Article written by
Where's WeedContributing Author
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Cannabis culture has grown to embrace many new types of technology in recent years. One of the most exciting types of new technology is cannabis vape cartridges, delivering to your vape pen or dab rig a concentrated form of hash oil that provides far more THC than a standard joint or bong hit. Like any new technology, however, vape cartridges remain something of a mystery to many users in terms of what they can or cannot do. One area is their durability, given that many vape pen designs are fairly new, without much research into their longevity. If you are wondering how long a vape cartridge lasts, you should know the factors affecting its shelf life.
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What’s in a Name
Not all vape cartridges function similarly regarding how long THC vapes are good for because not all vape cartridges are the same. These plastic or glass tubes contain different substances in different quantities, although most will only have about a gram of concentrates. At the end of the tube is a metal plate heated by a battery that creates the vaporization effect.
Any single part of this apparatus, from the concentrate to the battery, is ultimately capable of failing, being worn out, or simply going bad. That’s why if you are wondering how long a dab pen lasts, you should realize that it is a temporary cannabis accessory rather than a durable silicone bong that can last for years and keep going. The cartridge is susceptible to failure, but this does not mean you should throw it out after a few tokes or a few weeks on the shelf.
THC Oil and Concentrates
Does THC oil go bad? The simple answer is yes, but the longer answer is that it doesn’t go bad as quickly as you might think. The shelf life of THC in simple cannabis flowers is not always that long: your bud can have its terpenes evaporate, or it dries out and loses THC crystals. Dried cannabis lasts six months to a year, but THC oil can take far more damage while retaining its durability. While all oil (including motor oil or olive oil) will degrade as the chemical bonds of the substance loosen, this can take years. However, since THC oil is constantly exposed to heat and pressure during vaping, the breakdown is faster than if you simply left it out on the kitchen counter for a few years.
How long does a vape cartridge last? That’s the main question, and the answer is that it depends on many factors. Heat affects the durability and not just the heat from the cartridge battery but also heat from a sunny day or the warmth of your pocket because most cartridges are made from cheap materials that absorb heat easily. Exposure to light, especially sunlight, can also affect the shelf life of THC within a cartridge, as sunlight breaks the bonds holding the oil together. That’s why the best method of how to store THC carts is to keep them in a cool, dry, dark place, much like the best practice for storing just about any other substance, including cannabis itself.
How to Tell the Good, Bad and Ugly
At first glance, it may be hard or even impossible to tell whether a THC cartridge has expired, and you are wondering how long THC vapes are good for. After all, many factors affect how long do carts last, and the oil doesn’t exactly have an expiration date on the side of the pen. Moreover, you probably won’t have any problem smoking an older cartridge, just like you won’t have any problem smoking an older bit of bud. Still, the bad taste, extra coughing, and lack of potency will leave you less than happy about the decision.
The first indication that the vape pen cartridge might have expired is that the color may have changed. The most obvious sign if you are wondering do THC vape carts expire is that the color may change to be slightly darker, from a light amber color to a darker brown or black. Likewise, the oil should be fairly smooth-flowing, but if you see a lot of sludge and gunk, odds are good it has expired. Finally, if it has a particularly harsh, acidic, and/or oily taste. Just like the food you leave in the back of a fridge, you may be able to smell it has expired without needing to actually taste it, which is always preferable.
Some dispensaries can re-fill cartridges, so you don’t need to worry about throwing away a cartridge just to get a new one. Even so, an expired cartridge in the trash is better than an expired cartridge on your tongue!