These products are brand new on the regulated Canadian market â€” but what’s inside of them?
Now that they’re on the Canadian market, cannabis consumers are interested in trying vape pens, but know relatively little about them. To answer their most frequently asked questions, we reached out to Pete Morin, an education specialist with CannSell, the AGCO-approved cannabis retail training program; Dr. Shane Morris, chief product officer at Aurora Cannabis, a licensed producer based in Edmonton; and Anna Shlimak, SVP for corporate affairs at Cronos Group, the producer behind brands like Spinach and Cove based in Stayner, Ont.
Here’s what we’ve discovered.
What is a disposable vape pen and how do you use it?
Unlike a refillable cartridge pen, a disposable vape pen is one unit — the cannabis oil, atomizer, battery and other components are all included. You simply inhale to start the heating element. The disposable pen is easy to use and can be tossed once it’s out of oil.
Once you remove the vape from the packaging, look for a button. If there is one, click it, and an indicator light will turn on. You can then inhale through the mouthpiece. If there is no button, an indicator light at the base of the pen will be activated when you inhale. Exhale the vapor. A typical .5 ml vape pen lasts for about 220 puffs. That total can be affected by temperature and the length of each inhale.
What is a 510 cartridge?
A cartridge is a pre-filled container of cannabis oil or concentrate intended to be used with an e-cigarette or vape rig. There are many kinds of weed cartridges, including one that has what is called a 510 thread. It screws onto a rechargeable battery. This battery might have a button or heat up automatically when you inhale. It may have multiple temperature settings or heat up to a pre-set temperature. A 510-thread vape is the industry standard for atomizers and tanks.
Are strain-specific vapes derived from specific cannabis strains or just made to taste and feel that way?
Vape cartridges are filled with cannabis distillate, a concentrated form of cannabis oil. The distillation process removes natural plant terpenes from cannabis, which produces a viscous liquid that has no taste or flavour. Terpenes can be reintroduced to the liquid before the cartridges are filled.
According to CannSell’s Morin, most licensed producers with vape pens or pods on the market are taking a THC distillate and adding terpenes to recreate the flavours and effects of various strains — but that is not always the case. “Ultimately, it depends on the producer and the method they are using for extraction,” he says.
Morris says the extracts used in Aurora’s vape products include plant-derived terpenes grown in their facilities and not from any non-cannabis plant sources. “We are committed to preserving original plant elements to ensure the highest quality consumption experience possible,” he says.
In the case of Spinach and Cove, the adult-use brands by Cronos, the company introduces natural terpenes to the extracts to replicate the terpene profiles of strains. “Our proprietary Cove formulations are strain-inspired from various cultivars,” Shlimak says.
Is cannabinoid and terpene consistent in all vape pen extracts, or does it vary from batch to batch?
In a lab, producers start with a distillate that has a specific concentration of THC, and then they add specific amounts of various cannabinoids and terpenes.
The final product is intended to be consistent from one batch to another. That consistency will improve as quality assurance practices and standards evolve and best practices become more specific and complex.
“This means vape pens and pods will eventually become much more consistent from batch-to-batch than dried flower,” says Morin.
Some vape products on shelves have proprietary names. Are they actually unique blends or existing strains with new names?
According to Morin, most distillate-based products are a blend of various strains. Dried flower is often used as bulk biomass from which producers extract THC and other cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are mixed with terpenes to create the flavour profiles of the various strains.
Do blends have synthetic or naturally-derived terpenes?
Morin says it’s possible that some blends contain synthetic terpenes, but he adds that it’s more common for blends to contain natural terpenes derived from sources other than cannabis, like pine, citrus, etc. That being said, most producers use cannabinoids and terpenes extracted from cannabis. Neither Aurora nor Cronos use synthetic terpenes.
How safe are blends?
“Blends refer to extracts produced with the natural ingredients of more than one plant cultivar,” says Morris. “For example, a THC Sativa Blend product may use extracts derived from several of our top high-THC sativa cultivars. All our vape products use only our own pure concentrates – with no added fillers, dilutive agents or other additives.
“Our blends, or formulations as we call them, are made with premium cannabis extract and all-natural terpene-rich flavours,” says Shlimak. “We don’t add any unnecessary ingredients like vitamin E acetate, lipids or MCT oil as carrier materials.
Will different extracts make me feel different ways?
Some regulated products are marketed with a particular effect, such as “Calm” or “Awake.” But the endocannabinoid system varies from person to person so the effect does too. There is still a lot to learn before we know with certainty how particular cannabinoids and terpenes will affect an individual.
“The effects felt by cannabis consumers can be different for each individual,” Morris says, adding that Aurora does not use purchased terpenes to improve a product’s flavour or aroma — a process that has the potential to change the natural effect of a particular cultivar.
Shlimak also acknowledges that “individual experiences may vary” from one consumer to the next, but says the company’s goal “is to deliver a consistent experience.”
Overall, what should consumers know about vape products?
Proper dosing is a consideration when it comes to all cannabis products, including vapes, says Morin. He makes beginners aware that it takes longer to feel the effect of vaping than smoking, so he advises them to wait at least 10 minutes to inhale a second time while vaping. Also, THC distillate is much stronger than THC in dried flower, so he urges beginners to choose products that contain some CBD for a balanced experience.
Experienced vaping consumers who are interested in the slight differences between vape products would be interested to know that most THC distillate is similar from product to product — but the cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes help distinguish one product from another. He adds that vape pens or pods that offer a full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes have a different effect than a THC distillate product.
What else should consumers know about your vape products?
“Aurora has established a Vape Quality and Safety Program to help ensure our vape products use only high-quality cannabis extracts and best-in-class cartridges & batteries,” says Morris. “Our proprietary CO2 resin extractor retains a high quality and quantity of natural terpenes, making for a pure vaping experience.”
“The cartridges are made with quality stainless steel components and are tamper-resistant,” says Shlimak. “Our rechargeable draw batteries have contemporary, intuitive designs and include mechanisms to prevent overheating. Our formulations are made with premium cannabis extract and all-natural terpene-rich flavours – we do not add any unnecessary ingredients, such as vitamin E acetate, lipids or MCT oil as carrier materials. We’re very proud of our latest products and we’re excited for consumers to try them.”