Cannabis vaporization is growing in popularity among people interested in consuming cannabis in an easy, discreet manner that’s healthier than traditional smoking methods. Both flower and concentrates can be vaporized using a wide range of devices.
The leading benefit for cannabis vaporization is that it’s a healthier alternative to smoking flower, as vapor doesn’t release the tar and carcinogens created during combustion (the process of burning flower).
Additionally, portable vaporizers allow for easy and discreet use as the cannabis vapor creates a less potent aroma. Portable vaporizers are easy to use and fit in your pocket. Like flower and concentrates, the onset time is rapid.
What Are Vaporizers?
The process of vaporization involves heating cannabis flower or concentrates to a temperature that turns the active compounds (cannabinoids and terpenes) into vapor. Vaporization is a healthier alternative to smoking as it occurs at temperatures that do not allow the flower to combust, which releases harmful tar and carcinogens.
There are many methods by which people vaporize cannabis. The three main types are tabletop vaporizers, portable vaporizers and vape pens.
Tabletop vaporizers are stationary temperature control units that require a solid surface upon which to sit. Tabletop vaporizers come in many varieties, but all include four main features:
- A temperature dial to regulate the temperature
- A healing element that heats the flower or concentrates
- A heating chamber where you put the flower or concentrates
- A mouthpiece attachment
Some tabletop vaporizers use a bag to collect the vapor, which is detached prior to inhalation, while others use a long tube that is attached to the heating chamber and allows the vapor to move directly from the heating chamber to the person using the vaporizer. Most tabletop vaporizers of this style are used to vaporize cannabis flower.
Based on function, e-nail (electric nail) dab rigs could also be considered tabletop vaporizers. This method allows people to vaporize concentrates using an electric nail. However, a reference to the term “vaporizer” generally applies to a device that vaporizes cannabis flowers.
Portable vaporizers are small, discreet vaporizers that operate in much the same way as tabletop vaporizers. Portable vaporizers include a chamber to hold the cannabis flower or concentrate, a heating element and a battery. Most portable vaporizers contain variable temperature control devices that are operated with the click of a button or turn of a small dial. This activates the battery, which heats the element and vaporizes the flower or concentrate contained within the chamber, sending it into the mouthpiece for inhalation.
Portable vaporizers can be used to consume many forms of concentrate including badder, budder, and shatter as well as flower in some cases. Before purchasing a portable vaporizer, consider the types of cannabis you intend to consume and look for one designed to accommodate that product.
Vape pens are a type of vaporizer designed specifically to vaporize cannabis distillates and oils. They are called pens because the design of the vape device closely resembles that of a traditional pen. A vape pen consists of two pieces: a battery and cartridge.
Vape batteries come in a variety of styles – button or buttonless, cylindrical or rectangular, large or small – there is a shape and style to fit many personal preferences.
Vape cartridges contain a mouthpiece, chamber and heating element, which is activated upon initiated contact with a vape battery. The chamber of a vape cartridge is filled with oil or distillate, which contains concentrated amounts of cannabis cannabinoids and terpenes.
What’s in a Vape Cartridge?
When choosing a vape cartridge, it’s important to know the type of oil contained within, whether and how it’s flavored and what cutting agents, if any, have been used to dilute the solution. This helps you anticipate the type of vaping experience to expect.
Vape cartridges are all filled with cannabis distillate that’s designed for optimal vaporization using a portable battery. During the distillation process, the cannabis oil is stripped of all flavor and aromatic compounds. At this point, it can be left in its raw form (flavorless/tasteless), it can be mixed with terpenes for extra flavor, or with some form of glycol (PG, VG, PEG) to give the vapor extra mouthfeel (thin versus thick, smooth versus chalky, dry versus buttery).
Raw Vape Cartridges
While all cartridges contain cannabinoids, not all cartridges contain terpenes. Terpenes are organic compounds that give plants their aroma and flavors. “Raw cartridges” are vape cartridges that do not contain any additional cutting agent or terpenes, just the pure cannabis distillate.
Strain-specific and Natural Terpene Cartridges
The reintroduction of terpenes is common in distillate-filled cartridges, as the distillation process removes the natural plant terpenes and results in an odorless, flavorless viscous liquid. Some extractors have mastered a technique that allows them to remove the terpenes from the plant during the distillation process and reintroduce them prior to filling the vape cartridges. These cartridges are known as strain-specific vape cartridges that use cannabis-derived terpenes to retain the same aroma and flavor of the plant that the oil was derived from.
It’s also common for cartridges to be filled with naturally derived terpenes that create exotic flavors that smell and taste like fruits and candies. The reintroduction of terpenes after extraction allows manufacturers to create countless cannabinoid and terpene combinations to suit a variety of needs. These terpenes can also change the viscosity and color of the distillate in the cartridge.
Some vape cartridges contain cutting agents that are similar to those used in e-cigarettes to change the intensity of the vapor cloud and mouthfeel of the cartridge. The most common cutting agents include polyethylene glycol (PEG), propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG).
Polyethylene glycol has many medical, commercial and industrial applications and is used as a cutting agent in vape liquids to maintain an evenly mixed product that produces some vapor cloud.
Propylene glycol is a binding agent that blends with solvents for use in food, hygiene, industrial and lab applications. It’s a common cutting agent in vape pen liquids due to its promotion of even draws.
Vegetable glycerin is used as a preservative in the food, pharmaceutical, bath and body and e-cigarette industries, among others. Vegetable glycerin is used in vape liquids to create large vapor clouds.