For many cannabis users, choosing the correct dose is a major challenge — a recent study found that only a tiny fraction of medical cannabis users know how much they’re taking on a daily basis. The “right amount” of cannabis varies from person to person, and finding one’s personal sweet spot is essential for maximizing the plant’s therapeutic benefits. Use too little, and it’ll prove ineffective for relieving chronic pain or inflammation. And for those seeking to treat issues like anxiety, a too-potent dose can make symptoms even more uncomfortable than they were to start.
That’s why dosage is such a big deal in the medical cannabis community, and why so many users are looking for effective, easy-to-use delivery methods that can help them get the most from their medicine.
One of the most intriguing new options available are “dose pens,” which are small vaporizers that dispense a standardized dose of cannabis compounds with the press of a button. These cylindrical devices, some no bigger than a Bic lighter, deliver custom blends of key ingredients formulated to alleviate specific issues. To ensure a consistent experience, every aspect — from temperature to airflow to the duration of an inhalation — is pre-set by the manufacturer. Some even vibrate during use to prevent the user from over-medicating.
While a number of companies make dose pens, the most prominent producer is dosist, a California-based wellness company previously known as hmbldt. For years, they’ve been selling a range of devices that dispense precise doses meant to target specific issues, with names that evoke their purposes, from “sleep” to “bliss.” These products have proven to be a hit with consumers and reviewers alike —in 2016 TIME Magazine named it one of the year’s top 25 inventions, and in 2017, The Fresh Toast ran an article with the headline, “The [dosist] Dose Pen Is Perfect.”
Recently, the company’s success has inspired a number of competitors. Sunday Goods also makes a line of pens focused on enhancing specific experiences, including pens called “Delight,” “Spark,” and “Soothe.” Another new company called Roam Escapes takes the experience-based dose pen idea even further with a line of pens inspired by popular travel destinations, including “Bali Bliss,” “Rio Soul,” and “Paris Nights.”
Regardless of the company that makes them, most cannabis dose pens share a number of key characteristics. The most obvious — and important — one is their pre-metered doses. Dosist’s pens, for example, deliver a dose of 2.25 mg with every inhalation (unlike most other manufacturers, these pens are available in multiple sizes of 50 or 200 doses, and are claimed to be recyclable, though recycling cannabis vape products is complicated in practice).
All dose pens also contain consistent, customized blends of cannabinoids and terpenes that are intended to produce specific effects. For instance, the “Rest” pen from Sunday Goods contains a 10:5:1 ratio of the cannabinoids THC, CBD, and CBN (a lesser-known compound that researchers believe could be a major reason why cannabis is effective at fighting insomnia), as well as a high concentration of the terpene linalool, which studies have shown to relieve stress and promote relaxation.
Aside from their precise dosages, another major benefit of cannabis dose pens is their ability to produce nearly-instantaneous results. According to a 2018 report published in the journal JAMA Network Open, people who use vape devices tend to feel the full effects within minutes of inhalation (and with more intensity than is common when smoking cannabis, another fast-acting delivery method).
Most dose pen lines also promise to use premium ingredients that are extensively lab-tested, though some do a better job of backing up their claims than others. Here, Dosist has the upper hand — the company provides a detailed breakdown of each pen’s terpene and cannabinoid profile, along with certificates of analysis from third-party laboratories for confirmation (these also show if the product tested positive for pesticides or residual solvents). On other websites, the available information is generally more limited.
The biggest downside of cannabis dose pens — aside from their environmental impact, since they’re disposable — is their limited availability. Because cannabis is not federally legal and interstate commerce of cannabis products is therefore prohibited, these pens can only be obtained in the states where they’re made, and all of the brands that make them at the moment are California-based, though Sunday Goods can be found in select stores in Arizona as well. This means that even if you live in a state with legal recreational cannabis like Michigan or Massachusetts, you’re out of luck.
There’s also the matter of price. Since these sleek pens are marketed at an upscale crowd, they tend to come with upscale price tags — usually between $40-$100, depending on the number of doses.
Plus, while there is research pointing to the health benefits of cannabis consumption, especially where anxiety, pain, and inflammation are concerned, no studies have investigated the efficacy of dose pens. And despite their makers’ assertions of precision and carefully-controlled effects, none of these claims have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).