How to Steer Clear of Bootleg Vape Cartridges

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by Dan Larkin.

You need to know how to steer clear of bootleg vape cartridges. They’re damaging the lungs and overall health of vapers across the country. Bootleg vape cartridges look just like the legal, tested vape cartridges. So, how do you know what you’re buying? Well, there are some clues to look for and there are some guidelines to follow that can help keep you safe.

Bootleg vape cartridges are big business.

Vaping is one of the fasted growing methods of cannabis consumption. And it’s no wonder. Vape pens and cartridges are small, discreet, and allow easy micro-dosing. But, that popularity and ease of use make them a perfect product for the black market.

Most states still haven’t legalized adult-use cannabis. So, if you live in one of those states, bootleg vape cartridges are pretty much the only game in town. If you are lucky enough to live in a state where cannabis has been legalized you can buy your safe and legal vape pens and carts at a dispensary. But guess what? They aren’t cheap.

So, regardless of where you live, price and access are the two big reasons that people end up with bootleg vape pens and cartridges. Obviously, teens aren’t legally permitted to buy any vape cartridges or pens so the black market is where they’ll turn.

But how do you keep yourself safe from these bootleg products? Well, there are some things to look for and some questions to ask that might help.

Simple guidelines to steer clear of bootleg vape cartridges.

First and foremost, you should only purchase cannabis products from licensed, legal, reputable dispensaries. Duh, right? Well, if we could all just do that there would be less of a problem so it bears mentioning.

But what else can you do? Well, there are a number of things. In California, they’ve kicked off a campaign called “Get #Weedwise”  to help educate residents and visitors about the potential dangers of consuming unlicensed cannabis. So, check out their info on social media at #weedwise.

If you’re not sure if the dispensary you’re buying from is legit, you can check them out at (California only.)

Remember, legit manufacturers have info and testing results available for you to review. They have nothing to hide. Some even use QR codes so you can scan and read more about the products. That often includes Certificates of Analysis or “CA”‘s.

Now, having said that, there is still no guarantee that a vape cart or pen with a QR code is the real deal. Bootleggers are nothing if not crafty and ingenious. You, know, besides being unscrupulous, dangerous criminals.

They’ve found easy ways to get counterfeit QR codes and labels and they will look just like the real deal. So, while the lack of labels, info, and QR codes is a definite red flag, the existence of them doesn’t legitimize the product.

Again, if you are buying a legitimate-looking product from an illegitimate source, you are probably part of the problem and not the solution. If the price is half that of the same product in a legal, licensed dispensary then it’s probably packed with dangerous distillate and you need to steer clear.

You’ve heard this a million times before, but it holds true when buying vape carts or, for that matter, any cannabis products. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

What else can you do?

Use resources available to you when you have questions or doubts. Read cannabis sites and look for news updates on the topic. Take advantage of cannabis social media groups. (Cannabis In Real Life has a Facebook group, for instance.) Keep in mind, Facebook makes them hard to search for but these groups are a place where cannabis consumers can share information and ask questions and everyone can benefit.

Also, remember that most of the biggest names in the vape industry don’t sell anywhere but in legal, licensed dispensaries or on their own websites. So, if you see them on a website or on the street, watch out. I’m talking about Pax Era, Stiiizy, and Kingpen, just to name a few. So, if you are buying those brands from anyone else, you’re likely getting ripped off.

Take a look at any product you buy from an unlicensed seller and compare it to the images of it on the actual company website. Do they match up exactly? Probably not. Do yourself a favor and throw it away.

That goes for any vaping products you have in your possession right now. If you didn’t buy it from a licensed dispensary or from the legitimate manufacturer’s website, you don’t need. Play it safe.


Life is too short the way it is. Don’t shorten yours with potentially deadly vaping products. Know the signs that you may have a health problem caused by a counterfeit vape cartridge or pen. They include nausea, stomach issues, breathing difficulty and headaches, just to name a few.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t wait. Seek immediate medical attention. I’m not a doctor and I don’t give medical advice, but I also don’t want to see more innocent people with good intentions harmed by bootleg vape cartridges. New lungs are pretty hard to come by.

Resist the urge to buy cheap vape products from unlicensed sellers without CA’s and product info. I know this stuff is expensive, but so are medical bills.

And finally, keep fighting to get safe adult-use cannabis legalized where you live. The best way to lower prices and eliminate the black market is to open up the market place and to test and license products in a standardized way. That would go a long way to keeping us all safe.

Want to read more CannabisIRL stories about vaping? Click here.

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