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Curious About Cartridges: What You Need To Know About Vape Carts

Discreet, portable, user-friendly: vaping cannabis oil opens the possibility of consuming on the go without handling cannabis flower. From detachable cartridges to all-in-one units, you can choose from many cultivars, THC to CBD ratios, and terpene profiles, many of which are sourced from some of your favorite flower.

Considering giving vape cartridges a try? This article takes you through the ins and outs of vape cartridges, their benefits and drawbacks, and how to select the right cartridge and device for your desired session.

What is a vape cartridge?

Vape cartridges are small containers, outfitted with a heating element and a mouthpiece, filled with cannabis concentrate. The extract inside contains much higher levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) than ground flower, so you’ll likely need to consume less for your desired effect.

Vape cartridges use a heating element placed inside the cartridge to transform the concentrate into a vapor. A heat source – a detachable battery for most units and a built-in battery for disposable vaping devices – raises the temperature of the heating element. Once heated, an instant process in many vape pen models, you inhale vapor through the vape cartridge’s attached mouthpiece.

Why choose vape cartridges?

Vape cartridges offer the benefits of inhalation’s fast onset without any of the preparation required of cannabis flower. You might opt for a vape pen for these reasons: 

  • Ease of use: It takes little practice or knowledge to use a vape pen. Most detachable batteries have a similar one-button function: Depending on the model’s capabilities, a certain sequence of clicks turns the battery on and off and changes temperature.
  • Discreet: Vape pens don’t smell like Snoop Dogg just walked by. They’re easily concealed and don’t produce a lingering smell or a telltale plume of smoke. This makes vape cartridges an excellent way to consume while out and about without disrupting others.
  • Portable: Vape carts generally come in small tubes that easily fit in a pocket or take up very little room in a bag. Even when attached to a battery, a vaporizer and cartridge are typically no longer than a ballpoint pen. 
  • Variety: You won’t feel limited if you opt for a vape pen. Many popular cultivars are available in their vape cartridge counterparts. If you want to change it up, swapping out a vape cartridge is as easy as changing the cartridge. 

For all their advantages, vape cartridges still require some care and caution when in use. Some of the disadvantages of vape cartridges include:

  • They can break easily. The mouthpiece of a vape cartridge is prone to clogging, particularly if it goes unused for a significant period. The contents are prone to leakage, especially if stored improperly. Additionally, the tiny connectors that link the battery to the heating element can bend or break, rendering the cartridge useless and wasting what’s inside. You can avoid these problems by storing your cartridges upright out of direct sunlight, keeping it in its case when not in use, and gently attaching the cartridge to your battery.
  • You need a battery. If your battery dies while you’re out and about or if you misplace the charger, there’s no way to consume the cannabis inside your vape cartridge. You’ll have to wait until the battery recharges to vape.

A note on vape cartridge safety

In 2019, untested and unsafe vape cartridges found their way into the marketplace through the illegal cannabis trade. Unscrupulous actors used Vitamin E acetate, an unsafe substance when inhaled, to manufacture their cartridges. Some wary consumers have since pulled back from buying vape cartridges, concerned that this substance was also present in legitimate vape cartridges sold through a licensed dispensary.

The Vitamin E acetate issue was limited to the illegal trade, and vape cartridges sold in legal, licensed dispensaries are safe to use. Vape cartridges sold in a licensed dispensary require rigorous testing for several undesirable substances, including pesticides, solvents, and microbiological contaminants, before they make their way onto the shelf. Any product that does not meet these guidelines is destroyed. That’s why it’s vital to buy from a licensed dispensary that only sells monitored, tested, and regulated cannabis products. 

What’s inside a vape cartridge?

All vape cartridges are filled with cannabis concentrate, but the concentrate type can vary depending on the product. Some of the options you’ll find include:

  • Full spectrum oil: This concentrated extract contains all the phytocannabinoids and terpenes found in the plant in similar proportions. A full spectrum oil will contain THC, CBD, minor cannabinoids, and terpenes as they appear in the source cultivar.
  • Distillate oil: Distillate oil is an extract in which one cannabinoid was targeted and isolated from the others. For example, a distillate oil may contain 99% CBD, for example. Distillate oils are effective for consumers who know one compound meets their needs.
  • Live resin: This premium concentrate is refined from freshly harvested, flash frozen cannabis. The cannabinoids and terpenes are then extracted at subcritical temperatures to preserve the maximum amount of flavor and aroma. These cartridges tend to be more expensive but are often considered the highest quality. 

Types of vape cartridges

In terms of the actual vape cartridges, you’ll find three main types in the dispensary: 510 thread, disposable units, and device-specific cartridges. Each of these types of cartridges could be found with any of the concentrates mentioned above.

  • 510 thread: This is the most common type you’ll find, aptly named for the 510mm thread on the bottom of the cartridge that connects to a battery. Most generic vape pen batteries are outfitted with 510mm thread connectors.
  • Device-specific cartridges: There are cartridges specifically manufactured to work with one device, like PAX Pods for the PAX Era or Dart Pods made for the Moxie Dart Battery. These cartridges can only be purchased at certain licensed locations.
  • Disposable vape pens: These single-use devices include the cannabis concentrate, battery, and mouthpiece in one device. These require no charging and no additional accessories to consume: Just open the package and enjoy. Once depleted, disposable vape pens can be recycled.

How to choose a vape cartridge

The most important element in choosing a vape cartridge is to ensure that you have a compatible battery that works with it. This won’t be a problem for disposable vapes, which can simply be used and discarded. But for 510 thread cartridges and device-specific cartridges, a compatible device is a necessity.

If you’re deciding between a regular 510 battery and a device-specific battery, your choice comes down to ease of access. Most vape cartridges are available in 510 thread formats, but device-specific cartridges are not as widespread or accessible. The advantage, however, is that the specific batteries offer far more advanced functionality, including companion apps and fine-tuning temperature supported by devices like the Pax Era Pro, than a basic battery. If those features are appealing to you and these cartridges are not difficult to come by, you may want to try a more advanced battery.

When choosing a cartridge, it’s also important to consider the ratio of two major phytocannabinoids THC and CBD. This can profoundly influence your consumption experience. For example, a cartridge made with a balanced THC:CBD ratio won’t feel as intoxicating as one with a 20:1 THC to CBD ratio. You’ll also find certain minor phytocannabinoids, such as Cannabigerol (CBG), in higher levels in vape cartridges than you would in cannabis flower. Learn more about how cannabinoids influence consumption experience to help you decide which vape cartridge is best for you.

Terpenes also play important roles in how you feel. If you want an uplifting experience, reach for a vape cartridge rich in limonene and pinene, which research suggests can help you feel more energetic. Those who prefer a relaxing and subdued experience might instead opt for vape cartridges with high levels of myrcene and linalool. Learn more about how terpenes influence the consumption experience

What to look for in a vape cartridge battery

Some vape batteries are incredibly simple, while others – often brand-specific devices — offer more complex features and settings. Here’s what you may want to consider while shopping for a vape battery:

  • Session monitoring: Some devices allow you to measure or control the amount you inhale while vaping. These features typically help you track an estimated milligram quantity of THC inhaled per draw, which can in turn help you control your consumption experience and meet your cannabis goals. Some vape cartridges detail this on the package, while others have companion apps you can use to track your sessions.
  • Temperature control: Temperature is incredibly important when vaping cannabis. Phytocannabinoids and terpenes all have unique boiling points, so vaporizing cannabis oil at a lower temperature will vaporize different proportions of compounds than higher temperatures. This can affect the overall consumption experience.

    Some more basic vape cartridge batteries only have one temperature setting, or they may have three temperature settings, sometimes called “variable voltage.” Other “smart” or more specialized devices can be fine-tuned, sometimes to the exact precise number.

Vape cartridges: the easy-to-use flower alternative

If you’re new to cannabis, vape cartridges are one of the easiest ways to try cannabis without the complicated, multi-faceted variables surrounding other easy products like edibles. It requires little to no setup and maintenance, with no shortage of option available at your local dispensary. For many models, it’s as simple as clicking a button and inhaling. 

Are you curious about cartridges? Speak with an Ethos associate at your next trip to the dispensary to learn more about what you can try.

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