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California Lab Finds Nearly 80% Of Illicit Cannabis Vape Cartridges Are 'Unfit For Consumption'

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Mar 09, 2020   
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Four out of five cannabis vape cartridges sourced from the illicit market are dangerously contaminated, a San Diego-based testing lab has found.

After testing the cartridges for contaminants, analysts from Infinite Chemical Analysis Labs found that 62 percent failed for pesticides and almost 40 percent failed for lead. Ultimately, 79 percent of the cartridges were deemed “unfit for consumption.”

Smoke and errors

The cartridges were sourced from Platinum Vape, an e-cigarette manufacturing company in San Diego. In an initiative meant to entice consumers away from the illicit market, Platinum Vape collaborated with the local licensed dispensary Mankind; by exchanging their black-market cannabis cartridges at Mankind, customers would receive discounted (and tested) Platinum Vape cartridges.

These relinquished cartridges were then sent to Infinite Chemical Analysis Labs, which found that 20 percent of the products were cut with excessive levels of vitamin E acetate, the additive strongly linked to the recent vaping illness outbreak.

“One of the vape pens had almost a hundred times the legal limit [of lead],” David Marelius, Infinite Chemical Analysis Labs’ co-founder, told 10News.

The lab also discovered that half of the products contained less than 50 percent THC.

Illicit and complicit

The levels of contaminants reported by Infinite Chemical Analysis Labs are far higher than recent figures found in California’s legal, tested cannabis market.

From the week spanning February 21 to 28, 2020, 1,567 legal cannabis samples from California were tested by the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC); just 38 failed inspection (2.4 percent). Of these rejections, 15 were due to pesticide levels, 14 were due to the presence of heavy metals, 8 because of microbial impurities, and 1 related to water activity, according to the BCC.

And with regards to vitamin E acetate, two separate studies conducted last year by commercial testing labs found that the thickening agent was entirely absent from the legal cannabis vaping market in California.

For these reasons, cannabis analysts say that the legal market is a much safer option for customers.

“Vitamin E acetate is very heavily used in the illegal vaping market; 20, 30, 60 percent of a cartridge could be vitamin E acetate,” Dr Swetha Kaul, vice president of the board of directors at the California Cannabis Industry Association, told Analytical Cannabis last October.

“The safer option is to shop [for] legal, tested products,” she continued.

Leo Bear-McGuinness

Science Writer & Editor

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a Bachelor's in Biology from Newcastle University and a Master's in Science Communication from the University of Edinburgh.


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