People have been consuming cannabis for thousands of years, dating back to ancient times.
Up until very recently, the vast majority of people smoked flower or perhaps hash. Eating cannabis through infused edibles is also a bit of a time-honored tradition.
However, the last decade or so has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people vaping cannabis.
While some are vaporizing cannabis flower, vaping cannabis oil has become all the rage. Weed pens, cannabis cartridges, and vape pods containing a variety of extracts have flooded dispensaries across the country.
Pre-filled vape carts and disposable pens capture an impressive amount of market share in legal cannabis markets, second only to good old-fashioned flower.
CAN YOU BEAT THIS STIIIZY GRAVEYARD? giving $100 credit to our website to the first person that submits a bigger stiiizy graveyard 😈 pic.twitter.com/We4hUavad2— STIIIZY (@stiiizy) October 20, 2023
Vape pens brought in roughly $2.6 billion in 2021 alone — and that’s only accounting for six adult-use states. Demand for the products remains steady thanks to their discreet nature, portability, and potency.
But between weed pens, pods, and cartridges, things can get a little confusing. Read on for a full breakdown of everything vape.
What do people vape?
There are different types of cannabis concentrates used inside weed pens and cartridges.
They are all fairly viscous in nature but are produced in a variety of ways. Which type you choose comes down to personal preference, with flavor, potency, and price often playing a role.
Here are a few of the most popular types and how they’re made:
Live resin is cannabis oil made from freshly harvested and flash-frozen cannabis flower.
The buds are processed through a machine, where CO2 or butane is used to extract active ingredients.
Residual solvents are completely removed, resulting in a thick and potent oil that is flavorful and perfect for vaping.
Live resin is typically affordable and has a similar experience to flower, making it a favorite of consumers.
This nearly transparent oil is made in a similar way to live resin, but it doesn’t necessarily start with fresh frozen (that’s where the word “live” comes from).
However, once the oil is made, it undergoes further distillation to get rid of any leftover plant material.
Distillates are typically very high in cannabinoids but lack the same punch as other oils since it’s missing key components of the entourage effect.
However, it tends to be less expensive than other types of oil, which is attractive for certain segments of the market.
Rosin or live rosin is made without the use of solvents, instead relying on ice water baths or heat and pressure to extract the cannabinoids within.
While typically a thicker consistency, modern innovations in cannabis tech have seen rosin pods and carts storm the market.
Many discerning consumers are beginning to favor rosin thanks to its all-natural production and smooth taste. It is more of a craft product, bringing in a slightly higher price at times.
Now that you know what goes in a vape pen or cart, you may be wondering: how do these things work?
Cannabis oil: Distillate? Live resin or rosin?
What is a weed pen?
Vape pens closely resemble ink pens, hence their name. When talking about vape pens, most people are referring to a broader category of devices used to vaporize cannabis oil (there are also terpene vapes and nicotine vapes but we’re just talking about weed pens here).
The convenient and low-key nature of vape pens has made them almost ubiquitous in cannabis culture, especially among adults under age 35.
There are a few different types of vape pens on the market. Pre-filled “all-in-one” pens have everything you need in one small, slick device.
They often do not need to be charged, and simply stop working when they’re empty. You can throw them away after they’re spent.
Cannabis cartridges and pods require a separate rechargeable device. Cartridges have a “510 thread,” fairly standard hardware for mass-produced vape batteries while pods (like Stiiizy’s) use their own proprietary batteries.
The pre-filled carts and pods attach to the batteries and are removed and discarded once they’re depleted.
Pre-filled, all-in-ones can be thrown away once they're empty.
How does a weed pen work?
Vapes make look fancy but they’re actually fairly easy to understand technology. A battery powers a built-in atomizer that heats the oil within. The heated oil turns to vapor which is then inhaled.
The batteries are often powered through the push of a button, but can sometimes be activated simply by inhaling.
Most batteries turn on and off with five rapid presses; once they’re on, hold the button down to activate the atomizer.
While the temperature is typically not adjustable, some vape batteries will allow users to change the voltage. In layman’s terms: a higher voltage means a stronger hit while a lower voltage gets you a smoother draw.
How to use a weed pen
As we mentioned above, vaping is often as simple as inhaling. But here are a few hot tips:
- Weed pens can be deceiving in that it’s hard to tell how much vapor you’re actually drawing out (unlike smoke). If you’re new to vape pens, try counting to two or three while inhaling, then stop. Wait for a few minutes to see how you feel, and if you want to take another drag by then, go for it!
- Some carts and pods can get clogged from time to time. Try using a little bit of rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab to clean the mouthpiece to remove any residue buildup.
- If your vape pen is button activated, make sure to always turn it off when you’re finished. Otherwise, it could be accidentally pressed in your pocket or bag, ruining the oil within.
The best weed pens
With so many different vapes on dispensary shelves, it can be hard to know which ones are the creme de la creme.
A great vape pen will have a powerful, long-lasting battery with a powerful draw. This goes both for disposable all-in-ones and cart or pod systems.
What's your favorite color for a vape pen that lasts long and draws strong?
Weed pods vs vape cartridges
While 510 cartridges saturated the market at one time, pods have become more prevalent thanks to their sleek design and impressive capability.
Both can be referred to as cannabis vapes, weed pens, or vape pens, the pod vs cart discussion usually just boils down to the style of pre-filled oil tank being used.
What to know about weed pods
Pods use the same general technology as carts and weed pens, just in a different vessel. They usually use a draw activation versus a button.
Pods tend to be made from a combination of high-grade plastic and glass. Many see pods as a higher-end way to vape—if 510 carts are the Androids of the weed world, then pods are the Apple.
The best weed pods
Quality pods do not clog and offer smooth flavor until the last puff. They should be easy to hit and come in a range of strains.
The best weed pods will only come from licensed brands and are sold in a legal dispensary. They will have accurate testing information and production dates printed on stickers on the packaging.
Many people swear by the pod and battery system made by STIIIZY, which is renowned for its quality hardware, portability, and wide variety. Other popular systems include Pax and 710.
The best weed pods offer smooth flavor till the very last puff.
What to know about vape cartridges
510-thread vape carts are among the most common vapes in the cannabis space. They dominated the market for many years but pods have been gaining steam.
These carts have a glass tank that contains cannabis oil, a plastic, wood, or metal mouthpiece, and use a metal screw at the bottom to connect to a battery (usually button-activated).
The best vape cartridges
Much like pods, the best vape carts will perform flawlessly. They shouldn’t leak oil or become difficult to draw from. They will be legitimate, produced by well-known operators that can verify their supply chain.
Durability is also a factor. Many people end up leaving 510 carts behind since they’re a bit easier to break and slightly less discreet than pods.
A great vape cart will be sturdy and maintain its flavor and color no matter how often you hit it.
The difference between a weed pen charger and a weed pod battery
Pre-filled vape carts and pods rely on separate batteries to work. Weed pen chargers are used to plug in and recharge these batteries.
So if you’re using a pod or cart system, there will be three different components: the pod or cart, the battery, and the charger.
The type of charger you need will depend on the cart or pod battery. Most nowadays use a USB or USB-C cord, which are universal with mainstream tech.
However, some 510-cart batteries use a charger that screws into the place where the cart would normally go. The other end has a USB that can be plugged into any standard USB charging block.
The best batteries will hold a charge for a considerable amount of time. They will charge up quickly and will offer users the ability to change the voltage to get a personalized experience.
If your favorite brand of pod or cart makes its own battery (like STIIIZY), it’s always good to go that route.
Signs of a high-quality charger include a reinforced cord, a secure docking area, and durable overall materials.
While you do not always need to use the same charger that came with your battery, it’s a good idea to help improve the lifespan of the hardware.
Brands like STIIIZY have their own pod and battery system.
Choosing the vape that’s best for you
Dispensary shelves are chock full of products, and vape pens, pods, and carts take up a fair amount of space.
Deciding which is the best for you comes down to your personal preferences. Consider your budget, your desire for the type of oil within, the way the hardware feels in your hand, and what effect you’re seeking.
If you’re still unsure, you can always speak to a friendly neighborhood budtender. Dispensary staff is there to help and there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Everyone has to start somewhere!