You’ve seen plenty of boomers on social media share news of the so-called “vaping crisis” at one point or another. Many stories claim vape pens containing THC or nicotine are responsible for the growing number of severe, and even fatal, cases of lung diseases (severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, to be exact). However, it’s not likely to be the general act of vaping that’s putting users at risk, but rather vaping cartridges with dangerous additives.
How do unapproved, untested cartridges end up in your pen? If you purchase your cartridge from a state-tested dispensary or other facility, they won’t. Licensed brands are required to test for substances such as pesticides, chemical fillers and toxic additives. That means if you’re not buying directly from a dispensary, there’s a chance you could come across a counterfeit cartridge and risk inhaling fillers like vitamin E acetate, vegetable glycerin and other cutting agents, while approved brands stick to cannabis-derived ingredients.
The extent of the black-market carts is unknown, but we do know one thing: there is plenty of incentive for their illegal distribution. High taxes on THC products and the overall lack of legalization in the United States continue to keep the demand for black-market vapes and carts afloat. With all this being said, it’s probably safe to assume bootleg cartridges aren’t exactly uncommon, so it’s important to check yourself. Here’s what to do if you’re looking down at your vape with uncertainty.
1. Part ways with any cartridge you received without packaging– for good.
Anyone can make a concoction at home and fill empty vaping cartridges, so this one pretty much speaks for itself. If you have no way of knowing what’s inside, don’t risk it!
2. Research the alleged brand of the cartridge.
Just because the package claims it’s “lab-tested” or “all natural” doesn’t mean it is. Honestly, it can be pretty hard to tell at first glance if a product is counterfeit– empty knock-off packaging of several licensed (and not licensed) brands is available for anyone to purchase online. If you’re not sure if your cartridge came from an approved dispensary, research the brand. Sometimes it will be obviously illegitimate, like Dank Vapes and Chronic Carts, both of which have also been found to contain vitamin E acetate. Packaging for these brands are everywhere on eBay, so on top of it being an untested substance, every cart will be different. Yikes.
Other times, you’ll find what looks to be a legitimate brand in a region that doesn't have state regulations for cannabis. These brands are only available in legal states, so if you’re not in a state where recreational marijuana is legal and you’ve been offered one of these off the street, it’s probably not legit. You can also look at pictures of the brand’s packaging on their website or Instagram page and compare it with your product’s packaging.
It's just not worth the risk
Bottom line– and it’s the last time you’ll hear it from me– if you’re not purchasing from a state-tested dispensary, the cartridge market is like a box of chocolates. You just don’t know
what you’re going to get, and it could be a lot worse than accidentally getting a mouthful of maple nougat.