Can Cannabis Cartridges Get You Medicated?

Francis Cassidy May 2, 2019 1 comment

Cannabis cartridges saturate the market, so how do you know which one to buy?

Cannabis cartridges provide a convenient way to medicate. Cartridges offer a discrete, convenient, and flavorful method of on-the-go medicating for precision dosing.

But do these medicate the same way as other forms? The short answer is yes, but things are more complicated than they first appear. Several factors influence the degree to which they get you medicated and in this post we go into the details regarding which might be best for you. We talk cartridges and concentrates, the options available, the differences, the benefits, and those things you might want to watch out for.

Types of Cannabis Cartridges

Cannabis cartridges come in a variety of types. If you truly care about the medicinal effect of your cannabis, it’s worth understanding a little about available options. Aside from substandard construction and O-rings that leak, poor quality cartridges are made from cheap plastic which sometimes leaches into the oil. Cheap plastic is also penetrable by certain compounds such as terpenes, which can render your medicine less potent. As with everything, you get what you pay for. 

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Plastic Wick Cartridges

With a lower per-unit cost, plastic wick cartridges are in the lower-quality end of the spectrum. They consist of a plastic vessel and wick system ideally suited to oils of low viscosity. Because they are made from low-grade material, these cannabis cartridges tend to leach material into the vapor – and that’s not something you want to inhale.

Pax Pods

Made from plastic and metal, pax pods tend to preserve the original flavor. The atomizer is usually made from metal. This makes it a safer option for those concerned about plastic leaching. However the presence of plastic may still be a concern for some. If you tend to be more cautious, try avoiding plastic altogether.

Glass and Metal Cartridges

As the more expensive option, glass and metal cartridges have several advantages over the aforementioned. These cartridges are more resilient to heat compared to plastic counterparts. Because these have a metal atomizer they are able to handle oils of different viscosities. An increasing number of people are willingly taking on the extra expense for unadulterated flavor and peace of mind.

Bear in mind that just because a cartridge is made from metal and glass doesn’t necessarily mean the concentrate inside is better. Let’s take a look at what’s available on that front.

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Types of Concentrates in Cannabis Cartridges

Most cannabis cartridges consist of CO2 extracts or distillates. Some extraction processes destroy beneficial compounds. Manufacturers often re-add these later to enhance flavor and therapeutic properties. Let’s take a look at the two main types.

CO2 Oil:

CO2 extracted oils result in a concentrate of just the right viscosity for vaporizers. Producers must take care to retain terpene content for a better therapeutic effect. This also negates the need to re-add terpenes.


Distillate oils are highly refined. These consist of cannabinoids and not much else. During extraction, the high temperatures used tend to destroy beneficial compounds such as terpenes. It results in a thicker, less flavorful oil that’s stripped of some of the health benefits that full spectrum can provide.

Manufacturers can add back in some plant-derived terpenes to improve flavor and enhance the medicinal benefit. However distillate oils are thick, and a thinning agent is often required to thin the oil so it can be used in a vaporizer. But thinning agents can be problematic.

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Thinning – Is it Problematic?

When the oil is too thick to vaporize, manufacturers use additives to thin the product. Agents used for this include: polyethylene glycol, propylene glycol vegetable glycerin, or medium chain triglycerides.

Numerous health concerns have arisen regarding the introduction of thinners into cannabis oils. Preliminary evidence suggests that formaldehyde – a cancer-causing gas – is produced when certain thinners are heated. And that’s not something you want to inhale.

The reintroduction of terpenes can also help to lower viscosity levels in distillates which leads to an oil ideal for vaping. The terpenes provide synergy that also helps to modulate the effects of the medicine.

If you have health concerns, you may want to stick with CO2 extracts to avoid additives.

The Medicated Effect

When you spend money on your medicine, you’ll want to ensure you reap all of the benefits. Let’s take a look at how to ensure you get the best bang for your buck.

Go for Full Plant Profile

There are several things that determine the potency of a particular cartridge. First, it’s not all about cannabinoids. Unwitting consumers are often left disappointed with concentrates advertized as THC- or cannabinoid-rich. A distillate containing 90%+ cannabinoids will likely have far fewer terpenes, flavonoids, and pigments than the original plant material from which it was distilled. This negates the entourage effect.

HTFSE stands for High Terpene Full Spectrum Extract. With nothing added and nothing taken away, these cartridge concentrates provide the best the plant has to offer. Allowing for the entourage effect to fully manifest, HTFSE often provides superior results. Used with a high-quality cartridge made from glass, metal, or ceramic with properly sized O-rings, these often provide the best results.

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Keep Tolerance in Mind

Tolerance is unique to each individual. People who occasionally smoke flower with THC levels of 20-25% will likely feel the medicated effects quite strongly from cannabis cartridges. However, those who use cannabis more frequently, or in the form of concentrates may feel a lesser effect and require higher doses to get medicated. As always, start low and go slow. Ask your budtender about THC levels and effects of individual concentrates to make the most educated purchase possible.

It’s important to stay one step ahead of the game. Stay informed and understand that when it comes to cartridges and what’s inside them, you get what you pay for. If you can, research each product before spending money on a new cartridge or concentrate. 

Author avatar

Francis Cassidy
Francis Cassidy is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics. With a particular focus on the cannabis industry, he aims to help ensure the smooth reintegration of cannabis back into global culture. When not writing, he's to be found exploring his new base in British Columbia, Canada. You can follow his other works including his photography on his blog

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1 comment

  1. Which cartridges are the best to buy and use, and which pens are best? Getting ready to go on vacation and would rather use this instead of trying to find a place to smoke.