar.

"It's kind of the cool, new, hip way to smoke marijuana and use it discreetly," says Mowrey.

But medical marijuana advocates insist vaporizers aren't for public pot use, which is illegal under Arizona's medical marijuana law.  "It's a concern," says Colby Carpenter of azmarijuana.com. "Just like people buying alcohol and using it out in the middle of the street on a Tuesday night."

And advocates say vaporizing is better for you than actually smoking. " It's a healthier alternative," says Carpenter. Doctors say there is some medical evidence to back up that assertion. "If you're vaporizing the same amount vs. smoking the same amount, the vaporizer would be less harmful for you," says Dr. Frank Lovecchio of Banner Health Poison Center.

"It's bogus; it's wrong," says Mowrey. "It's not a healthier form of marijuana."

Vaporizers are legal to buy in Arizona, with no age restrictions. They generally retail for anywhere between $200 and $700.