Q: I’d love to try concentrates, but all that torch stuff freaks me out! What can I do?
If you’re looking for a way to ease into using concentrates, a pre-loaded cartridge is a perfect introduction. Cartridges can be an easy, hassle-free way to enjoy cannabis concentrates without the pressure of loading your own pen or the sometimes-daunting task of using a dab rig and torch. Pre-loaded cartridges are also excellent for those new to cannabis because of its easy setup and smooth hits of pure vapor. At most you’ll screw the cartridge onto a battery, push a button and inhale.
Using cartridges has many advantages one of which is its portability. It’s lovely to go from one room to another without having to bring an entire dab rig along. Also, because the cannabis oil is being vaporized, there is little to no smell, harshness on the lungs, or lingering haze in the room. Unlike dabbing, cartridges allow for a highly controlled dose with each puff; which is helpful for both beginners and cannasseurs as it helps gauge how much or how little to inhale with each hit.
When shopping for pre-filled cartridges, there are many different options regarding hardware. You can try a pre-filled, pre-charged disposable vape pen. Disposables have a set number of hits that can be taken before the oil runs out or the battery does. Afterward, they can be thrown away. Alternatively, you can opt for a separate a cartridge that screws onto a battery with 510 threading. The battery option is trendy because if they have a 510 threading, cartridges across different brands will be compatible. As long as the battery stays charged, you’re good to go. The only exception to this is when companies create specialized batteries to work with their cartridges. For example, the Indigo Pro or Pax Era Pod cartridges are designed to only work with their own vape/battery system.
Q: So, what exactly is inside cartridges?
Cartridges fall under the cannabis concentrate umbrella because, like other concentrates, they are made through a process of cannabis extraction. Solvents like propane, butane, ethanol, or carbon dioxide (CO2) can be used to reduce cannabis to its most essential compounds effectively. In this case, after the extraction process what is left is high potency CO2 cannabis oil chock-full of cannabinoids. The process, called supercritical fluid extraction (SFE), uses pressure and CO2 to separate cannabis plant material and has become one of the most efficient ways of producing cannabis oil in the industry for several reasons. CO2 is one of the safest solvents that can be used since it is a naturally occurring substance. Even our bodies produce it! Also, CO2’s solubility changes with pressure, which helps divide various types of biomolecules available in cannabis strains. Therefore, CO2 extraction can be used to pull different cannabinoids from the plant like CBC, CBD, CBG, THCV, THCA and even terpenes or other compounds which can be great for creating very tailored highs and pain relief. Some manufacturers have started to label their products as CO2 extracted, but you can also tell by the color. CO2 oil can have a brown-amber color; so, if the cartridge has a lighter honey color to it, it may be a more refined type of cannabis oil called a distillate.
Distillate oils are a purified form of CO2 extracts that provides a cleaner and even more potent product with virtually limitless applications. Basically, the entire SFE extraction is completed, then there is a process called winterization that refined the product using another solvent like ethanol to remove any unwanted compounds. In addition to winterization, the isolated cannabinoids must be decarboxylated, meaning that the compounds are heated enough to activate their medicinal potential. Finally, the product is run through a distillation chamber several times to ensure the purity of the desired compound usually either THC or CBD. Distillates found in cartridges are typically more potent than regular CO2 cartridges and can be more flavorful.
The industry is continuously creating more ways for us to enjoy cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes. Cartridges are the leaders in providing easy-to-use, portable, high potency products. There is a myriad of options when it comes to choosing your favorite cartridge, so always ask your budtender for their recommendations. They can help you find a cartridge to fit your individual needs, and you can experiment with disposables, batteries, CO2, and distillates.