In response to recent reports of illicit vapes causing severe illnesses and deaths, we want to address the main contributors of the issue so you can continue to consume your cannabis with confidence and safety. 

1. The Black Market

According to reports, the majority of affected products purchased came from the black market. Black market products are prominent among cannabis users as they are easily accessible online and in illegal storefronts, and are often sold at lower costs than their legal counterparts. These illicit vendors get away with lower prices because they are not regulated and therefore, do not have to pay to have their products tested for contaminants. Furthermore, many of these black-market vendors add cheap, harmful ingredients to their products--like the cutting agent Vitamin E--to cut costs and save money. 

What you should do: Only buy products from legal, licensed shops. You can verify whether a shop is legal using your state’s official website to confirm the license number or through Leafly's store locator.  

2. Cutting Agents 

Cutting agents are chemicals used to dilute or adulterate a product. Many black market vendors add cutting agents such as PG, PEG, VG, MCT oil, and Vitamin E, to their oil to increase the volume and viscosity while saving costs. Although many of these additives are considered as generally safe to consume through digestion, it does not necessarily make them safe for inhalation.

What you should do: Stick to legal, licensed brands that are reliable and have been around for a few years. Check what ingredients they add to their products or ask them if you cannot find an ingredient list. Do not purchase any products sold outside of a licensed store. 

3. The Federal Ban on Cannabis

The main culprit behind the thriving black market is legalization -- or the lack thereof. Cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 Drug, the same classification as heroin and LSD, making it federally illegal. Without federal legalization, the FDA does not have the authority to monitor or regulate cannabis products, resulting in health issues like the illnesses the CDC are currently reporting. The ban also leaves many consumers in states slow to legalize without any options but black market products. 

What you should do: Continue urging your federal government to legalize cannabis. Support legal shops and do not purchase from the black market. 


Written by Sarah Berrafato