Poison Vape Pens were Just the Beginning, How to Avoid Decoy Dabs

When I was in high school, there was no such thing as dabbing. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway because I was too busy playing basketball for most of those four years. Our team would play in gyms from Compton to Las Vegas pretty much year round. Once the season ended my senior year though, I quickly discovered a love for cannabis. The next year, after I graduated, the team went to Hawaii (thanks a lot, coach!) and when some of my younger friends returned from the trip a couple of them were stoked to show me that they had scored a quarter pound of bud in between tournament games and then successfully smuggled it back stateside.

Maui Wowie they called it. The small, dense, oddly round nugs were packaged in pre-weighed 8ths, each one vacuum sealed. This, the dealer convinced them, would make it easier to get through airport security. By the time they showed their stash to me, they had already sold several of these fruit snack lookin’ 8ths around town and that was about to become a problem. Apparently high off of the adventure, they had yet to bust open a bag for themselves to celebrate. When I did, everything was off… the smell, the feel… everything. To this day, we still don’t know what it was but it wasn’t weed. The closest I could come to putting my finger on it at the time was ‘soap’. In hindsight, it was probably some form of what we would consider Spice or K2 today, like incense or something, but my Spidey-sense told me not to smoke it.

These were also the days before cell phones or the internet as we know it so when those handful of marks discovered that the basketball bois had bamboozled them with some sorta $60 an 8th soap, the shit hit the fan in our small town.

Well, the more things change, as they say, the more they stay the same and while it is now easier than ever to spread the word about a sleazy source, that doesn’t seem to be slowing down the amount of fuckery we are seeing in cannabis markets across the country.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of October 8, 2019, 1,299 lung injury cases associated with using vaping products have been reported from 49 states and one U.S. territory. So far, twenty-six deaths have been confirmed in 21 states, including three in California.

The CDC has also began to narrow their focus, and the focus of their warnings, down to cannabis-infused vape carts, rather than nicotine-infused vape juice or cartridges. They are laying a large amount of the blame on the unregulated, or “black”, cannabis markets across the country, a talking point that is disturbingly being parroted by licensed cannabis operators, smoke and vape shop owners, and even lots of cannabis consumers.

The fundamental fact being lost in the mango-flavored haze of VapeGate 2019 is that cannabinoids like CBD or THC have nothing to do with any of those illnesses or unfortunate deaths. The human race has enjoyed over 5,000 years in harmony with the cannabis plant with exactly zero deaths directly related to its use and we’ll be damned if we’re going to let the media spin it otherwise now.

People have been enjoying the many benefits of using a high quality vape pen for over a decade now and the fact that this recent swath of sickness came on so suddenly leads us to believe that there must be more to the story. Sure enough, as researchers have finally dug into the issue we have learned that many of the vape carts seized from patients or victims contained additives like MCT Oil or Vitamin E Acetate, both used to manipulate the viscosity of the oil in the cart and to cut the cannabis oil so that it takes less of that key ingredient to fill more cartridges. To make a few extra bucks for every cart full of hotdog water, thousands of lives have been impacted… so far.

Yes, it is true that buying a vape cart from a legal/regulated cannabis market should at least ensure that it undergoes a standardized 3rd party lab test for not only potency but for purity as well, but as of today, there is no mandate to test for MCT Oil, Vitamin E Acetate, or any of the other cutting agents that are being marketed directly to extractors and are being sold legally on sites like Amazon.

The explosion of ill-informed coverage by the mainstream media on this topic has led to knee-jerk reactions from politicians at all levels of government and has millions of moms concerned for their cloud-blowing kids. It has led to a hard pump of the brakes on sales in a sector that was the fastest growing method of cannabis ingestion as many consumers have chosen to sit on the sidelines while all the bad press and bad product blows over. The fact is, if using a vape pen is your preferred way to medicate, there are still plenty of reputable companies out there who never have and never will add questionable cutting agents to their oil, or package it in subpar hardware that could contaminate it. It is so important to know the source of your vape cart these days, and now we are learning that the same is true for dabs as well.


Dabbing cannabis concentrates certainly delivers a more powerful punch of flavor and effects than the traditional method of smoking flower, but for the majority of avid dabbers their reasoning for doing so usually revolves more around the assumed health benefits of inhaling a more highly refined product. That being said, have you seen the video yet?



There is a lot of speculation about why that happened to him (hint: that silicon carb cap is pretty gross, but that’s not the issue) but this dude is not alone. The internet is abuzz with anecdotal evidence of similar occurrences as far away as Canada, with some whitish accumulation forming rapidly in abundance in the dab rig and, presumably, in the consumer’s respiratory system.

The entire subculture of dabbing is so far off of the radar of mainstream media that, perhaps fortunately, this topic has received no coverage… yet. Unfortunately, however, it then doesn’t get the cutting edge research into its origin either so what we are left with is a mix of stoner speculation and slowly building science.

Some folks are saying that this tainted product is the result of dabbing pine resin or pine sap that has been processed to look and feel like the shatter form of cannabis oil. Others argue that it is even more sinister, perhaps some man made decoy created with the sole purpose of duping dabbers. Knowing the cannabis community, we’ll most likely arrive at the right answer long before any lawmaker will but in the meantime, here are some common characteristics that seem to be present in all of these suspect extracts:

  • Black licorice taste/smell

  • No stickiness even with body heat

  • Crumbles in your fingers to a dust/powder consistency

  • Doesn’t get you high

  • Instant headache

  • Leaves lips or mouth white

  • Leaves white residue in your rig

  • Leaves film in your mouth

If you have any doubt whatsoever about “shatter” or “diamonds” that you have recently purchased don’t dab it! Put some of your product in ISO alcohol – the higher percentage the better - and if it doesn’t dissolve and leaves white residue it is potentially some bullshit and could endanger your health. If it does dissolve, that does not mean it is guaranteed to be safe.


If you watch closely in that first video you can see the dab literally bounce off of the bottom of the banger - even the noise it makes is unnatural. The sad but true fact is that if you aren't the grower or the extractor or the the plug, but you are getting wholesale level prices on your dabs, a corner is getting cut somewhere! Growers, extractors, and plugs aren't charities, they are businesses with bottom lines and if every retail custy could score legit product at rock bottom distribution prices, there would be no product. If the price of your concentrates or extracts doesn't hurt your feelings a little bit every time you re-up you are at an increased risk of being dealt some doodoo.

People have begun to compile lists of companies that have allegedly peddled impure concentrates, and you can find those lists with a basic Google search, but we will not re-publish such lists here as there is no way to vet them for accuracy. It is up to you to do your due diligence on this matter before you take your next dab and if you are a good friend, you'll pass the warning along.

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