“SAN FRANCISCO—During alcohol prohibition, drinkers had to worry about getting sick and dying from “bathtub gin.” This week, vapers are learning of similar quality control issues with cannabis oil vape cartridges purchased on the illegal market.
A rash of tainted THC vape cartridge poisonings is thought to have claimed one life in Illinois and caused lung inhalation injuries to as many as 215 people in 25 states, according to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conference call last Friday, and updates Aug. 30.
California now has 24 suspected cases of the hyper-inflammatory lung response, first identified by doctors in the Central Valley town of Hanford on Aug. 14 after recognizing that seven young adults had all suffered from sudden acute respiratory distress in the past month. The common thread: Each patient had purchased disposable, THC-filled vaporizer cartridges from illegal street markets.
Nearly All Cases in the Illegal States
Most importantly, no cases are associated with adult-use or medical cannabis products from legal state-licensed stores. Almost all affected states do not have adult-use legalization in effect. They include Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. Additional states are pending verification. The California incidents occurred in Kings County, which has banned licensed cannabis stores.
West Coast Carts, Dank Vapes Named
In Wisconsin, a family member of a victim there said another suspected tainted cartridge came from an illicit-market brand called “Dank Vapes.” Medical and adult-use cannabis products are not legal in Wisconsin.
Neither brand is traceable to a single company. Outside of a state-regulated system, anyone can order vape packaging and fill it with their choice of ingredients.
The CDC is not sure whether the national reports are all linked to a common contaminant or a combination of toxins. Officials are not sure if every patient has the same illness or when the series of respiratory injuries really began. They’re just starting to coordinate information collection among the states, agency officials said last Friday.
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