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Safety Vape Cartridge Issues and Safety

deep_meditation

Well-Known Member
I bought a cartridge at the dispensary and it seemed to fail. I tried it on my Puffoco plus battery and an e-Leaf iStick which indicated "Lo".

I decided to use a tiny pair of pliers to fiddle around with the battery contact. I popped it out and put it back in. It almost appears to be better seated than it was. The cartridge now works just fine. Is it common for cartridges to be faulty like this? I definitely didn't turn/twist it too hard. Just curious about other's experiences. I'm glad it works though.

Thanks.
 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
. Is it common for cartridges to be faulty like this?
I have purchased a couple in the past that have had problems out of the box. I've just returned them for replacements. It must be something that happens often because they weren't at all surprised and replaced it with no issue.

When you think about it... they're just little, cheap cartridges designed to be thrown out......

Glad you got yours to work without too much fuss. It's certainly worth trying to fix it yourself rather than trucking back to the dispensary.
 

Shredder

Dogs like me
I have purchased a couple in the past that have had problems out of the box. I've just returned them for replacements. It must be something that happens often because they weren't at all surprised and replaced it with no issue.

When you think about it... they're just little, cheap cartridges designed to be thrown out......

Glad you got yours to work without too much fuss. It's certainly worth trying to fix it yourself rather than trucking back to the dispensary.

I've never tried a commercial cart, but I ihave filled my own and soon decided I don't do well with the required additives. My asthma flares up every time ive tried. I'm curious if the cart sellers or dispensaries disclose all the ingredients?
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
I bought a cartridge at the dispensary and it seemed to fail. I tried it on my Puffoco plus battery and an e-Leaf iStick which indicated "Lo".

I decided to use a tiny pair of pliers to fiddle around with the battery contact. I popped it out and put it back in. It almost appears to be better seated than it was. The cartridge now works just fine. Is it common for cartridges to be faulty like this? I definitely didn't turn/twist it too hard. Just curious about other's experiences. I'm glad it works though.

Thanks.
The physical carts themselves come in a very wide array of quality from super cheap to very nice, ceramic heater, wickless, glass and steel carts.

In MD, we only have a med program and no rec. Carts cannot be returned to the dispensaries and it appears that the two main top draw brands that I am seeing both use very high quality carts....but the price is high also.

I'm curious if the cart sellers or dispensaries disclose all the ingredients?

As Mom said, not in the carts from MD, WA, or CO based on my experiences. So, our med carts are tested for cannibinoid content, metals, pesticides and the like but they don't disclose the extraction method nor the ppm of remaining solvent if solvent based. This is a shortfall in our law wrt testing that I think will be rectified.

I know some folks from Liberty and they state that their carts are solvent extracted, then fractionally distilled, terps put back in, and that's that. The distillation should ensure no harmful solvents left and there are no cutting agents (PG/VG/PEG) in there.

But short of state mandated testing...who the hell really knows for certain, right?
 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
I've renamed this thread to encompass all issues with vape cartridges after seeing this article. Figure we might as well have just one place to discuss this stuff. :smile:

I've been concerned about vape cartridges for some time now; ever since finding out that my favorite ones used coconut oil as a carrier. For those who aren't aware; coconut oil, when inhaled, can cause lipid pneumonia. So I've sort of sworn off them. This article just gives me one more reason. And this affects cannabis as well as ecig users.



Lab Testing Reveals There’s Lead in Most Vape Cartridges

According to industry experts, lead in vape cartridges is a major concern that’s being ignored.

why-cheap-poorly-made-vape-pens-must-be-avoided-featured.jpg

With new lab testing requirements for cannabis products that went into effect in California at the beginning of this year, licensed manufacturers have new hurdles to clear to bring safe and compliant merchandise to market in 2019. And many industry insiders are concerned about the addition of analytic testing for heavy metals, a new requirement included in the Phase-3 testing implemented by the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control.

Jacqueline McGowan, the director of local licensing and business development at Sacramento lobbying firm K Street Consulting, told High Times that many in the business expected the new standards could be a challenge.

“We knew this was going to be an issue back in July of last year when we saw phase-2 testing standards go into effect and how that affected the marketplace,” says McGowan.

Of the more than fifty licensed cannabis testing labs in California, only a fraction are ready to perform the new tests, which also include screening for mycotoxins—poisons created by molds and fungi.


McGowan says that one her clients, Rebecca Kirk of CWG Botanicals in Oakland, was concerned about the possibility of vape cartridges not passing the new tests. Although her company, a cannabis cultivator, manufacturer, and distributor, had not yet produced any cannabis oil cartridges, she was in the process of product development. After obtaining eight different samples of cartridges, she sent them to a laboratory for independent analysis.

“What we do know, is that just about every cartridge out there has lead in it,” says McGowan.

McGowan said that it is difficult to find empty vape carts that are produced domestically.


“They all come from China,” she says. “There are a few that say that they are manufactured in the U.S., but in reality, they’re assembled in the U.S. The parts are still from China.”

McGowan adds that there are no BCC requirements ensuring that the hardware used for cannabis products be tested for safety.

“We’re going above and beyond the regulations in this project because we’re seeing failures for oil we know is clean,” said McGowan.


Josh Myers, the director of sales at the cannabis ancillary products supplier the Calico Group, said that “it’s absolutely true” that some vape cartridges on the market are contaminated with lead. He said that the Chinese manufacturers are “already well aware of this. Most of the manufacturers have already got on board, but there’s still a tremendous amount of product … that still has lead in it.”

Myers added that some California cannabis companies are having empty cartridges independently analyzed and are finding that about 5 percent are testing positive for lead.

Due Diligence is Key
Greg Magdoff is the CEO of cannabis testing company PharmLabs, which will begin Phase-3 testing for heavy metals at its lab in the Coachella Valley early next month. He also confirms that he’s heard from manufacturers whose vape cartridges have failed heavy metal tests even though the oil had passed before it was put inside. Magdoff says that companies should know that cannabis can be contaminated from the material it is contained in, including inks or paints used on wrappers and containers.

“It’s really important that people understand that these heavy metals can leach out from packaging, cartridges, etc. into the product,” Magdoff tells High Times.

He also cautions manufacturers eager to cut costs to closely consider their responsibility to consumers.

“If they decide to get a good deal and they’re getting hundreds of thousands of carts overseas, they have to do their due diligence, take one of the empty carts to a local lab and get a metals test– digest it down and see what’s in there,” says Magdoff.

Kirk tells High Times that some fellow manufacturers have shown her cartridge test results that have passed the new standards for heavy metals. But those tests were conducted on the oil inside, not the cartridge itself. Kirk says that terpenes are acidic and could be causing lead to leach from the cartridge into the cannabis oil.

“We honestly don’t know,” she says. “Is it now contaminated because it’s been sitting in there a year?”

Kirk is still looking for vape cartridges that she is comfortable using for her products.

“We’ve got to find something that gives us assurance that six or nine months down the line we’ve still got a clean product,” said Kirk. “We’re looking at a potentially great deal of liability.”

Toxic Metals Found in E-Cigarette Vapor
The danger is real. A Johns Hopkins University study released last year found that lead and other toxic metals had been detected in the vapors produced by some e-cigarette devices. Rich Able, a medical device marketing consultant, told Forbes that “the metals detected in this study have been associated with multiple adverse health effects under chronic conditions of exposure. Neurotoxins such as lead are linked to increased risk of cardiovascular and kidney disease. The other metals listed are even more nefarious to human organs.”

Able called for government regulation of e-cigarette devices to help ensure their safety.

“It is critical for manufacturers of these delivery systems to design, engineer and manufacture these devices to FDA medical device quality standards,” he says. “To continue manufacturing and marketing these devices to the smoking population without further diligence and clinical review is unethical and unconscionable.”

McGowan said that some businesses are hoping for a legislative fix to the problem.

“They’re planning on running a few different testing bills but I just don’t see how in the world they could ever get passed,” McGowan says. “They want to do bulk testing instead of final form testing, but that still means that we will have lead in our cartridges. I’m a consumer. I don’t want to smoke lead. And I don’t want our industry to suffer the consequences of negative headlines.”

In a memo to clients titled “Upcoming Extinction Events” that was published on social media, McGowan and K Street colleague Maximillian Mikalonis warn that sourcing safe vape carts will be a priority for manufacturers in 2019.

“Once cartridges manufactured prior to December 31, 2018, sell out, manufacturers will face difficulty in sourcing hardware for vaporizer cartridges that can pass Phase-3 heavy metals testing. This will have a negative impact on manufacturer sales and the retailers that run out of cartridges for consumers. If only the illicit market has access to cartridges, expect a rough ride for legal cannabis sales,” they wrote.
 

Shredder

Dogs like me
I've renamed this thread to encompass all issues with vape cartridges after seeing this article. Figure we might as well have just one place to discuss this stuff. :smile:

I've been concerned about vape cartridges for some time now; ever since finding out that my favorite ones used coconut oil as a carrier. For those who aren't aware; coconut oil, when inhaled, can cause lipid pneumonia. So I've sort of sworn off them. This article just gives me one more reason. And this affects cannabis as well as ecig users.



Lab Testing Reveals There’s Lead in Most Vape Cartridges

According to industry experts, lead in vape cartridges is a major concern that’s being ignored.

View attachment 7259
With new lab testing requirements for cannabis products that went into effect in California at the beginning of this year, licensed manufacturers have new hurdles to clear to bring safe and compliant merchandise to market in 2019. And many industry insiders are concerned about the addition of analytic testing for heavy metals, a new requirement included in the Phase-3 testing implemented by the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control.

Jacqueline McGowan, the director of local licensing and business development at Sacramento lobbying firm K Street Consulting, told High Times that many in the business expected the new standards could be a challenge.

“We knew this was going to be an issue back in July of last year when we saw phase-2 testing standards go into effect and how that affected the marketplace,” says McGowan.

Of the more than fifty licensed cannabis testing labs in California, only a fraction are ready to perform the new tests, which also include screening for mycotoxins—poisons created by molds and fungi.


McGowan says that one her clients, Rebecca Kirk of CWG Botanicals in Oakland, was concerned about the possibility of vape cartridges not passing the new tests. Although her company, a cannabis cultivator, manufacturer, and distributor, had not yet produced any cannabis oil cartridges, she was in the process of product development. After obtaining eight different samples of cartridges, she sent them to a laboratory for independent analysis.

“What we do know, is that just about every cartridge out there has lead in it,” says McGowan.

McGowan said that it is difficult to find empty vape carts that are produced domestically.


“They all come from China,” she says. “There are a few that say that they are manufactured in the U.S., but in reality, they’re assembled in the U.S. The parts are still from China.”

McGowan adds that there are no BCC requirements ensuring that the hardware used for cannabis products be tested for safety.

“We’re going above and beyond the regulations in this project because we’re seeing failures for oil we know is clean,” said McGowan.


Josh Myers, the director of sales at the cannabis ancillary products supplier the Calico Group, said that “it’s absolutely true” that some vape cartridges on the market are contaminated with lead. He said that the Chinese manufacturers are “already well aware of this. Most of the manufacturers have already got on board, but there’s still a tremendous amount of product … that still has lead in it.”

Myers added that some California cannabis companies are having empty cartridges independently analyzed and are finding that about 5 percent are testing positive for lead.

Due Diligence is Key
Greg Magdoff is the CEO of cannabis testing company PharmLabs, which will begin Phase-3 testing for heavy metals at its lab in the Coachella Valley early next month. He also confirms that he’s heard from manufacturers whose vape cartridges have failed heavy metal tests even though the oil had passed before it was put inside. Magdoff says that companies should know that cannabis can be contaminated from the material it is contained in, including inks or paints used on wrappers and containers.

“It’s really important that people understand that these heavy metals can leach out from packaging, cartridges, etc. into the product,” Magdoff tells High Times.

He also cautions manufacturers eager to cut costs to closely consider their responsibility to consumers.

“If they decide to get a good deal and they’re getting hundreds of thousands of carts overseas, they have to do their due diligence, take one of the empty carts to a local lab and get a metals test– digest it down and see what’s in there,” says Magdoff.

Kirk tells High Times that some fellow manufacturers have shown her cartridge test results that have passed the new standards for heavy metals. But those tests were conducted on the oil inside, not the cartridge itself. Kirk says that terpenes are acidic and could be causing lead to leach from the cartridge into the cannabis oil.

“We honestly don’t know,” she says. “Is it now contaminated because it’s been sitting in there a year?”

Kirk is still looking for vape cartridges that she is comfortable using for her products.

“We’ve got to find something that gives us assurance that six or nine months down the line we’ve still got a clean product,” said Kirk. “We’re looking at a potentially great deal of liability.”

Toxic Metals Found in E-Cigarette Vapor
The danger is real. A Johns Hopkins University study released last year found that lead and other toxic metals had been detected in the vapors produced by some e-cigarette devices. Rich Able, a medical device marketing consultant, told Forbes that “the metals detected in this study have been associated with multiple adverse health effects under chronic conditions of exposure. Neurotoxins such as lead are linked to increased risk of cardiovascular and kidney disease. The other metals listed are even more nefarious to human organs.”

Able called for government regulation of e-cigarette devices to help ensure their safety.

“It is critical for manufacturers of these delivery systems to design, engineer and manufacture these devices to FDA medical device quality standards,” he says. “To continue manufacturing and marketing these devices to the smoking population without further diligence and clinical review is unethical and unconscionable.”

McGowan said that some businesses are hoping for a legislative fix to the problem.

“They’re planning on running a few different testing bills but I just don’t see how in the world they could ever get passed,” McGowan says. “They want to do bulk testing instead of final form testing, but that still means that we will have lead in our cartridges. I’m a consumer. I don’t want to smoke lead. And I don’t want our industry to suffer the consequences of negative headlines.”

In a memo to clients titled “Upcoming Extinction Events” that was published on social media, McGowan and K Street colleague Maximillian Mikalonis warn that sourcing safe vape carts will be a priority for manufacturers in 2019.

“Once cartridges manufactured prior to December 31, 2018, sell out, manufacturers will face difficulty in sourcing hardware for vaporizer cartridges that can pass Phase-3 heavy metals testing. This will have a negative impact on manufacturer sales and the retailers that run out of cartridges for consumers. If only the illicit market has access to cartridges, expect a rough ride for legal cannabis sales,” they wrote.


Scary! But t least folks are becoming aware. And a real opportunity for someone to build a better mousetrap.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Not exactly grow room applicable, but this is on the subject of contaminants in our cannabis. Note, they really don't tell you what they mean by "exposed coils" versus a cart such as a CCell that has the metal (I believe) embedded in ceramic. That is what seems to be the issue...direct exposure of lead containing metal heating elements seem to, over time, leech some level of lead into the contents. But wow, a bit more specific info would be appreciated.

Very typical for our underfunded and understaffed MJ commission...they are always a bit late to the party and come in mufti when the party is a costume one. haha

BULLETIN: 2019 -009
Effective Date: June 14, 2019
Potential Lead Contamination in Used Vape CartridgesLinthicum, MD
(June 14, 2019)

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) is providing this advisory to notify patients and other stakeholders of potential lead contamination of cannabis liquids in vape cartridges following exposure to heat. Following reports in other states of lead leaking into the cannabis liquid in some used vape cartridges, the MMCC initiated an investigation, including testing of Maryland vape cartridgesfor the presence of lead and other metals.The results indicate that while lead is not present in Maryland vape cartridges at the time of product testing, lead may leach into the product from exposure to the heating coils with use, over time. Medical cannabis patients who medicate by vaping should be aware of this potential contamination, which, if occurring, would occur after compliance testing.

According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, lead has been found in several brands of cartridges used for vaping. Although the lead is in the heating coils of the device, overtime it can leach into the product. Lead contamination in vape cartridges is not limited to Maryland’s medical cannabis market. The MMCC is aware of medical cannabis marketsacross the country experiencing the same issues with vape cartridge contamination.

While there is limited research on this topic, multiple studies on e-liquids have discovered elevated levels of lead in vape liquids due to the composition of vape cartridges:

  • Researchers at John Hopkins found minimal amounts of metals in the e-liquids within refilling dispensers, but much larger amounts of some metals in the e-liquids that had been exposed to the heating coils within e-cigarette tanks. The difference indicated that the metals almost certainly had come from the coils. Most importantly, the scientists showed that the metal contamination carried over to the aerosols produced by heating the e-liquids.

Among the samples collected in another study, none of the bottles of e-liquids contained detectable levels of lead, which suggests that lead concentrations in disposable e-cigarettes may be related to the proximity of e-liquid to metal components in the product. There was also a significant difference in lead concentration between cartridge and open wick disposable systems, which suggests that the design of the vape products evaluated in this study contributed to overall lead exposure.

In the interest of public safety, the Commission will issue enhanced laboratory testing requirements to further investigate the potential presence of lead in vape cartridges. Effective immediately all compliance testing for vape cartridges will include a heavy metals analysis. If any vape cartridge exceedsMMCC’s heavy metals testing limits the product will not be made available for sale at licensed dispensaries.

Lori Dodson, M.S. MT (ASCP)Deputy Director


Potential Lead Contamination in Used Vape Cartridges Questions and Answers
June 14, 2019

Do vape cartridges offered for sale in Maryland contain lead?
To date, no finished vape product has tested positive for elevated levels of lead at the time of compliance testing (e.g., prior to distribution or sale). However, reports in other states and a small sample of used vape cartridges tested in Maryland indicate that lead may leach from metal heating coils into the cannabis liquid within the vape cartridge with use, over time. The MMCChasimplementedexpanded laboratory testing for the presence of lead and other heavy metals. If any medical cannabis finished product is determined to contain elevated lead levels, the product may not beoffered for distribution or sale to patients or caregivers.

Has the MMCC ordered a recall of any vape products?
No vape products have been recalled at this time.To date, no medical cannabis finished product in Maryland has tested positive for elevated levels of lead prior to distribution or sale. However, the MMCC has implemented expanded laboratory testing for lead and other heavy metals based on reports of elevated lead levels in vape products available in other states. If a sample analysis of a batch or lot of medical cannabis, including vape products, reveals elevated levels of lead, the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 10.62.17 requires a licensee to: (1) order a recall of the batch or lot, (2) notify any patient, caregiver, or dispensary who may have obtained medical cannabis from the batch or lot, and (3) offer and pay any reimbursement for any returned medical cannabis. In addition, if any product test results in elevated lead levels under the newly implemented heavy metals testing requirements, the product may not be offered for distribution or sale.

May a patient test their vape products at a registered independent testing laboratory?
No. Registered independent testing laboratories that conduct compliance testing for medical cannabis products may only test samples obtained from a licensed medical cannabis grower or processor.

Which vape products are potentially impacted?
While there is limited research on this topic, multiple studies on e-liquids have discovered elevated levels of lead in vape liquids due to lead in metal heating coils leaching into the vape cartridge with use, over time. The MMCC is not aware of any heavy metal leaching in vape products that use ceramic components.

If a patient is concerned their vape product may contain elevated levels of leadare they able to return the product?
The MMCC has not ordered a recall of any vape products. Concerned patients or caregivers may contact the licensed dispensary where the product was purchased to determine how the unused vape product may be returned for disposal.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Vape Pen Lung Disease Has Insiders Eyeing Misuse of New Additives

SAN FRANCISCO—During alcohol prohibition, drinkers had to worry about getting sick and dying from “bathtub gin.” This week, vapers are learning of similar quality control issues with cannabis oil vape cartridges purchased on the illegal market.

People were vaping illicit cannabis carts last year without ending up in the hospital. So it makes sense to ask: What has changed?

A rash of tainted THC vape cartridge poisonings is thought to have claimed one life in Illinois and caused lung inhalation injuries to as many as 215 people in 25 states, according to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conference call last Friday, and updates Aug. 30.

California now has 24 suspected cases of the hyper-inflammatory lung response, first identified by doctors in the Central Valley town of Hanford on Aug. 14 after recognizing that seven young adults had all suffered from sudden acute respiratory distress in the past month. The common thread: Each patient had purchased disposable, THC-filled vaporizer cartridges from illegal street markets.

Nearly All Cases in Illegal States
Most importantly, no cases are associated with adult-use or medical cannabis products from legal state-licensed stores. Almost all affected states do not have adult-use legalization in effect. They include Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. Additional states are pending verification. The California incidents occurred in Kings County, which has banned licensed cannabis stores.

Reports indicate that severe acute respiratory distress resembling lipoid pneumonia followed the repeated use of tainted carts. The patients’ heavily inflamed, fluid-filled lungs lost function and sometimes failed. Two patients in California required mechanical ventilation. Steroids knocked down the lung inflammation, but recovery has taken weeks of hospital care. Some patients may have permanent lung damage.

West Coast Carts, Dank Vapes Named
Public health officials have interviewed patients and obtained samples of tainted products in California, Wisconsin, Illinois, and other states. Officials in each state plan to analyze the seized carts. The California Department of Public Health had no test results to share as of Friday morning.

In Hanford, a small county seat south of Fresno, officials released a photo of one patient’s brand, called West Coast Carts.

vape-carts-king-county-1024x640.jpg
Tainted vapor: One victim in central California inhaled THC oil vapor from the illegal West Coast Carts brand. (Courtesy Kings County Public Health)
In Wisconsin, a family member of a victim there said another suspected tainted cartridge came from an illicit-market brand called “Dank Vapes.” Medical and adult-use cannabis products are not legal in Wisconsin.

Neither brand is traceable to a single company. Outside of a state-regulated system, anyone can order vape packaging and fill it with their choice of ingredients.

The CDC is not sure whether the national reports are all linked to a common contaminant or a combination of toxins. Officials are not sure if every patient has the same illness or when the series of respiratory injuries really began. They’re just starting to coordinate information collection among the states, agency officials said last Friday.

“The bottom line is there’s a variety of things in e-cigarette aerosol that could have implications for lung health,” said CDC Deputy Director Dr. Brian King.

What Could Taint the Carts?
Consumers have used disposable vaporizer cartridges with standard additives—propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil—for many years. That alone gives regulators pause. Earlier this month, officials at the US Food and Drug Administration proposed adding propylene glycol as a respiratory toxicant to its list of “Harmful and Potentially Harmful Constituents in Tobacco Products.” FDA officials have also proposed regulating all e-cigarette ingredients by 2022.

A new type of additive started showing up in vape carts in late 2018.

Past lab tests have also caught pesticides, residual solvents, heavy metals, and synthetic cannabinoids in illicit-market cannabis vape carts. Yet we’ve never had clusters of life-threatening lung injuries like we’re seeing this summer.

We don’t know what precipitated the current health crisis. But we do know people used illicit cannabis vape carts last year without ending up in the hospital. So it makes sense to ask: What’s changed recently in the street vape cart market?

New ‘Thick’ Cutting Agents Under Scrutiny
Industry insiders who track the legal and illegal vape cart markets closely tell Leafly that a new type of additive started showing up in late 2018, and has since become widely used in underground markets. It’s a novel class of odorless, tasteless thickening agents. These liquids come in different proprietary formulations manufactured by both legal, above-board companies and by shadowy underground operations.

This new additive may or may not play a role in the current health crisis. But it is one of the major new ingredients in illegal vape cart oil in widespread use this summer.

Big Profit Incentive
Cannabis is a $52 billion US industry, according to a 2019 estimate by the RAND Corporation. Legal state-regulated sales represent $11 billion of the total—only 21%. That leaves a massive $41 billion illegal market open to anybody willing to take the legal risks necessary to supply it. Demand for vape carts has also surged nationwide.

“It’s fraught with problems—this sort of thickening agent. ... what the heck do you think it’s going to do to your lungs?”
Peter Hackett, founder, Air Vapor Systems

The cannabis oil extracted from plant material doesn’t go straight into a THC vape cartridge. Cutting agents, also known as diluents, are liquids that chemists mix with the cannabis extract to create a consistent viscosity within the cart. Diluents also allow unlicensed manufacturers to stretch their supplies of THC oil.

In legal state-regulated markets, vape carts undergo mandatory lab testing to insure potency and purity. But in the illegal markets, anything goes. As a result, some consumers of illicit carts have learned how to spot watery oil cut with traditional propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, or MCT oil. Without the assurance of lab testing, vapers often judge the THC potency of a cart by looking at the thickness of the oil in the chamber. Thick oil has become a proxy for purity. Thin oil is a red flag.

Cart makers in the illegal markets know this. Some have responded by adding new cutting agents designed to mask the dilution. Instead of thinning oil, these new substances thicken it.

Proprietary Formulas, Untested on Lungs
“No one knows what this stuff is made of, and [the manufacturer’s] own safety sheets say, ‘Don’t use this with high temperatures,’” said Peter Hackett, the owner of Air Vapor Systems of Concord, CA. Hackett’s company supplies diluents to cannabis cart manufacturers nationwide. “It’s fraught with problems—this sort of thickening agent. If you’re going to take some solution that thickens up solutions, what the heck do you think it’s going to do to your lungs?”

“We don’t sell a thickening agent because of this issue,” Hackett told Leafly.

A Trend That Started in Los Angeles
If the past dynamics of the cannabis industry hold true, trends in vape additives likely began in Los Angeles and emanated nationwide.

Hackett points to downtown LA, the epicenter of the US street cart market. Warehouses in LA will sell you empty carts and preprinted packaging to stick them in, fresh from China. A pack of 100 empty glass tank carts and counterfeit packaging—ripping off Cookies, a highly regarded legal cannabis brand—runs $18 on DHgate.com.

As Hackett puts it, “The illicit market in California is the source market” for every other place in the country. “So whatever happens in downtown Los Angeles starts becoming replicated by industrial and commercial supply houses throughout the country.”

Los Angeles ‘Pen Factories’
In “pen factories,” illicit market manufacturers fill thousands of these illegal carts per day with mixtures of street-grade THC oil, cutting agents, and flavorings. Distributors then wrap them in professional-looking packaging and ship them to illicit pop-up markets in California and beyond. The suspected tainted carts seized in the Hanford, CA, investigation—labeled West Coast Carts—read “80-85% THC,” “lab tested,” and “100% Dank.”

Any illegal cart maker can claim “lab tested” on the label. But only legal state-licensed products are actually lab tested. State law requires manufacturers to post test results on product labels.

In California, a legal label often looks like this:

Legal Additive, Off-Label Use
As health officials investigate the source of the lung injuries, another possibility includes legal substances used incorrectly. Think of an extreme version of off-label use, where a physician prescribes a legal medication for a condition beyond the drug’s intended use.

“Nothing is proven to be safe for vaping. We are aware that people are using it for that use. We don’t recommend or direct them to do that.”
David Heldreth, Chief Science Officer, True Terpenes

That can put the legal makers of these products in a bind. For example, consider the case of True Terpenes, a leading manufacturer of terpenes and diluents based in Portland, OR. Their products are meant for specific purposes. But they have no control over the uses to which their customers put the products once they’re shipped.

Ben Disinger, the company’s marketing manager, told Leafly their leading diluent brand, Viscosity, is “recommend for use in winterized extracts.” (Winterizing means removing the extract’s fats and waxes.)

Disinger said that one recommended use of Viscosity is for diluting THC oil in cannabis balms and lotions meant to rub on the skin, not for ingestion or inhaling. Using such a diluent in vape pens, he said, is not an approved use. Burning or inhaling Viscosity might or might not be harmful, he said, but the company has no data either way.

“Nothing is proven to be safe for vaping,” said True Terpenes Chief Science Officer David Heldreth. “We are aware that people are using it for that use. We don’t recommend or direct them to do that. We don’t inherently believe there will be a danger, but it’s not something we can speak directly to because no one can.

Similarity to Mineral Oil Poisoning
In some media stories and online cannabis forums, discussion has centered around the possible mineral oil content of some thickening diluents. The Washington Post reported that one Utah patient’s lung injury looked a lot like mineral oil poisoning, and symptoms mirrored medical literature on a phenomenon known as lipoid pneumonia, or oil pneumonia, which can be caused by inhaling petroleum oils. (Read up on lipoid pneumonia from mineral oil here, and here.) Mineral oil is a petroleum product; it’s an ingredient in Vaseline and many baby oils.

Ben Disinger made it clear to Leafly that True Terpene’s Viscosity product did not contain the stuff. “It is not mineral oil, no,” he said.

Use It for This, Not for That
It can be difficult to discern the use limitations of these products. The True Terpenes web page makes it clear that Viscosity is “NOT to be used with CBD products,” but mentions nothing about THC products. True Terpenes does not state on its website that Viscosity is meant for diluting cannabis topicals, not oil in vape carts.

Similarly, another manufacturer, the Ypsilanti, MI-based Floraplex Terpenes, also offers a proprietary diluent known as Uber Thick. Described as a “naturally derived uber viscous terpene diluent,” the manufacturer suggests using the product to “control the thickness of your products.”

A certificate of authenticity posted on the company’s website states that Uber Thick has a boiling point of 554 degrees Fahrenheit. The optimal range for the vaporization of cannabinoid oils is 280-350F. But varying battery voltage, atomizer quality, wick quality, and oil quality results in a much wider range of operating temperatures. Vaping devices can run from sub-300 degrees to 800 degrees and above. Consequently, any setting above 554°F could potentially transform Uber Thick diluent into an aerosol with unknown implications for respiratory health.

On Floraplex’s posted safety data sheet, the company warns that “excessive thermal decomposition at very high temperatures can lead to the release of irritating gases and vapors.” Does irritation occur only when the diluent is in its pure form, or when mixed with cannabis oils or other substances? No one knows. Additionally, the same data sheet acknowledges the company has no data available on the product’s acute inhalation toxicity.

Floraplex Chief Science Officer Jared McKinney told Leafly that vape pen cartridges are not an approved use for Uber Thick.

“We don’t sell it for vaporization, but that’s what some customers use it for,” he said. “Whether it would be bad or good, we can’t say either way.”

Last Year’s Trendsetter: Honey Cut
Floraplex, True Terpenes, and competitors like Abstrax, Peak Terpenes, and Terpenes.net, operate legally and openly. Terpenes sold by companies in this market segment go into a wide variety of products ranging from beer to cannabis to ice cream. They may be used to adjust a product’s fragrance, flavor, or viscosity. Commercial manufacturers have used terpenes safely and legally for decades.

However, other terpene and diluent makers operate in the shadows. Full health data may not be available from companies producing above-board products, but underground manufacturers post no safety data sheets at all. They don’t even want their location known.

Peter Hackett of Air Vapor Systems and Disinger and Heldreth of True Terpenes both mentioned the recent introduction of a novel diluent thickener called Honey Cut. The product swept through LA’s pen factories late last year. Honey Cut maintains a website, but the identity of the product manufacturer remains unknown, as does the chemical makeup of the substance. Leafly has made many attempts to reach officials at Honey Cut, but they have chosen not to respond.

Honey Cut’s introduction last year proved so popular that competing products by other diluent makers soon began appearing.

“There’s tons of them and those are the ones [we know about] who have a Squarespace web page,” said Heldreth, chief science officer at True Terpenes. Others, he said, are “just selling on a corner into vape shops.”

“Who knows what people are putting into these products,” he added.

Disinger said in-house lab tests done by True Terpenes on Honey Cut led company officials to suspect a substance known as tocopherol-acetate, usually found in skin creams. The National Institutes of Health database Pubchem.com states that inhaling tocopherol-acetate can cause wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and burning in the mouth, throat or chest, and could potentially lead to hospitalization.

Stronger Dilutions
Importantly, Peter Hackett also suspects pen factories may be diluting THC oil now more than ever in response to cannabis flower supply shortages in the California street market this summer. Cannabis flower comprises the raw material from which THC oil is extracted. Experts attribute current shortages to falling prices (which led some illicit farmers to stop growing) and California’s stepped-up campaign to end unlicensed growing and sales through civil enforcement actions.

Honey Cut proudly advertises its use in diluting vape pen oil up to 75%.

However, True Terpenes’ Viscosity should not account for more than 10% of a mixture, Disinger said. But street chemists might ignore the company’s advisory and use multiple times that amount. In an unlicensed, unregulated market it’s nearly impossible to know.

Disinger said cutting THC distillate by 80% with anything—Viscosity, Honey Cut, terpenes like pinene, or even water—“is not going to be a good idea.”

The complex mix of factors that go into the manufacture and use of a vape cartridge make the job of health investigators especially difficult. That’s doubly true in an illegal market. When an E. coli outbreak occurs, investigators usually have a clear trail of legal distributors, growers, and documents to aid in their search for a primary cause. Illegal vape cart makers mask their trail.


Also, Hotter Vapes
Joshua Richard, an official with Anresco Laboratories, a San Francisco-based food and cannabis testing lab, says the culprit “might be a combination of everything.”

“It may be diluents technically safe to use as specifically directed,” he told Leafly. “But if they’re buying the cheapest vape carts that are burning hot or whatnot, with god knows what other contaminants in there—none of this makes your lungs happy.”

Dale Gieringer, co-director of California NORML, has watched the evolution of vaporizer technology since the earliest introduction of the Volcano, the German-made product that remains the gold standard for high-end hardware.


RELATED STORY
You May Want to Avoid These Ingredients in Cannabis Oil Vape Cartridges


What pains Gieringer about the current scare is the fact that long-term studies on the lung health of cannabis flower smokers show no comparable ill effects. Gieringer himself has published studies on vaping buds at 385°F in a Volcano, which he found to be “safe, safe, safe.”

By contrast, Gieringer notes the paucity of health studies on modern diluents, or analysis of any chemical changes that might occur when they become heated or burn in a vape cart.

“The thing about some vape carts is the temperature can run considerably higher than burning flower, and you could be forming new chemicals that you would have never gotten before,” he told Leafly.

Still the Wild West
In conclusion, all of these factors remain in play this week as local and national health authorities hunt down the source of the severe respiratory ailments.

Dr. Mitch Zeller, FDA Director of the Center for Tobacco Products, wondered last week if the vape products in question were “used as intended or was some other compound added? Those kind of facts need to be strung together for every single one of these cases so that we can see if there are any kind of patterns that emerge.”

“We believe we need to regulate these additives,” said True Terpenes’ Heldreth. “Unfortunately it takes someone getting hurt for people to take things like this seriously.” He said company officials have begun reviewing both their marketing and sales channels in light of the current rash of respiratory distress incidents.

“We stand by our products and we encourage everyone to do their own testing. It’s still the Wild West, and there is still a lot of misinformation out there,” said Disinger.

Leafly will continue to update this story as it develops. Read the first chapter here.




 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
No major marijuana sales impact seen from vaping illness outbreak as MJ retailers focus on consumer education

A recent outbreak of pulmonary illnesses tied to electronic vaping devices has reportedly caused five deaths and sickened 450 people, but state-legal cannabis retailers across the United States have not yet been hit by a serious downturn in vaporizer cartridge sales as a result of public panic.


Many retailers are, however, proactively trying to get in front of the situation before there’s a massive public backlash by communicating to consumers that their vape products are clean, lab-tested and safe for use, according to several sources who spoke with Marijuana Business Daily on Monday.


vaping-crisis--300x164.png
Several retailers also reported they are focusing on consumer education, the central message being that their products are uncut with additives such as vitamin E acetate, an agent that some authorities have been investigating as a possible cause of the outbreak.


Here’s the latest on the situation:





  • The outbreak had some in the marijuana industry suggesting late last week that at least a temporary drop in sales could occur for products such as disposable vape cartridges.
  • However, several retailers told MJBizDaily they haven’t pulled any vape cartridge products off shelves or yet seen any big downturn in sales because of the illnesses.
  • The retailers said that’s because they already were selling only vape cartridges they know are pure and uncut, and therefore safe for consumers to use.

Confidence in licensed products


“It’s definitely a little bit concerning,” Mike Anton, one of the founders and owners of TruMed, a medical marijuana retailer in Phoenix, said of the illness trend.


“Until we hear further clarification on what might be causing it, we’ll continue to sell them, but we lab-test everything we sell, so we’re pretty confident in the products we carry on our shelves.”


Kimberly Cargile, CEO of A Therapeutic Alternative in Sacramento, California, said she also hasn’t had to pull any products because she is confident the vape cartridges she sells are clean and don’t contain any potentially toxic cutting agents.


“We’ve had policies in place since (vaping became a trend) to only accept pure cannabis oil,” Cargile said. “We don’t accept or sell any vape products that are cut with propylene glycol or vitamin E or coconut oil or have any additives or flavoring at all.”


Assuring customers through social media


Plenty of MJ businesses have been trying to cut short any public hysteria over the outbreak by posting information on social media about the vape products they carry, which are generally lab-tested and uncut with potentially dangerous additives.


“It’s been in the news … so people are concerned. And we’re encouraging people, if they are concerned, to choose other products – other ways of consuming cannabis,” Cargile said.


Multistate operator Cresco Labs, which has 22 operational cannabis stores in 11 states, also has not had to pull any products off its shelves, company spokesman Jason Erkes said.


But Cresco decided on Friday to publish more information on both Facebook and Instagram, writing that it’s “deeply concerned” about the outbreak of illnesses. The company also tried to reassure customers.


“We do not use vitamin E acetate as an additive in any vape products, nor do we use cutting agents such as polyethylene glycol, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin or medium chain triglycerides, which are used by many vape manufacturers,” the company told consumers.


The response from customers, Erkes noted, was positively “overwhelming.”


“We wanted to take a proactive approach,” he said.


“We haven’t been receiving a lot of questions from patients or consumers, but people are counting on our products as medicine in many parts around the country, and we feel they deserve to know what’s in these products.”


Erkes said Cresco began disseminating information about the vape products it sells on Friday night, and since then, those posts have become “the most-trafficked social media posts we’ve ever had as a company.”


Double-checking cannabis oil


Peter Marcus, communications director for Colorado-based Terrapin Care Station – which also has a retail footprint in Pennsylvania – said his company hasn’t pulled any products off shelves or seen a major downturn in vape cartridge sales, for similar reasons: The company ensures that the cannabis oil in every vape product it sells is pure, uncut marijuana.


“We’re not worried, because we’re fortunate to be a legal, licensed marijuana company that works within (a regulated environment) that prevents products like this from hitting the market,” Marcus said, adding that the company has heard “almost nothing” from consumers who may have worries about the vaping illness outbreak.


“When you have regulatory boards having oversight for products that hit the market, you’re not going to end up with bootleg, cut vape cartridges that have the potential to cause harm,” Marcus said.


“The way I’m looking at it is, this is yet another example that strengthens the case for federal standards.”


Terrapin, like Cresco and others, has also been active on social media regarding the outbreak, re-emphasizing with customers that the vape cartridges it sells are pure cannabis oil minus any extra additives.


“Our vaporizer cartridges are always 100% cannabis derived. No cutting agents, no additives, no Vitamin E. Just cannabis distillate and cannabis derived terpenes,” Terrapin wrote on its Facebook account on Sept. 6.


Morgan Fox, spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association, said the organization had heard concerns from its retail members about possible business impacts from the outbreak and resulting headlines nationwide, but said he thinks most news stories have been clear that the problem is most likely caused by the illegal underground market and not state-legal marijuana companies.


“We’re definitely hearing concern from members, and I think that’s partially driven by legitimate concern for cannabis consumers and their health, but also a potential worry that the public’s fear will not necessarily recognize that these illnesses are being caused almost entirely by illicit, unregulated market products,” Fox said.


“Luckily, most of the coverage I’ve seen so far has been very clear to point out that regulated, state-legal cannabis products are not at fault here. But I think it’s going to create an impetus for regulated producers to really make sure that consumers know that their products are as safe as possible and regulated and tested.”
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
"New York state’s lab obtained samples of thickeners from three companies and determined they are “nearly pure” vitamin E acetate, an oil derived from vitamin E"​
"The companies being served with the subpoena are Honey Cut Labs in Santa Monica, Calif., for its Honey Cut Diluting Agent; Floraplex Terpenes in Ypsilanti, Mich., for its Uber Thick agent; and Mass Terpenes in Amherst, Mass., for its Pure Diluent."​

New York to subpoena firms selling substances linked to illicit vaping products

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said Monday he is ordering the state health department to issue subpoenas to three companies the department has identified as selling substances linked to the mysterious vaping-related lung illnesses that have sickened hundreds of people across the country.

The companies are marketing and selling “thickening agents” that can be used in black market vaping products that contain THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that produces the high. Dealers have been using thickening agents to dilute THC oil in street and illicit products, industry experts said. These thickeners are being marketed and readily available on the Internet “as a cheaper, safer alternative that does not negatively impact flavoring or odor of existing products and can be used to cut vape products to any level of THC,” the governor’s office said in a news release.

New York state’s lab obtained samples of thickeners from three companies and determined they are “nearly pure” vitamin E acetate, an oil derived from vitamin E. Federal and state authorities have identified vitamin E acetate as a potential clue in the unfolding mystery because it is a common element in cannabis products that have been collected from patients who have fallen ill.

Investigators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have found the oil in cannabis products in samples collected across the United States. That same chemical was also found in nearly all cannabis samples from patients who fell ill in New York in recent weeks, state health officials said. Although the FDA does not have enough data to conclude that vitamin E acetate is the cause of the lung injury, the agency said late Friday that “it is prudent to avoid inhaling this substance.”

It is the first common element found in samples from across the country. While health officials have said it is too early to know whether the oil is causing the injuries, New York state has said vitamin E acetate is a key focus of its investigation.

Vitamin E is found naturally in certain foods, such as canola oil, olive oil and almonds. The oil derived from the vitamin is commonly available as a nutritional supplement and is used in topical skin treatments. It is not known to cause harm when ingested as a vitamin supplement or applied to the skin. Its name sounds harmless, experts said, but its molecular structure could make it hazardous when inhaled, and officials said it could be associated with the kinds of respiratory symptoms that many patients have reported: cough, shortness of breath and chest pain.

The companies being served with the subpoena are Honey Cut Labs in Santa Monica, Calif., for its Honey Cut Diluting Agent; Floraplex Terpenes in Ypsilanti, Mich., for its Uber Thick agent; and Mass Terpenes in Amherst, Mass., for its Pure Diluent.

The governor’s office said these three companies are the first to be subpoenaed, but more companies are likely to be ordered to provide samples as the investigation continues. Health authorities want the companies to provide additional information to aid the ongoing investigation.





 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Ok, $16 dollars a piece made and sold by this little 20 year dufus. I mean, take one look at this guy and tell me you are surprised that people are getting sick from backroom cart manufactures. Oh yeah, I would feel perfectly safe vaping this guys $16 oil....NOT.

1568239086902.png


Wisconsin man accused in illegal THC vaping cartridge scheme

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin man is accused of running a 10-man operation that manufactured thousands of counterfeit vaping cartridges loaded with THC oil every day for almost two years, authorities said.

Kenosha County prosecutors said 20-year-old Tyler Huffhines had employees make professionally packaged cartridges. Authorities said the employees filled about 3,000 to 5,000 cartridges per day and were sold for $16 each.

“Based on how everything was set up, this was a very high-tech operation that was running for some time,” Andrew Burgoyne, Kenosha County assistant district attorney, said during a Monday court hearing to set bond. Police said the business started in January 2018.

Police arrested Huffhines on Thursday. He was being held on a $500,000 cash bond while he awaits charges to be filed. He was due in court Friday.

His attorney, Mark Richards, did not respond to an email or a phone message left at his office.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Kenosha Drug Operations Group and other agencies executed search warrants at two homes. The Kenosha News reports that authorities seized 188 pounds (85 kilograms) of marijuana, THC oil, eight firearms, and about $20,000 in cash.

The arrest comes as health officials investigate 450 possible cases in 33 states where vaping was linked to a severe lung disease. Kansas reported its first death tied to the outbreak on Friday. Nationwide, as many as six people have died.

Health officials have warned against buying counterfeit vaping cartridges. It’s unknown if the Wisconsin operation has been linked to any illnesses.

No single vaping device, liquid or ingredient has been tied to all the illnesses. But recent attention has been focused on devices, liquids, refill pods and cartridges that are not sold in stores.

New York state has focused its investigation on an ingredient called Vitamin E acetate, which has been used to thicken marijuana vape juice but is considered dangerous if heated and inhaled.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also investigating Vitamin E acetate, but officials said they’re looking at several other ingredients as well. Last week, the CDC warned against buying vaping products off the street because the substances in them may be unknown. The agency also warned against modifying vaping products or adding any substances not intended by the manufacturer.

This isn’t the first time Huffhines has made it into the headlines. Last year, the Kenosha News wrote a feature story about him when he was an 18-year-old Central High School student, selling athletic shoes online. The story’s headline was “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”




 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
EXPLAINER-One possible culprit in vaping lung illnesses: 'Dank Vapes'

Sept 13 (Reuters) - As U.S health officials scramble to identify the root cause of hundreds of severe lung illnesses tied to vaping, one possible culprit identified so far is a line of illicit marijuana vape products sold under the brand names "Dank Vapes" and "Chronic Carts."

© Getty

A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine found that more than half of patients with the lung illness - 24 of 41 - who were extensively interviewed in Wisconsin and Illinois reported having used the "Dank Vapes" brand.


The New York State Department of Health identified "Dank Vapes" and "Chronic Carts" as products containing Vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent in THC oil that has been a key focus in its investigation into the illnesses. THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis.

While Vitamin E acetate is often applied to skin or used as a dietary supplement, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned against inhalation because "data is limited about its effects" on the lungs. The agency has advised consumers to avoid vaping THC oils or using devices bought outside of stores.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is investigating 380 confirmed or probable cases of lung illnesses tied to vaping, said the condition has not definitively been linked to a specific product or ingredient, including Vitamin E acetate.

The CDC advises against using any e-cigarette or vaping products, since most of the patients interviewed used both THC and nicotine liquids, while 20 percent used only nicotine.

Leading makers of nicotine e-cigarettes, including Juul Labs Inc, British American Tobacco Plc and Imperial Brands Plc, said this week their products do not contain Vitamin E compounds or THC.

AVAILABLE ONLINE

Packaging using the "Dank Vapes" name until recently was available on Amazon, according to caches of the product links, and a Reuters review shows they are still widely available elsewhere on the Internet.

Amazon.com Inc said it took down vape paraphernalia this week in line with its policies, though the company did not specify the exact products it removed.  It said THC and e-cigarettes were not, and are not, offered on its platform.

One merchant that appeared to sell packaging for Dank Vapes and another brand on Amazon was known as Cart Essentials, according to the cached links, which are now defunct.

Cart Essentials had 39 ratings this year, almost all of them five stars. The merchant did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent via Amazon's platform, and Reuters could not determine who was behind the company.

WHAT IS IT?

Marijuana extracts used in vaping "pens" have been one of the fastest-growing segments of the cannabis industry in recent years. It is an easy way to use the product, can be concealed, and users can better control how much they take in, said David Downs, California bureau chief for cannabis website Leafly.com.

The category grew from 2% of the legal market in 2014 to 16% last year, according to BDS Analytics, an industry tracker.

The "Dank Vapes" brand is an illicit product that uses diluted THC oil, Downs said.

Drug dealers, looking to make as much money as possible,  cut THC oil with Vitamin E acetate to dilute it but make it still appear pure to consumers, Downs said. "It can cut THC oil while keeping it thick."

It is difficult to determine whether "Dank Vapes" is an actual company or a brand used by multiple operators. No one responded to calls and emails sent to numbers and addresses listed on a website, dankvapes.org.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the state health department earlier this week to subpoena three companies he said market Vitamin E acetate to vape oil manufacturers. The three companies are Honey Cut Labs LLC in Santa Monica, California; Floraplex Terpenes in Ypsilanti, Michigan; and Mass Terpenes in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Cuomo's office in a statement said the thickeners were being marketed as a "cheaper, safer alternative that does not negatively impact flavoring or odor" and "can be used to cut vape products to any level of THC."

Honey Cut and Mass Terpenes could not be reached for comment, while Floraplex did not respond to a request for comment.

The mass-terpenes.com website had a message to customers saying it was "alarmed" by reports that Vitamin E acetate had been linked to serious lung problems and will "cooperate fully" with state and federal health authorities. It added that the company has taken steps to ensure the website has no products containing Vitamin E acetate.

DISTINCT FROM AN 'E-CIGARETTE’

Illicit THC vaping pens or similar devices are distinct from e-cigarettes, such as those made by Juul Labs, which vaporize a nicotine-filled liquid.

Nicotine, the addictive ingredient in cigarettes and other tobacco products, can cause serious problems for brain development in adolescents. The liquid generally also contains propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and flavorings.

Juul says that research it sponsored found that smokers who switched to its product for a few days had far less exposure to certain harmful compounds in cigarettes. But the long-term health effects of inhaling aerosol with these ingredients remain largely unknown, and studies have indicated potential risks for cardiovascular disease and lung health.

While e-cigarettes are marketed as a means to help smokers quit or cut down, U.S health officials are concerned they are drawing a new generation into nicotine addiction.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member

Legal pot isn’t villain in vape-disease epidemic, but it could be the solution


The Food and Drug Administration was created more than a century ago because for many years, the food and drugs Americans consumed were causing them to fall ill and die. As future generations discovered, product safety standards — just like speed limits, seatbelt laws, and public smoking bans — tend to save lives. Regulation, while often messy and imperfect, tends to work.


This lesson is something to keep in mind when processing the outbreak of serious lung problems among vaporizer users still spreading across the United States. According to the latest estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vape-related lung disease “epidemic” has of Sept. 12 sickened at least 380 people across 36 states, six of whom have died. Like the Seattle-area team who is Washington state’s first confirmed case or the Los Angeles-area 18-year-old woman hospitalized last month, many victims appear to be otherwise healthy young people.


Amid the parade of victims, so far, no clear villains have emerged — aside from various parties’ predictable hobbyhorses. Out of this noise, only one reasonable explanation for the sickenings has emerged. Someone is out there selling unsafe products. Consumers need safe alternatives, or at least safer ones, and a guarantee that that’s what they’re getting.






Most people sickened have experienced symptoms consistent with “lipoid pneumonia,” a rare condition that occurs when fat particles enter the lungs, resulting in severe inflammation. The oils in certain liquids or other solutions used in vape cartridges could be the source of the inhaled fats. Could be, but we don’t know. And though the problem is yet to be identified, proposed solutions are coming hard and fast.


Libertarians who vape (and vote!) are casting President Donald Trump as a socialist turncoat for demanding a ban on flavored e-liquids while the FDA can hammer out reasonable regulations. The FDA, meanwhile, which has failed to regulate vaporizers of any kind and this summer announced that any regulations would have to wait until 2022, looks very much like the epitome of regulatory capture.


Public health officials, anti-smoking advocates and doctors, who for years have been consistently warning us for years that nobody knows the long (or even medium!) term effects of vaping, are showing restraint and not taking an enormous “I told you so” parade, instead advising us not to vape anything, ever, until we figure this out.


And since for some of us, all matters are cannabis, the country’s leading anti-legalization group capitalized on the fear and confusion to try and pin blame on “Big Marijuana” (despite the inconvenient truth that large or small, legal cannabis companies are forbidden from engaging in interstate commerce).


Because the vape illness outbreak is both poorly understood and affecting youth, it is the perfect trigger for a moral panic. And since they have affected a still-unknown amount of people, with the number changing daily, they are difficult to put in a rational context. THC products specifically and marijuana generally have received some blame — even though, as cannabis-industry trade groups pleaded for the public to remember, strictly regulated products bought in legal states have yet to be tied to any illnesses — and, it bears mentioning, the illness cluster in California occurred in a county that’s chosen to ban legal cannabis retail outlets entirely, leaving demand to be fulfilled instead by the underground market.


Meanwhile, authorities in Wisconsin have made what appears to be the nation’s first large-scale bust of an illicit vaping operation. According to Chicago-based ABC7, police arrested a pair of brothers who filled as many as 5,000 vapor cartridges per day with homemade THC oil — seizing 31,000 filled cartridges and 98,000 empties along with cash and “dozens of mason jars with THC,” the station reported.


It’s not yet known if the brothers’ cartridges, which sold for $16 each, were filled with any dangerous ingredients. But they could be! And it would appear that the mere existence of such a massive and massively profitable organization is proof that there is significant demand for vaporizer products, despite everything health officials have told us. The smart move, then, would seem to be what New York magazine business writer Josh Barro suggested on Sept. 11 and what presidential contender Julian Castro echoed: legalize cannabis, and regulate it strictly, just like what has been done at the state level. This is the same model followed when canned food and patent medicines were felling otherwise healthy Americans. It’s the model that the FDA has been failing to follow with JUUL pods. There is no legitimate reason why the regulators can’t step in and demand merchants follow strict standards and to fine them heavily if they do not while removing their products from the market. This appears to have worked in states with a regulated cannabis market. It can be done on a national level.


It may yet turn out that there’s some connection between vaping oil and suffering a lung ailment caused by excessive oil in the lungs. It might, it might not. What should happen is a recognition that the vaporizer epidemic exists on a long continuum. The free market, left to its own devices, will introduce all manner of products to consumers that may be dangerous or deadly. Profit is amoral in that way. Regulation may not solve everything overnight or halt wrongful or unfair deaths ever — ask any cyclist — but it seems obvious that it’s where action should start. In this, the FDA has been delinque
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Marijuana labs adding tests targeting Vitamin E acetate in response to vaping health scare

Cannabis testing labs around the country are adding more specific tests targeting an additive that’s been linked to the string of recent illnesses and deaths health authorities say are related to marijuana and tobacco vaping devices.
Although no definitive cause of the vaping-related issues has been identified, early reports have targeted the additive vitamin E acetate as a possible culprit, and several cannabis testing labs are working to develop methods to flag it if detected.
Cannabis laboratory officials also said the crisis surrounding vaping has underscored the need for industry-wide testing standards.
At Redmond, Washington-based cannabis testing facility Confidence Analytics, Laboratory Director Shannon Stevens said her company is developing a method to test for vitamin E acetate in the wake of reports that more than 450 people had become ill and that some were dying.
“We started working on this pretty much immediately,” she said.
Once her company finishes its work, clients who pay extra to check for additional compounds such as terpene content and pesticide levels will have the vitamin E test rolled into their service.
Edward Sawicki, CEO of Irvine, California-based Think20 Labs, said adding the vitamin E test won’t have an impact on his company’s bottom line.
“It’s not that hard of a test to run, and it’s not that expensive,” he added.
“We’ll probably eat the cost because we want to make sure the product is safe.”
Too Early To Tell
The exact cause of what’s making people sick is not yet known.
What is known is that vitamin E acetate transforms from an oil to a vapor when it reaches a high temperature. When the substance reaches the lungs through a vaping device, it then reverts to an oil state that could sicken the user.
“But it doesn’t hurt to double-check any of the ingredients,” said Ian Barringer, founder of Boulder, Colorado-based Rm3 Labs.
Barringer’s lab is developing a high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method for detecting and quantifying vitamin E acetate.
He said it will take weeks to develop the test..
At Keystone State Testing, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based cannabis testing company, Kelly Greenland, owner and chief science officer, said consumers should remain assured that products tested in her lab are safe.
But she said she can’t speak for other labs in the industry “because there are no real standards and no oversight.”
Keystone State Testing also will be adding the vitamin E acetate test, said Greenland.
The company also tests medical marijuana in North Dakota as Dakota State Testing.



“There needs to be a significant amount of studies because it’s so new,” Greenland said.
According to Greenland, marijuana manufacturers in Pennsylvania were notified by the state health department that vitamin E acetate has never been permitted in licensed cannabis products.
The recent rash of pulmonary illnesses tied to electronic vaping devices has reportedly caused six deaths and sickened more than 450 people in 33 states, with both e-cigarettes as well as illegal and legal marijuana vaping devices targeted as possible causes.
Here are steps being taken by the federal government and warnings sent out to consumers:
Testing Deficiencies
Cannabis testing labs don’t typically test how marijuana oil and the compounds that are added to it change after it’s vaporized.
According to Greenland, no state with a legal marijuana program requires labs to test the byproducts of vaping.
Vitamin E acetate, for example, is common in lotions and balms and as a nutritional supplement. But the effect on humans once it’s vaporized is unknown.
“Our lungs have never been designed to contact food-type oils,” said Stevens in Washington state.
She added that testing the product once it has been vaporized is a “complex proposition.”
Sawicki, who operates a lab in Maryland as well as the one in California, also said he’s not aware of any state that requires the product to be analyzed once it has been vaporized.
“It’s just not required now, and I think it’s something that needs to be done,” he said.
Call For Standards
The broader implications of the fallout from the vaping health scare are prompting some to comment on the lack of industrywide standards.
Each state requires labs to test for similar contaminants such as microbials or mycotoxins, but no unified standards govern the entire U.S. industry.
One reason: With cannabis still illegal at the federal level, a government agency such as the Food and Drug Administration can’t oversee how the products are produced and tested.
Barringer pointed out that while Colorado regulators conduct proficiency testing to ensure that all labs are reporting results consistent to one another, the state needs better regulations to ensure manufacturers can demonstrate the products are safe.
“We really need to get the (federal) prohibition ended so we can get these products regulated,” he said.
Stevens characterized the standardization of product testing in Washington state as “generally poor.”
“It’s not rigorous enough,” she said. “It’s been a bit of the Wild West on the vape market, both in the legal and illegal market.”
Russell Krupnitsky, chief operating officer of Keystone State Testing, said the average consumer isn’t thinking about approved, legal marijuana versus black-market cannabis.
He suggests that regulators operate a quality-assurance program where labs test products that are randomly pulled from cannabis retailers’ shelves.
But he cautioned against anyone jumping to conclusions.
“The most prudent thing for the industry to do will be to take a collective breath and wait for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to release its findings,” he said.
His colleague and wife, Greenland, would like to see action taken soon rather than later.
“I’m hoping this is an opportunity for regulators to step up their oversight before someone in Pennsylvania is reported sick or worse.”
 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
Journey of a Tainted Vape Cartridge: From China’s Labs to Your Lungs

A Leafly investigation details the contaminated supply chain for illicit market THC vape carts. (HighGradeRoots/iStock)

Leafly's investigation tracked a contaminated global supply chain for illicit market THC vape cartridges. (HighGradeRoots/iStock)

Jon Doneson started feeling ill on a Friday morning in June, after he arrived home in New York on a red-eye flight from the West Coast. He’d traveled to China, then to California, as part of his job managing the back office of his wife Susan’s apparel company. He hoped to re-acclimate to Eastern time, so rather than resting he went to the gym. But he became ill after his workout, vomiting violently and sweating heavily.

Doneson, 52, wrote it off to fatigue. In subsequent weeks Susan pointed out that he had a strange cough. But to Doneson it wasn’t particularly bothersome.

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Susan and Jon Doneson fought Jon’s strange lung illness for weeks. They didn’t suspect a THC vape pen until a pulmonologist noticed that he’d mentioned it on an intake form. (Courtesy of Jon Doneson)

Then, on August 12, he woke up around 5:30 a.m. feeling something different.

Jon Doneson was quarantined and fighting for his life. Then a pulmonologist recalled that he'd mentioned using a vape pen.

“The cough was actually very painful,” he says. He experienced night sweats. He had a fever and pain. His doctor diagnosed bronchitis, but the prescribed meds failed to dent the symptoms. At a follow-up visit, a chest X-ray indicated that Doneson had double pneumonia. This time his doctor prescribed doxycycline for the infection.

About ten days later, though, Doneson felt so awful that he asked his wife to take him to the doctor, who told him to go straight to the emergency room. When doctors at Manhasset’s North Shore University Hospital learned he’d recently visited China, they quarantined him and tested him for various ailments. All came back negative.

Next came a battery of nearly a dozen infectious disease specialists and Centers for Disease Control officials. They clustered around Doneson, who even in his feverish state knew how surreal the scene looked—bed-ridden in a pressurized room with a red quarantine sticker on the door. As he recalls it, “I was totally in disbelief.”

Sickened lungs show up as cloudy on the left x-ray, and clear after treatment of one suspected VAPI patient in Utah. (Courtesy University of Utah)

Sickened lungs show up as cloudy on the left x-ray, and clear after treatment of one suspected VAPI patient in Utah. (Courtesy University of Utah)

Doneson, a Queens native who now lives in Roslyn Heights, considers himself a healthy person. He runs and works out, doesn’t smoke, rarely drinks. He never dreamed he’d be the patient in a scene out of a Hollywood contagion movie.

As his situation worsened, doctors asked Susan Doneson to fill out a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ form. She was emotionally devastated. Jon tried to calm her. “Listen,” he told her, “I had a rock star of 52 years of a life.” But he wanted to stay alive for their 10-year-old son.

He might have died had a pulmonologist not noted a small detail while obtaining his medical history: Doneson said that a few months earlier, he’d started using a THC vape pen.

North America’s Illicit THC Vape Market

Illicit market THC carts containing high levels of vitamin E oil, confiscated in New York. (Courtesy New York State Department of Health)

Illicit market THC carts containing high levels of vitamin E oil, confiscated in New York. (Courtesy New York State Department of Health)

As the world now knows, a multi-billion dollar marketplace exists for illicit THC vaping devices and cartridges. Millions of street consumers use them, and unlike vape carts purchased in state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries and cannabis stores, illicit products lack regulation and mandatory testing for potency or purity. Recent reports have estimated that America’s legal, regulated cannabis industry accounts for only 22% of the nation’s $52 billion in cannabis purchases. The other 78% of the THC market remains untested and out of control.

Until this year, the health effects of street-purchased vape cartridges went largely unnoticed. It’s not clear whether that’s because doctors didn’t spot earlier vape-related lung irregularities, or if something dramatically changed in the vaped oil itself in the past few months. What we know is this: Near the end of 2018, a new additive entered the street THC vape cart supply. And hundreds of serious pulmonary injuries, and possibly as many as nine deaths, followed.

Public health officials and labs have discovered the new additive—a form of vitamin E oil used as a cutting agent—tainting a large amount of the devices that sick people reported using. At Leafly, we wanted to know how that additive entered the market, and why.



Our team of reporters and editors investigated the origin of the various components of a street-market THC vape cartridge. Ultimately, we were able to identify a contaminated supply chain that begins in the manufacturing centers of China, runs through the wholesale markets of downtown Los Angeles, disperses to regional pen-filling operations, and finally ends up in the hands of unsuspecting consumers like Jon Doneson.

The supply chain begins in China, runs through Los Angeles, disperses to regional pen factories, and ends up in the lungs of unsuspecting consumers.

It’s important to note that this supply chain is not coordinated or controlled by powerful drug cartels. Companies small and large operate independently at every link in the chain.

Along its journey each vape cartridge—also known as a cart—may pick up lead (the toxic heavy metal), pesticides, unsafe additives like vitamin E oil, and the residual solvent butane. Each of these ingredients can cause lung injury. As many as 50 million of these tainted carts may currently be circulating in the United States. Since the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) began tracking VAPI (vaping-associated lung injury) in July 2019, the agency has documented 530 confirmed or probable cases of injury. The CDC expects that number to climb.

Most VAPI victims used THC carts purchased in the illicit street market. Many used THC and nicotine carts, and some claim to have used nicotine only. All three products can be manufactured with the same hardware. The same supply chain that produces tainted THC vapes also yields dirty, counterfeit JUUL pods for the nicotine market, and tainted CBD carts for the CBD market.

Peter Hackett is the owner of Air Vapor Systems, a Concord, California-based company that imports vaporizer cartridges. He says it takes less effort to get into the fake JUUL or cheap CBD cart game than it does to get into the tainted THC cart game.

“It’s ten times easier,” he says. “You can buy nicotine on Amazon. Same for CBD. Every constituent up till the THC oil is exactly the same.”

Public health officials have raised the alarm about illicit THC vape cartridges for more than two months now. In early September, Leafly identified the suspected toxic substance—tocopheryl-acetate (vitamin E oil)—and the brand names of the vape cart additives containing it. Although some companies have stopped selling them, tocopheryl-acetate cutting agents remain largely available for purchase and in the illicit THC vape cart market still today.

Step 1: Cheap Hardware From Chinese Factories

Type in “empty” and “cartridge” into the e-commerce site Alibaba, and dozens of Chinese manufacturers pop up, offering to make them to order. The cheapest run about 59 cents per cart, if you order 10,000 or more. For a few pennies extra you can have a customized logo engraved on each tank. The same manufacturer will create packaging, too. Just say the word and send the money.

If you’re vaping something illicit, it was probably made in the Bao’An district of Shenzhen.

More than 95% of North America’s illicit vape pen hardware is manufactured in the Bao’An District of Shenzhen, China, says Peter Hackett, the industry expert who regularly does business there.

“If you’re vaping something, it was made in Bao’An in Shenzhen,” he says. “There’s over 1,000 factories and hundreds more [getting in the game] every day.”

Many factories are “little more than a collection of people trying not to starve,” added Hackett. “They’ll make you anything.”

Last year those factories were making fidget spinners. This year they’re turning out empty vape cartridges, fake JUUL pods, and counterfeit packaging.

Workers bundle those cartridges and packages, then shrink-wrap, pallet, and load them onto a cargo container ship. Twenty days later they arrive at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA, the busiest container port in the United States. From there, they go either to the direct-mail customer or to brokers in the Toy District in Los Angeles.

Step 2: The Los Angeles Wholesale Market

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Cheap imported vaping hardware can be had at wholesale volumes and prices in downtown Los Angeles. (David Downs/Leafly)

The center of North America’s illicit vape cart industry is a 12-block region near LA’s Skid Row. It’s known as the Toy District, because years ago it served as the center of America’s cheap wholesale toy industry. Today it remains the place to buy low-quality imported goods in large lots: toys, restaurant equipment, party supplies, votive candles.

LA's Toy District serves as the nation's cheap-goods wholesale market, and the vape stores are booming.

Between East 3rd and Boyd, it’s all vapes, vapes, and more vapes. It only takes a wad of cash and an hour of haggling to buy everything you need to begin harming consumers with an illicit market THC vape cart, a fake JUUL pod, or something advertised as CBD.

Why bother to purchase at a brick-and-mortar store when Alibaba can ship it direct? Because Alibaba requires a credit card and leaves a digital footprint. LA’s wholesale market deals in cash.

“If you sell $300,000 in [illicit vape] carts, you can’t walk into a bank with that. You have no stated business,” Hackett explains. “Third Street is an easy place to go in with dirty cash, and come out with more supplies.”

On Friday, Sept. 13, a Leafly investigative team wandered through this neighborhood spotting empty vape carts and counterfeit empty Juul pods. LA’s Toy District is not a high-rent neighborhood. Just blocks from ritzy new downtown condos, addicts openly inject drugs on the sidewalk. A homeless guy wanders in and out of street traffic without pants or underwear. You breath shallow in the thick car exhaust.

Each storefront is dingy, poorly lit, and stocked with disheveled, half-open cardboard boxes and sales racks. Big metal fans blow the hot air around, while radios buzz loud scratchy music. Every item you’d find in a head shop or vape shop, you’ll find here wholesale—like some loud, chaotic vape bazaar.

Vape Hardware: Cheap, Cheaper, Cheapest

Every type of vape cart, for wholesale in downtown LA. (David Downs/Leafly)

Every type of vape cart, for wholesale in downtown LA. (David Downs/Leafly)

Walking in and out of the rows of wholesale vape supply stores, we posed as aspiring vape pen makers, “just doing some pricing for our boss.”

In each store, a salesperson quickly walked up and peppered us with questions. “What you looking for? … What size? … Ceramic? … You need packaging? … Minimum order is 100. … Yeah, prices go down after 1,000 units. What brand you with?”

There is no difference between an empty vape cart destined to hold THC, versus one for nicotine, or CBD. It’s all for sale, from the same people, to anyone with cash.
It’s an open question whether the carts sold here would pass California’s tough adult-use cannabis testing standards. Since testing started on Jan. 1, 2019, labs have quarantined many vapes for too much lead—either because of the lead in the metal itself, or because factories wash the finished product in diesel fuel, which leaches lead into the carts.

Unsafe Additive Available Too

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Honey Cut advertised for sale alongside empty carts in downtown LA. (David Downs/Leafly)

In addition to the low quality hardware, LA’s Toy District vape wholesalers sell the dangerous additives not approved for human inhalation— including dubiously sourced terpene flavorings and hazardous diluent thickeners like vitamin E oil. You can also purchase more traditional diluents like propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, and vegetable glycerin.

Vitamin E acetate is still available for purchase in LA, despite health warnings.

These chemicals also get made in China. Many come in packaging labeled as “FDA-approved” and “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). But a previous Leafly investigation found that those designations, with regard to vitamin E oil, apply only in cases of oral ingestion (eating) or application to the skin, not for vaporization and inhalation. They comprise a tame part of the global cosmetics and supplements industries. Street markets divert the drums, pails, and gallon jugs of these chemicals into the vape channel.
Among all the additives, there’s one that makes every vendor in the Toy District tense up and start shaking their head: “Honey Cut.”After asking around, our local guide ‘Marcus’ reported that “you won’t find anyone down here selling it.” He said news reports have frightened it off the shelves. “They’re scared to sell it.”
https://www.leafly.com/news/health/vape-pen-lung-disease-vitamin-e-oil-explained

Honey Cut swept through the Toy District in late 2018. The groundbreaking product, produced by a mysterious company in Los Angeles, offered manufacturers the ability to cut THC oil concentrations by 50% to 70% without consumers noticing—because instead of thinning the viscosity of the vape oil, it actually thickened it. (Consumers use oil thickness as a proxy for purity.) Honey Cut is odorless, tasteless, and didn’t make consumers cough, so they could inhale it deep into their lungs. And it was cheap, too.
Why would manufacturers want to cut THC oil? The same reason they’d cut any street drug: to make more money. Thanks to the math of cutting, a vape cart maker could spend $50 to produce $4,800 in revenue. How? Hackett explains:

Take a liter of bulk THC oil—it’s pricey at $6,000. Now increase its volume by 30% with vitamin E oil (300 ml for $50). As long as no one notices, you now have 1,300 mls of THC oil worth $7,800, having spent just $50.

Furthermore, retail markup magnifies the profits of cutting. Each 1-gram street cart retails for $16. (A licensed, regulated, and tested cannabis oil vape cart in a legal adult-use state like California or Washington typically retails for $40 to $60.) So $16,000 in uncut oil becomes $20,800 in cut oil. You just made almost $5,000 extra dollars by adding $50 worth of invisible poison to the mix.

Honey Cut Inspired Copycats

Leafly has learned that as many as 40 brands—some legal, some not—quickly copied Honey Cut. They paid lab technicians to specify the chemical formula, and started selling their own versions. Some major, legitimate additive brands followed suit. Some initial sellers misread the research and FDA signal on the safety of vitamin E oil. Others didn’t care and just followed the fad to bank the profits.

Floraplex released Uber Thick— which two lab tests confirmed is vitamin E oil. Mass Terpenes put out Pure Diluent—also vitamin E oil, New York authorities said. And Mr Extractor of Oregon released Clear Cut—same thing. Vitamin E oil use peaked this summer, right as the VAPI poisonings ramped up. Vitamin E oil might be in 60-70% of street carts, insiders say.

We went to the The Terpene Lab at 330 E. 3rd St—the same place where Mr Extractor founder Drew Jones filmed a YouTube video advertising Clear Cut for use in heavy amounts, nationwide. The product name “Clear Cut” still sits on printed menus at the bar. But when we ask the salesperson for thickener, she asks a manager who quickly barks back, “No! We don’t have any! No!”

The makers of Honey Cut called every vendor in the Toy District after Leafly’s Sept. 7 article, which named Honey Cut as a potential cause of the injuries. The company told them to stop selling it: ‘It’s recalled. It’s not safe.’ Honey Cut’s website and ordering page disappeared.

Other manufacturers have since suspended sales of their thickeners. Floraplex and Mr Extractor no longer offer Uber Thick and Clear Cut, respectively.
Still, in the Toy District, one vendor offered to sell us thickener under the table, outside of the store.


At a store called Cali Kulture, we bought some of the last diluent thickener overtly for sale in the Toy District. It’s called Peak Terpenes Thicc Stretch and it’s priced at $90 for 30 milliliters. The label says it’s a secret mix of fruit, nuts, and other plant oils, and there’s a nut allergy warning. It’s clear, innocuous smelling, and viscous like honey.

Leafly had SC Labs, an independent cannabis testing company with laboratories in California and Oregon, analyze the substance. The report found that it’s almost all vitamin E oil. Peak Terpenes has since pulled the product from its online catalog.

“These products are great if you want to make beard oil,” says Arnaud Dumas de Rauly, a vape hardware expert at The Blinc Group. “The vitamin E oil acts as a preservative. It’s good for your skin. It’s not great for your lungs.”

Furthermore, that nut allergy warning won’t get passed down by the person who fills an illicit pen and sells it, De Rauly said. Just imagine what inhaling peanut oil would do to someone with a nut allergy. It could kill them.

Right after we bought Thicc Stretch, Cali Kulture staff got spooked and pulled the last of the red bottles off the shelf.

Fake Packaging Available Too

To illicit vape cart manufacturers, fake and counterfeit packaging is just as important as cheap hardware and thickeners. Street consumers also shop by brand, so Toy District stores compete to offer the most diverse array of counterfeit or popular street designs around. That includes the popular black market brands Dank Vapes and Chronic Carts, brand names with no actual company behind them. Wholesalers also offer counterfeits of packaging from legal licensed brands like Cookies, STIIZY, and Brass Knuckles.

At one wholesaler, a saleswoman asked a Leafly editor about the Connected Cannabis Co. T-shirt he wore. Connected is a popular state-licensed cultivator and retailer in California.

“Hey, where did you get that shirt? Do you work for them? No? Good, because if you did, I would have to throw you out.”

“Why?” the editor asked.

“We sell [counterfeits of] their bags,” she said, and smiled.

At a store called Cart Cartel, we were told they had sold out of Dank Vapes boxes. Their next shipment was due in the following Tuesday. “Call us first,” a salesman told us. “We always get the packages first around here.”

Counterfeit Supreme and Cookies packaging for sale in downtown L.A. (David Downs/Leafly)

Counterfeit packaging for sale in downtown Los Angeles. Supreme and Cookies are both popular state-licensed brands, and illicit manufacturers copy their design changes as soon as they’re made. (David Downs/Leafly)

We returned to one of the biggest, most prominent stores—Cali Kulture, at 306 Wall St.—where we haggled and agreed to buy Dank Vapes packaging, a minimum order of 1,000 packages, for $120.

At a smaller shop near Cali Kulture, we bought the exact Chronic Carts Runtz strain packaging found on a VAPI victim in New York. The dealer sold us 20 units for $2. His next-door neighbor took one of our team member’s mobile phone number and now sends regular texts advertising new products.

At the end of the day, here’s what we walked away with: five sample vape carts; 1,000 units of fake-brand packaging with professional-looking designs and names like DANK and Chronic Vape—the same bogus brand packages that public health officials have seized from VAPI patients injured in New York and California; and perhaps most disturbingly, we bought 30 milliliters of chemical cutting agent—known as thickener—weeks after Leafly identified them as a leading suspect in the lung injuries. These cutting agents were never approved for inhalation, and can cause an allergic or toxic lung reaction.

All of this hardware, chemicals, and packaging is technically legal until you put an illegal drug into it. We spent a total of $210. We kept the receipts.

Step 3: Regional Pen Factories

Los Angeles hosts the national hub for illicit cartridge parts and THC oil additives, but the cannabis oil that goes into those carts is manufactured in regional facilities around the country. This is often a house or condominium rented as a residential space, but secretly used as a butane hash oil manufacturing lab.

Contaminants coming from this process include concentrated pesticides like myclobutanil—which turns into toxic hydrogen cyanide when burned—as well as residual solvents like butane, propane, pentane, and hexane. All are known lung irritants.

These THC oil labs then wholesale bulk distillate via online sites, or through their own networks to “pen factories”—places that bring all these inputs together.

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Law enforcement officials allege this pen factory in Wisconsin stocked tens of thousands of fake-brand packages for illicit vape cartridges. (Courtesy of Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department)

Each pen factory might employ as many as a dozen workers at $10 to $20 an hour.

The setup at a house allegedly rented by the Huffhines brothers in Bristol, Wisconsin, seems typical. Bristol is a Kenosha County village about 40 miles south of Milwaukee. It’s a short commute east of the town of Paddock Lake, where Tyler Huffhines, age 20, and his older brother Jacob, 23, live with their parents.

Though barely out of his teens, Tyler already had a reputation as something of a business prodigy. The Kenosha News wrote a story about him in 2018 when the Central High School student ran his own online shoe company. The headline was, “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”

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Tyler Huffhines. (Courtesy Kenosha County Sheriff)

After graduation, law enforcement officials allege that Tyler pivoted from sneakers to illegal THC vape cartridges. According to the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office, the Huffhines brothers rented a condominium in Bristol and invested in tens of thousands of empty vape cartridges and product packaging.

Law enforcement officials contend that the Huffhines brothers purchased illicit-market cannabis oil from unlicensed producers in California, then combined it with other ingredients in the Bristol condo. Court documents state that deputies discovered 57 glass Mason jars filled with the oil when they searched the residence.

In locations like the Huffhines brothers’ Wisconsin condo, the cannabis oil can come in a variety of containers. Tocopheryl-acetate (vitamin E oil) is sold in volumes ranging from ounces to full metal drums. Workers cut the THC oil with vitamin E oil or other unsafe thickeners, add in some flavoring also not approved for inhalation, and syringe one milliliter of the mix into each 1-gram vape cartridge.

The filled cartridges get placed into pre-printed packaging material purchased from the Los Angeles wholesale markets. At the Huffhines condo in Wisconsin, thousands of filled vape carts were allegedly sealed into packages with the Dank Vapes and Chronic brands—exactly the kinds of boxes purchased by Leafly in LA’s Toy District. A law enforcement raid earlier this month at a similar illegal vape cart factory in Phoenix also yielded an oversized duffel bag holding hundreds of similar Dank Vapes boxes. Just yesterday, law enforcement officials seized 75,000 illegal vape carts at an alleged pen factory in Anoka County, Minnesota. They, too, were sealed in Dank Vapes packaging.

THC-Vape-packages-1.jpg

Chronic Carts, the same fake-brand packaging sold in the Los Angeles wholesale markets, turned up in the Wisconsin pen factory. (Courtesy of Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department)

Fake Brands Become ‘Real’ Through Repetition

Dank Vapes is not an actual brand or company. It’s a creation of packaging wholesalers. But when illegal vape cart makers in Wisconsin, Arizona, Minnesota, and other regional hubs buy them by the tens of thousands from LA wholesalers, they combine to form a bizarre sort of national brand presence. You might see Dank Vapes THC vape carts for sale in Michigan, Georgia, or Nebraska—but each contains a cart made by an independent street-market manufacturer. Dank Vapes itself does not exist.
'Dank Vapes' doesn't actually exist, but it's a brand name seen nationwide.

The Huffhines brothers’ operation in Briston, Wisconsin, allegedly moved a lot of units. The Kenosha County Sheriff estimates that they filled 5,000 cartridges a day. Investigators found 31,200 filled cartridges ready for shipping, along with 98,000 empty carts.

Carts from their operation may have sent consumers to the hospital. In late July, a man in his mid-20s checked in to Aurora Memorial Hospital in Burlington, Wisconsin—about 17 miles from Bristol. The man reported trouble breathing. Within 24 hours, doctors put him into a medically induced coma.

The man’s brother turned over a suspect vape cart and package to the authorities. It was a Dank Vapes cartridge. That same week, Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee reported treating eight patients with severe lung damage in the previous four weeks. The common thread: vaping street-market THC cartridges.

It took law enforcement officials seven weeks to trace a local supply of Dank Vapes cartridges back to their alleged source: The Huffhines brothers’ condo in Bristol. (Law enforcement officials have not directly linked the alleged Huffhines operation to the hospitalized man’s condition.) The brothers were arrested on Sept. 11 and now face multiple drug charges.

Step 4: Local Street Sellers

Regional pen factories move their product to retailers and consumers in a number of ways. THC pen factories retail directly to locals, or strangers online via social media and the dark web. They also wholesale to broker/distributors who move the vape carts to retail markets.

In New York City, the illicit vape market flourishes because legal products from medical dispensaries are limited and expensive.

Illicit THC vape cart retailers operate coast to coast—from the more than 2,800 unlicensed stores in California, to the fleets of drug couriers pedaling the streets of New York City, and plenty of local high school dealers in between.

In New York City, the illicit vape cart market flourishes in part because licensed, legal products from medical dispensaries are limited and extraordinarily expensive. A lab-tested medical marijuana vape cartridge that typically costs $40-$60 in California can run up to $165 in a New York City dispensary. That’s ten times the price of an illicit vape cart.

That price gap has created a thriving illegal industry selling carts through NYC’s clandestine delivery services, at pop-up cannabis markets, and in some corner bodegas.
Oleg MaryAces, director of education and marketing at Lock & Key Remedies, a New York-area CBD product maker, told Leafly that the Northeast saw a flood of cheap cannabis vape pens in early 2019.

“When California implemented its testing law, they had hundreds of thousands of vapes in warehouses that they could no longer sell because of pesticide regulations, he says. “So they dumped them in the Northeast. Prices dropped a lot, and it fueled the market here.”



Since the VAPI outbreak, New York’s illicit cannabis delivery services have used the health scare to assure their customers that their own products are clean. “They’re tested,” one delivery specialist told Leafly. (We agreed to not publish his name, for obvious legal reasons.) “There’s no vitamin E acetate.”

True? False? Nobody knows. His customers would have to take his word for it, as there is no testing documentation nor any regulations requiring same. “Some of my friends would buy oils from delis and stuff,” he added. “They were really cheap. I knew those would be bad quality. Why the fuck would you buy weed from your deli dude?”

Step 5: Consumption and Hospitalization

Once it made its way into New York City’s sprawling illicit vape cart market, a single tainted cartridge—or maybe several—made its way into Jon Doneson’s personal supply.

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Jon and Susan Doneson. (Courtesy of Jon Doneson)

Doneson, the middle-aged Long Island marketing expert, started experimenting with vaping a few months before his trip to China last summer.

A stranger introduced him to vape pens early in 2019 like many Americans have over the past year—at a party, randomly, when someone pulled one out and offered it to him. As a naturally high-octane guy who had recently plunged headlong into a start-up enterprise with his wife, he liked the idea of having access to something that relaxed him.

A few months later, he found his own supply.

Doneson declines to detail how he came to possess the vape pen and THC cartridge that caused his illness, but it wasn’t through the state’s licensed medical marijuana system. “I’m not going to name places,” he says. “I’m not going to name people, but they’re more available than one might think, okay? You know, it’s easier to get that for a 15-, 16-year-old than a six-pack of beer at the grocery store.”

Jon Doneson says he purchased vaping supplies on multiple occasions and never had any reason to suspect anything amiss about the product. 'It was like buying a carton of milk.'

He says he purchased vaping supplies on multiple occasions and never had any reason to suspect anything amiss about the product. He doesn’t recall the brand he used, but the vape pen that caused his illness came packaged in a “fancy box” that looked legitimate—“like buying a carton of milk… There’s no reason to second-guess or question anything.”

It worked for him. Doneson typically took a pull six or eight times a day. The THC vapor took the edge off in a way that left him fully functional and without the smell of cannabis on his breath. “I liked it,” he says. “It really did do the things they said it’d do.

Until, of course, it almost killed him. Vitamin E oil is thought to block the fluid lining of your lungs, like saran-wrapping them shut. The toxin kicks off an aggressive immune response to clear the contaminant, and if that response fails, runaway inflammation, fluid build-up, and cell damage increases until the lungs fail.

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An abnormal lung immune cell (left) filled with oil, versus a healthy immune cell (right). (Courtesy of Andrew Hansen MD, Jordan Valley Medical Center)

The pulmonologist who correctly diagnosed Doneson treated what the hospital later termed “a devastating lung illness” with a cocktail of antibiotics and steroids.
Doneson says that once he received the correct meds, his improved quickly. Early the next morning, he woke up in a dark room.

“I laid there literally for 10 minutes, trying to figure out, ‘Am I alive, dead? Am I in hell, heaven? Where the hell am I?’ Then I realized, I started laughing, I realized, ‘Wait a minute, not only am I alive, but I think I feel better.’”

The hospital discharged him the following day.

When Doneson’s vape pen cartridge was tested, the results came back positive for formaldehyde, pesticides, vitamin E, and THC.

Nine people have died in this country from vape devices in the past few months. Doneson came “very, very, very close to being number [ten],” he says. North Shore’s Annamaria Iakovou, a pulmonary and critical care physician, notes that over the past three months, her hospital has seen more than a dozen cases involving patients with similar symptoms.

Lessons Learned

At a certain point in this story, Leafly’s investigative team came to a dark realization: Now that we have nationwide surveillance and reporting in place, the CDC’s numbers of the sick and dead aren’t going to stop climbing until everyone in the United States who wants a clean THC vape cart can purchase one in a legal, licensed, and regulated store.

Alcohol prohibition’s end solved bathtub gin poisonings. But we’re still a ways away from the end of cannabis prohibition in the US. In a best case scenario, this VAPI outbreak could spur progress, and not retreat, because the facts are clear:
  • Legal adult access to tested cannabis in the US is already cleaning up the supply chain. Adult-use states have proven far more immune to this outbreak than prohibition states. Of the 530 confirmed and suspected cases, one is potentially linked to a licensed store, in Oregon, and five in Washington.
  • Most state cannabis regulators have recalled problematic products in the past. Over the last 18 months, California has quarantined more than 5,639 licensed cannabis batches for issues including labeling problems (2,379 batches), pesticides (1,585), residual solvents (339), and heavy metals (393). After VAPI news broke, regulators immediately moved to tighten ingredients disclosure requirements in Massachusetts. Oregon regulators told stores to pull suspicious products. Those measures are possible because regulation exists. The street market can’t do that, and won’t.
Meanwhile, the federal era of malignant neglect of the US cannabis supply chain must come to an end.

'Regulation, not prohibition, is the answer here. Black market, unregulated nicotine and cannabis products are the worst threat here.'
Sam Kamin, University of Denver law professor

“Regulation, not prohibition, is the answer here,” University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin wrote in response to the VAPI health crisis. “Black market, unregulated nicotine and cannabis products are the worst threat here.”

Jonathan Caulkins, a drug policy researcher at RAND, added: “If vapes are going to be allowed, then stronger testing, oversight, and regulations are needed, which presumably includes being tougher on violators, either with government action and/or with product liability lawsuits.”

President Obama and President Trump have both allowed states to legalize, one by one. Most 2020 presidential candidates support some form of legalization. Julian Castro recently became the first to directly connect a coherent federal policy to consumer safety. He tweeted on Sept. 11: “We need to legalize cannabis nationwide and properly regulate products in order to keep folks safe.”For legal, state-licensed companies, the VAPI health crisis has acted as a wakeup call. They must beef up their anti-counterfeiting technology and education programs. They’re distancing themselves from additives and thickeners—which must disappear from all legal products, immediately.


Finally, consumers have begun making healthy choices. Online message board Reddit’s page “fakecartridges” is full of consumers across the nation tossing their tainted carts in the trash.

In the legal markets, vape sales were down 15% in early September off the three-month average. Oregon in particular saw a staggering 65% drop in pen sales.

To Jon Doneson, now recovering at home on Long Island, the lesson of all this is clear: Until the United States begins to regulate the market for these products, avoid using them. He worries that even legitimate dispensaries might sell cartridges cut with toxic substances, either unknowingly or as a way of pumping up profits.

“Get rid of all your THC pens,” he says. “That’s it. You don’t know. It’s Russian roulette. You don’t know if it’s a good one or a bad one. So, why take the risk?”

“I’m sure the Chinese are putting a lot of product into American hands. A lot of bootlegs are coming in from out of the country. Wherever there’s money to be made, people are going to do what they can.”
 

felvapes

Well-Known Member
All this is one good thing about us being behind in the legal ways

We have weed and home made
No product here to make fake dangerous versions

We get to hear the issues from os first and hopefully avoid problems and cases that would help the fight against legalisation

Although I've seen a few interweb ads for vape carts here starting

Fresh squeezed rosin for me thanks and no bho versions

And I trust my own feco only
 

momofthegoons

Vapor Accessory Addict
Staff member
There is a news video in the article that could not be embedded.


CDC says vaping lung cases surge 52% in the last week to 805 with at least 12 deaths

  • An outbreak of a mysterious lung disease worsened over the last week with 805 confirmed or probable cases, a 52% surge over the previous week, the CDC says.
  • At least 12 people have died, the CDC says.
  • “Most patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC,” the agency says.

Vaping-related lung illness cases rise to 805 from 530, CDC says

An outbreak of a mysterious lung disease worsened over the last week with 805 confirmed or probable cases, a 52% surge over the previous week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

At least 12 people have died across 10 states, the CDC said, citing data compiled through Tuesday.

Health officials still don’t know what is making people sick. “Most patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC. Many patients have reported using THC and nicotine. Some have reported the use of e-cigarette products containing only nicotine,” CDC said.

The CDC confirmed 530 probable cases and seven deaths as of Sept. 17. The increase in cases from last week represents new cases and recent reporting of previously identified cases. Patients have been found in 46 states, up from 38 last week, and one U.S. territory.

The disease is impacting mostly men, and all reported cases have a history of e-cigarette or vaping use, health officials said. Two-thirds of the victims are ages 18 to 34 and 16% are under age 18, the CDC said.

Vapingdeathssofar.1569519693442.png


The CDC has dispatched more than 100 doctors and investigators to identify the specific cause of the deadly illness, which resembles a rare form of pneumonia. Early symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

U.S. lawmakers are seizing on the outbreak to scrutinize the e-cigarette industry. A House panel that is investigating the market leader Juul pressed a top CDC official on Tuesday for answers on what’s making people sick.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said President Donald Trump is preparing a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, which have been scrutinized by officials for their appeal to children.

State and local governments are already banning sales.

Michigan is the first state to ban sales of flavored e-cigarettes, while San Francisco became the first U.S. city to prohibit the sales of flavored e-cigarette products.

Public health officials, in the meantime, are urging consumers not to use e-cigarettes or other vaping products. The CDC also recommends not using vaping products off the street and not adding substances to products that are not intended by the manufacturer.
 

Baron23

Well-Known Member
Hydrogen cyanide found in black market vapes.

I think they actually found pesticides and in particular one that degenerates into Hydrogen Cyanide when burnt/heated.

Yes, I'm a nitpicker! hahaha

Good to note that in legal carts they found no heavy metals, pesticides, or Vit E.
 

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