CDC: Most Vape-Related Illnesses Caused by Illicit Market Devices

CDC: Most Vape-Related Illnesses Caused by Illicit Market Devices

With recreational marijuana only legal in 11 states, and no federal testing regulations in place, let’s face it; there’s ample opportunity for a flourishing black market. The recent health scare related to vaping is proof positive. Health officials report that the majority of vape health-related issues correlate to counterfeit marijuana products obtained from the black market.

The majority of those affected in Illinois and Wisconsin — which were the first two states to report illnesses — said they were sickened by inhaling THC-containing vape products bought from the illicit market, and not licensed companies.

Marijuana industry officials place blame squarely on the black market. Overall, there have been 1,299 illnesses and over 26 deaths related to vaping (reported as of October 10). A report issued by the Centers for Disease Control highlights what has been a hot debate topic since August, when the first illness reports came to light.

Industry officials are critical of recent efforts by states like Massachusetts, who are imposing time-specific bans on the sale of all vaping products. The Cannabis Trade Federation, in a statement, said, “By banning cannabis vape products that are produced according to state regulations, it significantly increases the likelihood that individuals will seek to purchase those products from unregulated sources.”

In the CDC report, some that reported illness admitted using products containing THC in addition to other products, some reported using THC-exclusive products, and others reported using a combination of THC and e-cigarettes containing nicotine. It’s still unknown whether the cause of the illnesses is related to a specific brand, THC, or a substance associated with pre-filled THC cartridges (like the additive vitamin E acetate), but Dank Vapes came up consistently — the counterfeit THC cartridges were mentioned by over 60% of those interviewed, and can be purchased easily online.

Officials that interviewed patients in Illinois and Wisconsin learned that over 85% reported using THC-containing vape pens obtained from the illicit market within three months of getting sick. The CDC report noted, “These data reveal a predominant use of pre-filled THC cartridges sold through informal and unregulated markets, although the origin of these products further back in the production and distribution chain is unknown.”

Best practice? Be an active consumer. Check the ingredients in the vape and find the source of hardware, ensuring it’s from a reputable source. Many black market vape devices might just heat oil that in turn creates carcinogens, which is absorbed directly into the lungs.

About Brian Ellis

With 6 years' experience in business journalism, Brian is the person we turn to for anything related to the business of cannabis. His news coverage spans topics including marijuana business and finance. Brian's work features on, and