Have you ever heard of too much weed? Perhaps you consume a plethora of cannabis concentrates, dabs all day. According to countless individuals who turn down dabs of concentrated cannabis, a joint or vape pen is often a perfect fit. So, how can a vape pen be designed based on lab tests to ensure it puffs just like a classic, expertly rolled joint without wasting over half of its THC?

vape pens

What wastes less THC and CBD, joints, dabs, or vape pens?

Hädener et al. analyzed dabs and joints chemically and noticed joints waste three times more THC than dabs. So, a vape pen should be optimal, although that isn’t always the case. With enough lab tests, can a vape pen puff like a joint and waste as little THC as a dab?

Beyond this, the oil droplets deposited in your lungs after you puff on a vape pen will likely possess different compounds than the oil the producer loaded into the cartridge.

Delic Labs, formerly CBDV, is at the forefront of vape pen testing in Canada, with a license from Health Canada to study cannabis and psilocybin. Their president and CSO, Dr. Markus Roggen, holds a doctorate in organic chemistry from ETH Zürich.

We decided to #AskAnExpert why we use smoke or vape testing in the first place.

Ask an expert about vape pens tests
Dr. Markus Roggen of Delic Labs.

We know what’s in a vape or a smoking product, but not what’s in the oil droplets deposited in your lungs after you puff on a vape or a joint.

Chemistry is an interesting field as it is concerned with the changes of molecules. Vape pens cause the oil to heat up although it doesn’t always boil or burn. Instead the oil will change … Heat is one of the main driving forces for molecular change — for chemistry to happen.

So, we were therefore interested in how the process of vaping and smoking affects what you consume. Because, if your vape oil is 90 percent THC, and you have one gram of oil, that means you have 900 mg of THC. But you’re not inhaling 900 mg in one puff. How much THC do you inhale per puff (per toke) on a joint?

Dr. Roggen

Good question, the ability to calculate doses with a vape pen is traditionally based on trial and error, aside from perhaps one or two precisely dosed vape pens.

We wanted to know [that] so the producer of the cannabis vaping product, and also the consumer, can have a rough idea of how much THC one would inhale. That way, you can fine-tune your vape hardware. 

Let’s say you only need to inhale 1 mg of THC per puff to get you an effect. So, if the vape oil producer makes a setup that’s 5 mg of THC, that’s way too much. So, how does one adjust the formulation and fine-tune the hardware?

Dr. Roggen

So, you want to help producers make better vape products and for consumers to have a better vaping experience.

And that is to an extent with THC, but also other cannabinoids and terpenes as well.  

Dr. Roggen

Limitations with vape pen tests

Sajni Shah (BS) oversees the lab itself at Delic Labs. Shah started as a co-op student with the former CBDV back in May 2019. She is now the lab manager and assists with many operations and experiments.

Sajni Shah lab manager Delic labs
Sajni Shah, Lab Manager at Delic Labs.

How consistent are different brands of vape pens and does this affect the test?

It varies significantly. So, it makes it quite difficult to figure out exactly how much you can expect to come out of the vape itself. 

We did check to see as well; a lot of the packaging would say the net weight of these cartridges had a gram or half-a-gram of oil. But we consistently noticed that even though we were smoking the vape completely, the actual weight was not consistent with the [advertised] net weight.

Sajni Shah

Sajni noted the inconsistency could be due to residual left-over oil. In any case, the discrepancies have been high enough that it seems unlikely all of the weight is accounted for. But they are not sure if the vape cartridges are being underfilled, or if there is oil left behind in the cartridge unable to be vaped.

Regardless, on the consumer’s endpoint, they are not getting the full amount that they would expect. 

Sajni
Photo and data courtesy of Delic Labs (formerly CBDV).

Why should we match joints and vapes?

So, these tests have the potential to improve the efficiency of a vape pen as well as the experience.

Vape and smoke testing will allow cannabis producers to make better-designed oils and vape cartridges so that your vape finally tastes like a joint.

Vape pens will never puff like a joint if no one asks why their respective vapour and smoke emissions are different, and which compounds are missing from the vape cartridge. We can now begin to close that gap, understand what is missing, and start to design a better vape oil to get the full flavour.

Dr. Roggen

Thank you, Dr. Roggen and Sajni. End of call.

These tests appear to be viable for the consumer, but they do come at a price and with some limitations. We will explain in the following article the technical details behind the forefront of vape and smoke analysis.

Let us know in the comments if you prefer a vape pen to puff like a joint, hit like a dab, or somewhere in between. And, check out this story to learn more about how THC aerosolizes in a vape pen but never boils.

Sources

Hädener, M., Vieten, S., Weinmann, W., & Mahler, H. (2019). A preliminary investigation of lung availability of cannabinoids by smoking marijuana or dabbing BHO and decarboxylation rate of THC- and CBD-acids. Forensic science international295, 207–212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2018.12.021

Meehan-Atrash, J., Luo, W., McWhirter, K. J., & Strongin, R. M. (2019). Aerosol Gas-Phase Components from Cannabis E-Cigarettes and Dabbing: Mechanistic Insight and Quantitative Risk Analysis. ACS omega4(14), 16111–16120. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsomega.9b02301

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