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Cannabis cartridges have revolutionized how patients and adults in recreational states use cannabis. Steamy, stinky, hotbox smoke sessions are an ancient relic that dulls compared to the sleek, clean, and comfortable vaping experience.
While the use and distribution of cannabis cartridges have boomed throughout the United States in the last decade, there’s still plenty for consumers to learn about the products they’re consuming.
Cannabinoids are a type of compound found in cannabis plants, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health explains. These compounds interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout your endocannabinoid system.
There are about 540 chemical substances in cannabis plants — and there are at least 100 types of cannabinoids that exist besides THC and CBD.
Delta 9 THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis plants and one of the most widely-studied cannabinoids, according to a Surgical Neurology International Journal review. Delta 9 THC activates the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Activation of the CB1 receptors through Delta 9 THC is associated with a decrease in pain perception. CB2 receptor activation is associated with immune regulation and anti-inflammation.
According to the National Cancer Institute, Delta 8 THC is a psychoactive compound associated with:
There are also many non-psychoactive cannabinoids found in cannabis, which include:
When you light a joint or a bowl, you’re exposing your lungs to toxins and carcinogens released from combustion, says the American Lung Association. The same is true for inhaling secondhand smoke from sparking up cannabis.
While there’s still more research underway on the effects of vaping cannabis oil, one thing’s for sure: when you hit a cartridge, you’re not inhaling the toxins and carcinogens that you would from a joint, blunt, or bowl.
Vaping oil is a lot different than vaping dry herb though, check our The Pros and Cons of Vaping vs Smoking Weed here.
Building on our last point, there are some precautions to take when using cannabis cartridges. Some vape cartridges use solvents, such as polyethylene glycol (PEG) and propylene glycol (PG).
A report from the National Academy of Sciences says the long-term effects of vaping these solvents are still under investigation. However, some studies have found they can affect the risk of developing asthma, cause pneumonia, and induce an allergic reaction in some individuals. It may also irritate your eyes and throat.
Related article: What Are Terpenoids And What Do They Do?
But the biggest health risks of using cannabis cartridges come from potential fillers used in states where cannabis manufacturing isn’t as heavily regulated. This is also a risk when using “street carts,” which are purchased illegally from non-licensed individuals (i.e., drug dealers).
Terpenes are compounds found in cannabis as well as other plants, fruits, and vegetables, says Medical News Today. They contribute to the physiological and psychological effects of cannabis strains. Furthermore, terpenes are largely responsible for the way a strain tastes or smells.
Thus, it’s not uncommon to see additional terpenes mixed into cannabis cartridge solutions. But it’s important to make sure the terpenes added are food-grade or medical-grade. Otherwise, they may be unsafe for vaping or consumption.
The easiest and most effective way to ensure your cannabis cartridges are free from harmful filler products is to purchase your products from a trusted source, like a dispensary.
When you go to a dispensary, you may see “CO2,” “Distillate,” or “Liquid Live Resin”/”Live” cartridges listed on their menu. These titles denote how the vape oil inside of the cartridge was extracted.
CO2 Cannabis Cartridges: CO2 Cannabis Cartridges: CO2 — a naturally-occurring compound — is used as a solvent to extract cannabinoids and terpenes from cannabis flowers.
Distillate Cannabis Cartridges: Distillates are highly-refined cannabis oil that contains very potent amounts of cannabinoids. However, distillates on their own are very thick. A thinning agent is often added in order to use distillate cannabis oil in vape cartridges.
Liquid Live Resin/Live Cannabis Cartridges: Live resin cartridges undergo a similar extraction process as CO2 cartridges, but the main difference is the flower is frozen immediately after it’s harvested instead of dried. This helps preserve more of the natural compounds from the plant, resulting in a higher-quality product. As a result, live cartridges are often more expensive than other options.
Cannabis cartridges also vary in their shape, size, and the device they’re compatible with. The most common type of cartridge is a 510 thread, but even these cartridges vary among manufacturers. Some brands use metal coils inside the cartridge, while others use cotton wicks. Some cartridges have metal or glass tips, while others have plastic or wood tips.
Before purchasing a cannabis cartridge, make sure that it’s compatible with your device by asking the budtender what type of thread it has.
Cannabis cartridges offer a safe, discrete way to enjoy cannabis without the harshness and harmful effects of smoking. While these products are quite easy to use, there’s a lot to learn about the “behind the scenes” processes of these cartridges.
Educating yourself on the differences between cannabinoids, additives, extraction processes, and cartridge styles will ultimately improve your cannabis vaping experience.