Californian cannabis consumers should be aware that the Golden State is now flooded with toxic vape pens sold at illegal marijuana stores. Recent tests run on cannabis vaporizer cartridges purchased at bootleg pot stores across California show frightening levels of contamination, both in the way of toxic pesticides and dangerous vitamin E oil.
Amid a nationwide crisis that has seen more than 1,400 people sickened, and at least 33 dead from vaping-associated pulmonary injury (VAPI), counterfeit vape products sold on the black market are all too often a common denominator reported in VAPI related hospitalizations.
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Vape Pen Lab Test Results
Anresco Laboratories, an independent, licensed laboratory based in San Francisco, recently tested a number of vape carts purchased from black market stores, for numerous hazardous pesticides, as well as the dangerous vape additive tocopheryl* (vitamin E oil). Not surprisingly, tocopheryl-acetate was present in most street sourced oil samples.
Also known as vitamin E oil, toxicologists and chemists confirm that when inhaled or smoked, the otherwise harmless food supplement blocks the lungs from absorbing oxygen, which can result in hypoxia, chemical pneumonitis or even death, if untreated.
Other shocking test results reveal:
- A Dank Vapes Sour Apple cartridge tested 5,475 times above legal limits for the mosquito repellent, chlorfenapyr (this pesticide residue when vaped goes directly into the lungs and often causes lung injury); this cartridge also tested:
- 547 times over the permitted limit for bifenazate (this chemical is intended to kill mites); and
- 362 times above the allowable limit for myclobutanil (this fungicide, when heated, may convert to hydrogen cyanide)
- An Exotic Carts variety known as Mars OG, showed tocopheryl-acetate levels of up to 34.9% (which means a third of the cartridge was filled with an assumed lung toxin);
- A cartridge suspected to be a counterfeit of the Brass Knuckles brand also showed 33% tocopheryl-acetate (again, a one-third lung toxin product); and
- A Cereal Carts vape cartridge in Blueberry Pancake Crunch tested 1,780 times over the Californian limit for myclobutanil (considered a neurotoxin – destructive to nerve tissue – as it’s combusted).
*Tocopheryl-acetate is the leading suspect behind the nation’s VAPI crisis currently sweeping the vaping market.
Anresco Labs Director of Cannabis Services, Josh Richard, explained the seriousness of these findings.
“When you combust the pesticide, it converts it to other cancerous chemicals,” he said.
“There were a lot more pesticides, both in the amount of pesticide we found, and the number of pesticides in each sample,” Richard said. “It’s kind of scary how many pesticides we found in these samples.”
Deals too Good to be True
Adding to the severity of the issue, bootleg stores across California are reportedly selling counterfeit vape pens at incredible discounts, or 2-for-1 offers, to unsuspecting vape customers. Products believed to be counterfeit versions of licensed vape brands (including STIIZY, Brass Knuckles and Cookies) sold for $35-$40 for a gram cartridge, which is about half the legitimate product’s cost. While carts average costs were around $22 each. Similarly, other black market brands (Cereal Carts and Exotic Carts) sold for $15-$20 for a gram of THC oil, where licensed, industry tested and approved grams of THC oil generally cost between $40-$60.
As the old adage goes, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.
Given that illegal pot stores can be found with the click of a smartphone app, it will be interesting to see just how much longer Californian authorities sit quietly, and when they will more heavily clamp down on unlicensed cannabis outfits. We have seen a spate of law enforcement action, with power and gas being cut to some unlicensed shop fronts, but no $30,000-a-day fines issued to landlords knowingly renting business space to illegal cannabis business-folk, as yet.
The nationwide VAPI crisis that continues, and incoming results from independent lab tests on tainted products such as these, may just be the impetus that kick-start ramped up action on closing down businesses that are not only unsanctioned, but more hazardously, are a major health risk.
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