Vape cartridges have become some of the most popular items on dispensary menus. Flavourful, potent, compact, and packed with a variety of different concentrated oils, it’s not hard to see why people love them so much. But have you ever wondered how a vape cartridge is actually made?
Cannabis Vape Cartridges: The Parts
A vape cartridge is made of three main parts: the mouthpiece, the chamber, and the atomizer.
The mouthpiece is the top part of the cartridge that allows the vapor to flow upwards and out of the chamber and towards the user. The mouthpiece is usually screwed onto the chamber to seal it, and is sometimes reinforced with a little glue. Cartridge mouthpieces are usually made either from plastic, metal, or ceramic material.
The chamber is the central, and largest, part of the cartridge. It sits in the middle of the cartridge, tying the whole thing together. It’s also where the concentrated oil that is vaped goes. Cartridge chambers are typically made from see-through plastic and are sealed at the top by the mouthpiece and at the bottom by the atomizer.
Last but not least is the atomizer. An atomizer is effectively a heating element that is powered up by the battery underneath it. It works to heat up the oil inside the chamber, turning it into vapor and allowing it to move up through the mouthpiece. Some atomizers are heated by the battery when you press the button on the pen. For pens that work without a button, the atomizer heats up when the built-in sensor detects the upwards airflow of an inhale. Atomizers are typically made from either metal or ceramic material.
How can you tell if your cannabis cartridge is made from high quality materials? A high quality cannabis cartridge will usually be made from premium materials like ceramic, metal, or glass. Additionally, well-made cartridges have properly-fitted O rings that prevent leaks from happening or air from entering the cartridge.
What’s in a Cannabis Oil Cartridge?
Vape cartridges can be loaded up with one of several different kinds of extracted oils.
Distillate: Distillate is a purified cannabis oil that is made by stripping away and dividing all the contents of an extract, leaving behind just pure THC. Because of this, many distillate oils can sometimes reach as high as 99% THC, giving you the best bang for your buck if THC is what you care about most. But this often results in a bland and weird-tasting oil, so most distillate oils are topped up with a few terpenes for extra flavor.
Live Resin Oil: Live resin is a gooey, yet solid, concentrate. However, it can also be converted into an oil and placed into a cartridge. Since live resin is extracted from fresh frozen flower, these kinds of THC cartridges tend to have more terpenes than other kinds of carts, but fewer cannabinoids than something like distillate. Don’t expect to see the same THC percentage as you would with a distillate, or even a CO2 oil, cartridge. But live resin cartridges are definitely tastier and more flavorful than other options.
CO2 Oil: CO2 oils are made using a supercritical CO2 extraction method. Many people prefer CO2 oils because they are extracted using CO2 instead of potentially dangerous solvents like butane. Like live resin oil, and unlike distillate, CO2 oils contain all of the natural cannabinoids and terpenes that would be found in the plant it was extracted from. While usually not as flavorful as live resin cartridges, they tend to be a bit more potent.
Cannabis Concentrate Cartridges: Are Vape Carts Concentrates?
You may have noticed that a lot of these vape cartridges are filled with oils made from products you would usually find on the concentrates shelf. So then are THC oil cartridges concentrates? Sort of. You won’t usually see them listed under the concentrate section, but at the end of the day, vape cartridges are just another method of dabbing or vaping concentrated cannabis products.
The Many Kinds of Cannabis Vape Cartridges
Nowadays there are many different kinds of vape cartridges available to the average dispensary shopper. The difference is in the oil. Not only are some cartridges made with live resin and others with distillate, but there are other major differences between vape oils that you should be aware of when shopping for a cannabis cartridge.
For example, some oils are strain-specific, while others are made from a blend of cannabis strains. This means that some vape carts will be a close representation of a specific strain (effects, flavors, etc), while others are more of a cannabis mixture made from a variety of cannabis flower, added terpenes, or both.
Additionally, different vape carts will contain different cannabinoids and terpenes, and in different amounts. For instance, while one cartridge may contain nothing but CBD or THC, another may be a broad-spectrum or full-spectrum cartridge containing a wide assortment of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant compounds.
There can even be a difference in where these compounds are sourced from. For example, some distillate carts are made with the strain-specific terpenes present in the plant used to make the extract, while others contain botanical terpenes sourced from other cannabis plants, or from plants other than cannabis.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to carefully read the package of the cannabis cartridge and to ask your budtender the right questions in order to find out exactly what is in a specific cart and whether it’s the right one for you.
Putting It All Together
You may not need to know exactly how a vape cartridge is pieced together, but knowing how it works and what kind of oil it contains can go a long way to helping you find the perfect cartridge. Remember to choose cartridges made from high-quality materials and filled with lab-tested oils whenever possible.
Qualifying conditions vary by state. Any information related to qualifying conditions in this post may not apply to cannabis patients in all states. Product availability also varies based on state program restrictions and rules, so the products discussed may not be available in all states. Check with your local Green Goods location about the products available in your state.