Every time I see someone in their car or at the bus stop take a massive pull from their vape pen or e-cig, then blow out a cloud of “smoke” dense enough to hide an elephant, I chuckle just a little bit inside.
I think it’s funny because, more often than not, these people probably assume that what they’re doing is harmless, safe, and perfectly healthy for their lungs.
And indeed, it is true that e-cigs, vaporizers and vape pens are probably much safer than traditional joints and cigarettes — that is, if they’re high quality and used with a safe, well made, vape-specific oil.
In today’s largely unregulated market, however, that’s a very, VERY big if.
In this article, we go over how to choose the best cannabis e-liquid for your needs – whether you’re wanting to get stoned off your tuckus with a high-THC oil, relieve some sort of medical ailment with a good CBD juice, or achieve some sort of an “in-between” effect, there are a few different things you really need to be taking into consideration in order to get the most of your vaping experience, rather than doing yourself inadvertent harm.
First Things First: A Word About Weed Pens and Cannabis E-Cigs
Like we said, the common consensus among most vapers out there is that vaping is a safe – and perhaps even “healthy” – alternative to smoking. And indeed there have been several well-publicized scientific studies verifying as much.
One of these studies in fact, published by Britain’s Royal College of Physicians, has said that e-cigs can essentially block out “almost all of the harm [that you get] from smoking.”
However, what most folks fail to consider is the fact that the majority of vape pens, e-cigs, and vape juices out there are cheap, sub-standard, low-quality products that have been engineered with almost zero safety or manufacturing regulations — and certainly with zero regard for your personal health.
The whole point of vaping is to heat the “material” (whether it be cannabis oil, dry bud, e-juice, etc) to a temperature that’s just high enough to release the active compounds, but not high enough to burn – or combust – it.
This temperature, according to Dr. Johan Marcu (Chief Scientific Officer of Americans for Safe Access), is roughly around the mid-200℉ range. Much higher than that, he says, and you start to “leave the vapor zone” and venture into actual combustion of the material – which leads to smoke inhalation.
The problem is that most e-cigs and vape pens out there on the market have cheap, unreliable e-coils that operate at much higher temperatures than this – effectively defeating the entire purpose of vaping over smoking.
So unless you’re willing to spend the money on a top-quality vaporizer or vape pen that allows you to adjust the temperature to the sub-300℉ mark, you’re likely not doing yourself much of an advantage in terms of health benefits.
And more importantly is the fact that, according to several studies, high-temperature vaping of low-quality e-juices can lead to the release of harmful carcinogens, including formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
As such, in addition to investing in a good, high-quality e-cig or weed pen with temperature control, it is crucial that you know how to choose the best e-liquid that will be both safe and therapeutically effective for you.
How to Choose the Right E-Liquid for Vaporizers: Some Questions to Ask Yourself
To be clear, given that we’re a “cannabis-centric” website, we’re not talking about regular flavored nicotine e-liquids here that you would be buying from a mall, vape shop, smoke shop, etc. Rather, what we’re talking about is cannabis vape oils (aka marijuana vape juices, e-liquids, etc), and how to choose the right ones based on quality, content, and purity.
Generally speaking, there are two basic questions that you need to ask yourself before you even consider browsing around online and shopping for vape pen e-liquids. These are:
1. What effects do you want to get out of your cannabis e-liquid?
To be frank, this is referring to whether or not you want a THC e-liquid to get high off of, or a CBD e-liquid for pain relief, anxiety relief, or other forms of therapy.
If you’re wanting a THC e-liquid, you really can’t buy these online; you’ll either have to live in a state where marijuana is legal recreationally, or you’ll have to have a medical marijuana card and live in a state where marijuana is legal medically.
You can buy CBD e-liquids online and have them shipped legally to all 50 states, but you have to be extremely wary and cautious of unregulated, sub-standard products (like we were talking about above).
2. What kind of vaporizer/vape pen are you going to be using?
Once you’ve decided whether you’re after a THC e-liquid or a CBD e-liquid, you’ve then got to consider what type of vaporizer/e-cig you’re going to be using, as certainly not all of them are created the same (many, in fact, are made only for use with dry flower material).
For cost reasons, most people just buy cheap, pre-filled disposable CBD vape pens that already come filled with the e-liquid. Again, if you go this route you’ve got to be really careful and do your homework so that you don’t get an ineffective (and/or potentially dangerous) product.
We of course recommend you invest in a high-quality, temperature-controllable vaporizer, but we definitely realize that these are out of the question based on cost for many people.
Now that you’ve got these two all-important questions squared away, then you can start thinking about how to choose the best e-liquid. Here’s our recommendations on how to do so.
How to Choose the Right CBD E-liquid: Key Questions to be Asking
Before we begin, let it be clear that the long-term health effects of vaping – no matter what ANYONE might tell you – are still largely unknown.
In an article published by Rolling Stone in 2017, for instance, it was basically suggested that, until actual regulations and safety standards are implemented within the industry, all people who choose to vape are doing so under their own judgment:
“We’re at a point with cannabis,” the article said, “where you basically need to experiment on yourself, and hope for the best.”
In other words, consider vaping the equivalent of going swimming in the ocean without a lifeguard; we can put signs up warning you of the potential dangers (and we can even issue recommendations – such as this article – on how to be as safe as possible), but at the end of the day your health and well-being are ultimately dependant on the choices that you yourself make, and no one else. Even if you follow every recommendation herein to the “T,” there’s no guarantee that vaping will be safe, or healthy.
So, with that little ‘disclaimer’ out of the way, here’s our “guide” on how to choose the right e-liquid for your needs. Basically, you’ll want to be able to answer the following questions:
What does the oil look like?
Contrary to the old saying ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover,’ you can indeed tell a lot from a cannabis e-liquid by its physical appearance. The main thing you want to look for is whether it’s uniform in mixture – in other words, whether the oil is homogenous.
This means there shouldn’t be any obvious signs of separation (like what you get when you try to mix oil with water), and there shouldn’t be any noticeable debris or ‘flakes’ suspended in the mixture.
The entire bottle or cartridge of e-liquid should be one, uniform color and consistency, and it should stay this way even if it sits on a shelf for a long period of time (i.e. nothing should be settling at the bottom of the cartridge).
Also, in terms of color and ‘cloudiness,’ it’s generally regarded that the clearer the e-liquid is, the safer and more high quality it is.
According to Leafly, light should be able to pass through the liquid “unhindered,” and the liquid should not look “cloudy, thick, syrupy, or ‘unappetizing’.”
What is the consistency?
According to Dr. Johan Marcu in the above-mentioned article with Rolling Stone magazine, a high-quality cannabis e-liquid should have roughly the same consistency (or thickness) as honey.
Oils that are too thick (viscous) generally contain materials that you don’t want to be inhaling (such as chlorophyll and wax cuticle from the plant leaves), while oils that are too thin (liquidy) have usually been treated with dangerous compounds such as PEG or PG’s, which are known to break down into carcinogens at high temperatures.
“If the package says 100 percent pure cannabis oil,” Dr. Marcu claims, “and you look at the cartridge and it looks fluid [liquidy], then it’s not 100 percent pure cannabis oil.”
Where did the oil come from? And how was it made?
The best cannabis e-liquids – whether they are high-THC mixtures that come from marijuana or high-CBD mixtures that come from hemp – will be extracted with expensive supercritical CO2 equipment that uses no harsh chemical solvents, and leaves no trace of microbes, heavy metals, pesticides, or solvents.
If a company doesn’t (or can’t) explain how their e-liquid was made, then find another one that can.
Do you know what’s actually in it?
Another thing that’s really scary about a lot of e-liquids on the market today is the fact that the labels on most of them are wildly inaccurate. This means that, even if a product claims it has 500 mg of CBD, there’s a good chance it contains nowhere near that amount.
The only way to know for sure what’s in the e-liquid that you’re vaping is to ask the company to see the third-party lab report. This report documents the exact content of the liquid, and should accurately state how many milligrams of THC, CBD, and other compounds are contained within (it should also verify that there are none of the aforementioned pesticides, microbes, heavy metals, etc).
Again, if the company can’t produce a valid (and recent) lab report for the exact e-liquid in question, then find another one that can.
What is your tongue telling you?
This may seem odd, but believe it or not the taste buds on our tongues have evolved to be able to “tell us” when we’re ingesting something dangerous, or when we’re ingesting something that we shouldn’t be.
If you take a big pull of an e-liquid and it tastes gross or just plain ‘not right,’ then it probably isn’t right.
“If it tastes really gross,” Dr. Marcu says in the Rolling Stone article, “it might be formaldehyde.”
Final Thoughts on How to Choose the Best Cannabis E-liquid for your Needs
Well, there you have it – our guide on how to choose the best cannabis e-liquid/vape oil for your needs. Hopefully we were able to provide some valuable information, or at the very least, help to clear up some potential misconceptions about the perceived “harmlessness” of vaping.
Remember, no matter what you might hear or read (or no matter what the guy behind the counter at your local smoke shop might tell you), no one knows a great deal about the health effects of vaping, or what we might be doing to our lungs when we take those massive, hard-hitting pulls — no matter how delicious they may be.
So do your homework, remember to consider the general guidelines above, and moreso than anything else, don’t take the “claims” of any e-liquid company to be the clear-and-honest truth – no matter how reputable they may be.