Vapes and cartridges and pens, oh my! There’s an entire world of vaporizers within the culture of cannabis, and we are here to break it down for you in one place. Vapes are one of the most popular methods of cannabis consumption and for many good reasons. Like them or love them, they certainly are not going anywhere soon.
So, what exactly is a vape? Vapes come in many shapes and sizes, but generally, a vape is any device that vaporizes cannabis instead of burning it. The primary difference is seen through the heating element - smoking cannabis brings the flower to the point of combustion to ignition, and can literally burn through more of the flower’s beneficial components. By contrast, when you vape cannabis flower or concentrate at a lower, more precise, and controllable temperature, the heat will activate more cannabinoids and terpenes into a vapor, just below the point of combustion. This range sits around 355 - 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
The first known cannabis vaporizers came from two inventors in the 20th century, the first being Joseph Robinson, who patented a mechanical butane ignition vaporizer in 1927. Later in 1960, scrap metal dealer and Korean War veteran Herbert Gilbert created an invention named the Smokeless. The Smokeless holds a cannabis liquid that is heated by a battery-powered device, thereby forming an inhalable vapor. This mechanical setup is used to this day as the main skeletal makeup for almost all modern vaporizers.
Approaching the world of vapes can feel overwhelming at first, but can be broken down easily into a few categories, the main two being dry vs. wet vapes. Dry herb vaporizers are devices that are intended for cannabis flowers only, and usually contain an “oven” chamber for the dry product to be heated in. Via basic convection and conduction, the flower is able to be burned without combustion, bypassing the potential for harmful components or wasting your product.
Dry vaporizers can be devices as large as Volcanoes, which are tabletop-only, large, relatively heavy, and have multiple settings. Temperature dials are important, as they help to regulate the heating element which activates the flower. Some dry herb vapes can also be small and discreet enough to be handheld and fit inside of your pocket and contain all the same mechanics and temperature settings.
Wet vaporizers are usually referred to as “pens” and are usually a two-part setup, with a reusable vape battery and cartridge attachment containing hash oil, resin, and other distillates. The battery is often able to be charged via USB attachment and can be used basically indefinitely. These vapes are called vape pens because of their sleek, thin style that is aesthetically reminiscent of the writing tool.
While most wet vapes are reusable, there are a few disposable vapes available as well. These cartridge attachments are what contain the distillate or oil being vaporized, and usually hold anywhere from .3g - 1g of liquid THC cannabis product. These cartridges can be bought at dispensaries in states where marijuana is legal either recreationally or medicinally. CBD cartridges are available for purchase in relatively any state if you are over the age of 21, and can be found in some smoke shops or even gas stations.