If you haven’t been living under a rock the past few years, you’ve probably noticed the massive popularity that vape pens have been gaining as an alternative to smoking herb. Since most are now designed to fit in your palm or pocket, the vape pen of today is a much more portable, discreet, and stylish way to vape than the vaporizers of the past.
The use of personal vaporizers as a means of enjoying or medicating with marijuana has become so commonplace that the word “vape” was recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary, and was even named as their word of the year in 2014.
These portable vaporizers are designed to heat the cannabis product to a temperature just below that of combustion, producing a tasty, smooth vapor to be inhaled instead of smoke.
Vaping is a popular alternative method of THC delivery among medical marijuana patients who may be unable to smoke because of their condition, and is gaining popularity in the recreational market because they provide a much less obvious way to use cannabis in public or at home. A small amount of vapor is less visible and has a more subtle odor than a cloud of, say, bong smoke.
Vape pens are also an easier tool with which to travel. If you do travel with your personal vaporizer, we recommend keeping it out of sight and protected with something like a slim and smell proof vape case. They help keep your vape pen safe and away from prying eyes — and noses.
Besides that, a vape case is a handy place to store additional vape pen accessories such as chargers, vape oil cartridges, or your wax oil concentrate container so you can bring your necessary vaporizer supplies on the go.
There are many different types of vape pens. Some are made to be used with dry herb, some with hash or vape wax, and some are made to be used with vape pen oil cartridges, which we will look at a little later on.
But first, let’s take a look at the history of the vaporizer and its evolution into the modern-day vape pen.
The Evolution of the Vape Pen
There is some controversy around when the vaporizer was first created, however sometime during the 1960s the first patented e-cigarette was designed as an electronic device to consume nicotine vapor.
Though it closely resembled the e-cigarettes of today, this ancestor of the modern vape pen never officially went on the market. It wouldn’t be until decades later that cigarette smokers, who wanted to quit smoking and learned about the potential harm reduction that inhaling vapor provided over smoking standard cigarettes, started adopting the practice.
Fast-forward to the late 90s, and we have the birth of what is perhaps the world’s most iconic and recognizable desktop vaporizer specifically designed for cannabis, the Volcano.
Apart from its classic stainless steel design, what made the Volcano kit unique was its patented detachable balloon chamber. The balloon chamber provided a way for the user to comfortably and safely consume the herb vapor, without coming into contact with the heating element, by using a fan to blow the vapor into a bag to be inhaled.
The Volcano is considered to be the first commercially successful modern vaporizer designed for consuming dry herb vapor, and dominated the vapor industry before the advent of portable vape pens. There were various attempted knockoffs of the Volcano’s design, however due to their inferior engineering they were never able to usurp the throne from the German-engineered product.
The modern day era of the vape pen as we know it began around the end of the 2000s, when the first compact vape pens began appearing.
The first modern vape pen was actually designed by a Chinese pharmacist and inventor and was intended for consuming nicotine vapor. Modern herb vapor pens have generally imitated the design and functionality of this first vape pen, with modifications so that they can be used in conjunction with either dry herb, wax, or oil cartridges.
Ten years ago the idea of “vaping” herb was a bit of a novelty, but today it has become a widely accepted practice for both medicinal and recreational marijuana users. With the countless varieties available on the market, there is a vape pen suited to everyone’s tastes and budget.
The Three Types of Vape Pen Explained
A dry herb pen vaporizer is generally the least expensive and simplest type of vape pen available.
This type of vape pen functions by heating up the dry cannabis flowers to the point that the active ingredients are released as a vapor without burning the herb (from 310-430 DegF). These are basically pocket-sized versions of the classic herb vaporizers.
A dab pen is the vape pen alternative to a dab rig, they are designed to work with wax and concentrates such as hash or shatter, rather than actual herb. Many people prefer wax vapor to herb vapor as it is a more concentrated and purer form of THC.
There are basically two types of dab pens, those that use a wick and coil combination that heats up the wax quickly, and those that use a coilless chamber that heats up and produces the vapor at a relatively slower rate.
The third type of vape pen out there is the kind designed to be used with oil cartridges that come pre-loaded with THC oils, also known as vape juice.
Like other vape pens, these heat up the oil with a tiny heater, powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery, to the point that it becomes vapor ready to inhale. The main difference in the components of this type of vape pen is that instead of having a refillable chamber, the cartridges are replaced once the cannabis oils are used up.
In addition to the three types of vape pen mentioned above, there are some vape pens that are designed to function with more than one variety of cannabis product. For instance the Pax 3 gives the user the ability to vape both dry herb and concentrates right at their fingertips.
Combo vapes like the Pax 3 are a great option for people who enjoy switching between cannabis flowers and wax. The removable concentrate inserts are easy to take in and out depending on what your session calls for, allowing for a versatile vaping experience.
Marijuana Oil Cartridges for Vaporizer Pens Analyzed
The vape pens used with dry herb and concentrates like hash or wax require a person to load the THC product into the vape pen’s heating chamber. This means that the person using the vaporizer pen knows exactly what is being loaded into it.
The vape pens designed to be used with oil cartridges are a little bit trickier because the vape juice cartridges are most often purchased pre-filled with the marijuana concentrate liquid.
With the recent discovery that many medical marijuana products in California were improperly labeled with incorrect lab test results, the good people at O’Shaughnessy’s decided to investigate some of the most widely purchased vape pen oil cartridges on the market. They used lab test results from SC Labs in Santa Cruz, CA to provide an analyzed, side-by-side comparison of 19 different vaporizer pen oil cartridges.
The graph below shows the lab test results for the THC content in each of the 19 oil cartridges. They are ranked in order of THC content with the highest tested product at the top. The calculations were provided by O’Shaughnessy’s:
The vaporizer cartridges that tested highest for THC content were Pure Cure (71%) and Absolute Xtracts(70%). Some vapor pen oil cartridges from the line created by Absolute Xtracts are even strain specific. None of the other oil cartridge brands tested in this sample named which strain of cannabis was used to make the oil.
Just as the THC content in each cannabis oil cartridge is different, so are the mixing agents used. Some are cut with additives like propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin, and some are not. The Pure Cure and Absolute Xtracts brand vape pen cartridge test results show that these products do not contain any type of additive. The rest of the cartridges tested in this sample did test as having been cut with some type of additive.
The graph below uses the lab tested percent of THC and the amount of liquid in each vape pen cartridge to determine how many milligrams of THC are in each concentrate cartridge. This information can be used to calculate the average price per milligram of THC, depending on how much the cartridge costs at each retailer. The calculations were provided by O’Shaughnessy’s, and the “size” is measured in milligrams:
To determine your cost per milligram of THC, divide the price you pay for the concentrate cartridge by the milligram of THC (provided in the right column of the graph above).
Price paid for oil cartridge ÷ MG of THC = cost per milligram of THC
Based on O’Shaughnessy’s calculations, Absolute Extracts, Pure Cure, and Eureka oil cartridges provide users the best value of the 19 concentrate cartridges that were analyzed in this particular sample.
Whether you’ve been vaping for years and are an old pro, or you’re new to the concept and just looking to get your foot in the door with your first vape pen, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest data and trends in this relatively new and rapidly evolving area of the legal bud industry. Keeping informed will ensure that you’re getting the most out of your money and always know what you are putting in your vape pen, so that you can enjoy vaping to its full potential!
This post was originally published on November 20, 2017, it was updated on November 21, 2017.