Just like eBay Air Jordans, discount smartphones, designer bags, and anything else with a brand name that can be purchased on Craigslist or at a swap meet, a number of legal cannabis companies have had their branding and packaging counterfeited by foreign manufacturers and distributors, causing a flood of bootleg vape cartridges filled with untested and unregulated cannabis oil sold across the globe. As a result, the underground market has created a seemingly never-ending uphill battle for some of the legal weed industry’s leading companies.
Pre-filled vape cartridges — or “carts,” for short — have been a steadily growing presence in the legal weed market since the early days of adult-use legalization in Colorado and California’s pre-legalization medical industry. Originally made with a concoction of butane hash oil cut with food-grade glycerins, the industry has since upgraded to more advanced extraction techniques, with cartridges now almost always filled with a terpene-infused distillate or live resin. Today, carts have all but replaced dry herb vapes for on-the-go cannabis consumption. In states like California, the contents of cartridges are tested by state-approved labs to make sure they are free of any residual pesticides, cutting agents, heavy metals, and other contaminants.
Disposable cartridges are in high demand in both legal and illegal cannabis markets, allowing East Coasters, Midwesterners, and international smokers the ability to puff freely without drawing the ire of cops or co-workers. But unlike customers in legal markets who can rely on state-mandated licensing and testing regulations to inform their vape purchases, cannabis users in prohibition states must instead accept whatever their dealer is offering.