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What is a Marijuana Vape Cart, or Vape Cartridge?

Last Updated: October 09, 2023By Jessica Reilly

Vaping is an oral form of marijuana consumption that heats cannabis (dry herb flower, concentrates, or oil) and produces vapor instead of smoke. A weed cartridge is to be used with a marijuana vape pen.

Weed Vaping Facts


close up of a cannabis vape cartridge with an arrary of current portable vape devices in the background

Vaping technology has come a long way in the past few decades! In the 80s and 90s, committed stoners would use a metal surface like a knife heated over a stove burner to create vape-like conditions. Luckily, today’s cannabis consumers have easier and safer ways to vape-- cartridges.

How Do Vape Pen Cartridges Work?

A weed vape (or vaporizer) is a tech appliance that heats cannabis flower or cannabis products to a high enough temperature to convert the cannabinoids and terpenes into vapor. Vapes use an atomizer to produce heat rather than a lighter or fire. Weed cartridges are devices that work with vape pens to consume cannabis on the go. 

Vaporizers work one of two ways:

1. Conduction heat: uses an electronically heated surface that the cannabis is placed directly on, like a stovetop. This can burn the product if the temp is too high. This type of heat is better for concentrates and oil.

2. Convection heat: indirectly heats the cannabis by electronically warming up the air in the device, which heats up the cannabis to produce vapor, like an oven. This type of heat is better for flower. A Volcano vaporizer (pictured below) uses convection heat to vape ground marijuana buds. 

volcano tabletop vaporizer using convection heat to fill a bag with cannabis vapor

Vaping cannabis is different than smoking because there is no fire (combustion.) Vaporizing weed offers all of the benefits of smoking, including the rapid onset of the cannabinoids and same inhalation method, without the potential harm of combustion or smoke by-products.

Vapor is produced at a lower temperature than smoke, around 284F or lower, compared to around 446F. Because vapes use lower heat, more of the terpenes are preserved than with smoking, so you can have a more flavorful vapor. At least one study suggests that vaped cannabis experiences can be more intense than smoking – though this is subjective and dependent on your current tolerance levels.

Pro stoner tip! Vaporized cannabis is decarboxylated, not burned. You can use your AVB (already vaped bud) to make edibles with and skip the decarboxylation step. If you want to do this, store your vaped flower in an airtight container in a dark cool place until you’re ready to use it.

Different Types of THC Vapes Chart

Weed Vape Type

Tabletop vaporizers

Portable (handheld) vapes/ dab pens

Vape pen carts/ oil pens


There are the largest kinds of vapes, big enough to fit on a table. These vapes usually need to be plugged in and often use a large bag or a whip to hold the vapor. They are typically used for dry herb flower or concentrates.

These devices are similar to a tabletop vaporizer in using dry flower or concentrates, but they’re small enough to fit into your hand. They have a “bowl” for your cannabis, a button to operate the temperature control and a mouthpiece. These marijuana vape pens usually work off a rechargeable battery.

Some portable vaporizers are made to use with both flower (or concentrates) and an oil cartridge. These devices will have a bowl for cannabis as well as an external thread for cartridges.

These types of vapes use a manufactured oil cartridge instead of cannabis flower or concentrates. Instead of a bowl, these vapes have an external thread that allows you to screw a cartridge on. These devices will still have a button to operate the temperature controls as well as a rechargeable battery. Some oil pens are single-use disposables and have the marijuana oil cartridge built directly into the pen.

Works with

Flower. Some work with concentrates

Flower or concentrates

Marijuana oil cartridges (usually 510)

Well known brands

Ispire, Storz & Bickel Volcano, Airizer Extreme Q, Dr. Dabber

Airvape Legacy Pro, Ispire, Storz & Bickel Mighty, Firefly 2+

Linx Vapor, Vessel Pen, PAX Pro

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What’s the difference between dab pens and vape pens?

A dab pen and a vape pen are similar devices, both made for consuming cannabis products on the go without combustion. The main difference is the type of marijuana product they’re made for: dabs versus oils.

A dab pen is a device that is made for concentrates. Dabs are traditionally produced with a dab rig, but a dab pen allows you to get the same effect without the giant rig. Also called called wax pens, but you can use wax, budder, shatter, resin, crumble, and other types of concentrates. Sometimes dab pens will also use dry flower as well. Due to the sticky nature of concentrates, these pens need to be cleaned often.

A vape pen is a device that’s made for cannabis oils and distillates in cartridge form. These liquids are sold in small cannabis vape cartridges that screw onto the top of your marijuana vape pen.

dab pen with screw top cannabis vape cartridges

Pros and Cons of Vaping THC

Pros of Vaping Weed Carts

  • Better taste. The lower temperatures preserve more of the terpenes and cannabinoids, giving you a more flavorful aroma.
  • Easier to inhale. Vape does not get as hot as smoke does, which means it can be more gentle on your throat and lungs (that depends on you though – you can still take a lung-burning hit from a vape!)
  • Cost-effective and stash efficient. Burning your weed can waste some of it, while vaporizing allows you to get the most out of every bowl pack. The marijuana oil cartridges go even farther than their flower counterparts, a great bang for your buck.
  • Clean hits. Since there’s no smoke, there’s no smoke by-products. The lower heat temps ensure you get more of the delicate cannabinoids and terpenes.
  • Discreet and portable. These devices (save for tabletop vapes) are made to fit in your pocket and take on the go with you. There is very little odor associated with pens as well, which makes them convenient if you need to consume in public or want to take your stash with you when you travel.

discreeting pulling out convenient and portable delta 8 vape from a pocket on vacation

Cons of Vaping Carts Weed

  • Can be pricey. While many vape pens are not horrifically expensive, if you want a top-of-the-line one, the initial investment will set you back a few hundred dollars. And if you want a nice tabletop vape, expect to pay for it.
  • Need a trusted source. Black market oil cartridges can contain nasty and particularly harmful chemicals. Always source your oil from trusted, tested sources.

Is vaping THC cartridges safer than smoking weed?

Whether vaping is safer than smoking is a complex question and the shortest answer is – maybe.

using a vape pen with weed cartridge

Neither smoking nor vaping is particularly good for the lungs (compared to not smoking.) It’s important to note that cannabis smokers aren’t known to have the same long-term lung issues as cigarette smokers but that inhaling combustion and its by-products can have negative effects nonetheless.

Vaping concentrates or dry herb flower may be less harsh on the lungs, but it can still potentially cause damage over time. Vape cartridges off the black market have been known to contain some pretty nasty chemicals like vitamin E acetate that can quickly damage the lungs. Added flavors or cheap devices with heavy metals can also present problems for users.

To minimize your risk, use high-quality vapes at low temperatures with cannabis products that have been tested. And even better, grow your own cannabis flower and vape that!

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FAQs About THC Carts

What weed cartridge gets you highest?

Feeling high is subjective based on many factors, including your current THC tolerance. For the best chance of getting sky high, look for a weed pen cartridge with high THC percentage and a robust terpene profile to encourage the entourage effect.

What does cartridges mean in weed?

Weed cartridges are filled with THC (or CBD) oil made for use on a vape pen. Typically these cartridges have a 510-compatible screw base for most vape pens on the market.

Are carts as good as weed?

Yes, carts can be as good as weed flower or concentrates as long as they are made well. Because vapes use a lower temperature than smoking, you can taste more of the cannabinoids and terpenes. Purchase your carts from a trusted seller with lab test results to confirm the contents of the oil and enjoy a smooth strain profile with no harsh smoke.

What are weed pen cartridges called?

Weed pen cartridges are nicknamed “carts” or oil carts. These carts are filled with processed cannabis oil and usually have a 510 thread to screw onto the tip of a vape pen.

Can you refill THC vape carts?

Yes, you can refill some types of 510 vape carts. To know if you can refill your cart, twist the mouthpiece counterclockwise. If it doesn’t move, your cart isn’t refillable. If it comes off, you can refill it with new cannabis oil. We prefer the reusable kind instead of disposables.

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