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A guide to the different types of cannabis vape carts

Whether you want to tear into terpenes or chill out with some CBD, vape pens are a popular method of cannabis consumption that have garnered the approval of connoisseurs and casual consumers alike. With such a wide variety of cannabis oils, cartridges, and pens to choose from, the possibilities and combinations can be almost endless.

Are you considering diving into the world of vape carts for the first time or looking to level up your vaping game? Here’s our guide to the wonderful world of cannabis vape cartridges.  

What’s a vape cartridge?

When it comes to vaping, the most important part of the pen aside from the battery is the cartridge itself. A vape cartridge or “cart” is a pre-filled glass cartridge that contains a cannabis infused oil or other concentrate. Typically sold in half-gram or gram increments, carts come in a variety of well known strains and are generally loved for their potency and flavorful vapor.

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Types of vape cartridge delivery systems

Generally, a vape pen contains a battery that works in conjunction with a cartridge. The battery heats up an atomizer in the cartridge which in turn heats up and activates the various compounds in the cannabis oil.

While all vaporizers essentially accomplish the same goal, there are key differences between products that require different hardware and maintenance.

510 thread

Named for the threading at the bottom of the cartridge, they are the most common and universal style. As a result, they can be found in almost any store and can be easily maintained and replaced if broken. Most are disposable, but they also have the benefit of being refillable and rechargeable, making them a prime choice for the daily smoker. When you hear the term “vape pen” it typically refers to this style of vaporizer since it looks like, well, a pen. 

Disposable pens

Disposable vape pens are incredibly popular and convenient as a result of their all-in-one construction containing the battery, cartridge, and mouthpiece in one disposable device. Without the need to be charged or refilled, disposable carts are useful for trying new strains and enjoying the benefits of a vape with minimal upkeep and maintenance. Even better, once the device is empty, it can be easily recycled. 

Device-specific (proprietary carts)

Various brands, like PAX for example, have cartridges that are only compatible with their batteries and are typically available at licensed retailers. Specialized devices often allow for greater control over temperature and other features, but a fairly significant downside is that these specific carts are not always available in every dispensary.

Common concentrates found in cartridges

Concentrates have enjoyed swiftly growing popularity in recent years, thanks in part to the innovations of extractors who have developed a wide range of different products: budder, shatter, wax, sauce, diamonds, live resin, and live rosin, among several others. With that said, because the texture, viscosity, and stability of concentrates vary widely, not all concentrates make their way into vape cartridges.

Here are a few of the concentrates you are most likely to run across in a vape cartridge.

Distillate

Distillate oils are the result of a complex extraction process that singles out desired cannabinoids. Because of this extraction method, distillations can often produce yields with purity as high as 99% THC or CBD. However, due to the precise nature of this process, terpenes and other tasty compounds are stripped away as well, drastically impacting flavor. As a result, terpenes are often infused back in to improve taste and viscosity.

Live resin

Live resin is a butane hash oil (or BHO) that’s frequently found in cartridges because it’s known to tickle taste buds and flaunt an out-of-this world flavor profile. Flash frozen to preserve the freshness of the plant, terpenes and cannabinoids are then extracted in a chemical process that leaves behind an incredibly potent and coveted concentrate. Typically more expensive than other options, live resin carts are considered to be some of the highest quality options available.

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Live rosin

Live rosin might seem like a typo of “live resin” but they are in fact different concentrates and worth differentiating. Like live resin, the “live” refers to the use of live cannabis plants as a starting material. Unlike live resin, live rosin is made without the use of chemical solvents. Instead, the fresh frozen plants are pressed under pressure and heat to extract a concentrated oil. This makes live rosin a solventless concentrate often preferred by health-conscious cannabis consumers.

Full-spectrum extract

Full-spectrum extracts aim to provide the cannabinoid and terpene profile typically found in the cannabis cultivar from which it came. Vaporizer cartridges made with full-spectrum extracts will contain THC, CBD, other cannabinoids, and the nearly 500 other bioactive compounds that are found in the plant. Compounds work together synergistically, producing the entourage effect and a more holistic experience.

CBD oil

While most cartridges contain concentrates with high levels of THC, some producers have started to roll out carts with high CBD concentrations or higher CBD to THC ratios like 2:1, 20:1, and beyond for heightened wellness benefits.

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How to choose the right vape cartridge

Pick a vape device

Before choosing a cartridge, you need to choose a battery system. Control is a factor to consider when purchasing a pen or device. Most pens have the ability to control temperature, but generic batteries only have one temperature setting and advanced devices will offer a range of settings or the ability to fine tune temperature. Some devices even come with companion apps that, among other things, keep track of the dosage inhaled. 

Pick a vape cart

Next you’ll want to consider the types of carts that are compatible with your battery. For example, if you have a 510 battery, you’ll need to buy 510 cartridges. On the other hand, if you have a specific device, you’ll need to find a store that sells that device’s specialized carts. If ubiquity and ease of purchase are your main goal with a vape pen, the classic 510 cartridge is typically easy to find.

Depending on what effects you’re looking for, different concentrates may serve better than others. For example, if you’re looking to harness the full power of the cannabis plant, then a full-spectrum extract may be more appropriate than a high-THC distillate. If you’re looking to find support for stress and anxiety during the day, a CBD-dominant cartridge could do the trick. 

With the wide variety of carts available today, exploring and experimenting with different systems or extracts is easy. You’ll be able to find many different strains in cartridge form to enjoy the discretion, portability, and ease of use that vape carts offer. Try a few different concentrates or styles of carts to see how they work—there is sure to be a vaporizer cartridge that’s right for you and your needs. 

Lauren Wilson's Bio Image
Lauren Wilson

Lauren Wilson is a bestselling author and freelance writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She has built a career following her cultural curiosities and spent the last several years moving the mainstream cannabis conversation forward through education. Lauren is the author of three science-forward books on CBD, including two for 'The CBD Solution' series done in partnership with Snoop Dogg’s media outlet MERRY JANE and Chronicle Books.
Find her at: laurenmwilson.com | @laurendoesthis

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