As dabbing and vaping culture has risen and our site has grown up alongside it, we never thought that we’d be at the eye of a media storm. But that is now happening with the outbreak of illnesses and deaths reported from people inhaling various devices.

At the time of this writing, the death toll is reported variously at three to five. CBS News indicates deaths in Illinois, Oregon, Indiana, California, and Minnesota. Hundreds more are reported to be stricken with a “mysterious lung illness.” After months of sites like ours being the few that report on the danger of black market distillate products, the story is now suddenly a runaway media frenzy.

Let’s try to sort some facts from myths…

Chief culprit is Dank Vapes and bunk oil

NBC News quote:

> “Vitamin E acetate is now a focus of the investigation into vaping-related respiratory illnesses that have sickened 34 people in New York, state health officials say.”


> “The Food and Drug Administration is now testing more than 100 samples from states, and has not ruled out other contaminants that may be at play, including nicotine, THC and other cannabinoids, along with cutting agents/diluents and other additives, pesticides, opioids, poisons and toxins.”

> “No one substance, including vitamin E acetate, has been identified in all of the samples tested,’ an FDA spokesman wrote in an email to NBC News.”

The medical issue is called “lipoid pneumonia,” a form of lung inflammation induced by oil deposits entering the respiratory system. There is a medical history of people experiencing these symptoms, especially one case back in 2000 when a patient made her own vape oil out of Vaseline as a carrier to inhale THC.

We should caution that while we have an excellent culprit in vitamin E acetate and lipoid pneumonia, as the FDA points out, we can’t rule out a host of other issues nor single out one contaminant as being the only danger.

However, you will notice the product shots a lot of news agencies are using for the banner image. Boy howdy, do we ever see some familiar names! We just posted about Dank and Runtz only a few weeks ago.

dank vapes

Runtz vapes


Carts: If you don’t have a receipt, it’s fake!

We’re going to have to double-down on our earlier suspicion. We wanted to give some “brands” the benefit of the doubt in the past. We didn’t want to hurt a legitimate company and have been careful to sort out the difference between a counterfeit of a legit company and a completely fake brand. We don’t want to stand in the way of home hobbyists, provided they know what they’re doing.

But now it’s getting to be a life and death issue. Leafly is also doing emergency reporting on vape-related lung conditions. And they are clear in their warning as well: “If you own illicit vape cartridges, throw them away immediately.” There is no buzz that’s worth risking dying over. It doesn’t matter how much you trust your dealer or your buddy to fill cartridges and know what they’re doing.

fake black market brands

Leafly observes that this current epidemic reminds them of bathtub gin during prohibition. That’s a very good analogy: The deaths and reported illnesses are spiking in states where cannabis, particularly recreational cannabis, is prohibited.

We’re also going to have to resort to a gatekeeper policy around here. From now on, all cartridge brands and sources need to have an established, commercial presence with a registration or license at a legal facility, or we’re suspecting it as a completely fake, black market brand.


verification systems are a solution

Manufacturers: Certify and verify your product!

We’ve mentioned positively that product verification methods like CannVerify are a much-needed protection for consumers. In some cases, when a legitimate brand is compromised by black market knock-offs, they’ve responded by implementing their own verification system. Such was the case with Rove carts, which we updated on their post and congratulated them for joining the blockchain Illuminati.

Be it CannVerify, an in-house verification system like Rove, or whatever other method, EVERY vapeable cartridge manufacturer is going to have to do this. The alternative at this point is going out of business, because consumers have gone from a laissez-faire “who cares” attitude to quaking paranoia overnight.


Fear and Loathing in the cartridge community!

You never saw such an attitude flip in your life. On Reddit, the vaping community has had its 9/11. Everybody is in shock.

> “Anyone else think they might just not vape at all for the time being? Like, I feel fine, no coughing or anything, but I for real can’t even enjoy it right now.” — /u/dude_grossly

> “The dispensary/vape shop I work for received this unsolicited sample of this distillate cutting agent from 123purecut in the mail today. Anyone know anything about it? I got it all over myself when I opened the package.” — /u/nrfx

> “If you don’t have a receipt from a dispensary, your cart is fake.” — /u/Yaerdme

By the by, we have our own account on Reddit at /u/DabConnection, where we’ve been actively chasing down black market carts and illicit distillate cutting agents. Drop on by for a toodle-oo.

Meanwhile on Instagram, a drama is unfolding with the exposure of black market cart fill peddlers:

Dankbusters on Instagram

Dankbusters on Instagram

Dankbusters on Instagram

It’s getting pretty heated out there!


Keep us posted on the front lines!

How are you dealing with the fake cart epidemic? Are you suspicious enough to go back to herb exclusively? Are you resolving to mix your own carts so you know for sure what’s in them? Are you too paranoid to smoke anything at all? Are you going to say “YOLO” and keep taking your chances?

Dispatch your memo from the trenches in the comments below or our forum.



  1. Philly -stay away from SHOGUN ORGANICS carts. I got two Sour Hawaiian Zkittlez -both unbelievably fake. Been at it for a year -first bad carts I’ve gotten. Nasty, nasty stuff.

    Says Humboldt on the label -zero internet presence or mentions. Just that Shogun Organics is a company located in India. Not good. Stay away.


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