If you’re buying THC vape oil from the illicit market, you may be putting yourself at risk. Maybe you’ve been getting your vape oil from your trusted ‘guy’ for months. Perhaps you found a fancy-looking vape cartridge at the pop-up market and bought it because, well, it looked legit. Even then, that vape oil may not be what it seems, even though it really, truly looks the part.
One of the big questions we need to ask is ‘why?’ Why is it so easy for black market vape oil to be passed off as the real thing? And, even more concerning, why are they so easy to get?
According to a recent article by Leafly, it’s estimated that Americans spend about $52 billion dollars on cannabis products. Of these products, only 22% are purchased from the legal cannabis industry. The other 78% of THC products sold are untested and not controlled.
With a lack of testing and regulation, illicit THC oils are being cut with toxic additives and exposed to dangerous pesticides. It’s no wonder that there are now upwards of 1,000 vaping-related lung injuries and 18 deaths caused by vaping.
So, why exactly is it so easy for these counterfeit, black market vape oils to be made, distributed, and sold to unsuspecting Americans? Here’s why:
Why Black Market Vape Oils Are So Easy To Mistake For The Real Thing
Counterfeit Packaging of Real Brands
It can be pretty difficult to tell if a vape cart is fake when it has the same exact packaging as the real thing. Well-known brands like STIIZY, Cookies, and Brass Knuckles are victims of copycats who are recreating the branding and packaging in order to fool buyers. Since the majority of the fake carts are sold below market price, buyers may think they’re getting a deal on name brands.
Fake Brands are Marketed Like the Real Thing
This is particularly true for ‘brands’ like Dank Vapes. Several cases of vaping lung injuries have been linked to Dank Vapes, which is in fact, not a real brand. The Dank packaging is sold to anyone who wants to buy it. Those people then fill their vape carts with untested concoctions of THC oil and thickeners, package them up, and sell them on the streets under the Dank Vapes name. This is done so often that many people may believe that they’re a legitimate company.
Trusted Dealers and Deliveries
If you have a ‘go-to’ person or service that delivers your vape carts, it’s likely that you’ve grown to trust them. The problem is that many of the people who are getting the THC oil off the illicit market don’t know where it’s coming from. In fact, they may have been lied to about the origins of the product, and are selling it to others in good faith. When people trust their dealer, they may be less likely to question the products their getting. Even legal states with delivery services can’t be sure that they’re always getting the real thing.
Pop-Up Markets and Bodegas Selling Illicit Oil
When stores and markets are selling vape oil, it can be hard to believe that they could harm you. Most of us have grown accustomed to trusting the things we buy in stores. However, black market carts are finding their way into legitimate businesses like bodegas and corner stores, as well as local markets.
How Black Market Oils are Made and Distributed
We know that illicit vape carts are causing illnesses and deaths. We also know why they’re so easily mistaken for the real thing. But how are these black market vape pens and cartridges made and distributed in the first place? Leafly recently released an investigative article in which they tracked the journey of tainted vape cartridges from creation to consumption.
These were some of the steps involved in the making of a black market vape cartridge.
Manufacturing in China
Empty vape carts are manufactured cheaply in Chinese factories, typically in the city of Shenzhen. There are more than 1,000 factories there, selling vape carts for as little as 59 cents a piece. These manufacturers can easily create fake packaging as well. Once an order has been placed, it will be shipped to the Port of Los Angeles as well as Long Beach. Unlike trusted factory partners in China, these factories are not testing for heavy metals, cartridge safety, or faulty parts which can be very dangerous.
Selling at the Wholesale Market in Los Angeles
Located near Skid Row in LA, the wholesale market spans 12 blocks and sells everything someone needs to make a black market vape pen. This is where you’ll find low-quality hardware, dangerous thickening agents like Vitamin E oil, and diluents like polyethylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and propylene glycol, which also come from China. This market is full of fake packaging and is one of the top places to get Dank Vapes boxes.
Illicit Cannabis Oil Manufacturing Operations
Cannabis oil that is used in black market vape carts is made all across the country. These ‘labs’ can operate inside condos or apartments that are rented out and secretly used to produce THC oil. This manufacturing process yields all types of harmful chemicals like cyanide, propane, butane, hexane, and pentane when the oil is burned. Once the illicit oil is made, it’s sold online, through personal networks, and to “pen factories,” which put the products together to be distributed.
Distribution to Street Sellers
Through the dark web or personal networks, distributors get their black market vape pens out to sellers. These people may be selling pens on the streets, in markets, online, or to their friends. Most street sellers won’t know what the oil is made of, nor where those ingredients came from.
As long as cannabis remains inaccessible to people around the U.S, there will be a market for illicit THC products. Now that it’s clear that vape carts and packaging are easily faked, and that THC oil can be easily mixed with toxic ingredients, it’s more important than ever to know what you’re buying. Stick with legal products, always ask questions, and keep your health top of mind.