Recently, I was offered to hit a vape pen outside of a Baltimore nightclub; little did I know, it ended up being from the black market.
The vape was supposedly 300 mg of THC, and I was forewarned that the terpenes were strong. One hit and I immediately knew there was more than just THC and terpenes in this vape. I felt extremely lightheaded. I felt a sharpness in my chest. Once I inhaled, I felt hallucinogenic effects. It hurt my throat and, the next day, I lost my voice. Even six days later, I was still coughing.
I should have seen the red flags from the start. The guy selling the vape had a backpack full of them, and offered to sell them for a reasonable price of just $25. Most vape cartridges are more than double that price. However, he insisted that the vapes had gone through rigorous testing and that the liquid was free from any contaminants; yet offered no backup to any of these claims.
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Additionally, the seller told me each vape was professionally packaged and each came with a SKU number. Looking closer, I noticed these SKUs were all the same, “XX000ZZZ”. I also noticed that the hardware itself was not labeled. This was odd. Large market vape hardware is almost always labeled.
This was one of my first clues that the vape I was handed was truly a black market product.
After a couple of craft cocktails, it didn’t seem like a bad idea to vape. Working in the cannabis industry, I figured it could be good for so-called “market research.” But I failed myself by not being more cautious. Thankfully, I saw some warning signs thanks to my experience in the industry; like the ones I mentioned above. Other users might not be so lucky to have that level of knowledge.
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I highly recommend that consumers check both the ingredients in the vape and the source of the hardware. Many black market vapes could be just heating oil that creates carcinogens easily absorbed directly into the lungs. This is why it’s essential to ensure the hardware itself is from a reputable source.
With recreational marijuana currently legalized in only 11 states, my experience in Baltimore was a harsh reminder that other regions are ripe for black market products. It taught me that, as long as there are no federal testing regulations, the black market will continue to thrive, and it will be at the cost of human lives.