In recent years, vaping has become a very popular, discreet, and effective way of consuming cannabis. Although smoking cannabis has been the main consumption method for decades, now that the cannabis industry has significantly evolved, vaping is giving smoking a run for its money.
Vaping has gained a reputation as being a healthier way of consuming cannabis because it heats up the product rather than burning/combusting it. However, how safe is vaping really, and how safe are the cannabis oil vape cartridges consumers have been and continue to purchase at an increasing rate?
Benefits of Vaping that Suit One’s Health and Lifestyle
Although vaporizing or vaping cannabis has its potential risks, it’s healthier as compared to combusting cannabis, especially because of the respiratory and esophagus issues that can develop from frequently smoking cannabis. Also, when cannabis flower is burnt or combusted, many of its beneficial plant terpenes and other cannabinoids lose their potency or no longer exist. Additionally, when cannabis flower is combusted, the smoke that’s inhaled may contain different toxins.
Fortunately, though, alternative cannabis consumption methods are available, and one method that’s attracting more and more people is vaping via portable vape pens or vaporizer devices. When consumers vape cannabis, they have their own personal reasons for doing so. This may be to experience rapid effects that arise after vaping or to consume cannabis is a discreet way. In general though, three main reasons why people vape cannabis is because of its discreteness, convenience, and nearly immediate effects.
Even though smoking delivers rapid effects too, vaping doesn’t have the same impact on the body’s lungs, esophagus, and throat as compared to combustion. Furthermore, the majority of cannabis oil concentrates used for vaping are much more potent than traditional cannabis flower. Thus, most consumers don’t need to vape much to experience the relief they desire.
Increase in Vaping Consumption Rates and Sales
To experience several benefits of vaping such as the ones listed above, many medical and recreational cannabis users located in different U.S. states are opting for this consumption method. In the near future, cannabis concentrate sales are projected to increase as well as cannabis concentrate consumption rates. Based on the findings from an Arcview report, by 2022, cannabis concentrate sales are projected to generate $8.4 billion in the U.S.
Furthermore, in 2014, cannabis concentrates generated roughly 10 percent of legally sold cannabis products. As of 2018 though, that number jumped up to 27 percent. Also, slowly but surely, cannabis oil concentrates meant for vaping continues to make up a large percent of the cannabis market. Specifically, vape products make up as much as 86 percent of the cannabis market in Colorado, Washington state, and Oregon. Whereas, in California, 71 percent of their sales consist of cannabis concentrates.
Despite vape cartridges taking the spot for being the most popular non-flower purchases in California, several studies that focused on the content of California vape cartridge products released some disturbing findings.
Downsides and Concerns Surrounding Vape Cartridges and Cannabis Concentrates
Moreover, when there are positives about something, chances are that there are some negatives too. This applies to vaping cannabis and cannabis concentrate products used in vape pens. When producing cannabis concentrates, different solvents are used to extract the cannabinoids, terpenes, and trichomes from the cannabis plant. Some common solvents include ethanol, butane, propane, and CO2. Although extractors try to remove leftover solvent residue from the final product, a surprisingly large quantity of cannabis concentrate products are contaminated, which can harm consumers’ health.
According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Toxicological Sciences, it was discovered that over 80 percent of cannabis concentrate samples contained contaminants in the form of leftover residual solvents. Also, one major concern to be aware of is the use of propylene glycol (PG), which is a chemical added into cannabis oil products to be used as a thinner.
Recently, Jahan Marcu, the chief scientific officer for Americans for Safe Access described the risks associated with propylene glycol in cannabis concentrates. He stated the following about this matter: “propylene glycol transforms into carbonyls, a group of cancer-causing chemicals that includes formaldehyde, which has been linked to spontaneous abortions and low birth weight.”
Thinning Agents Used in the Cannabis Concentrate Production Process–The Impact They Can Have on Consumers’ Health
When cannabis oil products are heated up, certain leftover additives in the final product can be harmful to one’s health. Three of the most common cutting or thinning agents used to produce concentrated cannabis oils include vegetable glycerin (VG), propylene glycol (PG), and polyethylene glycol (PEG).
A 2017 study tested thinning agents including PG, PEG 400, vegetable glycerin (VG), and medium chain triglycerides (MCT) and exposed them to a common temperature required to vape cannabis oil. The results were quite alarming, especially because it was discovered that when cannabis oils are vaped at a certain temperature, PEG 400 and PG become carcinogens in the form of formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
Regarding PEG 400, researchers discovered that the amount of formaldehyde was equivalent to smoking a cigarette. What is even more concerning is that recently, it was found that after one inhalation of cannabis vapor that contains polyethylene glycol (PEG 400) puts a consumer at risk for 1.12 percent of the daily formaldehyde exposure limit.
How-To Avoid Purchasing and Consuming Contaminated Cannabis Vape Products:
To avoid inhaling harmful substances and leftover solvent residue, there’s a few steps you can take to protect yourself. First, it’s recommended to purchase raw cannabis products that contain cannabis distillate and plant-derived terpenes. Then, try to not purchase any vape cartridges that don’t have any labels or proper packaging. Furthermore, try to look for “verified products” whenever possible.
Lastly, it’s never a bad idea to ask the seller for the products’ test results, and if they cannot show them to you, take this as a sign to go another direction. Overall, if you feel like something isn’t right, chances are your instincts are correct, so listen to yourself and monitor your health and well-being before and after vaping. If you do your research and purchase safe and contaminant-free products, prepare yourself for the many benefits that come with vaping cannabis.