There are so many ways to consume cannabis, and new methods continue to pop up. Over the last decade, marijuana consumption methods have shifted from joints and pipes to bongs to vape pens with pre-filled cannabis extract cartridges.
While vape pens have skyrocketed in popularity—especially among new cannabis consumers—many complain that they can’t get enough medicinal marijuana benefit out of a vape pen compared to that of a bong or dab rig.
How can you get the convenience of a vape pen with the power and potency of a bong? You’ll find the answer in the latest trend related to cannabis consumption: carting.
Carting combines pre-filled cannabis extract cartridges with bongs or dab rigs to improve the medicinal experience. To cart, you need a pre-filled vape pen and a water filtration device like a bong, dab rig or bubbler pipe.
Normally, with something like a bong, you’d add ground cannabis flower to the bowl at the base of the bong. Then, you’d light it on fire and inhale the smoke through the mouthpiece on the neck of the bong.
Carting works similarly. But instead of using a bowl of marijuana flower, you insert the mouth of the vape pen cartridge into the base or bowl of the bong and inhale the vapor through water and then the neck.
This pulls the vapor through the bong, creating a larger hit of vapor than you’d normally be able to inhale from just using a vape pen. The vapor wells up in the bong as you pull through, and when you’re ready to inhale it, you just remove the vape pen or bowl from the base and inhale the cloud of vapor.
There are a few reasons why people are starting to use this method to consume cannabis:
PTSD patients, for example, report that these large, inhaled marijuana doses are the best way to snap them out of overwhelming flashbacks about their traumatic experiences.
Patients with chronic pain also tend to need larger doses of cannabis. This is sometimes due to the severity of their symptoms and other times because of the slow increase in tolerance that can come from consuming cannabis over time. For many pain patients, a vape pen on its own is unlikely to do the trick. But add carting, and they can take that same medicine with a much better result.
Carting is easy to set up: For patients who like these larger doses, you may wonder why they don’t just stick to bongs and dab rigs. The answer is simple: ease of use. Carting offers an experience similar to a bong or dab rig, but without having to mess around with grinding up flower, working with sticky cannabis extract, or using a lighter or torch. Instead, your cannabis is ready to go in a clean and easy-to-use cartridge.
The water reduces irritation: Carting also works to filter the vapor that comes from your cartridge. By pulling the vapor through the water, it both cools the vapor, helping reduce irritation in the respiratory system as well as filter certain elements out of the vapor. Some argue that this produces a better result.
For example, Sam Campbell, Director of Marketing for MJ Arsenal, a company who makes a portable dab rig designed to fit on your vape pen says, “Cartridges, just like combusted flower, have impurities that benefit from filtration through water. You get a cleaner and smoother hit from a pen through a bubbler and enjoy, quite possibly, the smoothest hit you can find.”
But consumers should be aware that research on water filtration hasn’t been all positive.
Some studies have found that water filtration can actually pull more cannabinoids out of the vapor than harmful contaminants. This means you may be breathing in more harmful substances (like tar) to get the same amount of cannabinoids—and some of the important medicinal cannabinoids may be wasted and left swimming in your bong water.
Still, some prefer the effect of vapor that’s been through water and the cooling effect the water gives.
If you want to skip the water filtration, there’s the option of just leaving your bong dry. This way, you’ll still get the other benefits of carting.
Looking to cart yourself? It’s easy to start. All you need is:
The most important factor in having a smooth carting experience is making sure your cartridge fits well into the water filtration device. You want the mouthpiece of the cartridge to fit into the bowl (or the hole that the bowl goes in), so make sure to test this out first.
There are few options for what to use. If you already have a full-sized bong or dab rig to work with, it may or may not work with the size of your cartridge, and it will likely require you to flip your cartridge upside down. This isn’t ideal since only some carts work in that position.
To fix this problem, get a whip (a tube designed to fit into a bong) that fits on your cartridge on one side (10 mm is usually best for this) and your bong on the other. This will create a tight seal, and allow for upright vaping, retrofitting your device for its new purpose.
If you’re going to try carting using water filtration, fill up the bong or other device with a small amount of water. You want to be able to inhale through the neck of the bong with a strong pull, and not have any water come up through the neck. Test it out with clean water before you begin.
On other devices like a bubbler, there will be a carb (a small hole that shifts the airflow in the device). Keep your finger over the carb while you build up the vapor in the bubbler, then remove your finger when you’re ready to inhale and pull the vapor through.
For a more portable option, try a blunt bubbler. These are designed for use with a blunt or joint, but often fit well with a cartridge (especially those with a round mouthpiece). Because they’re small, they can be brought around with you wherever you go. This could be especially useful for medical marijuana patients who need to medicate throughout the day.
There are also products popping up that are designed particularly for carting, such as the Hydra VE from MJ Arsenal. Instead of a bowl, this tiny bong has a downward-facing piece that’s intended to fit over cartridges in an upright position. These may be the best option when it comes to carting, as they’re small, transportable and designed to interface with cartridges.
Once you have your equipment ready to go, you can try it out. Just be cautious as you’re starting out. Because you’re taking much bigger doses of cannabinoids with each inhalation, it’s easy to get too high too quickly. Start with just one inhalation and wait at least 30 minutes to notice how it affects you before trying more.
Photo credit: Quinten de Graaf
If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 index of articles. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it's 100% online, private and efficient.