California officials announced Monday that marijuana vape cartridges seized in illegal shops in Los Angeles contained potentially dangerous additives, including a thickening agent blamed for a national outbreak of deadly lung illnesses tied to vaping. File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

California tests find illegal vapes tainted with additives

LOS ANGELES — California officials announced Monday that marijuana vape cartridges seized in illegal shops in Los Angeles contained potentially dangerous additives, including a thickening agent blamed for a national outbreak of deadly lung illnesses tied to vaping.

Officials also found that the illegal vapes confiscated in the December raids typically were not as potent as advertised, and sometimes contained just a fraction of the THC claimed on the labels, according to state testing results. THC is the chemical in marijuana that makes users feel high.

The findings highlight the risk for consumers at underground shops and delivery services that are common in Los Angeles and elsewhere around California, officials said.

“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,” said Lori Ajax, who heads California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control.

The state conducted tests on the marijuana oil contained in a random sample of more than 10,000 illegal vape pens seized in the Los Angeles raids.

The tests found that 75% of the vapes contained undisclosed additives, including the thickening agent vitamin E acetate, which has been blamed by federal regulators for the majority of lung illnesses tied to the outbreak.

In some samples, oil in the cartridges was diluted by more than one-third by potentially dangerous and undisclosed additives.

Nearly all the samples were labeled with incorrect THC content, the state found. For example, one cartridge claimed the oil was up to 85% THC, but actually contained 33% THC. Some vape products seized from the unlicensed stores contained as little as 18% THC.

The findings were released just days after the state announced another effort to slow the spread of the illegal pot market, where consumers shop when they want to avoid hefty taxes or can’t locate a legally licensed shop.

Last Thursday, regulators proposed rules that would require legal shops to post a unique black-and-white code in storefront windows to help consumers identify licensed businesses. Shoppers would use smartphones to scan the familiar, boxy label known as a QR code — similar to a bar code — to determine if business es are selling legal, tested cannabis products.

The codes also would also be required when transporting or delivering cannabis.

California — the world’s largest legal pot market — launched broad, legal sales in January 2018. But the illicit market has continued to thrive, with consumers spending roughly $3 in the state’s underground pot economy for every $1 in the legal one, a report from industry advisers Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics estimated last year.

Last year, the state mounted a publicity campaign called Get .weedwise to encourage consumers to verify that their purchases are tested and legal. Ads were posted on social media and billboards went up promoting a state website where shoppers can quickly check if a shop is licensed.

The state has been escalating its war with the illegal market under pressure from the legal cannabis industry, which has struggled as consumers go underground looking for bargain prices. But there is a trade-off: illegal products almost certainly are not tested for safety or potency.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kin Canada flag raising at Red Deer City Hall

Historic event for Kin Canada clubs

Federal minister pledges to meet chiefs in B.C. over natural gas pipeline

OTTAWA — The federal Crown-Indigenous relations minister is offering to meet today… Continue reading

Loblaw reports Q4 profit up from year earlier, but falls short of expectations

BRAMPTON, Ont. — Loblaw Companies Ltd. reported its fourth-quarter profit rose compared… Continue reading

2 former cruise ship passengers with virus die in Japan

TOKYO — Two elderly passengers taken off the Diamond Princess cruise ship… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

David Marsden: Hospital unfairness makes me ill

The provincial government clearly isn’t without money. If it was, it wouldn’t… Continue reading

Morning collision on 30th Avenue

A collision backed up traffic for a while at 30th Avenue and… Continue reading

Hoarse Hearts; Canadian women’s curling championship hard on skips’ voices

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Kerri Einarson calls it her “winter voice.” Midway… Continue reading

Saprissa, Impact draw 2-2 in first leg in CONCACAF Champions League

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Jonathan Martinez scored in the 90th minute… Continue reading

Former Quebec media star Eric Salvail takes stand in his sex assault case

MONTREAL — Former Quebec media star Eric Salvail was no longer employed… Continue reading

Rising classical star Alexandra Streliski to perform with Dallas Green at Junos

TORONTO — Breakout neo-classical pianist Alexandra Streliski will join City and Colour’s… Continue reading

Pastrnak scores overtime winner, Bruins edge Oilers 2-1

Bruins 2 Oilers 1 (OT) EDMONTON — The Boston Bruins have proven… Continue reading

Most Read