It was the worst of years, it was the… worst of years. Well, not for fake cartridges, but the early 2020s so far are working out to be a major bummer between COVID, war, and the economy. Add this year – this month in fact: more viruses, and a nationwide record-setting blizzard to finish off 2022. Can we just arrange a sacrifice to whichever volcano god we ticked off and be done with it?
Anywho: The fake and boof vape cartridge market continued unabated in 2022, haunting gas station glass display cabinets and the front pocket of your corner plug’s hoodie. We have also come a long way from the days when fake cartridges (packaging bought online and filled in somebody’s basement) were all we have to worry about.
In Addition To Fake Carts, We Have Many More Unregulated Company Brands
The explosion in the popularity and legality of minor cannabinoids (like CBD, HHC, CBN, CBG, and deltas 8 & 10) has led to a legal, but highly unregulated, market in any product but straight THC. The problem here is that a company producing delta 8 is pretty much free of the rigorous testing and safety standard applied to a D9THC cart in California under the BCC. The altcan products are produced from “hemp” as legally defined in the Farm Bill, whoop de do.
There is even the occasional case of a brand with one foot in each market. Just this month (I assume Leafly will update the date header, which currently says “Story updated Dec. 8, 2023,” roughly a year in the future as of this publication), Kushy Punch out of California was caught operating a second, illicit facility off the books.
So, what’s our bottom line? We have to include “sketchy brands” in our “fake brands” list, which are nevertheless real as all earth. This also means that checking for a state licensed extraction facility and third-party independent lab testing is often worthless when judging most store-bought items; it’s only the full-marijuana plants in the fully-recreation-legal states that have that standard of requirements.
You are within rights, in most US state cases once you have a license to grow hemp, to extract all the cannabinoids you want from it and launch it to the moon for all government regulation cares. Every Joe-Blow vape&smoke shop across the country is carrying all kinds of random cannabis-related items, from edibles to bogus “natural medicine” to – of course – vape cartridges that are every shade of shady.
Naturally, the chaotic patchwork of legality from state to state is responsible for this situation. Maybe we’ll get with it and pass the laws to allow us to manage the cannabis industry (currently US volume ~$25 Billion) more responsibly over time.
The main thing you have to go by in cartridge brands now is reputation, end of story.
Former “Fake” Brands Are Being Bought & Licensed
This has happened already, to wit:
- Big Chief
- Muha Meds
- Dank (!!!)
Yes, really! There’s a thing about fake brands: nobody owns them! So you, too, may file your ~$35 to register your LLC in Montana, say, and claim ownership of corporate branding. Isn’t American Capitalism a gas?
So again, just because a former fake brand now has a (TM) next to their name now, doesn’t make the street plug carts you buy with that branding any better.
If this is any consolation, your food, beverage, and medicine isn’t always up to the highest safety standards in the United States either. Everybody learns a lesson the hard way when they try a dodgy food item from the truck stop. You know how it goes, you’re late to work and had to stop for coffee anyway, so you gamble on a couple of those taquito/corndog dealies with the hot metal rollers at your corner Circle K, and half an hour later your south end regrets the decision. Come to that, you hear about product recalls on the news for various problems, especially with mass-produced food. Thus was formed what you may credit as “Penguin Pete’s Sushi Rule of Fake Cartridges”:
Never get a vape cartridge at a place where you wouldn’t also eat the sushi.
Heed the sushi rule! When it comes to vape cartridges, you still have a vial of mystery oil which may have been subject to mere slip-shod extraction and packaging methods, even at the best extraction facility using the finest ingredients in the world, let alone have boof oil.
Top Cartridges to Avoid in 2023:
Jeeter Juice is a licensed company in AZ, CA, and MI, but their product only appears at truck stops to begin with and then there’s more fakes out there than real ones. Their security and brand protection is crap. They violate packaging standards with impunity, with a bright candy-and-cartoon motif – they are super-common to find in schools. Garbage brand, even after we tested one from a legit source. Avoid it no matter where you find it.
Cake is one of the brands we mention which began as Chinese counterfeit packaging wholesalers ripping off the Cookies logo. Then Cake became *THE* most common street brand for about a year, and now some company has actually bought up the rights to the name as far as registration goes, but the carts are still trash. Even if there is some mysterious pristine extraction facility bothering to produce a worthwhile product under the cursed “Cake” name, the odds are 99.99% that the Cake cart in your hand right now is fake.
A long time ago, Jungle Boys was a legit brand that has since gone out of business. Fake packagers have latched onto it ever since. We honestly saw them drop off the radar for a couple years, and now they’re back in black market circles, but nowhere to be found in legit dispensaries.
Cartnite is one of those brands that are blindly-obviously fake and yet people still buy them. Cartnites are 100% fake, boof sold only by corner plugs on Instagram. Same rule applies to any cartridge brand using the intellectual / branding property of a popular franchise.
Runtz is another never-never land brand that never had an owner. There have been a few street brands which half-heartedly claimed co-branding for awhile. This was due to confusion, since Runtz is also a cannabis strain (and eventually everybody simply started naming their weed strains “Runtz” anyway). Regardless, Chinese packagers simply saw the word floating around online and snagged it for packaging. The Runtz branded-carts are nowhere near as common as they once were, but still crawl out of the woodwork.
Dabwoods / Packwoods / DankWoods
Dabwoods has been a long-standing brand, albeit never more than gas station quality to begin with. Their brand protection is crap, and even when we tracked down a legit one, it was garbage quality. DabWoods is another case where counterfeits outnumber legit 99-to-1. The DabWoods branding has fractured, thanks to perpetuated fake cart packaging trends, into a dozen spin-off brand names including “DeepWoods,” “DankWoods,” etc. Just stay out of the ‘Woods in general.
The amazing nowhere brand, Glo Carts has always been 100% ownerless and made up. Never had a company behind it, never will, but a smash success on fake cart packaging wholesale sites and Instagram plugs.
Ah yes, the Mafia thugs! First, Muha Meds was a 100% fabricated brand. The name “Muha Meds” is a possible intended slur to the central figure of the Islam religion, in case you never put it together as “Muhammad.” THEN after a couple of years of that, one mad-as-a-March-hare American entrepreneur registered an LLC and tried to claim the brand. So far, their entire business model – as we have documented it – has been to send us nasty emails threatening us for saying they were ever fake, to begin with.
Those threats range from filing in court to extortion and threats of violence, which we duly report. We’re not even the only people they’ve harassed, in their fumbling ploy to whitewash Muha Meds’ past reputation. They do try to set up extraction facilities, but they get busted and taken down. To the alleged owner of the alleged Muha Meds brand: We’re sorry that you have such a hard time cornering the vape cartridge black market. That’s what happens when you make stupid business decisions.
Big Chief, another fake brand bought by a real sucker. There is, yes, a fledgling attempt at a legit Big Chief out there, but good luck finding it under the avalanche of counterfeits. This one seems to be gradually fading out, so it seems the one thing that can kill a fake brand is to get somebody to license it.
Counterfeits to watch out for:
We separate these because they were definitely established, licensed, trusted brands before the black market got wind of them. These are simply brands popular with black market channels to fill in bulk and try to pass off as the real McCoy.
A long-standing brand, Stiiizy carts (pods, actually) that we have found from official sources are at least decent. Counterfeits are EVERYWHERE, however. We’re amazed at their perseverance, truth be told; brands with less grit would have collapsed under their own counterfeits by now.
An obscure brand barely making the list, but it stays present enough to warrant inclusion. There is a real Connected Cannabis Co. brand, though we have yet to discover a vape cartridge by their brand name. However, their simple blue palm tree logo seems to peek out of every other gas station vape cart shelf, and their packaging is widely counterfeited.
Plug & Play
A sad story, a legit brand which has been hounded by counterfeiters since day one. Plug & Play has tried to be proactive and introduced many an anti-counterfeit measure to combat the fakes, but the counterfeiters just keep copying them.
The new kid on the block! There is indeed a real Mad Labs company. We haven’t even gotten around to reviewing them yet. But there is often little logic to the counterfeit cartridge scene, so this brand just got popular to counterfeit for no particular reason.
We didn’t start the fire, and we certainly didn’t ask for this colossal dumpster fire of mis-regulation. Our site, in part, was founded in a spirit of consumer activism – we, ourselves, appreciate legalized cannabis but were frustrated with the lack of safety information and the paucity of non-biased review sources. So here’s to 2023, hopefully another happy, healthy year for the cannabis community as we continue to raise awareness and advocate for a safe and prosperous legalized cannabis industry for us all to enjoy.