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What’s The Deal with Shoddy Vape Carts Lately? 

vape carts
Written by Alexandra Hicks

Why the majority of the vape carts bought lately have been subpar

Living in Indiana, a very restrictive midwestern state, it’s not as easy to find cannabis products as it is in my home state of California. Not only that, but the price point is much higher here. In California, I can easily find an ounce of decent weed for $100, sometimes less, whereas the same quality of flower costs me $200 in Indiana. That also applies to vape carts, and since dispensaries are not a thing here, those are even harder to find.  

As a workaround, I often stock up on live resin carts in CA, which I can find for about $20-$30/gram. I’ve been doing this for years, but in the last few months, I’ve noticed a sharp decline in the quality of the carts I’m buying. And not the concentrate that’s within the carts – that’s still perfectly fine – the problem is with the carts themselves.  

From some leaking to others completely falling apart, the majority of the vape carts I’ve bought in the last year (roughly 60 percent) have been subpar. Is cutting corners with shoddy manufacturing the new standard in a struggling cannabis industry?  

How vape carts are made  

A vape cart (AKA electronic_cigarette, or e-cig) is a pre-filled glass cartridge containing some type of cannabis concentrate, such as distillate or live resin oil. Vape carts consist of three primary parts: the mouthpiece, the chamber, and the atomizer. The mouthpiece is the top part of the cart that allows the user to pull vapor out of the chamber. They are usually made from plastic, metal, or ceramic metal, and they can be attached to the chamber in a few different ways, either screwed in or with a fitted seal and some glue.  

The chamber is the largest part of the cart, sitting right in the middle between the mouthpiece and atomizer, and containing the concentrate. The chamber can vary in size, some holding only half a gram and others holding up to 3 grams of oil. Vape cart chambers are usually made from clear plastic, but sometimes Pyrex glass is used.  

And finally we have the atomizer, which is a metal or ceramic heating element attached to the bottom of the chamber which heats the concentrate and turns it into vapor. This is the portion of the cart that screws into the battery. Some atomizers are heated by the battery when a button is pushed. Others, like the ones attached to disposable batteries without a button, utilize a sensor that detects upwards airflow when the user inhales.  

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Specific issues that I’ve noticed 

Unfortunately, I’ve had a variety of problems with my recent vape cart purchases ranging from mild and fixable, to complete failures that rendered the cart useless. First, let’s cover some of the milder problems. First, clogging. Almost all of my carts have clogged at some point, and this could be due in part to the fact that I prefer live resin, which is thicker than distillate. However, some of them got clogged to the point where no amount of sucking/inhaling would help. 

Another problem I had was leaking, where the live resin would leak out either through the mouthpiece or the atomizer. When it leaked through the mouthpiece, a couple of times I was able to wedge a small twig into the hole to plug it up and they continued working. But when it leaks out of the atomizer, there’s no way to fix it and it will end up leaking all over the battery and ruining that also.  

I’ve also had a couple of carts that completely fell apart, typically, the mouthpiece falls off and cannot be pushed back in. If more carts were made with mouthpieces that screwed in, this would not be an issue. A couple of time I had issues with the atomizer loosening as well, which again, led to concentrate leaking onto my battery.  

Why is this becoming more commonplace? 

When an industry is doing well, we see a few things that typically take place. Mainly, we see more job opportunities being created, a larger number of higher paying jobs and raises, and higher caliber products with quality design/engineering. Lately in the cannabis industry, we’re seeing the complete opposite; and the issues are global and ongoing.  

Some of the main problems we’ve been seeing stem from cannabis’ status as a schedule 1 controlled substance. Because of extremely high licensing and real estate fees, lack of access to traditional financial services, and the highly competitive nature of the cannabis industry, very few growers/retailers/processors are in the black right now. This has led to a wide array of problems from cheaper equipment being used to falsified lab reports, mass layoffs in the industry, and more.

When an industry begins cutting corners on a larger, more widespread scale, often the ones who gets the screwed the most in these scenarios are the consumers, because they are now receiving a subpar product for the same price that they used to pay for something decent.  

Case in point, I’ve been buying vape carts for years and never had as many issues with them as I have over the last few months. I also asked a few other friends who vape and they complained of similar problems, so it’s not just me being unlucky, the problem is becoming widespread. To the extent that some dispensaries are even offering insurance coverage for vape carts, so in the event that it breaks, you can mail it into the manufacturer for a refund or replacement. But since most of these carts are relatively cheap and that sounds like a bit of unneeded hassle, they’re likely banking on the fact that most people won’t be doing this.  

Despite how doom and gloom as all the above may sound, it’s really not all that bleak. As someone who attends conventions regularly, those are still very busy which is a great indication that industry professionals are seeing some profits and remaining hopeful. Also, more states are legalizing cannabis, the federal government likely will soon too, and new research on the benefits of using cannabinoids are still released on a regular basis. Many of the more established brands are companies are still holding strong as well. So, even though we’re seeing some issues, that doesn’t mean things can’t be turned around eventually.

Final thoughts

Since I haven’t seen this discussed anywhere in any serious capacity, I figured I would throw it out there to see if any of our readers are having similar dilemmas. Have you noticed a growing number of problems with your vape carts lately? If so, drop us a line in the comment section below, we’d love to get some more opinions on this!

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About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Managing editor at Cannadelics and U.S based journalist, helping spread the word about the many benefits of using cannabis and psychedelics.