With six deaths in the U.S. recently linked to counterfeit cannabis, consumers are looking for safer ways to use electronic vaping devices.
Because vapes do not produce clouds with the distinct cannabis odor, they are easier to use undetected. They also look like nicotine vaping devices. Thus, like bootleg movies, counterfeit cartridges have flooded the market.
“These unfortunate incidents reinforce the need for greater regulation, standardization, and oversight of the cannabis market…Consumers must be aware that not all products are created equal,” NORML’s (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Quality control testing is critical and only exists in the legally regulated marketplace.”
Individuals within the industry have known the issues with counterfeits for awhile. Many fake cartridges that look like those of respected brands are being manufactured in China and subsequently marketed on Instagram. Black market products can be filled with questionable chemicals along with cannabis oil prior to being sold. This is especially distressing to companies seeking to produce safe options.
For Armentano, none of the products sold on the black market are sufficiently safe. He compared it to other situations where one might find shoddy products on the black market.
“This is no different than any other market. If one buys a handbag from an unlicensed street vendor in New York City and the tag says “Gucci,” chances are that it isn’t. But if one buys a handbag on from a licensed, brick-and-mortar brand name retailer and that bag says “Gucci,” it most likely is,” said Armentano.
Because cannabis is prohibited, even the legal marketplaces cannot be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Armentano pointed out that the contents of most cannabis cartridges are largely unknown. He added that existing state regulations are inadequate and have not been testing for chemicals found in the bad batches.
“Products sold at licensed cannabis retailers in legal states that are manufactured by state-licensed entities, that are compliant with existing regulations, and that are lab-tested for purity prior to market are likely going to be of greater quality and safety than those that are not,” said Armentano.
Armentano explained that if cannabis was federally legal and acceptable, the FDA and other federal regulatory agencies would certainly have done so sooner.