San Diego study: Vast majority of illegal cannabis vape cartridges ‘unfit for consumption’

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Cases of vape-related illnesses are finally starting to slow down. In the wake of the health scare that affected some 2,500 people nationwide, San Diego researchers are starting to explore the true severity of product contamination. Based on the results of a vape study released by a local cannabis-testing laboratory, a frightening amount of dispensary-stocked cartridges are officially “unfit for consumption.” 

Vape cartridge manufacturing company Platinum Vape joined forces with San Diego-based cannabis dispensary called Mankind to investigate the level of contamination in THC oils; THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a psychotropic mind-altering derivative of the cannabis plant that is responsible for making consumers feel “baked”, “stoned” or “high”. George Sadler is co-founder of the company, which prides itself on producing potent, lab-tested cannabis products.

“It’s horrible. It’s doing so much harm to people, versus walking into a licensed store,” Sadler told 10News reporters. He hopes to raise awareness about the dangers of consuming oils that have been produced by unlicensed vape manufacturers and retailers. “I think the exposure needs to be there for people to really understand what’s happening.”

Vape study: Manufacturing company tests counterfeit products from licensed dispensary

The recently-conducted vape study saw Platinum Vape purchase a wide range of cannabis concentrates and cartridges from the San Diego cannabis dispensary; many of which were counterfeited products mimicking well known brands or homemade concentrates. As part of the joint effort, Mankind’s customers were able to purchase Platinum Vape’s lab-tested and regulated cartridges for discounted prices. 

“We wanted to encourage [customers] to replace something that could make them sick with something that was safe,” said Mankind’s Chief Operating Officer, Vera Levitt.

Once the vape cartridges had been acquired by the manufacturer, they were transferred to a laboratory setting owned and operated by Infinite Chemical Analysis Labs, A.K.A. “InfiniteCAL”. Inside the local cannabis-testing lab, scientists carefully analyzed the concentrated vape products for any traces of heavy metals and pesticides. Additionally, testing was conducted to determine the overall THC potency.

What they discovered was alarming — 79 percent of the vape cartridges were unsafe for human consumption. Moreover, approximately 62 percent of the tested vape concentrates were contaminated with pesticides and 40 percent were found to contain dangerous amounts of lead.

“[Were there] toxic levels of lead?” 10News reporters questioned the co-founder of InfiniteCAL, David Marelius.

“One of the vape pens had almost a hundred times the legal limit,” Marelius responded.

Vape study: Concentrated products cut with vitamin E acetate, contained low levels of THC

Not only did this San Diego vape study uncover an alarming level of pesticide and heavy metal contamination but also, the team noted that half of all tested products contain less than 50 percent THC. Since consumers are seeking out this particular cannabinoid when purchasing vape products, the results are concerning. 

Moreover, the test results suggest that manufacturers are cutting their products with alternative and potentially harmful ingredients. One of the ingredients detected in the vape concentrates procured from Mankind cannabis dispensary was vitamin E acetate; an ingredient deemed to have caused the serious and often fatal respiratory illnesses that have spread across the U.S. According to Marelius, “20 percent of them had a significant amount.” 

“It’s sad for me. Public safety is a really important part of what we do and what we believe in,” said Levitt, who advises consumers to find suppliers that test their products in accordance with the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (CBCC) like Platinum Vape does. She says that consumers can steer clear of buying contaminated products if they stick to licensed dispensaries. 

Practice caution when finding licensed cannabis dispensaries in your area by researching their status online before making a purchase. Various websites – such as this one – feature useful tools for assessing a company’s licensing status.