What's in Your Vape Pen?

Vaporizer pens are all the rage these days. Sarah Silverman flashed one on the red carpet (“This is my liquid pot,” she quipped). Whoopi Goldberg wrote a gushy love letter to hers, affectionately nicknaming it “Sippy.” Snoop Dogg has his own proprietary model, which comes cloaked in a map of his old Long Beach ‘hood. The Oxford English Dictionary recently crowned “vape” its Word of the Year.


It seems that everywhere you turn someone is sucking on a sleek, sexy, subversive little wand. People are vaping cannabis oil on the street, in restaurants, movie theaters, airplanes, even sporting events. You feel like you’re getting away with something sneaky when you vape in public. Being a stoner has never been so easy.

A vape pen—or “personal vaporizer,” as they are sometimes called—is a classy, high tech gizmo that heats cannabis oil to a temperature just short of combustion, releasing a smokeless, lightly-scented mist free of toxic tars and carbon. There are many vape pen brands, but the key factor, really, is what’s inside the disposable cartridge. How potent is the cannabis oil? How pure? What, if anything, is the oil cut with? How expensive per milligram is the THC content? Is the oil strain-specific or a psychoactive blend?

O’Shaughnessy’s looked at a total of 19 cannabis oil samples from 13 popular cartridge brands and did a side-by-side comparison based on analytical data from SC Labs in Santa Cruz. (Measured in milligrams per milliliter of concentrate, the data is posted on sclabs.com.) Regarding THC levels, Pure Cure and Absolute Xtracts topped the chart at 71 percent and 70 percent, respectively. Neither is cut with an additive. Absolute Xtracts features a line of strain-specific oils (OG Kush, Chem Dawg, Girl Scout Cookie, etc.), while Pure Cure is presumably a mixture of several unnamed cultivars as no strain designation is indicated. These two brands also rated highest in terms of bang for buck with Absolute Xtracts priced at 10 cents per milligram of THC and Pure Cure at 11 cents/mg.

Compare those numbers to O-Pen Vape Panama Sativa Red, for example, which contains only 26 percent THC at cost of 24 cents per milligram. Some vape pen cartridge oils rated even lower in terms of THC content, yet higher in price per milligram. The least potent sample, BD (Black Diamond) Vape Sour D, tested at 14 percent THC, while selling for 28 cents/mg of THC. Although they look golden and pretty, the weaker oils are typically diluted with propylene glycol, a relatively benign solvent that sometimes causes sore throat and dry mouth. Avoid vape pen cartridges that include ethylene glycol, an unhealthy compound used in antifreeze.

So buyer beware: Many vape cartridge brands are available in the unregulated cannabis market and it’s not always obvious what you’re getting. Deciding between vape cartridges is somewhat like choosing between a vintage scotch and a flask of moonshine, though in this case purchasing one of best whiskeys of the cartridge world might actually leave you with a few more greenbacks in your pocket.

Read full article with lab data graph and chart.

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