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Cannabis vape cartridge production is a multi-million dollar industry. As more states approve the use of cannabis products, more and more consumers are opting for vape cartridges because they are portable, discreet, and have a less potent smell. Recent data shows cartridges are the top selling products across Oregon, Colorado, and California. Because of the massive demand for this product, cartridge contents are produced in many ways. Unfortunately, the results are extracts that can contain many different ingredients, both cannabis-derived and not. As a consumer, arming yourself with basic knowledge and even lab testing can give you peace of mind about the products you’re consuming.

The Difference Between Low Quality And High-Quality Cartridges

While exceptions exist to every rule, most cartridges can be categorized into two categories: high or low quality. High-quality cartridges tend to be made from premium materials such as glass, metal, or ceramic. In addition, they have appropriately sized O-rings and sealed joints that would prevent contact between the air and the cartridge contents. 

Low-quality cartridges are typically made of plastic, which is problematic both because plastic can potentially leach chemicals from the oil and terpenes can penetrate the plastic. In addition, they are often constructed with inexpensive, poor-quality materials that can leak. They also have pre-moistened wicks primed with glycerin or propylene glycol that can cause allergic reactions in some people. 

As a consumer, choosing your cartridges wisely is a significant first step in quality control. Companies that will spend a higher amount to produce a quality product will typically be concerned with a good user experience, including user safety. Conversely, poor-quality vapes made at low cost can be risky.

Knowing What’s In Your Vape

Being educated about your options is a significant step to take for your health. A good starting point is examining your cartridge’s stated ingredients, just as you would with food. The best way to ensure you’re consuming a safe product is to know as much as possible about the product you’re consuming. Reading the label is a significant first step. Also, pay attention to claims that a manufacturer might put on the packaging. For example, are they advertising that the product is chemical free? Are there any certifications showing that testing has been done? If the package doesn’t answer your question, a quality lab test will. 

Here is a quick explanation of the standard contents of cannabis vape cartridges:

Artificial flavors: The artificial flavors found in cannabis cartridges are typically sourced from the e-cigarette industry. However, many of these have been proven dangerous, and consumers should avoid them. 

Cannabis-derived terpenes: Terpenes are the primary constituents of essential oils; they are responsible for the aroma and characteristics of cannabis.  

Steam-distilled terpenes: These have been isolated without heat, giving them a softer taste. 

High-Terpene Full-Spectrum Extract: (Usually listed as HTFSE) Made from hydrocarbon extraction, there has been a recent trend of producing these products from pressed rosin. This contributes to aromatics and flavors.

Hydrosols: Hydrosols are a byproduct of steam distillation and contain only small percentages of actual terpenes.

Non-cannabis-derived terpenes: Terpenes are sourced directly from plant leaves, fruits, or other organic sources rather than from cannabis.

Importance of Analysis

Consumers must identify health and safety concerns as companies continue developing new products and formulas. Because these are relatively new products, there has been limited testing on consumer safety, such as how various terpenes in cannabis interact with different metabolisms, body weights, or other consumer medications. Identifying which thresholds would be healthy and which would be detrimental is hard as more synthetic chemicals are added to vape cartridges, and the options for dangerous reactions increase. 

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