Counterfeit pot vapes flood market amid illnesses

(17 Sep 2019) FOR CLEAN VERSION SEE STORY NUMBER: apus123594

A version of an e-cigarette that vaporizes high-inducing oil derived from marijuana is one of the hottest-selling items in the cannabis economy.
But it also is contributing to a growing national health crisis around vaping.
Hundreds of people have been sickened. At least six died.
And experts don’t know why.
SOUNDBITE (English) Robert Strongin, Portland State University
“We just don’t know. It could be the materials themselves, it could be degradation products from heating during the aerosolization process.”
Robert Strongin, a professor of organic chemistry at Portland State University, has been studying vaping since 2013.
SOUNDBITE (English) Robert Strongi, Portland State University:
“There’s a huge gap in prevalence and usage right now. The usage is so far ahead of the science. We’ve got a long ways to go before we catch up.”
While the source hasn’t been identified, many of those who became ill said they’d been vaping THC, the chemical that gives marijuana its high.
Counterfeit products that are easy to find often look identical to legitimate products that have undergone testing.
SOUNDBITE (English) Robert Strongi, Portland State University:
“If there are pirate labs involved, you can have some really bad impurities.”
SOUNDBITE (English) Adam Spiker, executive director, Southern California Coalition (cannabis trade organization):
“I would worry that there’s a generalization that vaping is vaping and that the sales of vaping are one in the same when there’s a very distinct difference of what a licensed operator goes through.”
A Los Angeles Police Department spokesman said the agency is aware of counterfeit vapes on the market,
but that the LAPD’s chief focus right now is closing the hundreds of illegal dispensaries across the city.
Similar concerns are emerging about vapes containing CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabis ingredient with unproven health claims.
The Associated Press sent 30 samples of CBBD vape oils to a lab. A third came back positive for synthetic marijuana.
SOUNDBITE (English) James Neal-Kababick, Flora Research Laboratories:
“These compounds, some of them are extremely potent. Some of them are over 700-plus times as potent as THC.”

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