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What is a Vape?

How are Vapes Constructed?

What's in a Vape Cartridge?

What's on the Shelf?

Medical Marijuana Vape
Marijuana Vape

What is a Marijuana Vape?

As one of the most popular products in PA, vape pens come in a multitude of different shapes and sizes depending on the grower and type of vape the patient is looking for. The most common vapes are single-use disposable vape pens and vape pens that require a vape cartridge to be connected to a battery. 


Vaporization of marijuana has long been an alternative to the typical combustion method of smoking cannabis. Patients may choose vaporizing cannabis for a more discreet and convenient option of consumption. Vaporizers themselves can come in several different formats, but for the purposes of this explanation vape cartridges and vape pens will be the focus as they are the predominant product on the market. 

Marijuana Vape

How are Vapes Constructed?
(Single Use vs. Cartridges)

It is important to understand the mechanics of the vape pen you are purchasing as it effects the use of the product. Not all vape pens are constructed equal, and the materials used and the product in the cartridge will vary from grower to grower. The decision on what vape pen works best depends on personal preference, but since each component will affect the use of the product it is useful to understand what each component does.


Single use vape pens have the cartridge containing product and a disposable battery included. These vapes have more than a single dose of product in the cartridge but are meant to be discarded when the material in the cartridge runs out as these cartridges cannot be replaced. 


Patients are also able to purchase individual vape cartridges and a reusable battery. Almost all vape cartridges work with industry standard 510mm threaded batteries, but some growers are finding their own ways to construct individualized multi use batteries with proprietary replaceable cartridges. The diagram pictured below is of a cartridge connected to a battery. 

Marijuana Vape


The atomizer is what heats up the contents of the vape cartridge to activate the vaping process. It is the part of the vape pen that converts the battery’s power to heat. Atomizers are contained within cartridges in vape pens and typically consist of technology that utilizes wicks and coils to create cannabis vapor. The coils are heated by the battery which in turn vaporizes the liquid. The coils themselves are wrapped around a wick, which can be constructed of ceramic, cotton, or quartz.  The atomizer is the part of the vape where technology is most at play.  Different manufacturers will use different atomizer setups within their disposable vapes and cartridges which will all affect the end experience of the user. All these have different pros and cons and can come down to personal preference when in use.


This is where the material that is vaped is held. Cartridges refer to single disposable units that cannot be refilled. They will typically contain cannabis oils or distillates. The vape cartridge is replaceable and has the atomizer inside the cartridge, which connects to the battery.    


The mouthpiece is the part of the vape pen that the user will inhale through. They are typically constructed from glass or plastic and can vary in shape and size.


This is the power source of the vape pen. The pen will use the electric power in the battery and convert it into the heat needed to vaporize the material. Most vapes consist of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that use some form of USB charger that can either plug into the battery or screw directly onto the battery’s threaded connection.  The thread is commonly a 510 threaded battery. This is considered the universal battery for vapes and allows users to use vape cartridges from different growers with the same battery, so they do not need to purchase a new battery every time they replace their cartridge.

Power Button

Vape pens that contain a cartridge are typically activated by a power button on the battery that the user presses to trigger a sensor that will activate the atomizer. Most single-use disposable vape pens are draw-activated and turn on when the user begins to inhale. The vape pens that contain power buttons typically function using a five-click method. Tapping the button five times will turn the vape pen on and different taps of the button will allow the user to cycle through different temperatures to find what works best for them. 


What is in a Marijuana Vape Cartridge?

While the hardware and construction of a vape is important the product in the cartridge is what will be consumed so what is contained in the cartridge is the most important aspect of a medical marijuana vape. Vape cartridges can contain a variety of cannabis extracts from liquid live resin (LLR) to CO2 oil, to distillate, to rosin and every grower has a unique methodology for producing their product that includes different methods of extraction and different types of cannabis extracts.


For growers, there is a balance in finding the perfect vape cartridge and pen construction for their product. The actual cartridges that are being filled with product, and the atomizers and batteries being used will all affect the consumption of the product, so the more a grower can tell you about what is in their cartridge the better. All vape products are lab tested and held to a high-quality standard, but there are shortcomings of vape technology that limit what can go into the cartridge. The grower has to produce a product that has the right viscosity so it can be properly heated by the atomizer technology they choose. This means that if they are unable to get a concentrated cannabis product of the right viscosity for a vape pen, they will have to introduce additives into the product. These can come in the form of pre-mixed terpene solutions to introduce flavors and aromas or other diluting agents.   


When looking at the differences between vape cartridges on the dispensary shelf it will come down to what the strain is, what type of extract is used, if there are any additives introduced for flavoring or consistency, and the hardware used by the grower for the vape.    

What's on the Shelf?

For choosing a vape product at a dispensary patients will first decide on the type of vape. This will be between a single-use disposable pen and individual vape cartridges that attach to a reusable battery. After choosing this, vape products will be listed by the strain of marijuana and the type of oil in the cartridge. For example, "Kosher Tangie (LLR)" indicates "Kosher Tangie" as the strain and "liquid live resin" as the type of oil in the cartridge. Here we focus on the different types of cartridges patients will see inside dispensaries in Pennsylvania. 

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