CBD edibles and vapes spiked with a variety of synthetic marijuana compounds have found their way to consumers in Louisiana, Maryland and nearly a dozen other states, according to a nationwide Associated Press investigation into unregulated cannabidiol products. Synthetic marijuana, often marketed as K2 or Spice, has been linked to mass hospitalizations and other health emergencies across the U.S. and Europe. While they have nothing to do with cannabis plants, synthetic marijuana chemicals somewhat mimic the activity of cannabinoids, but they are significantly more potent. Adverse reactions to synthetic marijuana range from fainting and dizziness to vomiting, heart and lung illness, coma, and even death.
Investigation Uncovers CBD Vape Cartridges and Edibles Spiked with Synthetic Marijuana
The U.S. hemp-derived cannabidiol industry is growing rapidly, thanks to the lifting of the ban on hemp products. But unregulated, untested CBD products still dominate the market. And while many products come from reputable companies that are as transparent as possible about their manufacturing processes, some originate from sources that are lacing products with dangerous synthetic chemicals.
The term synthetic marijuana is somewhat of a misnomer. It’s a catch-all term for unknown chemical mixtures sprayed on or added to smokable herbs and flowers and typically inhaled or ingested, hence its association with cannabis. These drugs provide a cheap, intense and dangerous high. And now, investigators are finding them in CBD vape and edible products.
AP’s investigation began with a nationwide survey of law enforcement. That survey revealed that at least 128 of 350 CBD products labs tested contained synthetic “marijuana.” Gummy bears accounted for 36 of those 128. The rest were vape products. AP says most of the testing occurred in Southern states. And in Mississippi, labs detected fentanyl in some products labeled CBD.
Through the survey, AP obtained a list of brands and products containing synthetic marijuana. It then sent reporters to purchase those products in retailers across the U.S. and have them tested. In all, AP turned up contaminated CBD products in 13 states. Some of the products could be purchased online and shipped anywhere in the U.S.
Because the investigation focused on suspect brands and products, its results don’t represent the CBD market as a whole. Still, the report highlights the dangers of untested cannabidiol products at a time when the U.S. is still dealing with a string of vape-linked illnesses and deaths.
Green Machine, Yolo Vape Cartridges Found Containing Synthetic Marijuana
AP reporters have so far tested about 30 suspicious cartridges purchased at convenience stores mostly located in Southern states. Lab tests showed that 10 of the 30 contained synthetic marijuana, including Juul-compatible Green Machine CBD pods and Yolo CBD vape cartridges. Test results found the cartridges contained chemicals linked to multiple deaths in Europe and dozens of hospitalization in the U.S., spanning states from Utah to Louisiana to Maryland.
One of those cartridges, sold at a mom-and-pop convenience store, the 7 to 11 Store, put a young man in a coma in South Carolina. Jay Jenkins said two puffs of a vape cartridge he thought contained CBD induced hallucinations and made him feel like he was dead. According to Jenkins’ medical records, he suffered acute respiratory failure after being rushed to the hospital, where he fell into a brief coma.
There are no consistencies in terms of the chemicals found or the products contaminated with them, either. Products found to contain no synthetic marijuana in one state tested positive for them in another. For Green Machine CBD pods, for example, four of seven tested positive for synthetic marijuana.
Furthermore, investigators had little luck tracking down anyone to hold accountable for the spiked CBD products. Retailers typically point higher up the supply chain, placing blame with producers and manufacturers. The absence of any regulatory oversight makes it very difficult to track down the people behind the laced CBD products. As a result, the American Association of Poison Control Centers has listed CBD as “an emerging hazard.”