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Vape Fakes: The dangers of Shared State Cannabis Markets


We are at a crossroads again as a country, letting the market have regulations drawn during crisis while being at the scrutiny of the ever watchful eye of law enforcement. A wave of black-market cartridges has hit the United States is being blamed for recently causing multiple hospitalizations and deaths. Every major retailer in Arizona has issued a statement to not engage any cartridges not purchased from a state-approved and licensed dispensary. The influx of grey and black market products has been a constant in Arizona. I have been well connected enough to have the ability to source information on any potential scams. Some being blatant open market, often counterfeited brands: Super Mario Carts, Cart-Night, Fort-Carts, Runtz, Skittlez, Zonka Candy Oil, Wonka Oil, these will even include imposters of reputable Arizona brands like K.I.N.D. or Dr. Zodiaks. Cheap flash packaging can be easy to spot in scams and safety is simple as some basic knowledge of cartridge technology like the C-Cell style of cartridge. The Jupiter battery is also common to encounter with modern C-Cell cartridges which will all be branded and only sold at reputable vendors. Learning to spot the fakes, and ask questions about anything else in your vape products will allow you the ability to shop with confidence.

  1. Only buy reputable brands from reputable dispensaries.

  2. Only buy brands that provide a full ingredient list, of which no questionable additives are present.

  3. Only buy brands that provide 3rd party laboratory testing including tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and adulterants. *Required by all AZ MMJ producers starting November 2020

  4. Learn to identify C-Cell cartridges, a fake C-Cell cartridge is a sign of tainted product.

  5. Only consume your own medicine, or medicine from a trusted source. Do not consume anything that you can’t verify the origin.

The best advice will always be to purchase any medication or device from a state licensed dispensary or caregiver. If possible, you always should be able to ask for testing when available and able to ask questions about the contents from your budtenders. Often distillate pens will be comprised of 91% or more THC, with any remaining water weight being terpenes that are lab tested as well as approved safe for consumption by vaping. The counterfeit cartridges being found and tested are containing many additives not used for medicinal products carried by dispensaries. Instead they are finding carts that are laced with nicotine, synthetic vitamin E acetate, and various other cutting agents that are often tested for. These synthetic additives have also been shown to contain trace amounts of lead and mercury when combusted. The idea that you will be able to first, find a medical grade distillate on the street, and then confirm it was indeed made in a clean, properly regulated facility, is farfetched. A dispensary will always be a safer bet than meeting someone via Snapchat for material that you don’t know the source of. Too often, I am finding some new entrepreneur hitting my Instagram handle with a great deal on bulk vape cartridges.

Having a brand, and that brand having packaging will never make it State ATO (Authority to Operate) official. I am also inundated with people trying to sell me carts from a brand I know, but for far less than expected. These fake cartridges along with imitation packaging are red flags to conserve your money and save your health by instead buying at legitimate retailers. You can often see in the knock offs, they will cut corners or try to save money on fake packaging. Check the product, if the merchandising is legitimate, it will not have partial coverage for foil wrapped graphics. Major vendors take the extra steps to remain legal; lab regulated, and will not skip on proper packaging of their products. Inspect the products, looking for any inconsistencies, and try to ask questions about its source. I like to inquire about extraction method and if any additives are included, if there is information or testing, I will take the time to verify. Avoiding potential scams and preventing potential harm buying cartridges with dubious origin, by instead getting legal with a medical card and start shopping in the regulated market.

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