The problem with learning to love vaping pre-filled oil cartridges is that your selection is immediately cut down to a fraction of what it is when just smoking flower. Even the best dispensaries may have half a dozen brands tops at any given time, with maybe 2 or 3 strains available from the brands that bother to offer separate strains. Add to this the fact most companies add solvents like the questionable propylene glycol, and sometimes the more decidedly harmful ethylene glycol and the selection seems even more miniscule. Some brands fill cartridges with an unpleasant substance called “e-liquid” (think a cannabis e-cigarette in terms of taste) instead of actual hash oil. Many don’t bother with actual specific strains, since some less cautious C02 production methods actually destroy terpenes anyway, mostly eliminating the differences between strains in the process. All of this complicates the already inconvenient task of finding a suitable cartridge product for your own specific cannabis needs. I hate e-liquid, I don’t want to take a chance on added solvents, and I prefer to smoke a specified strain so that the raw THC experience can be tempered by terpenes and the ‘entourage effect’.  Not to mention that within the brands that do fit these criteria, sativa dominant strains are pretty much off the table for me personally. All of this results in usually one or two choices at best at most dispensaries. 

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When I finally found a brand that fit these criteria, it should come as no surprise that I did everything in my power to stick with it. Absolute Xtracts offer a solid product, with no solvents added and a C02 extraction process that preserves terpenes as well as offering a handful of strains, and also boasting the highest THC levels on the market for cartridges, with some strains approaching 70 percent THC. Unfortunately, a move to the suburban East Bay left me with access to a very different set of dispensaries than in the South Bay, and it quickly became clear I wouldn’t be finding Absolute Xtracts anywhere near me, short of driving to Oakland. Luckily, after much research, I found a brand that fit my fairly stringent criteria for oil cartridges via the delivery service  POP Naturals offers a line of pre-filled cartridges which take a different approach to offering what patients look for in an oil cartridge.

Instead of focusing on simplicity and strength, like Absolute Xtracts, POP Naturals cartridges offer a wider variety of lab-tested strains, with the test results linked on their website. This means you can find the exact cannabinoid and terpene content of any particular batch of oil, and you are able to verify that the batch was found to be pure and free of contaminants by an independent lab. POP Naturals uses a simple C02 process to preserve all the terpenes that were originally part of the plant, so you are still consuming the whole all natural medicine. Additionally, POP Naturals uses cartridges that are made of mostly metal and glass components instead of the plastic and fiberglass found in Absolute Xtracts. In my opinion, this gives these cartridges a purity of taste and aroma, with more distinctiveness between different strains, and longer life for the cartridge if you choose to refill it. These cartridges can alsobe completely taken apart for cleaning or refilling, and welcome much longer term use than other readily disposable plastic cartridges.

Photo by: talent health club

Photo by: talent health club

However, POP Naturals make a sacrifice in terms of sheer power. Whereas Absolute Xtracts cartridges are some of the strongest in the industry between 60 and 70 percent THC, POP Naturals are more likely to come in between 50 and 60 percent of THC or other cannabinoid content. For those who are more interested in terpenes, the entourage effect, learning about their strains, and getting the most in terms of taste and aroma, this is a minor sacrifice. POP Naturals also offers a variety of high CBD and super CBD oils in their cartridges and refills.

I tried 2 oils from POP Naturals – both in pre-filled cartridges, though an even wider variety of strains are offered as refills packaged in a syringe for easy transfer to cartridges. The first, SFV OG Kush, is an indica strain with 55 percent THC and significant amounts of pinene, caryophyllene, myrcene, and nerolidol. SFV OG Kush is a heavy and sedating indica, not to be confused with SFV OG, which is a hybrid. It has a rich, sweet berry aroma with a hint of citrus, as well as earthy notes. The aftertaste is hoppy like a strong pale ale. The effects entail full body relaxation, great for muscle pain and stress. It also has a mood uplifting note, more so than most indica strains, making it effective against depression. In vaped oil form at least, I didn’t find this strain as overpowering as many indicas, great for a long (but not too strenuous) walk in nature.  Couch-lock ensued only if I was already feeling lazy when I vaped.

Canna-Sour-Tsu was another POP Naturals cartridge I tried. This marked a first for me, in that it was my first time smoking or vaping a CBD heavy strain, instead of consuming it through tinctures or edibles. It is a hybrid of Sour Tsunami with Cannatonic – both CBD heavy strains, resulting in an oil that is 30 percent THC and 27 percent CBD. In terms of terpenes, it also offers significant amounts of caryophyllene, myrcene, limonene, pinene, camphene, and linalool. The aroma is distinctively woody, earthy, and herbal – probably as a result of the linalool and camphene.

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Vaping a CBD heavy strain opened up new options for me. Instead of looking for ‘daytime strains’ in stimulating, anxiety-producing sativas, CBD offers another approach to finding a more functional strain. The relaxing effects of the THC are certainly felt, but are tempered in some of their less predictable aspects by an equally high CBD presence. You aren’t likely to end up trapped in a cloudy maze of thoughts with your heart beating a million miles an hour, nor are you likely to end up totally couch-locked. In addition to this taming aspect of the entourage effect, the lower THC simply makes it harder to overdo it. If you’re looking for a strain to vape or smoke before running errands, this might be a good choice. The CBD content also makes it greatly effective for pain with less psychoactive effect. POP Naturals also offers ‘super CBD’ varieties, in which CBD makes up the vast majority of cannabinoid content, for those who want barely any psychoactive effect at all. However, ‘high CBD’ strains like Canna-Sour-Tsu offer some variety to THC lovers who want to remain calm and functional.

POP Naturals strikes me as a good alternative for cannabis connoisseurs.  Higher quality metal cartridges and a gentle extraction process really allow terpenes to shine, demonstrating the best every different strain has to offer. A wide variety of strains and readily available lab test results allow the patient to gain a clear understanding of the chemistry behind what cannabis products work for them. That said, Absolute Xtracts (and a small handful of other brands) offer strains with significantly more THC, which pack a stronger overall punch.  Even though I don’t usually find myself in need of super strong cannabis products, I have to admit they last me much longer than POP Naturals cartridges. Overall though, I don’t mind the sacrifice in order to know exactly what I’m getting, and to have access to a greater variety of strains. Both products are good, it just depends on what your priorities are.