I know it’s as grim for you to read these updates as it is for me to write them, but this is a huge story that just keeps growing in scope and seriousness, so here we are. Grab some indica, and let’s take another look at what’s up.
Diagnosed cases and deaths on the rise: The vaping related illness now has its own name: VAPI, short for Vaping Associated Pulmonary Injury. As of October 8, 2019, the CDC has reported 1,299 VAPI-related injuries, and 29 deaths. The cases have been reported in every state except Alaska, in addition to the US Virgin Islands.
Science News reports that “About three-fourths of the 573 patients for whom information was available reported using THC in their vapes three months prior to falling ill. About a third used only THC products, while others also used nicotine-containing products. About 13 percent exclusively vaped nicotine.”
The majority of the carts being blamed for VAPI cases are coming from the illicit marketplace.
Yet again, I implore you, do not purchase carts from any place other than licensed dispensaries. And as with all cannabis products, get to know your grower/processor/edible maker/etc.
I know that research can be time-consuming, boring, and frustrating, but just because a cart comes in a package with labeling which looks official, it may not be.
A friend in Nashville recently told me he trusts the carts sent to him from a “friend in LA”, asking if I was familiar with the Dank brand.
I shared with him my column on illicit carts, which looks at what Dank truly is—a company that produces empty carts and packaging, yet does not produce anything that actually goes into these carts.
While they are cheaper than what you find in dispensaries, they can also kill you, as Leafly writes:
“The Bureau of Cannabis Control raided a vape shop in Fresno, California on Sept. 25 and confiscated roughly 2,200 street market ‘Dank Vapes’ carts and packaging for 4,400 more. Many VAPI victims have reported using Dank Vapes carts.”
Not dying is worth an extra $10-20 per cart. Treat yo’self, and keep breathing.
What’s causing this? Short answer—we don’t fully know yet. Initial reports concluded a likely culprit was a thickening agent, Vitamin E Acetate, which Oregon neither tests for, nor bans in THC carts.
Leafly writes, “The FDA has received about 440 samples for testing… (finding) vitamin E acetate in at least 150 of them. The FDA is testing seized carts for THC, nicotine, cutting agents called diluents, additives, pesticides, opioids, poisons, and toxins.
One New York patient who tested his cart found it contained formaldehyde, pesticide, vitamin E oil, and ‘a little dab of THC.’
The California lab Cannasafe reports 10 out of 10 vape carts from California illicit stores tested positive for tocopheryl-acetate, some as high as 40 percent. FDA testing has found tocopheryl-acetate cuts of 31 percent to 88 percent.”
A Colorado lab, Green Lab, believes the cause is connected to heavy metal poisoning, which differs from what your mother thought would happen if she let you go see that Judas Priest/Ozzy Osbourne double bill when you were 13.
As Merry Jane reports, the poisoning in this case is “cadmium pneumonitis, a rare lung disease caused by inhaling heavy metal fumes.” The metal responsible is cadmium, used in vape carts alloys as a solder.
Green Lab reports that the alloy is primarily found in the cheapest carts made, another reason to upgrade not only the carts but the hardware you’re using to vape.
On the local front: Beginning today, October 15, Oregon implements a six-month ban on “all tobacco and cannabis (marijuana and hemp) vaping products that contain natural or artificial flavors, including, but not limited to: Chocolate, Coffee, Cocoa, Menthol, Mint, Wintergreen, Vanilla, Honey, Coconut, Licorice, Nuts, Fruit, Any candy, Dessert, Alcoholic, Nonalcoholic beverage, Herb, and Spice.”
From Marijuana Business Daily: “Unflavored THC products or those that use only marijuana-derived flavorings, including terpenes, are excluded from the ban… Authorities said a primary concern is artificial terpene mixes with fillers that are undisclosed and appear to be unsafe for vaping.”
Meanwhile, bad actors gonna act bad: Recent actions in California have cast a light onto the idea that it’s possible some of the illicit carts are coming from… the licit marketplace.
Leafly reports that a California brand with a stupid AF name, Kushy Punch, has been pulling some rather shady shit. Namely, authorities accuse them of having a second unregulated production facility, making and selling illicit carts.
And not just a few for friends. Leafly reports that law enforcement “seized a number of finished products, including gummies in Kushy Punch packaging and 7,200 disposable vaporizers in Kushy Vape packaging with an estimated street value of $21 million.”
Leafly’s source for the story broke down how it worked: Cannabis that passed California’s stringent testing requirements was purchased and processed by the licensed Kushy Punch facility. Cannabis that did not pass testing, often due to pesticides, was diverted into the unregulated facility. The source says, “This is where they have all black market operations going. They are using untested black market oil that is heavy in pesticide.”
How is this happening? From Leafly:
“Licensees can perform private ‘research and development’ lab testing to isolate dirty cannabis before it’s sent down the supply chain.
Operators are supposed to destroy dirty stock, but California’s statewide track-and-trace system has yet to get up and running—and may still be months away. Without that system, it’s easy to divert tainted cannabis.”
Vape industry expert Peter Hackett, founder of the law-abiding California company AirVapor, explains the logic of selling out the back door.
If a licensed company fails R&D lab testing on 30,000 vape carts at $50 retail each, do they just throw away $1.5 million? ‘Hell no,’ says Hackett. ‘That’s going to get redirected into the underground black market network.'”