Are Cannabis Oil Vaporizer Cartridges Safe?
By: Margo Amala
The trend of vaping has taken the world by storm. While modern vaporizers have exploded with popularity, the act of vaping actual dates all the way back to ancient Egypt: where they used hot stones to vaporize herbs. The idea of what we know now as the e-cigarette is attributed to Joseph Robinson in 1927 and again to Herbert Gilbert in 1963. With that said, vaping didn’t really catch on until the Hon Lik patented, what we identify with as a modern e-cigarette in 2003. As such, vaporizing both nicotine and cannabis oil only has about 16 years of history to reflect upon. It literally took decades before doctors and scientists realized that cigarette smoking was a direct cause of lung cancer. With this in mind, it becomes astute to evaluate the safety of vaporizing anything.
News media is exploding with conversations about vaporizer safety. The whole cannabis industry in Oregon is responding to the health risks associated with Vaping. Urban Farmacy always chooses our products mindfully, intentionally avoiding additives. That said, the uncertainty around the cause for the vaping health crisis has led us to dig deeper. This week we ask our vendors these questions:
- What exactly are “natural and /or artificial flavors?”
- How are your terpenes derived if they are added back into a distillate cartridge?
- Do you use any cutting agents or additives.
First let’s talk vocabulary. There are quite a few words used to describe additives to cannabis oil cartridges: additives, fillers, thinning agents, flavors, non-cannabis terpenes or botanically derived terpenes. It is important to note: not all cannabis oil cartridges use additives. When selecting a cannabis oil cartridge, I personally would always prefer leaning into a brand that does not use any additives or cutting agents. That said, in my opinion additives could be rated on a scale. On one end of the scale there are the additives Propylene glycol and glycerol. Both are scientifically known to produce unwanted byproducts such as an array of volatile carbonyls including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein. Further, Vitamin E acetate now joins the list of hazardous additives found in cannabis oil cartridges. Vitamin E is a lipid or a fat. Up until recently, it has not been used for inhalation. It is believed that lipids are toxic in the lungs, there is even a condition called lipid pneumonia. Current research suggests that tocopherols may disrupt the function of the fluid lining the surface of the lungs. Lastly, MCT oil is a known thinning agent used in vaporizer cartridges. While I have no scientific research on this, I would have to throw it under the bus for being a lipid.
As we move further across the spectrum of additives specific to cannabis oil cartridges let’s address: terpenes (cannabis derived and non-cannabis derived), natural and artificial flavors. Terpenes are extracted from both cannabis and non-cannabis plant sources. Two of the most common ways terpenes are extracted is through CO2 extraction or steam distillation. The most common type of cartridge to have terpenes added in are distillate cannabis oil cartridges. Distillate cannabis oil means the oil has been systematically stripped of literally everything except the cannabinoids. As a result, none of the naturally derived terpenes or flavors are in the cannabis oil. Most often companies add either cannabis derived or botanically derived terpenes back in at the end to give the oil its flavor. Due to the lack of clarity, one of my least favorite ingredients to see on a cannabis oil cartridge is “natural and/or artificial flavors.” We have been able to get clear with the companies who list such ingredients. “Natural Flavors” seems to be a broad spectrum of methods to literally add natural flavors, most commonly terpenes or actually derived fruit flavors literally from fruit into the cannabis oil. At this time we have fully evaluated each brand and line of cannabis oil cartridges we sell at Urban Farmacy to ensure they are free of harmful additives and flavoring.
We were pleased with the detailed responses we received from our vendors. If you are curious what exactly is in each brand of cannabis oil vaporizer on our shelf at Urban Farmacy – we can tell you! You can find that information here, or stop by and ask your budtender. Check out our menu to familiarize yourself with the vaporizer brands we carry. Good luck on your cannabis journey. Urban Farmacy encourages you to know what you are consuming and choose products wisely.
Byproducts of cutting agents