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article imageAs illnesses spread, investigators focus on rogue vape brand

By Karen Graham     Oct 4, 2019 in Health
With the number of confirmed vaping illnesses rising to 1,080 and the death toll now at 19 cases, investigators are focusing on an illegal brand name that is merely a name on a box or a cartridge - "Dank."
There are at least 1,200 slang terms related to marijuana - or cannabis or hashish or weed or pot or, as some say, asparagus. “The terminology doesn’t really emphasize illegality: It is the illegality that created the need for the terminology,” says slang scholar Jonathon Green, according to Time.
The vape cartridges that go by the catchy name “Dank” - a slang term that started out describing unpleasant, swamp-like things and, like “bad” itself, then came to describe good things, like marijuana of the best quality - is now figuring prominently in a federal investigation to determine what has caused a rash of mysterious and sometimes fatal lung illnesses apparently linked to vaping, reports the the LA Times.
An illicit brand name in the crosshairs
As Digital Journal reported on September 10, Dank Vapes has a logo. You can buy Dank Vapes T-shirts. Sales of Dank Vapes products can be easily spotted on Twitter or Instagram or Medium, according to Inverse. Basically, it is a black market brand.
“They act like a cannabis company, but they actually don’t exist. They’re in the packaging industry,” Mark Hoashi, founder of the Doja app, which is “Yelp for the cannabis industry,” tells Inverse. “These are just people filling cartridges as ‘Dank Vapes.’ It’s not a singular facility. It’s just people in their garages filling them and selling them.”
The big problem is the packaging. The colorful boxes and names like Cherry Kush and Blue Dream make the homemade vapes appear legitimate and very convincing on the shelf. “It doesn’t look very different from what you can buy in a [legal] dispensary,” said Beverly Hills-based cannabis attorney Allison Margolin.
This Twitter account is now restricted due to unusual activity.
This Twitter account is now restricted due to unusual activity.
Dank Cart Official
Black market cartridges with THC
While it is true that the FDA, CDC and other health authorities have not been able to zero-in on a specific cause for the illnesses and deaths associated with vaping, officials say patients have mentioned the Dank name frequently.
The Associated Press notes that many patients in Wisconsin and Illinois showing signs of a vaping illness admitted to using cartridges sold in Dank packaging. Actually, 83 percent of those admitted vaping cannabis extracts bought on the black market.
The other 17 percent said they had only vaped nicotine, but health officials think some of this group may have just been reluctant to admit they had used a black market THC cartridge.
"These findings cast further doubt on the wisdom of general warnings about "vaping" and "e-cigarettes," which imply that legal nicotine products are implicated in these cases," writes However, legal e-cigarettes have not been implicated in any of the lung illnesses to date.
Vaping use among teens has jumped 78% over the last few years.
Vaping use among teens has jumped 78% over the last few years.
micadew from US (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The ease of manufacturing a black market vape
Illicit, rogue, under-the-table - Whatever you want to call them, they are still illegal, black market vapes. And they are really easy to produce and help to support a black market industry that is estimated to be $41 billion, and cannabis oil cartridges account for a large portion of that.
Ready-to-fill Dank boxes and cartridges can be ordered from Chinese Internet sites for pennies apiece. A CraigsList post last week offered a whole box, stuffed with Dank packages for $16. And California, notably, downtown Los Angeles is a prime locale for boxes and empty cartridges.
As for the cannabis oil, there are plenty of rogue producers around the country, and you can almost bet their product has not been tested or certified to have been grown without the use of pesticides. And we wonder why people are getting sick...
“It’s a generic product name that doesn’t really tie back to one store or one distributor,” Dr. Jennifer Layden, chief medical officer for the Illinois Department of Public Health, said last month. “Folks are getting it from friends or folks on the street, with no understanding of where it came from prior to that.”
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