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Ask a Budtender: What Percentage of THC Should I Look for in a Vape?

March 24, 2022 03:00 pm ET
Ask a Budtender: What Percentage of THC Should I Look for in a Vape?

Question: I’m a cannabis beginner, and I use cannabis flower maybe 1-3 times per month. I typically go with pre-rolls because they are the easiest product for me to figure out. I’d like to expand my cannabis use to include cannabis vape pens, but I don’t know what THC potency/percentage I should be looking for. Many of the vape pens on the dispensary menu say they are 80% THC or more—is that too strong? What percentage of THC is best for someone who’s a beginner to vaping?

Cannabis Coach Haley’s Answer: I love that you asked this question because it’s something that was on my mind when I first started buying vapes too! Now that you’ve dipped your toes into the world of smoking cannabis and tried a pre-roll, you’re probably fairly comfortable with how cannabis flower makes you feel.

Some folks describe a flower-based high as feeling very full-bodied, while others report dreamy, cerebral effects from flower. Most cannabis in your pre-rolls contains around 20-30% THC. Since this material is coming directly from the cannabis plant, there are many other beneficial cannabinoids that you’re getting too—compounds like CBD, CBN, etc. All of these compounds are working synergistically due to a phenomenon called the “Entourage Effect,” which amplifies the effects of the THC.

As far as getting started with vaping, I’d be glad to give you some pointers here. There are many reasons why folks switch from smoking to vaping. I personally like vaping because it’s very discreet, the effects have a very quick onset, and it doesn’t take many puffs to feel the way you want to feel. Let’s dive into the basics and talk more about what to look for in a vape pen if you’re new to vaping.

Start With a Disposable

Next time you go to the dispensary, look for a “disposable vape pen” on the menu or ask your budtender about them. A disposable vape is a great place to start on your vaping journey because the cost is reasonable—usually around $20-30 in most states—and you’re not locked into vaping if you find that it’s not your thing.

The disposable vapes I buy at our dispensary are great for beginners because you don’t have to be a tech-savvy person to use them and you don’t need to buy any additional parts in order for the vape to work. It’s a very intuitive way to consume cannabis because you simply inhale. There are usually no buttons to push, and the device is “draw-activated,” meaning it will work as soon as you begin inhaling. Most disposables are also battery-powered and don’t require any charging.

Start Low and Go Slow

This might surprise you, but I typically tell my clients not to stress over the THC percentage of vapes—it’s not as important as you think. Vapes/cartridges contain concentrated cannabis oil that’s made by extracting potent compounds from cannabis flower. By nature, cannabis concentrates are almost always at least 70% THC. In fact, In fact, the ones that I regularly buy are around 90% THC!

What does matter is how much you inhale from your vape. I recommend taking a 3-second inhale, breathing in some fresh air while you’re still inhaling, and then letting it all go as you exhale in one big breath. A 3-second inhale like this is a great place to start, and you don’t need to produce a giant vape cloud like you’ve seen in movies or online. Typically, a small inhale will do the trick.

Note that effects kick in quickly—within 15 minutes. Take note of how you feel. If you’d like another inhale, go for it. If you feel like the first inhale is treating you well, then that might be all you need for the evening, and you can always try taking more hits tomorrow! PRO TIP: I always recommend trying your first vape product in the evening when you’re settled in at home and can assess how you’re feeling in a comfortable environment.

With vaping, even though the percentage of THC is much higher than you’re used to with flower, most people are able to comfortably enjoy a few puffs and report that it feels like a “cleaner high” than smoking flower. You might notice that the smell of the vapor from a vape pen is not as fragrant as smoked cannabis flower which tends to permeate the room for hours.

Keep a Cannabis Journal

There’s one last thing I always suggest to clients new to vaping: Jot down some quick notes about the experience. Some folks like this idea so much that they buy a special “cannabis journal” to keep track of their thoughts on products. Other folks who are minimalists like me might just jot down a quick note in their phone’s notepad. Your entry can look as simple as this:

“March 1: Bought disposable OG Kush vape, 82% THC. Took 3 puffs, had a great evening and felt relaxed—slept super well!”

This might seem like an unnecessary step, but a few months from now, when you’ve tried dozens of various strains and brands, little notes like this could prove to be so helpful! When my dispensary is out of a certain product I like, I always turn to my cannabis notes to look back on strains or products that treated me well in the past.

In short, when it comes to vaping, the THC percentage is not as important to the experience as you might think. Pick a product that you like or that your budtender recommends, try a couple of puffs in the evening and move up in small increments as needed, and in no time you’ll be vaping like a pro!

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