What’s Inside Your Weed Cartridge?

Do you know exactly what you’re vaping?
What's Inside Your Weed Cartridge?

Due to convenience, the weed cartridge has become one of the most popular methods of consuming cannabis. Cartridges are more discreet and easier to use than actual cannabis flowers. They don’t smell as much and there’s no need for packing, grinding or carrying a pipe. You just need a 510-thread battery and the pre-filled cartridge attached. Then depending on your battery, you either hold down a button or inhale through the mouthpiece to activate heating. This method of consumption is much more friendly to novices. It is even appealing to more seasoned cannabis consumers looking for something simple on the go.

Prefilled cartridges are one of the fastest growing segments of cannabis products. In fact, for the first time in history, the number of sold “ready-to-use” products has surpassed flowers. Due to their popularity, tons of companies are pumping out their own weed cartridge. Every company has their own formula for what to put in them. Some contain flavoring, additives and cutting agents while others claim to contain only cannabis oil. The best way to tell if your stuff is legit is by lab testing it. We’ll go over all the potential ingredients you can find in a weed cartridge.

Types Of Cannabis Oil In Cartridges

THC cartridges have been made with CO2 oil for quite some time. To make the consistency of the oil more viscous and ideal for vaporizing in wicks and atomizers, producers have cut CO2 oils with thinners. Nowadays, many cartridges are filled with distillates which refine CO2 oil a step further to produce a high cannabinoid, less viscous product.

Distillates can be vaporized in a cartridge without the addition of cutting agents. Producers remove terpenes during the distillation process. As a result, the only additional ingredients for most distillate cartridges are terpenes.

If you’re looking for a cartridge with absolutely no additives, Extractioneering’s High Terpene Full Spectrum Extract (HTFSE) cartridges are your best bet. There are no additives required to get it into a consistency that can be vaped through a cartridge. Furthermore, these makers never remove or reintroduce terpenes. Their HTFSE contains about 20 to 30 percent terpenes, 50 percent and over cannabinoids and 20 to 30 percent of the other cannabis biomolecules found in trichomes.

Common Cutting Agents & Additives

What's Inside Your Weed Cartridge?

Certain companies use cutting agents and additives for a number of reasons. Some do it to increase profits while others aim to make their extracts less viscous.


The flavoring for most cartridges is terpenes. There are cannabis-derived terpenes as well as food-grade terpenes. Overall, this is the additive you have the least to worry about. Producers add terpenes to enhance the overall experience by adding flavor, which contributes to the entourage effect.

Certain terpenes can also be used to make cannabis oil liquid enough to use in a cartridge without the need for any additional thinners.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride (MCT) which can help make oils thin enough to work on most standard atomizers.

Glycols & Glycerin

There are a few additives producers use to get thicker concentrates like shatter into a more liquid form that is easier to vaporize. They include Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), Vegetable Glycerin (VG) and Propylene Glycol (PG). These are used to make THC oil that will work in e-cigarettes.

You can also find these thinners in cartridges on the shelves of your dispensary. You can usually tell when these are in your cartridge because you’ll feel a harshness at the back of your throat with each additional hit.

According to a Public Health Statement, “Propylene glycol breaks down in the body in about 48 hours. However, studies of people and animals show that if you have repeated eye, skin, nasal, or oral exposures to propylene glycol for a short time, you may develop some irritation.”

While they may not be deadly, they can be irritants and they take up a large part of your cartridge’s weight without contributing to the high.


Additives aren’t the only thing you’ll have to worry about when it comes to whats inside your weed cartridge. Just like with smokable cannabis flower, your weed cartridge could contain pesticides or other unwanted materials.

In fact, 34 out of 39 weed cartridge entries were disqualified for one or multiple detections of banned and questionable pesticides at the Emerald Cup cannabis judging competition.

Final Hit: What’s Inside Your Weed Cartridge?

Weed cartridges are extremely convenient but health-conscious consumers should shop cautiously. Plenty more than just cannabis oil could be going into your cartridges. Depending on where you got it from, your cartridge could contain both additives and contaminants. Regularly checking lab testing is the best way to avoid unwanted or harmful additions to your weed cartridge.

  1. Good read. Thank you for this.

    I’m an old hippie. I bought my first cartridge and I can barely hit it because it irritates my bronchial tubes and back if throat just from one tiny hit. Then I can’t stop coughing. So convenient but gonna have to do my research.

    1. Wow.. You’re consuming a cartridge with high glycol/glycerin, like the article discusses. Time to pay a smidge more $ and get the real deal.
      I call the cheap cartridges, hackers, because ya can’t stop hacking!
      Once you find the right, more expensive cartridges, you’ll find a whole new reality.

    1. Not carts! Spend $$ on a pure, clean vape experience using organic flowers—like the Argo or similar. Guaranteed no more weezy weed cough, but then again gummies are a sure bet for asthma sufferers.

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