What is in a Cannabis Vape Cartridge?
Published on 4/10/21
Vape pens were in the news several times the last few years, and not always for good reason. From being heralded as the new, cleaner way to smoke to being reported as having unknown side effects that lead to injury, we've heard so many differing opinions about vape pens. Let's take a look at what's really in a vape pen, why you might want to give them a try and what to look for when buying vape carts and pens.
What is a Vape Cartridge?
The first thing we have to answer is "what is a cart?" Vape carts (short for vaporizer cartridges) are small vessels that contain smokable cannabis oil. As the cannabis industry grows, so too do the options for cannabis oil and THC cartridge types. Not all cartridges are the same, but you are most likely to find a 510-threaded cartridge that is quickly assembled by screwing the cartridge to the battery that powers it. They are the most popular because they attach to reusable batteries and offer a wide variety of product options (because of the uniform 510 thread, these are often known as the universal vape pen). Other types of cartridges include AiroPro carts and Pax Era Pods. You use AiroPro carts with a rechargeable, refillable device and come in a variety of flavors and profiles. AiroPro carts are popular for the durability and functionality of the accompanying pens. Pax Era Pods, on the other hand, implement a CO2 extraction process that focuses on temperate control, which allows for a higher-end smoking experience for THC pods while also remaining fairly inexpensive.
The cartridge contains the cannabis oil and an atomizer to heat the oil, while the cart pen provides the battery. The battery within a vape pen automatically controls the temperature of the cannabis oil, which means all the user has to do is press a button and inhale. Depending on the vape pen, there are different temperature levels to cycle through for different smoking experiences (lower-temperatures mean a more flavorful, less impact hit, and higher levels mean less flavor but more impact). Vape pens work with specific cartridges, so make sure you buy a pen that uses cartridges you're fond of (or vice versa). Ask your local budtender about your options and which vape pen is right for you.
Vape Pen Concentrates
One of the biggest aspects of deciding which vape pen to use is the type of concentrates available in the corresponding cartridges. Each brand has its own flavor and compound profiles, but there are a few overarching concentrate categories we should discuss: distillate, CO2 oil and full-spectrum oil. Cannabis oil must meet a certain level of viscosity to turn into vapor by the atomizer and smoked through a vape pen. These three types of oils meet this viscosity level in different ways and each has its unique perks.
Distillates are refined cannabis oils made from almost any product, which means most any strain or flavor you want can be turned into something smokable from a vape pen. However, in the refining processes, distillates lose most of their original plant-based terpenes (which provide the proper viscosity levels in cannabis oil) and therefore need additives to meet the right viscosity levels for vapes.
CO2 Oil Concentrates
CO2 oils are often compatible with vape cartridges and don't require any additives to properly vaporize in the cartridge's atomizer. CO2 oils maintain their terpenes, which means they keep much of their original plant-based flavor to provide a rich smoking experience.
Full-Spectrum Oil Concentrates
Unlike distillates or CO2 oil concentrates, full-spectrum concentrates manage to capture the full diversity of the cannabis plant. They contain a much wider variety of THC, CBD, CBN, terpenes and other chemical compounds that help create the entourage effect in traditional cannabis. Additionally, full-spectrum concentrates almost directly replicate the flavor profiles of the original plant, making them much more complex and enjoyable to smoke. The downside of full-spectrum concentrates is that they are much harder to create and can therefore be more expensive and difficult to find.
Vape Pen Additives
510 thread cartridge (which covers the majority of what's available on the market) need additives to thin the oil to the appropriate viscosity level for vaping. These additives include polyethylene glycol, vegetable glycerin or coconut oil and other medium-chain triglycerides - all of which help with lowering the THC vape oil viscosity and increasing consistency. These additives were the subject of some controversy, however, due to suggested health concerns related to their use and are now being used less frequently. As mentioned above, terpenes are a natural thinning agent and help balance cannabis oil's viscosity - because of this, terpenes are being used instead of other additives more frequently.
Why Buy A Vape Pen?
There are several key reasons you might consider using a vape pen over traditional flower or other consumption methods such as edibles: reusability, price, health and portability (discretion). Vape pens are fairly affordable (between $20 and $70) and the only thing you need to continue purchasing is the cartridge (which often offers a lot of uses). Vape pens are also very portable and easily fit in your pocket or a purse. If discretion is your thing, vape pens don't smell nearly as potent and the smoke clears quickly, making it easy to use when you don't want to draw attention to yourself. Additionally, while there is little to no proof that moderate THC and marijuana use has a negative lasting impact on your health, there is plenty of proof that shows smoking of any kind can be harmful. Instead of inhaling pure smoke into your lugs, vapes allow you a smoking experience with heavily reduced smoke intake (you're smoking in the vapor produced by heating cannabis oil). While vape pens also offer easy dosage control and a hit often results in a less prolonged high - it is easy to overuse because of how simple it is to smoke. When you overconsume, vape pens can cause a very heavy hit and an unenjoyable high. If you're learning how to use weed pens, just take it slow and identify where your limits are and how it affects you.
We're big fans of vape pens and want to know what your favorite types are. Comment below with your top picks and let us know why you do (or don't) prefer vaping.