Smoking a joint used to be the go-to method for weed consumption, with bowls, bongs, and brownies also popular options. These days, its all about oil vaporizers, and those small oil-filled containers we call cartridges. The sad situation of today is that this has become a massive fakes market, and its hard to know if you’re sucking on the real thing, or just breathing in chemicals. The vape cart reality is that it’s nearly impossible to tell if it’s real or if it’s fake.
The vape cart issue is definitely a thing, and it’s not easy to tell a real one from a fake one. The best thing you can do as a buyer is be informed about where you buy from, and what’s in the product you’re buying. Of course, there are a lot of great vape products out there, from delta-8 THC to CBDA to THCV. It’s up to you what you want to vape, and what precautions you want to take. If you’re looking to try some of these compounds, we’re happy to get them out to you right away! Check out our deals for delta-8 THC and many other marijuana products, to experience the positive side of vaping cannabis.
What’s a vape cart?
When it comes to the word ‘vaporizer’, there are two main types that apply to cannabis (and a third that applies to decongesting your chest with water vapor when sick). In terms of cannabis, there are dry herb vaporizers in which cannabis flower is directly placed in, and then heated to the point of vaporization. The other type of vaporizer is an oil or concentrates vaporizer, which can come in the form of a dab (for concentrates or oils), or as a battery-operated oil vaporizer which utilizes a cartridge for the oil, attached to a stem that acts as a battery.
The latter vape is the one that has been growing in popularity of late, likely because of its general ease of use, and disposable nature. While longer lasting batteries are popular, disposable pens are also very big, providing a much more waste creating method of vaping oils. Either way, this method depends on the oil being put in a little container that attaches to the battery, and which has a mouthpiece on the other end. When the battery is turned on, the temperature can be chosen, and then the oil is heated to vaporization, and pulled into the lungs through the mouthpiece.
I admit, I love using oil vapes, because they are very easy. A good battery can last for days of pretty heavy use, and it’s super convenient to bring places. The oil won’t spill out, there’s no smell of fresh flower, there’s no work that must be done to load it, and no cleaning regimen that must be taken afterward. And it produces a vapor that at times can smell like cannabis, but in a much less offensive way than smoke, and more easily cleared. The convenience level is unbeatable, and the vapor produced is very powerful, so these are great tools to get a good high, and for medical use.
The vape cart issue of real vs fake
Fakes industries are all over the place, and not at all particular to the field of legal cannabis. Think about going to a cheap market and seeing brand name clothing and accessories, but at ridiculously cheap prices. And think about checking out those super sleek-looking leather bags that somehow just don’t smell like leather, even though they bear names like Gucci, or Coach. These products are made to look like their more expensive counterparts, which rely on the idea of a brand name, and an understood and expected level of quality.
Of course, when buying these items, what a person generally finds is that there are minor visible inconsistencies, and that the products are generally of far lower quality, meaning less durability, cheaper materials, cheaper dyes that may run onto your skin, and rips and tears in products that should last much longer due to poor quality manufacturing. It means not knowing what exactly the product is actually made of, or what chemicals are used for it. If a high end shirt uses dye that is safe, and a knockoff brand uses dyes that are not, buying the knockoff brand means not only not getting the desired product, but also possibly having exposure to things like unsafe chemicals.
The newly forming cannabis industries of America are all up against existing black markets with generally lower prices than dispensaries, which must adhere to mandatory tax rates. Things like actual cannabis flowers are nearly impossible to fake. When stories come out about fake weed of the flower variety, what they’re referring to is generally a collection of standard dried leaves and foliage, like someone scooped a handful of stuff off the ground and crushed it up. It might be mistakable for very low quality cannabis, but it could never be mistaken for actual high quality cannabis flowers. This material is then sprayed with a synthetic.
Apart from regular flowers, vaping has taken over as one of the most popular forms of ingestion, and since fake oil and real oil look pretty much the same, the door has been opened for a massive fakes market in the vape cart industry.
What’s a fake vape cart?
There are a selection of closely related synthetic cannabinoids that are generally used in fake cannabis products. These synthetics are closely related to HHC, a compound found and studied by the US government back in the mid-1900’s, and deemed safe. Though the synthetic cannabinoids themselves have shown to be safe, there has been a marked issue with additives for different things. From flavoring, to stabilizers, to thickening agents, and so on, these additives, at times, have caused injuries to many people, including deaths.
These numbers are not huge to begin with, and show up in specific incidences of bad batches. Nonetheless, these incidences still occur since there is no regulation in a black market in terms of what chemicals can be used. Though the massive and widespread usage of fake vapes and synthetic cannabis with so few incidences, does show a certain level of safety, this isn’t that comforting for those who want to be more careful with what they put in their bodies, in which case unidentified materials in a vape cart are not ideal.
What should be remembered though, is that, regardless of the fact that danger can be caused by the usage of bad chemicals, that the government’s intention to blow the problem out of proportion creates the image of a much bigger issue. The government itself has stated through the CDC, that since the inception of vaping, until January 2020, a total of 68 confirmed deaths were registered as being related to vaping.
That’s a nearly 20 year period with 68 confirmed deaths. On the other hand, smoking causes 480,000 deaths a year, 41,000 of which come from secondhand smoke, also according to the CDC. Oh, and as the government uses the word ‘epidemic’ to describe people smart enough to switch to vaping from smoking, it ignores the true epidemic of opioid use which has claimed over 70,000 lives in 2019, and as many as 93,331 in 2020 alone. And this epidemic was created by pharmaceutical companies, and allowed to prosper by way of shoddy government regulation.
Though vape cartridges are not all real, with many fake options on the market, they have not yet shown even close to the danger level of cigarettes, opiates, or alcohol.
Vape carts – real or fake, how can you tell
So how does a person know if the product they’re buying is the real deal? Sometimes this can be very hard to do visually. There are a few things to keep in mind when going vape shopping, which can help you determine if your vape carts are real or fake. Everything I’m listing here has been found to be true through my own personal experiences, though individual experiences can certainly vary.
1 – The taste. The thing to know about synthetics is that they don’t have a flavor. And neither do distillates or isolates, which are concentrates of just one cannabinoid (or one main cannabinoid along with minor cannabinoids) with everything else burned out. A real cannabis full flower oil will taste exactly like cannabis, and this can’t be faked very well. However, it’s already expected that distillates and isolates will taste like flavoring, and not marijuana. So, when a fakes manufacturer is trying to pull off a fake vape cart, it’s more likely to be of a distillate or isolate since the user won’t be able to distinguish the taste. Buying full flower vape oils can give you a better indication if you’re smoking the right thing.
2 – The packaging. The truth is, fakes manufacturers are getting extremely good, complete with fake lab results and fake QR codes. Anything can be faked, so seeing these things on a product doesn’t mean anything anymore. The real product producers will change things up regularly to try to stay ahead of the fakes market, instituting details in packaging to set themselves apart from their copycats. But that means you have to keep up with what should be expected in your product packaging. I’ve caught fakes by minute details before, which can often be found online for a specific product. Do a search for what you’re buying, see if anyone posted where the fake makers mess up, and look for those inconsistencies in packaging.
3 – The price. Real vape carts aren’t cheap. They take processing time, they require large amounts of cannabis to produce, and they are heavily taxed in real dispensaries. A one gram cart will run about $100 in a legit dispensary, and that’s not a debatable price. A ½ gram runs about $50, and these are low end prices, as higher quality products can still cost more than this. Black market retailers want your money, and part of what gets you in their non-legal dispensary, is lower pricing. If you buy a one-gram cartridge for $30, it’s probably not going to be real. The fakers want you to buy, so they have no reason to compete with super high prices. Their costs are lower, and they can make plenty of money from charging you half the price or less. If the price seems too good to be true, it most likely is.
4 – The effect. Synthetic cannabinoids used in fake cannabis products, are not generally direct synthetics of THC, but instead are more closely related to a molecule called HHC. HHC was investigated as part of government research, in a quest to create a THC-like molecule that could effect receptor sites, but without doing anything else. Essentially, a minimized version of THC. The current synthetics out there are generally related to this compound (though there are likely many versions out there at any given time).
In my personal experience, synthetics have all felt about the same. Getting me high in a way, but not fully, or in a slightly different way than standard weed. I can suck on a synthetic vape all day and still go out and exercise, and this with an advertisement of a strong indica and 90% THC. If the vape was actually an indica with 90% THC, I’d be stuck to my bed, and I know this. Most of the synthetics out there will not give you the same high that you get from regular cannabis, though they will produce a decent high. So pay attention to how you feel. And question if its really applicable to what’s being advertised.
The unfortunate aspect of vape carts, and trying to establish if they’re real or fake, is that there’s a certain reality to quality and pricing that exists in this market. If you’re buying a cheaper product, from a store that seems to be able to offer a lot of lower-than-market prices, and it lacks the intensity of what’s advertised, comes in questionable packaging, or tastes like flavoring when its supposed to be full flower… you’re likely smoking a synthetic. Just be glad they’re really not that likely to cause major damage. And remember that in today’s dispensary world, you might be able to get good black market weed still, but if you want a quality vape cart, you’re going to have to pay out.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.