Saturday, May 3, 2014

Hash Oil Pens - Toke the Future


Welcome to hash oil in 2014: pen shaped vaporizers for cannabis oil that look like an e-cigarette and are virtually odorless, making them usable almost anywhere. They are so easy to use - perhaps too easy.  Although the vape pen does not deliver the full satisfaction of a lit-end product, it represents a new way to enjoy cannabis without smoking or risking the perils of eating it.

O-Pen Vape Cartridge on an XL-Vape 'Pen'
As of 2014, only about 18% of Americans use cigarettes. Smoking is increasingly taboo. The quality of medical grade marijuana varies widely, with smoking characteristics ranging from smooth and full, to hot and hack-cough inducing. A vaporized product that isn't burnt is less likely to leave the unwitting cannabis consumer 'coughing up a lung'.

Smoking weed or doing hash oil dabs is not discreet. Marijuana smoke has an unmistakable aroma profile which is described as 'skunky' and 'dank'. Dabs often entail the use of a blow torch.

O-Pen vape CO2 cartridge - sativa - lemon diesel   
O-Pen Vape Sativa Cartridge (Front)
From a consumer's perspective, these hash oil pens "fix" a lot of the problems associated with smoking marijuana - no smoke, no smell, no lingering odor. The trade off is that the vape pen experience is not exactly the same - and for many, it is not as satisfying.

Cartridges and the vape pen systems are available many places where legal marijuana is sold. I needed a new charger for an O-Pen vape pen, so I went to my neighborhood dispensary. They didn't have chargers, but they had the XLVape system - a 'vape pen' and USB charger for $20. I was delighted to discover the cartridges and charger on the O-Pen and XLVape systems are interchangeable.

Open vape CO2 cartridge - lemon diesel
O-Pen Vape Cartridge (Back)
Indica cartridges were sold out, so I opted for the O-Pen sativa cartridge in Lemon Diesel flavor. The 1/2 gram cartridge cost $35. The oil is CO2 extracted, made by Sound CO2 and analyzed by Cannatest.

The O-Pen and XLVape pens differ from other vaporizers because they are the diameter of a ball point pen, use self-contained cartridges and don't require a push-button to operate. The XLVape cartridges are an opaque silver color, like the body of the device. The O-Pen Vape cartridges are clear. Both systems have their advantages: the XLVape is subtle while the O-Pen Vape lets you see how much product remains. Many vaporizers have a chambers for dried marijuana and/or extracts. Larger diameter vaporizers are less subtle, but offer a more intense 'puff' of vapor which some users find more satisfying.

The front of the O-Pen packaging reads '250mg Premium Cartridge', so the .5g cartridge must contain about 50% polyethylene glycol (PEG) - an inactive ingredient added as filler and/or as a processing aid.  The need for such filler is debatable, but as they point out on the O-Pen vape website,
"we use (PEG) to make the oil less viscous so that the oil will vaporize more readily. It is harmless and used it many pharmaceutical applications as well as common over the counter products."
The choice of polyethylene glycol over propylene glycol (PG) is interesting. Most e-cigarettes use PG instead of PEG because it has a better safety profile; PG is recognized by the FDA as 'Generally Recognized as Safe' (GRAS) and approved for inhalation by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Flavor wise, the Lemon Diesel cartridge lacked citrusy flavor and tasted muted but pleasant. It wasn't terribly different from other CO2 oils I have experienced. It seems some of the aroma rich terpenes get stripped out in the refinement process. Some BHO extracts retain excellent aromatic profiles. These are issues that will certainly be resolved with time to fine-tune processing variables of the CO2 oil.

The value proposition of a product with  1/4 g of active ingredient for $35 is questionable. Essentially, these products are diluted hash oil selling for $140/g. The convenience and novelty of the product justify the expense, for now. But the ongoing expense of $35 cartridges might motivate the thrifty connoisseur to improvise their own refill system.

These vape pens are a convenient option for medical marijuana patients, or recreational users interested in sparing their lungs the damage of smoking. The lack of odor and ease of use lend vape pens to being used in situations where traditional marijuana products can not be used. Which may or may not be a good thing.



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