When it comes to ease of use, portability, and functionality, one cannabis product stands tall above the rest. You may know them as pre-loaded cannabis oil vape cartridges, hash oil vape pens, or even disposable wax pens. These relatively new and exciting devices have permeated the cannabis concentrate market over the last several years, quickly becoming the go-to concentrate-based product for both the novice and accustomed cannabis fans.
However, when it comes to choosing the right pre-loaded disposable pen, various factors stand in the way of making a decision. Although many of these products seem aesthetically similar at first glance, there are many nuances that distinguish them from one another.
Understanding the differences between these disposable pens can help you make an educated decision on which product is right for your consumption.
Why Choose a Pre-Filled Oil Vape Cartridge?
If you’re new to pre-filled oil vape cartridges, there are many benefits to using them that I’ve outlined below.
Ease of Use
Deciding to use a pre-filled cannabis oil vape cartridge takes the guesswork completely out of the equation. Contrary to other methods of using hash oil such as a dab rig and nail setup, or even manual portable vape pens which require self-loading, pre-filled “carts” require little to no effort whatsoever. At most, these products may require you to press a button to inhale. In fact, most of the time you don’t even have to worry about the battery life—many products are designed so that charging the battery isn’t even necessary.
Pre-filled oil vape carts are the easiest method of enjoying hash oil while on the go. Their sleek and minimalist design allows for discreet vaping, free of the distracting qualities that larger setups or raw cannabis products may carry (such as noticeable smoke or odor).
For uninitiated cannabis concentrate users, dosing can be a major concern. Nobody wants an overwhelming experience when attempting to enjoy cannabis oil products responsibly. Unlike dabbing, using a pre-loaded vape pen allows for a highly controlled dose with each inhalation. This gives the user full autonomy of how much or little to consume.
The Types of Pre-Filled Cartridges Available
Familiarize yourself with the many types of pre-filled oil vape cartridges on the market so you can purchase the one that best fits your needs or preferences.
Cartridge/Battery Combos vs. Disposables
When choosing a pre-filled vape pen, there are several hardware options. Some products are offered in tanks that typically come formatted with a 510 threaded standard vaporizer battery insert. These tanks can fit on any battery that contains the 510 threading, and nowadays almost all battery tanks come in this format. The exception to this is when you purchase pre-loaded tanks designed by companies to fit their personalized batteries. An example would be the PAX Era Pods, which are designed to be used with their vaporizer/battery systems.
Alternatively, many pre-loaded vape pens are available as “disposables,” containing a pre-charged battery designed to support the device until the tank empties. These pen varieties require no charging and are meant to be disposed of after use. They contain no threading and are not meant to be separated from their battery.
Distillate Cartridges vs. CO2
For a vaporizer cartridge to function properly, its contents must have the proper viscosity. Otherwise, the oils with either be too thick or too thin to be able to vaporize within the device. Depending on the starting material used, cartridge manufacturers utilize several methods in order to create the perfect oil for their pens.
CO2 Oil: Certain high grade winterized CO2 oils are uniquely compatible with vaporizer cartridges due to the fact that they do not require additives of any kind to meet the viscosity levels needed to vaporize in an atomizer. If made properly, these oils are able to retain modest levels of plant based terpenes, which act as natural thinning agents as well as give the oils their signature strain-specific flavors.
Distillates: A cannabis distillate is a highly refined oil containing pure cannabinoids and almost nothing else. The upside to using distillates in vaporizer cartridges is that the oil can be produced from a range of starting materials. Virtually any hash oil variety from CO2 to BHO and everything in between can be purified into a distillate with the right hardware. The downside to using distillates in vaporizer cartridges is that because there are no residual terpenes left behind, there is nothing to cut the viscosity of the material. In order for a distillate to be used for cartridges, a thinning agent of some kind is often required.
Additives: Additives are sometimes used in vape cartridge oils as a supplemental thinning agent. In some cases, methods have been taken to “cut” or infuse various hash oils with certain substances such as polyethylene glycol (PEG), propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), or even medium chain triglycerides (MCT) such as coconut oil in order to maintain a less viscous and lasting oil consistency conducive to standard atomizer functionality. This process has become highly controversial due to raised health concerns and products containing these thinning agents are showing up less on the market as of late.
One way that vaporizer cartridge manufacturers have been able to steer away from artificial cutting agents is by using terpenes.
Terpene Infusions and Strain-Specific Flavorings
The use of terpenes has been found to help lower the viscosity of hash oil as well as increase flavor and aromatics, making them a potentially safer alternative to other cutting agents. Terpenes not only add flavor and aromatics to the experience, they can also help alter the effects or a product due to their ability to influence how cannabinoids interact with our system.
There are several ways to use terpenes with pre-filled vaporizer cartridges. First, some manufactures rely on CO2 based extractions which when refined by use of ethanol can actually retain plant based terpenes at a percentage conducive to achieving proper viscosity. This is how manufacturers are able to sell flavors based on natural strain profiles. Furthermore, natural cannabis derived terpenes profiles that have been fractioned through refinement can be re-added to hash oils in small percentages, creating a natural spectrum of flavor and effect while also giving an oil the correct consistency required to function in a cartridge.
On the other hand, food-grade terpene flavorings are arguably the most prevalent as well as the lowest quality additives used in cartridges. Terpenes can not only be found all over nature (cannabis included), but can also be synthesized in a lab.
Take d-limonene for example, a popular terpene additive that is found in some cannabis varietals. Many manufacturers use food-grade d-limonene as the sole flavoring additive for their pre-loaded cartridges. Although this helps to cut the viscosity of the oil as well as offer a mild flavor enhancement, infusions such as this tend to be one-dimensional and offer little to nothing in enhancing experience to the user.
When shopping for cartridges, oftentimes these types of pens will be labeled as “lemon/lime”-flavored to represent this additive being used. Many other food-grade terpenes are used in this respect, which is why it’s important to check with your budtender and read labels carefully when buying terpene-infused cartridges.
Products Labeled by Effect
Many times, pre-filled oil vape cartridges are labeled and marketed by their supposed effect on the user. Products of this variety tend to claim they provide “relaxing” or “energetic” effects, with some often being labeled as indica, sativa, or even hybrid. When infused into a product, these terpene combinations are designed to give effects similar to what you would find in particular cannabis strains.
Whether they’re infused with food-grade terpenes or naturally-derived terpenes extracted from cannabis strains, many of these products incorporate carefully mixed combinations similar to what would be traced in a strain or strain type. How well these infusions imitate the strain varieties they mimic is debatable; however, products with terpene combinations tend to give a more enhanced experience than a similar product containing one or no terpenes.
Although many hash oil pen varieties are labeled by flavor or effect, some focus on cannabinoid concentration. Aside from the typical high-THC product that most pens offer, there are some manufacturers that offer products containing elevated levels of cannabidiol (CBD).
High-CBD pens may or may not contain added flavorings, but they do guarantee a ratio of THC to CBD that can range from 2:1 all the way to 20:1 and greater. These types of pens offer great medicinal value to those looking for CBD in an easy-to-consume product.
The pinnacle of pre-loaded oil cartridges in terms of overall quality rests with full-spectrum extracts. These products are created using the entire spectrum of bioavailable molecules found within a given cannabis strain. A full-spectrum oil does not add, reintroduce, or remove any active compound within a strain and offers a flavor and effect far superior and multidimensional to most competitors.
Pre-filled full-spectrum cartridges are hard to come by and are only offered in certain markets; their price tends to reflect their rarity as well. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a market where these products are available, it’s highly recommended to fork up the extra cash to give one a shot. In terms of strain comparability, the flavor on a full-spectrum cart is incredibly similar to what you would experience in a strain.
All in all, there are many types of pre-filled oil cartridge varieties to consider, each one with its pros and cons. If you’re interested in learning more about these types of products, always ask your local budtender before committing to a purchase. Oftentimes labels only offer a fraction of the information compared to the knowledge and expertise of a cannabis professional such as a budtender. Regardless of your taste, there’s bound to be a hash oil cartridge option available to suit your individual needs.