Cannabis 101CBD

CBD vape juice vs. CBD cartridges: What’s the difference?

Published on March 19, 2020 · Last updated July 28, 2020
vaping cbd oil or vaping cbd juice
(Antwon McMullen/AdobeStock)

If you couldn’t tell from all the signage at your local corner shop, CBD is in everything now. At least it seems that way. To be honest, advertisements for CBD are starting to give off a bit of a Brawndo-y vibe, but fear not curious consumers! We at Leafly have the information you crave. 

The cannabis community has been enjoying the benefits of vaping CBD for years, and considering that CBD-dominant products (ones that contain less than 0.3% THC) are now legal, it makes sense that CBD is making a big impact in the vape juice market. 

Vape juice is the liquid used in electronic vaping devices. These devices are often referred to as a vape pen, battery, or mod. Traditionally, vape juice is infused with flavoring and nicotine, and it is often used to help people avoid smoking tobacco products. 

If you are curious about the differences between the CBD vape juice from your corner shop and the CBD vape carts you buy from a weed shop, keep on reading. And if you are new to CBD products, or just want a refresher on the subject, explore our CBD Guide

Two types of cannabis, same CBD

The CBD oil you buy from a licensed cannabis shop comes from a different type of cannabis plant than the CBD you find in vape juice. The pot shop CBD oil is derived from the cannabis plant we all know, that is referred to as marijuana.

The CBD found in vape juice is derived from hemp. Hemp is the preferred plant for infusion because cannabis plants containing less than 0.3% THC can be grown, processed, and infused into products without the legal restrictions surrounding products high in THC—hemp meets that criteria. 

These plants differ in their chemical profiles and the purposes for which they are grown. But at the end of the day, CBD is CBD—no matter what type of plant you get it from or how you vape it. It’s the other chemical compounds that accompany it—natural or additive—that define the overall experience and quality of the vape product you purchase. 

Additives in vape juice

In its pure form, CBD will not dissolve in water—which really makes you think about what goes into making CBD water. When it comes to vaping, something needs to be added to help CBD become viscous enough to properly function in a vape system. 

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Vape juice is predominantly made up of vegetable glycerine (VG) or propylene glycol (PG). These compounds dissolve the CBD, bind to it, and make it viscous enough so it can flow to a heat source for vaporization. 

VG is thicker than PG and creates a thicker cloud of smoke. PG offers a more intense feeling in your throat that can make it feel like you are smoking plant matter. It is common for a vape juice to be a blend of the two, with different ratios reflecting different consumer preferences. 

It is important to note that VG and PG have been proven to be safe for ingestion; however, there is no official word from the FDA on long-term effects from inhalation.

Additives in cannabis oil

VG and PG are also sometimes used in cannabis oil cartridges. Like I mentioned above, CBD is a solid. So, if you buy a vape cartridge that says it is 97% CBD and there is a viscous liquid inside the cartridge, VG or PG is most likely being used. 

VG and PG are not included in any of the percentages you see on the label. They are only mentioned in the ingredients, so that 97% is a little misleading.

Those percentages refer to the cannabis oil, not the final mixture that includes VG or PG. If the cart is 97% CBD, the remaining 3% is referencing other cannabis compounds, like terpenes—not VG or PG. 

VG and PG are common in the cannabis cartridge world, however, they are not required. There are companies that pride themselves on not using additives—this is a sign of quality and should be celebrated.

To find a CBD vape product free of additives, check out your local pot shop

Voltage matters

Batteries designed for vape juice are a lot stronger than batteries for cannabis vape cartridges. If the voltage is not adjusted, batteries designed for vape juice can cause cannabis cartridges to malfunction or cause you personal injury. 

As a budtender, my standard advice to customers was simple: If you are vaping a cannabis oil cartridge, use a battery that was designed for it; if you are consuming vape juice, vape it from a battery that was designed for it. 

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Adam Pallay
Adam Pallay
Adam is Leafly’s Education Editor, specializing in helping people build expertise within the cannabis industry. He has spent the last five years working every job imaginable in retail cannabis and looks forward to continuing to help customers through writing.
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