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Black market marijuana vape pens were cut with deadly additives, California regulator says

Sacramento Bee

By Andrew Sheeler

January 27 2020


California black market marijuana retailers have sold vape cartridges that were cut with undisclosed additives — including one chemical linked to a deadly outbreak —according to a state law enforcement department.


The Bureau of Cannabis Control in December seized more than 10,000 vape cartridges during a series of raids on illicit marijuana retailers in the Los Angeles last December, one of several dozen raids that the bureau conducted in 2019.


The California Department of Public Health then tested the products and found that some of them were cut with undisclosed additives, such as vitamin E, vitamin E acetate, propylene glycol (PG), polyethylene glycol (PEG) and medium chain triglycerides (MCT). Some samples were as much as 30 percent additive.


Vitamin E acetate is strongly linked to the vaping illness outbreak that has resulted in several deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


“The prevalence of dirty and dangerous vape pens at unlicensed cannabis stores demonstrate how important it is for consumers to purchase cannabis goods from licensed retailers, which are required to sell products that meet state testing and labeling standards,” Bureau of Cannabis Control Chief Lori Ajax said in a statement.


The illegal retailers also mislabeled the THC content of nearly all the products seized, according to the bureau.


In examples given by the bureau, one cartridge labeled as 80-85 percent THC actually tested for 33 percent THC, while another cartridge labeled 90.66 percent THC actually contained just 40 percent THC.


“Some vape products seized from the unlicensed stores contained as little as 18 percent THC,” according to a bureau release.


The bureau in December launched a program that calls on licensed cannabis retailers to display a QR code linking to their license status in their storefront window. The bureau also is pursuing an emergency regulation that would make that display mandatory.

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