More and more people are experimenting with cannabis vape cartridges. For vape enthusiasts, using a cartridge provides a level of convenience, along with a way to control the dosage, and it makes consuming the plant more discreet than smoking a joint or pipe.
For first-time or infrequent cannabis consumers, the care and use of cartridges can be a bit confusing. And many people wonder how long a cartridge will—or should—last.
Let’s break down the basics of marijuana vaporizer cartridges to understand how long a vape cartridge may last for you.
A Quick Marijuana Vape Pen Primer
Many people are discovering cannabis concentrates. The sales numbers for these golden-colored oils are racing ahead of that of cannabis flowers for several reasons:
- There are typically higher levels of concentrated cannabinoids in extracted cannabis oil vs. that of marijuana flower.
- Unlike smoking cannabis flower from a pipe, bong or in a joint, vaping cannabis concentrates means you aren’t combusting cannabis plant material. This is healthier for the lungs and also helps keep the healing cannabinoids intact.
- The exhaled marijuana vapor has very little scent. And the far-less-pungent smell from a vape pen, as opposed to the odor of combusted cannabis flower, dissipates almost immediately.
- Standard vape pens are discreet—generally resembling a slightly thick pen, making them easy to carry and store.
Reusable marijuana vape cartridges screw into a rechargeable, lithium ion battery that powers a heating element, resulting in vaporization and not smoke. High-end reusable vaporizers can come with temperature controls and even adapters to be able to vaporize marijuana flower as well as oil.
Disposable vape pens are another widely available option. The cartridge and pen are a single unit, and you don’t recharge them when they’re empty. You simply recycle them.
Most folks who are new to vaping cannabis start out with the least expensive option, which is usually a disposable pen. Once folks appreciate the benefits and convenience of vaping, many opt to buy higher-end pens, and there are virtually no limits on the type and design of vape pens available to consumers.
Extraction Techniques to Make Cannabis Concentrates
To produce concentrates, manufacturers extract cannabis oils from the leaf material and, depending on what the manufacturer desires as their end product, there are a number of extraction techniques they use to create the oils.
Distillates are cannabis oils that have been taken through a vacuum or steam process, usually several times, in order to isolate particular cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD).
The end-product has very little flavor or smell, which allows concentrate manufacturers to modify the original solution so that they can create unique products. Companies sometimes add terpenes and flavors to distillates to enhance both their aroma and effects.
What Else Is in My Cannabis Vape Cartridge?
Once they extract the oil, cannabis concentrate manufacturers use a variety of techniques to create their final product.
For cartridges, the oil must remain viscous (maintain a thick and sticky consistency) in order for it to turn into vapor when properly heated and so that the concentrates don’t gum up. This can involve mixing raw cannabis oil with other additives, including the following:
- Coconut oil
- Vegetable glycerin
- Propylene glycol
Some cannabis concentrate connoisseurs avoid carts containing additives, but you’ll have to decide what kind of vape cart is right for you.
How Much Cannabis Oil Is in My Cartridge & How Long Will It Last?
Generally, prefilled carts come in two sizes:
- 1/2 gram (500 mg)
- 1 gram (1,000 mg)
Unfortunately, there’s no standard formula for how many puffs your cartridge will contain. But according to a few dispensary employees, it’s comfortable to assume that the average person will reliably yield no less than 75 and probably no more than 150 puffs from a 1/2-gram cartridge. This is based on a 3-to-5-milligram puff, which varies widely from person to person.
That said, these are just a few of the variables when it comes to how long a vape cart lasts:
- The temperature of the battery
- How long and how much vapor you inhale
- Whether you’re using a disposable or rechargeable battery
Using the 3-to-5 milligram formula, it’s fairly simple to make an educated guess as to how long a cart may last for you. If you’re a light inhaler and you’re using your vape pen throughout the day, taking around 30 puffs, your cartridge will probably last somewhere between three to five days.
A HelloMD interview with Jeff Nagel, co-founder of W Vapes breaks down how his company has determined how long its cartridges lasts.
Meanwhile, just remember: The percentage of THC in a cart doesn’t necessarily translate to the best cartridge for you. Effects from terpenes are often as important as the overall potency of the product is.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Cannabis Vape Cartridge
Here are a few tips to help maximize your cannabis cartridge experience:
- Store your carts vertically, preferably in a cool, dry location. Heat will evaporate the oil in your cartridge.
- Hold your pen vertically (not horizontally, the way you’d smoke a joint) when vaping.
- No vapor? Try turning the cartridge upside down so that the oil coats the wick.
- Use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to clean your pen.
- Dispensaries or delivery services will almost always replace a leaky cartridge. If your cart is leaking, don’t leave it on the battery as the oil could damage it.
- For reusable vaporizers, unscrew the cart from the pen when not in use.
- Use the rubber tips that come with the cart to keep the ends from leaking.
Photo credit: Lifestyle discover/Shutterstock.com
If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 index of articles. And if you have questions about cannabis, ask them and our community will answer.