You’ve heard the news stories over the past year: hundreds sickened, dozens dead, vape pens the likely culprit. So are vape pens bad for your lungs? And should you give up vaping cannabis entirely? Not so fast, worrywart.

As with any new product surging into the marketplace, cannabis vape cartridges range from high-quality, lab-tested products to shoddy discount brands with little to no oversight. Knowing which is which will allow you to continue your low-profile vaping habit worry-free. Here’s how to know if your weed vape is safe:

What’s in a cannabis vape?

The portable pen-shaped design of most cannabis vape devices allows you to vaporize cannabis oils and distillates on the go. They are made from two main components: the fluid-filled cartridge and the battery that acts as a heating element to vaporize the fluid.

The fluid inside the cartridge typically consists of THC- or CBD-dominant concentrate created through distillation, which breaks down the cannabis molecules to cannabinoids. Terpenes, which give cannabis strains their unique flavor and aroma, are stripped out during this process and reintroduced to the oil after distillation, allowing each product to be strain-specific.

What’s causing the contamination?

States with legal cannabis laws are trying to regulate the market and crack down on illicit cannabis products, but there’s still a “grey market” of unlicensed pop-up dispensaries selling products without oversight. Illicit vape cartridges can contain a variety of dangerous contaminants, including pesticides from the growing process, and cutting agents to keep the product evenly mixed and enhance the intensity of the vapor cloud.

However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have zeroed in on one contaminant in particular that’s doing the most damage: vitamin E acetate, which is used to dilute the THC oil without thinning the viscosity. In most other uses, vitamin E is great—it makes your hair silky and smooth, strengthens your nails, and boosts your immune system. But its oily form is disastrous to your lungs when inhaled, sticking to the liner fluid and blocking the efficient transfer of oxygen from air into your body. Symptoms of lung injury from inhaling vitamin E acetate include shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and weakness. Without swift medical intervention, your lungs can give out entirely.

How to determine legit vapes from fake cartridges

There are so many cannabis vape brands out there, it might seem impossible to know which are legit and which are cause for concern. Based on CDC studies, some of the dodgy vape cartridge brands to avoid include:

  • Honey Cut Vape
  • Dank Vapes
  • TKO
  • Off White
  • Moon Rocks
  • Chronic Carts
  • West Coast Carts

To make matters even more complicated, some off-brands are trying to replicate the look of legit cartridges, like Connected Cannabis Co., Heavy Hitters, and Kingpen, which have been battling against their dangerous doppelgangers since the lung injury crisis began. They’ve made some headway, including listing authorized retailers on their websites, but the best way to protect yourself is to only buy lab-verified products from state-licensed retailers. Weedmaps can help you as well, with a location filter that limits results to only Weedmaps Verified products.

Only the best vapes for our San Diego cannabis customers

At Balboa Avenue Cooperative, we guarantee the legitimacy of every cannabis product we sell. Our merchandise goes through verified lab testing, and we happily provide lab results upon request so you can be sure you’re inhaling the best, purest product on the market. For more information or a complete list of our offerings, check out our online menu and featured page on Weedmaps!

Have a question for us? Give us a call today at (858) 598-5004.