So he started having cartridges from unlicensed

The vaping black market is hiding in plainsight

From the outside, the store is clearly marked. Inside, rows of colorful products are on display. As far as any average shopper on this street in California can tell, this is a legal cannabis shop.

Even in a state where it’s legal to buy, sell and use recreational cannabis, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (CBCC) says there are still unlicensed and illegal stores operating openly Discount Replica Louis Vuitton Bags selling untested, potentially dangerous products, including high quality designer replica handbags THC vaping cartridges.

“It is difficult for consumers to know which shops are operating legally,” said Mark Hoashi, founder of Doja, an app that has been called the Yelp of cannabis.

Hoashi walks through a legal cannabis shop called Chronic Pain Releaf. It looks like a hip pharmacy complete with exposed brick and staffers they call aaa replica designer handbags budtenders. Throughout the visit, he repeats his mantra: “Buy legal.”

“I believe that legal vape cartridges are safe. Every drop of cannabis, from the seed all the way to when it’s consumed, is documented and reported to the state not to mention all of the testing that is required for a product to make it to a legal dispensary,” Hoashi said.

But Hoashi cautions it’s not that easy to know if you’re 1:1 replica handbags buying from the legal market since some illegal shops can look just like the legal ones, even displaying counterfeit replica louis vuitton handbags licenses and charging tax to make them seem legitimate.

This poses a replica louis vuitton danger to consumers, Hoashi said. About a year ago, he noticed that users on his app were reporting symptoms such as headaches and nausea after vaping various cartridges. So he started having cartridges from unlicensed stores tested at a certified lab and posting the results on Instagram. What he found was that most contained illegal levels of pesticides and heavy metals. Hoashi said many of them also contain cutting agents that help keep the price down.

While all black market cartridges might not test positive for these illegal amounts of particular substances, the current nationwide outbreak of vaping related illnesses and deaths is underlining a need for transparency when it comes to the products consumers are buying.

CNN obtained five THC cartridges from an illegal vape shop and had their contents tested at BelCosta Labs, one of California’s certified labs that approves cannabis products for consumer use. The results showed that the cartridges all contained a variety of pesticides that exceed the legal amount.

“When you concentrate the THC, you concentrate everything along with it,” said Myron Ronay, who runs BelCosta Labs. “So every pesticide that could’ve been in that plant material if it went from, let’s just say 20% THC, and now you’ve concentrated it to 80% THC you’ve also concentrated the pesticides high quality replica handbags china that same amount.”

Finding the culprit

Official testing laboratories in California are required to test for cannabinoids, the active ingredient in cannabis, but also a number of substances including pesticides, various fungal and Fake Louis Vuitton Replica Bags bacterial contaminants, heavy metals and other chemicals, according to CBCC.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s investigation into a recent outbreak of vaping related injuries identified vitamin E acetate as a chemical of concern, although officials have said there may be more than fake designer bags one cause and that they are investigating many different substances and product sources.

Vitamin E acetate is generally considered harmless in foods, supplements and lotions, but inhaling it “may interfere with normal lung functioning,” according to the CDC. In THC containing vaping products, it has been used as a thickening agent a way to pass what’s known as “the bubble test.”

“You take a cartridge and you flip it over,” Ronay explained. If the Discount Replica Louis Vuitton Bags bubble moves too fast, people might assume it’s been diluted with some kind of additive. So some black market sellers turned to vitamin E acetate which is more viscous and resembles THC distillate to cut their product while still passing the bubble test.

The CBCC doesn’t currently require labs to test for vitamin E acetate , but said it’s now under consideration.

Ronay said a product’s potency is one good way to tell if there’s a cutting agent present. A typical legal THC cartridge might have 70 90% pure THC distillate with the rest containing terpenes aromatic oils which give it flavor. Illegally cut cartridges might have only 40 50% pure THC distillate, with the rest being filled with terpenes and something like vitamin E acetate.

Ronay said it’s hard to keep up because the black market is a moving target and vitamin E acetate is already being used less frequently than it was a few months ago.

“From what I’m hearing now, it’s going away. And we’re not seeing as much, even in the illicit market. But it’s still a major issue,” he replica designer handbags said. “They may be on to the next cutting agent.”

Spotting a fake

Think you can tell a black market THC product from one that’s made legally? It might be harder than you think.

“The black market very much looks like a regular market in packaging,” said Art Kushkyan, founder of Pure, a legal THC vaping product manufacturer. “It has a name. It has a nice logo. It has colorful packaging.”

Just like illegal stores, illegal products look good on the surface. They might be professionally packaged and they sometimes are counterfeits of legitimate brands, like the fake Louis Vuitton bags of the vaping world.

Kushkyan experienced this first hand when he realized replicas of his brand’s own packaging were available for purchase online.

“It was infuriating to find out that anyone could purchase a packaging and a cartridge that looks like ours, fill it and sell it without us even knowing it,” Kushkyan said. “It definitely affects us as a brand. It affects our reputation. It affects our bottom line. But most importantly, it creates a possible danger [to] the public, consuming products that are untested.”

So how can you tell something is a legal, tested product?

First, it would come from a legal store assuming, of course, that you’re in the District of Columbia or one of the 11 states where recreational THC use is legal: Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois fake designer bags Discount Replica Louis Vuitton Bags , Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

In California, the best way to know if a store is legal is to look up a business on the Bureau of Cannabis Control’s website.

Other states with legal recreational cannabis industries also keep public registries of businesses with licenses to sell marijuana products, including the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the Colorado Department of Revenue.

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