Wednesday January 31, 2018

By Paul Barach


For those still on the fence about vape pens, the question may arise each time you walk into the dispensary: Flower or vape? The past or the future? The familiar or the new? The answer’s easy, get both!

While nothing will ever completely replace flower for the true cannasseur, a vape pen is a great addition for anyone looking to add something new to their repertoire. With the abundance of brands and cartridges available in nearly all dispensaries there has never been a better time to try them out.

For those flower children still questioning whether or not to switch up their routine, here are the pros and cons of vape pens.

Pros of Vape Pens

Did you know that vape cartridges are one of the fastest growing sectors of the legal cannabis industry?

With sales growth of up to 400% in some markets, vaporizers are beginning to become the favorite product among many consumers. Let’s take a closer look at what makes vape pens so appealing to consumers:


As adept as we all became at “ninja smoking” in our teens, we never mastered full invisibility. While palming your glass piece and sparking up into your cupped hands may have seemed stealthy at the time, the flame of the lighter and the plume of smoke were easy to see if not smell afterwards.

Though there will always be a time and a place for a nice bowl, the discreteness of a vape pen means that you can take it anywhere you need.

Portable vape pens slide easily into pockets, purses or backpacks and there’s no fumbling around looking for your lighter, your nugs and your glass when you’re wanting to indulge. Just slip out the pen, hit the button and then exhale an odorless vapor that dissipates without clinging to your clothes.

Vape Pen Versatility
Vape pens are extremely versatile and can be taken almost anywhere!

Even better? Whether you’re outdoors or inside, there’s no fear of upsetting a passerby or of stinking up your car, a bathroom or a supply closet while you take a break. When you’re done, just slip your vape pen back into its resting place and get on with your day.


There are few better smells than opening up a fresh jar or package of flower. However, the moment the smell gets out, the air gets in. No one prefers a dried-out nug over a fresh one for good reason; you’re losing both the taste and the potency the older it gets.

With vape pens, your first hit is the same strength and flavor as your last one.

Concentrates stay stronger longer than flower and maintain a reliable potency due to their stability. There’s also less product loss to worry about. Smoking flower always means losing some bud to carbonization or crumbling. Even the most well-ground bowl doesn’t burn evenly and there’s often some stems in the mix if you’re using a grinder. With vape pens, you’re only vaporizing the puff you’re inhaling and the rest stays in the cartridge.


As mentioned above, the effects and potency of flower diminish with time. There’s also the normal variations within the same strain from harvest to harvest. While total consistency is strived for by each grower, it is nearly impossible to achieve due to the complexities of cannabinoid and terpene production within the plant.

Concentrates are much easier to replicate batch after batch. Sure, there will always be slight variations due to the flower being used, but since concentrates have a higher level of cannabinoids and terpenes, the differences are less noticeable.

Perhaps the most consistent cannabis product is marijuana distillate, which is becoming a favorite filling for vape cartridges. Because terpenes are removed while processing distillate, leaving only pure cannabinoids, each batch is more likely to resemble the batch before it. There are also the anecdotal benefits to concentrates. Cannabinoids and terpenes in flower can have some negative interactions with each person, such as getting too hungry, paranoid or “fog headed.”

Example of a Distillate Pen
Distillate pens provide a clean, clear-headed high for consumers.

Since these compounds are removed in the concentrate distillation, many find vape cartridges to be a clearer-headed, more easy-going experience without that fog-headed feeling afterwards. Conversely, some people find distillate to be less of a “full spectrum” experience. Ultimately, it’s up to the consumer to define their personal preferences and choose the best products for their taste and needs.

It’s also important to note that some distillate cartridges have cannabis-based or natural terpenes reintroduced into the mix, so always be sure to check the label before purchase to ensure you’ll experience the desired effects you’re looking for.


For those that head straight for their dispensary’s menu in search of new strains, vape cartridges have you covered. Cartridges come in the same strain-specific varieties as flower, usually color coded to tell you whether you’re about to enjoy an indica, sativa, or hybrid.

Additionally, many concentrate companies offer CBD cartridges for those looking to speed recovery from an injury, take the edge off some ache or pain, or just to turn down the volume on a stressful day without any psychoactive effects.

Olio Sauce Pen Example
Vape pens come in many different flavors and cannabinoid profiles.

The potency of vape cartridges is comparable to flower and sometimes contains double or even triple the THC content. While flower usually tops out below 30% THC, vape cartridges may boast 70%-95% THC potency.


As with all smoking apparatus, from pipes to dab rigs, there’s an initial investment. Luckily, for vape pens you’re looking at less than $50 to start out. Most reusable batteries retails for around $10-$20 and nearly all use the same universal cartridge size, known as a 510 thread. The cartridges themselves can be purchased for as little as $20 for those looking to try them out before committing to a larger amount.

Cons of Vape Pens

Even though there are many pros to purchasing and consuming vape cartridges, there are some downsides to them that you may not know about. Let’s take a look.

Faulty Electronics

As long as your lighter makes fire and the bud isn’t wet, there are no malfunctioning parts when you’re smoking a bowl. Unlike a lighter, if your vape pen isn’t working you can’t just ask a friend or passerby if they have a spare battery in their pocket. However, the good news is that vape pens are pretty consistent. Most dispensaries will replace the rare faulty cartridge and batteries will generally last about three days on a full charge, even with fairly constant use.

Poor Vapor Production

This can be an issue with some cartridges. If you’re not getting the hit you want and deserve though, many times it can be resolved by simply setting the cartridge upright (thread side down) on a table or flat surface. Once the concentrate has settled at the bottom, you’re good to go.

Since most dispensaries offer a one to two week period to test out your cartridge, you can usually swap a faulty one out for a new one without too much trouble.


Many cartridge producers are beginning to create products that are additive-free and all-natural. However, many vape cartridges out there contain propylene glycol (PG), polyethylene glycol (PEG) or other glycerin cutting agents. While there isn’t much research on the dangers of these additives yet, some people believe they are not ideal for inhalation.


In conclusion, a vape pen is a solid buy for any cannasseur, whether as your primary smoking device or as your trusty back-up. The ability to enjoy your THC discreetly, portably and easily is well worth the small initial investment of a cartridge and pen. With the increasing variety of cartridges available in both potency and strain, you can easily find your favorite for any occasion.

Have you ever used a cannabis vape cartridge and pen? What was your experience like?

Paul Barach Paul Barach

Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.

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