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Cannabis 101: Vapes

By Sue Vorenberg
Cannabis Daily Record

By now you’ve probably heard of nicotine vapes – a trend that has helped tobacco smokers lessen the damage to their lungs.

(Vape Cartridge)

(Vape Cartridge)

But what about cannabis vapes?

Let’s just say this – if you haven’t seen them yet, you soon will.

Cannabis vape cartridges are a rapidly expanding and in-demand product in recreational cannabis markets in Washington and Colorado. And they are more than likely to become a dominant player as new recreational markets open in other states as legalization continues to spread.

But what are they and how do they work?

The best vaporizer pen reviews say that vape cartridges and oils in the cannabis industry are made by extracting cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) and terpenes from marijuana flowers and turning them into a e-liquid that can be heated and inhaled through a vape pen.

It’s the same sort of liquid that, when further concentrated, ends up as cannabis wax – the sticky, goopy stuff that people “dab” – which is a fancy way to describe inhaling wax after heating it in either a dab rig (which requires a propane blowtorch to light) or a specialized dab pen, which works much like a vape pen.

Beyond that, there are also specialized pens and vaporizer equipment that can electronically heat cannabis flower to the point where it vaporizes instead of turning into smoke, which also makes for cleaner and easier inhalation.

So how do you get started?

There are a vast array of vape pens on the market (and no, you don’t have to buy them at a pot shop – there are many available online as well) – with prices ranging from $15 or so for just a vape pen battery (which is all you need to use a vape cartridge purchased at a store) to $600 or so for a full medical vaporizer like The Volcano, and everything in between.

Starting out

If you’re in a state with a recreational market, I’d recommend starting out with a cheap 510-thread vape pen and a cartridge of your choosing.

(510-threading on vape pen batteries)

(510-threading on vape pen batteries)

The 510-threading (the thing that the vape cartridges screw onto) has become a standard in the cannabis industry. There are some pens (like the Atmos) that don’t use it – so be careful and make sure to ask if your pen is 510-thread before buying it.

Some pens also have adapters that you can fill with cannabis vape oil – which is a great add-on if you can’t find pre-made cartridges in your market.

Once you pick your 510-thread battery or pen, all you need to do is go to the pot shop and find an interesting cartridge to try. Then all you have to do is screw the cartridge into the pen battery and inhale!

Pre-made cartridges typically come in 0.25 gram, 0.5 gram and 1 gram sizes. They also come in a variety of strains – and the strain list is growing every day. In Washington’s market, I’ve seen prices range from $25 for a 0.25 gram cartridge to close to $100 for 1 gram high potency cartridges.

And if you hate the taste of pot (personally I like it but there are some folks that obviously don’t) – you’re in luck. Besides the standard cartridges that are flavored with natural terpenes from the plant, cannabis vape cartridges also come in a variety of other flavors like banana, cherry or even pumpkin spice!

Some stores also sell all-in-one units, like the EZ Vape, which you use until the oil and battery dies and then toss out. But they can be more expensive and don’t come in the variety that you’ll find when shopping for cartridges. That said, they can be handy if you just want something very simple.

(Vape cartridge threading and a pen battery - you just screw them together and you're good to go)

(Vape cartridge threading and a pen battery – you just screw them together and you’re good to go)

Another thing to note about vape cartridges, at least from what I’ve tried so far: They aren’t as strong as smoking marijuana flower. The best vapes I’ve tried in Washington’s market seem to be (at least to me) about half as strong as smoking flower.

That’s easily solved by taking two hits.

Also, when you vape – taking a hit isn’t quite the same as it is when you’re smoking a pipe. You need to take a long, deep drag – longer and deeper than if you were smoking – hold it for a few seconds and then exhale.

Most first-time vapers are surprised to see the water vapor in their exhale (it looks like thin smoke) – because they don’t really sense it when they inhale.

But not to fear. After a few drags you’ll be a seasoned pro.

Growing with your vape

If you know that you’re going to love vaping and that you’ll eventually want to try concentrates, you may want to pony up for a better pen right out of the gate.

(Puffco Pro)

(Puffco Pro)

Personally, the two pens that I use and like the most are the Verso Vape (full disclosure: the company is based in Vancouver, Washington, where I live) and the Puffco Pro, which is a dab pen – but you can still use the battery portion as a screw-on for vape cartridges.

The Verso is a nice solid and diverse pen that looks great and holds a charge well and has a variety of adapters for oils or concentrates, along with the normal battery for screw-on cartridges.

The Puffco Pro is what I consider to be the best dab pen on the market – it’s solid metal and feels great in your hand. To use it, all you have to do is buy some wax (concentrate like shatter, honey oil or crumble), take a BB-sized ball of it and drop it into the chamber. To smoke it, you just push a button (the pen has three heating options that you can select as well).

There are dozens of other pens to choose from as well. (I also have an Atmos, which I wouldn’t suggest buying because it doesn’t use the standard 510-threading). If you want to look through various selections I’d check out High Times’ various vape pen buyers guides.

Many pens also have adapters that you can buy to vape cannabis flower (sometimes called herbal vapes). The Volcano is the big $600 deal that medical patients often use to protect their lungs – and people swear by it. If you’re looking for something less expensive and easier, though, there are several herbal vape pens out there to choose from.

I’m not a huge expert on herbal pens, so I’ll let you watch this High Times video on them for some tips:

One thing to note – cleaning herbal vape pen components can be difficult. The heating elements sometimes get clogged and they’re hard to clean – so you may need to replace them frequently.

That’s one of the reasons I prefer vape oil and cartridges. They’re easier to deal with, especially when it comes to cleanup.

I’ll get more into dabbing and concentrates in a future 101 post.

If you have questions or comments about vapes – we’d love to hear them in the comments section!


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