• Sean Mills

Time to Talk About Weed Vapes, I Guess...

Many of you have been seeing and hearing stories this month about hospitalizations due to “vaping” in the Midwest from Texas to Wisconsin, and several have asked us what’s up with this.  In case you’ve not seen them, these headlines might help:

  • “Cases of vape-related lung damage rise to at least 149” – NBC News, 8/21/19

  • “First US death possibly linked to vaping in Illinois: officials” – NY Post, 8/24/19

  • “With a mystery illness surrounding vaping, what parents need to know” – Chicago Tribune, 8/22/19

Nearly 200 people have been developed serious respiratory illness that put them in the hospital, or in the case of one user, the grave.  Symptoms presented by patients have included vomiting, chest pain, cramping, chills, shortness of breath, and fatigue.  Where are these symptoms coming from?

Dylan Nelson, 26, of Burlington, WI was hospitalized last month in critical condition with severe lung problems doctors suspect was tied to vaping.

The news media doesn’t seem to be able to tell a Juul apart from any other vape, and some would say negligently causing panic to drive views.  Nearly all reported cases at this point have reported vaping some kind of product recently, which is where the link is being drawn from.  However, they’re not telling us “what” they vaped, and I suspect that will matter.

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way – I’ve not spoken to these patients, nor am I a physician of any kind.  I have only the publicly available research and 8 years of experience in the vaping industry guiding my conclusions.


With the rise of CBD and legal cannabis in places outside this bastion of puritanism, vape-able products have become popular even among consumers not looking for nicotine applications.  Manufactured products and concentrates are becoming far more popular than they used to be as well, leading to the mixing of vapes and weed in products targeted specifically at young people. 

As we saw in earlier years with nicotine vapes, there are always some actors in an unregulated industry not manufacturing to standards.  This problem was largely solved by having shops to visit, or using reputable online retailers that would have a better idea of what was up to snuff, and that wouldn’t carry a low quality product. 

Unfortunately for THC users, their products have far less reliability and transparency in the supply chain, and I suspect this is key to the story.


The terms “quality control” and “marijuana” are usually foreign to each other outside of legal or medical states, and that leaves a lot of unknowns in a given cartridge.  With so many manufacturers around, brand superiority and integrity is not well-established in illegitimate channels, which is where the worrying stuff kicks in.

Take “DANK VAPES” for example.  It’s a cart brand I’ve personally seen a few dozen times, and I’ve got a secret to share… they aren’t real.  DANK VAPES is a packaging company that has nothing to do with the cannabis industry.  Think about it.  If they were selling something other than packaging, they could be sued for all kinds of copyright infringements, like above. 

You can buy hundreds or thousands of empty boxes and cartridges online for cheap, fill them with dirty homemade garbage and sell them as THC distillate.  And people definitely are.  This brand has been repeatedly tested, with results all over the place and including pesticides, oils, and heavy metals.    

Stuff like this is dangerous and this is how people get sick.  News sites like the Chicago Tribune, however, would have you believe that this could be bacteria from a dirty mouthpiece because, and I quote, “most teenagers aren’t great at keeping things clean.”  Come the hell on.


Let’s face it – if this were nicotine vapes’ fault, we’d have seen it long ago.  I don’t like Juul any more or less than the next person, but they didn’t do this.  Instead of seeing it when the “youth vaping epidemic” began, we’re seeing it:

  • Now, when vaping has crossed the nicotine barrier.

  • Concentrated in the Midwest where outside the South, access to legal THC products is least.

  • Predominantly young people, the most likely group to pursue THC in vaping forms.

  • Mostly among patients that “report” THC vape use, and there are surely unreported use cases.

BOTTOM LINE, stop vaping stuff that you can’t verify is legitimate – and with some brands you simply can’t because it changes with every one you get.  If your kids are vaping what they think is THC distillate, as much as you may want to be the “cool parent”, please take it away.  I don’t want to see these cases starting to pop up in Charlotte because you were too cool to be responsible.

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