What began as a small cluster of lung-related diseases in Wisconsin in March of 2019 has been now labeled a “vaping lung disease epidemic” by the United States Center for Disease Control. While we wholeheartedly disagree with the official name - EVALI or E-cigarette or vape product use associated lung disease - we still wanted to reach out to you all with some tips on how to recognize counterfeit and fake CBD vape cartridges.

The most important thing to note here that the illness itself is caused predominantly by a cheap thickener called Vitamin E. It’s used by unregulated, black market manufacturers who are ripping off legitimate companies, and selling their wares on street corners and over social media sites. If you’re using a legitimate CBD vape cartridge - like the ones we’re creating here at the Kind Kart - you have nothing to worry about!

That said, the number of these illicit vape cartridges has grown substantially in the last couple of months. They are not easy to recognize, but we do have some words of advice for you if you’re concerned that you’re not getting your money’s worth, or that you’re jeopardizing your health by vaping on low-quality or tainted CBD. Of course, none of these tips are bullet-proof - illegal manufacturers are getting extremely sophisticated - so if something doesn’t add up, or if you feel slightly sick or queasy after vaping what you thought was a legit CBD cartridge, discontinue its use immediately and talk to your doctor!

If you want to spot if the CBD vape cartridge you’re buying is fake, take a look at the following:

 

  • Check the lab results
  • Take a look at the ingredients
  • Check CBD & THC percentages
  • Inspect the packaging
  • Know your brands
  • Avoid shopping via social media sites or on street corners

 

Before we go into the details, let’s take a look at one of the most counterfeited brands in recent months. This one does mostly THC-based liquids but it will give you an idea of what to look for:

As you can see, counterfeiters have gone through great lengths to mimic the design of the original packaging - the one on the left is a fake. Still, you can see that theirs is quite crowded to obscure the law mandated markings that were obviously photoshopped onto the product and that they display an unusually high THC content percentage right on the packaging to make it more appealing to buyers. The name of the line is also something that Cookies does not manufacture or sell.

Below is an image where we point out the signs to look for on a counterfeited THC packaging. These are the things you should be paying attention to when buying:

Check the Lab Results

Most legitimate manufacturers of CBD cartridges will have lab results available and will be more than happy to provide them to you when you ask. In fact, a lot of them will proudly display these certificates on their website, just as we do:

The problem here, of course, is that these certificates are very easy to counterfeit. Some illicit CBD cartridge manufacturers download legitimate certificates of analysis and simply photoshop their brand name onto the document.

If you’re buying from a dispensary, the risk of this is somewhat lower but not entirely gone. Dispensaries are obligated by law to check and verify these submissions but the enforcement is not as rigorous as it should be. If you suspect foul play of any sort, we suggest taking extra measures, even if you did buy your CBD cartridge in a licensed dispensary. 

One thing that you could do if you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a certificate of analysis (CoA) is phone the lab that issued it. Every CoA will have a number on it that you can give to the person that answers the phone, and ask whether or not things check out. Most of these will be okay but if the brand on the CoA doesn’t match with what the lab has on their files, you’ll know for sure that CoA has been tampered with.

Take Note of the Ingredients in Your CBD Cartridge

A lot of CBD cartridge manufacturers “cut” their product with diluents. In fact, it’s the diluents (and thickening agents) that are mostly responsible for the recent spate of lung problems and the resulting deaths attributed to vaping in the US. Manufacturers do this in most part to stretch out their CBD - when they add cheaper ingredients in, they don’t have to add as much CBD to the final mix.

Most commonly used diluents are:

 

  • Propylene glycol
  • Vegetable glycerin
  • Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT)

 

The diluent recognized as the culprit for the vape-related lung illness is called Vitamin E (tocopheryl-acetate), and you probably won’t see it listed anywhere (illegal or not) after the publicity it got. The other mentioned diluents have been in use for years in vape liquids and, so far, did not pose any danger but further studies are needed on their effects (propylene glycol can cause an allergic reaction, as explained here).

It’s your choice whether you want to use products that contain these most common diluents. We would advise avoiding them, at least until more data regarding their inhalation becomes available. This is the reason why we at the Kind Kart try to create as pure a CBD vape as possible - it’s more than 60% CBD distillate, with around 30% bisabolol terpene obtained from the chamomile plant.

Check THC & CBD Percentages

CBD (and, for that matter, THC as well) work best when they’re at a certain dosage. That’s why you don’t want to take too little or too much at any given time. When assessing a CBD cartridge, fake ones will have either too little CBD inside, or too much of it. 

If the CBD percentage is particularly low (let’s say, less than 40%), it’s safe to assume that the vape liquid has been cut with something. Are the diluents listed on the label? If not, don’t use the product. Conversely, if the CBD level is above 90%, that should also be a cause for alarm. Most legitimate manufacturers don’t create such blends because they know they are not needed. If you run across it though, and it looks to be too good to be true from a cost perspective then it probably is. Avoid CBD vape cartridge brands that make such unrealistic claims because they are not true in 95% of the cases.

Inspect the Packaging & the Label

Although we’ve demonstrated at the beginning of this post that it’s easy for counterfeiters to fake packaging and labels, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to them. There are several telltale signs that will tell you’re dealing with a fake CBD vape cartridge that was made in someone’s basement, or with a product that came off of a production line. Here are those signs:

  1. Does the packaging look ‘home-made’ - most illicit and dangerous vape cartridges are made in a spare or a rented room (or someone’s basement), and while the packaging equipment they have might be good, it’s definitely not factory good. Look for sloppy packaging, irregularities in the wrapper foil, and damage to the product box. Legitimate manufacturers have quality spotters on the production lines that usually remove and repackage these products. If yours was not repackaged, either their quality control is not doing the job they’re paid for, or it’s not the real deal.

  2. Is the packaging consistent with what’s shown on the manufacturer’s website - companies don’t rebrand their merch in new packaging without telling customers about it. Check the website of the brand you’re using and carefully look over their product pictures. Is the product that you’ve purchased consistent with what you see? If it’s not, consider sending the company a message (either social media or email) and ask for clarification.

  3. Does the label have all the expected information on it - a majority of manufacturers will include several things on their label - manufacturing and packaging dates, lot and batch numbers, strength, and all the ingredients. If some of those are missing, it’s a red flag. Also, check if there’s a QR code on the label - some manufacturers place it so that customers can scan it and be taken to their verification page. While not mandatory, it’s a good addition and an extra measure of precaution that is definitely needed these days.

Know the Brands that You’re Using (& Companies You’re Buying From)

As a consumer, you have to be extra vigilant these days. That’s why we recommend you only buy CBD vape cartridges from the companies that you trust, and that have a strong online presence.

Here’s the thing - an established company has a lot to lose if they tamper with their product in an effort to save money. They can’t simply up and vanish if someone discovers that they are cutting their CBD vape cartridges with unsafe diluents. They have salaries to pay, suppliers to think off, and stakeholders to answer to.

Our advice is to only buy CBD from brands that have an established online and social media presence, a lot of reviews, or are a part of a larger brand. For example, Kind Kart is a member of the Kind Pen group - our parent company has been manufacturing and selling vape equipment for years, and is a well-respected brand in the United States.

Don’t Support Black Market - Do NOT Purchase from Social Media or Street Corners

Buying stuff at street corners has always been risky, and it’s doubly so when it comes to something that you will be inhaling. CBD vape carts definitely fall in the category of “things you buy at legitimate stores”. However, recent discoveries lead us to prompt you not to use social media sites like Facebook for this, because you’ll mostly get saddled with fake vape cartridges there.

That’s because the packaging for major brands is so widely available online that it doesn’t pay to risk it. Websites like DHGate sell this packaging by the truckload, and anyone can buy it and fill it with whatever. For example, here’s a link to Cookies cartridges that someone can buy pennies (literally, they are $15 per 1000 pieces). 

Legitimate stores won’t carry these but if you’re buying through Facebook groups, Whatsapp, or other social media sites, you are giving these guys an incentive to keep doing it. In the end, you’re hurting real manufacturers and contributing to widespread panic about vaping.

Learn to Recognize Illicite CBD Cartridges Today

The difference between a legitimate CBD cartridge and a fake one is substantial, in both the dollar amount that you pay for it and the quality. But, ask yourself this - would you eat meat that’s well past its expiration date? Of course you wouldn’t. And why? Because you care about your health.

Vaping CBD is a choice we make to better our health. While black market CBD may be cheaper, it’s also dangerous, and will do nothing to treat your symptoms or better your overall health. In fact, it will most likely hurt it. So it’s always better to spend a little bit more to get the real thing - it pays off immensely in the end.

If you have any questions about our CBD cartridges, our lab results, or vaping CBD in general, don’t hesitate to contact us. Here at the Kind Kart, we’re always happy to engage with customers and potential customers, and answer all their questions to the best of our abilities!

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