If tobacco made it work, why not marijuana?
Whether you call them e-joints, vape pens or something else, these little sticks of cannabis gold have come a long way in the short time they’ve been on the market. The cannabis cartridge is arguably the easiest, most discreet and most efficient method of medication. But that doesn’t mean they’re for everyone – though everyone should at least give them a chance.
You won’t get the smell of burnt buds or the flavors of sticky flowers. Yet prepackaged and ready-to-use cannabis oil cartridges are just as ubiquitous in pharmacies as e-cigarettes are in convenience stores. And their quality and value are higher than ever.
Cannabis cartridges come in a variety of packaging and are made with all kinds of tension. The oil can now range from 20 percent to nearly 90 percent THC – that wonderful compound in cannabis that gives it its glory – but it wasn’t always like that. Hash oil seized by authorities in the US in the 1970s to 1990s usually contained less than 20 percent THC, with the highest level recorded by the government at the time being around 50 percent. And it wasn’t the cleanest there was. Those numbers have improved tremendously, as have the extraction methods.
Once produced on a black market and prone to butane explosions, modern extraction has taken the caustic solvents and other nefarious things out of cannabis oil production. If your cartridge doesn’t make it clear that it’s made with a CO2 extraction and is solvent-free (which is rare these days), you’re better off spending your money elsewhere; these things can get pricey, but there’s enough variety to make smart purchases.
Other factors affect the taste and thus the enjoyment of vaporizing cannabis oil, such as whether the buds were fresh (usually called “living resin” on the packaging) or cured (dried) before extraction, or whether terpenes were added during evaporate the production, were added back to improve the taste. And you may also find the tip (plastic or metal) and the heating method important.
As we mentioned earlier, there are countless options in the cartridge world. We found four brands to review that are readily available at Bay Area dispensaries. We can’t guarantee the same sampled strain will be available, but hopefully this will give you an idea of what each producer makes.
Bloom Farms Highlighter
(Single Origin Reserve)
Variety: Mango Kush (H)
55% THC, 0.8% CBD
It seems Bloom Farms has figured out how to preserve the sweet, fruity flavor profile of Mango Kush in an oil, which is admirable. At 55 percent THC, it’s a step down in potency, but still delivers the happy and relaxed feelings associated with this strain. This highlighter provides a quick way out of stress, and if you’re feeling down, it can give you a better foot to stand on. We recommend this after dinner, with a chill movie or chiller music. Bloom Farms opts for the combination of plastic container and fiberglass wick, which is not as nice as the coil and the metal tip. It also takes some neck muscles to get a solid pull. But Bloom Farms is starting with premium cannabis and you can see that in the oil.
Ganja Gold Living Resin
Stem: Gorilla Glue (H)
73.79% THC, 0.71% CBD,
This guy is a heavy hitter, definitely clearing up. They don’t call it Gorilla Glue because it makes you want to dance. This is a couch-lock experience, albeit a fun one. A few deep pulls and you’ll feel the stress of the day slipping away. The taste is OK, although we hoped that the extraction with fresh, frozen buds would bring the taste closer to real flowers. It is mild and slightly grassy, which is pleasant enough. Ganja Gold uses a coil heater and a stainless steel tip for your lips, making for a cleaner tasting vapor that goes down easily. Highly recommended for stress and pain relief, but not so much for creativity and euphoria.
O.pen Vape Reserve
Strain: Unknown, Hybrid
67.5% THC, 0.7% CBD, 0.92% CBN
O.pen Vape cartridges are the most widely available – the company says they sell one every 10 seconds – and the 420mg size is cute (4/20, get it?). But in the end it means it’s less than half a gram for the same price as a cartridge that is indeed 500mg. The company says this limited-release cartridge is strain-specific, but the packaging only says “hybrid.” She feels like an indica-dominant hybrid and produces a smooth and stoned mood. Good for pain relief and sleep, but not for a night out. The plastic tip and fiberglass wick don’t help the taste, which is bland if mild, and the drag is a bit stiff. But we didn’t use an O.pen Vape Pen, which is what the company recommends.
Each cartridge had its pros and cons, but in the end we preferred Girl Scouts Cookies from Absolute Xtracts. It was the easiest to pull, had the best flavor and produced a top-notch high. We highly recommend cartridges made with metal tips and also coil heating, which can be more expensive but worth it for the overall experience.
Type: Girl Scout Cookies (H)
61.2% THC, 0.66% CBN
This strain needs no introduction and the quality of the flowers of Absolute Xtracts shines bright: GSC at its best, in a very potent form. Definitely a brain teaser. Pain relief combined with a light and exotic feel, a kind of Cloud 9 experience, all neatly packaged with a metal tip and coil heater. Pulling is easy, especially with quick preheat. Not too heavy on the lungs, the vapor is mild and sweet. We could see this in a gym bag, but not on a nightstand. It brings happy thoughts and should be used for creative inspiration and decompression.