As consumers become more educated about their options, it is likely they will begin to examine your THC cartridge stated ingredients, the same as they do for food ingredients, ultimately affecting how dispensary purchasing managers approach you. Whether you are vertically integrated or working with a third-party extractor, it’s crucial you know everything about your product. Do you claim to use organic practices or to be chemical free? Do you have certifications proving it? Does your product contain cannabis-derived terpenes, artificial flavors or terpenes derived from other sources? What terpene-isolation method was utilized? If non-cannabis-derived terpenes or artificial flavors were used, what are they, and from where were they sourced? If a purchasing manager asks a question about your product that you cannot answer, you’re in trouble.
Here is a rundown of contents found in typical THC vape juice cartridges:
1. Cannabis-derived terpenes: Cannabis terpenes sourced from cannabis.
Full-spectrum in composition, products made with these terpenes contain a high percentage of monoterpenes that have not been oxidized or degraded by heat application.
2. Steam-distilled terpenes: Softer in taste than extracted terpenes that have been isolated without utilizing heat, many steam-distilled terpenes are lost in the water used to produce steam, aka “pot water.”
3. Hydrosols: Hydrosols are a byproduct of steam distillation and low-heat distillations. They are classified as floral waters (i.e., essential oils) and contain only small percentages of actual terpenes. Heat is utilized and degrades the terpenes, too.
4. Non-cannabis-derived terpenes: Terpenes sourced directly from plant leaves, fruits or other organic sources, rather than from cannabis. It is impossible to recreate the aroma or flavor of the original plant/cultivar utilizing terpenes from non-cannabis plants, but a gross approximation can be achieved.
5. Artificial flavors: Typically, the artificial flavors found in cannabis cartridges are sourced from the e-cigarette industry. There are thousands of flavors, but their safety is in question (e.g., diacetyl causing “popcorn lung”).
6. HTFSE (High-Terpene Full-Spectrum Extract): Made from hydrocarbon extraction, there has been a recent trend of producing these products from pressed rosin. Also called sauce, HTFSE has high terpene content and is aromatic and flavorful.
7. CO2 Extracted: Some CO2 extractors collect a few available terpenes from CO2 extraction, but, more often than not, the cannabis product utilized to extract is dried, thus much of the available monoterpenes are lost in the drying process. This will result in a terpene composition that is mostly comprised of basic primary terpenes and low percentages of available monoterpenes. Therefore, both the final aroma and flavor are not as strong as HTFSEs, or if you had utilized a no-heat methodology of terpene isolation.
Beyond customers and purchasing managers, an important production-related detail to keep in mind is whether the stated THC percentage is measured before or after viscosity adjustment (fine-tuning the oil’s density) with glycerin, glycol and hydrosols. If any of these products were added after lab testing, the stated THC percentage is higher than what the product actually contains, making the stated percentage erroneous and potentially opening you to a lawsuit.
Most quality cartridges contain either CO2, hydrocarbon or distilled extracts, or a combination thereof, and most have flavor added. Some add cannabis-derived terpenes to a distillate to approximate the original characteristics of the plant/cultivar from which it came. This is typically accomplished by adding a fresh-frozen, terpene-rich hydrocarbon extract to a distillate. The resulting extract is flavorful and has a preferred viscosity.
Some utilize steam-distilled cannabis terpenes and hydrosols (a type of floral water), but these often lack monoterpenes (e.g., geraniol, terpineol, limonene, myrcene, linalool, pinene, etc.), which are responsible for the differentiation between cultivars. Some companies claim to re-infuse cannabis terpenes in their products, but said terpenes are often manufactured via low-heat steam distillation (utilizing distilled water and ethanol, or a variation thereof). The oxygen- and water-exposure results in a product with few of the original terpenes.