The blackmarket for vape cartridges is booming.
Blackmarket buyers snatch up pallets of empty, branded cartridges from manufacturers, then pretty much fill them with whatever they want. Sometimes, that means weed; sometimes, it means harmful additives and random chemicals. Or, counterfeiters produce labels of known brands like Kingpen, then sell them to be used by anyone who buys them.
Brass Knuckles tried to circumvent this confusion, by telling consumers:
“Starting July 1st, all authentic Brass Knuckles cartridges have exclusive, serial numbered moving hologram stickers on the side of their acrylic casing,” the recurring caption reads. “All authentic product also has either CA or NV compliance test result labels on our packing depending on the state it is manufactured in. We do not ship product and we do not service non licensed locations in CA or NV. If you see Brass without numbered holograms or compliance labels it’s fake!”
Unfortunately, bootleggers quickly learned to fake these latest fail safes, updating their own knockoffs before the legal versions could even really hit the streets.
So, how do you know if the vape you’re buying is legit, or fake?
Put simply: you can’t.
Which is kind of the problem.
Without transparent and progressive government regulation, the black market vape industry will continue to thrive. The obfuscation of facts works to bootleggers’ advantage: by keeping even legal weed industries mostly in the dark, black markets are given plenty of shadows to operate in.
Some dealers have tried to inspire confidence in their customers by creating their own brand labels. As one dealer told MERRY JANE reporter Zach Harris:
“Our goal was to make a product that wasn’t tainted or overpriced. We had seen a lot of the King Pen and Brass Knuckles going around that were fakes, and we were tired of people smoking pesticides and overpaying for garbage.”
But — as Harris notes in his recent feature on the subject — without regulators in place to test these cartridges, there is no way to tell how safe they actually are.
So, for now: if you’re suspicious of the seller, there’s probably a good reason for it. And if you can’t get your vape pens straight from the source, maybe learn to make your own infused oils from bud.
Because even if it’s harder to get, clean weed whose source is known will always be your safest smoke.