New CBD Vape Danger; Street Drugs Found in Place of CBD

After just two puffs from the CBD vape pen Jenkins was offered by a friend he ended up in a coma rather than simply relaxed. He remembers things getting hazy then quickly terrifying. Not the reaction he was expected at all.
Trista Best
Written by Trista Best, Registered Dietitian
Last Updated

Vaping CBD has become a widespread method of ingesting this cannabis compound. Marketers make claims of potential health benefits ranging from anxiety to chronic pain and just about anything in between. 

When Jay Jenkins was offered a CBD vape pen with the claim that it would relax him he was initially hesitant.1Unfortunately, he pressed through his hesitation and found himself anything but relaxed. 

After just two puffs from the CBD vape pen, he was offered by a friend he ended up in a coma rather than simply relaxed. Jenkins states he remembers things getting hazy then quickly terrifying. Not the reaction he was expected at all. 

He experienced intense mouth pain stating the nerves felt as if they were “multiplied by 10” and he experienced vivid images, became paralyzed, and immediately lost consciousness. He is quoted stating, “I thought I was already dead.” Not an experience a South Carolina military college freshman should have to go through. 

Street drugs are being found in CBD vaporizers and Jenkins became an early victim of this new danger. In fact, what Jenkins vaped contained no CBD at all, but was spiked with a street drug. 

It is common to assume at first thought that this lacing of vape pens with powerful street drugs is being done by someone intending to impose harm. However, in an attempt to make a quick profit off the CBD industry boom some manufacturers are replacing quality CBD with synthetic, illegal, and cheap marijuana. 

These swaps are not limited to vapes, but are also being found in gummies and edibles, as was uncovered by an investigation by the Associated Press.2

The side effects of this dangerous practice are not limited to Jenkins, but have hospitalized dozens of CBD consumers like Jenkins over a two-year span. Because of the rapid growth of the CBD industry, it has been a challenge for regulators to catch up on all the reported lacing and repercussions. This means the companies responsible have been able to continue operating largely without the consequence of their poor practice. 

After Jenkin’s reaction to the spiked CBD vape, the Associated Press commissioned the laboratory testing of the vape oil he used along with 29 others for a total of 30 oils tested in all. These additional 29 oils were gathered from companies that were flagged as suspicious from around the country. 

Out of the 30, 10 were found containing synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or spice. The others had no CBD content at all. One well known CBD distributor was Green Machine. Their pods were purchased by investigators in California, Florida, and Maryland making it a type of “Russian roulette,” as director of Flora Research Laboratories, James Neal-Kababick commented in his statement to the Associated Press.1

Additional issues that make it hard to enforce consequences on these spike CBD companies is the frequency at which they pass the blame to the supply and distribution chain where the oil was originally sourced. 

Red Flags

The CBD industry does not seem to be declining anytime soon. So what is a person to do who wants to enjoy the benefits of CBD without fear of negative side effects from laced products? 

A major red flag to look for when purchasing CBD vapes is the company name not being identified on the packaging and very little online presence. Unfortunately, it is simple for these dishonest companies to create a label and outsource their production to bulk wholesalers. 

This process only adds to the difficulty of tracking these products and holding the responsible parties accountable. 

Read our CBD 101 guide to help you understand how to choose a product.

An Emerging Hazard

CBD is now considered an “emerging hazard” by the American Association of Poison Control Centers because of the ease of mislabeling and potential contamination.3

A devastating case from 2018 involves an 8-year Washington state boy being hospitalized simply trying to control his seizures. His parents ordered CBD oil online after reading cases of potential to treat seizures. The case was printed in the Clinical Toxicology journal published in May of this year.4

Clusters of these issues continue to occur throughout the United States and are due to mislabeling, inaccurate information, and CBD spiking, and the lack of proper regulation for these products. 

Forensic scientist, Michelle Peace, at the Virginia Commonwealth University makes it clear in her statement to the Associated Press, “As long as it (CBD) remains unregulated like it is you just give a really wide space for nefarious activity to continue.”1

Anyone experiencing CBD related problems should contact their local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

References: 

  1. Mohr, H. Some CBD Vapes Contain Street Drug Instead of the Real Thing. AssociatedPress. Published September 16, 2019. Accessed September 25, 2019.  
  2. The Associated Press. How the Associated Press Collected Information on CBD Vapes. AssociatedPressPublished September 16, 2019. Accessed September 25, 2019. 
  3. Emerging Hazards. American Association of Poison Control Centers. Accessed September 25, 2019. 
  4. Case Report: Synthetic Cannabinoid Identified in CBD Product Sold Online. Published July 11, 2019. Accessed September 25, 2019.  
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Trista Best
Trista Best
Registered Dietitian
Trista Best is a Registered Dietitian, Public Health Dietitian, and former college Nutrition Professor. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Health Science from Armstrong Atlantic State University in 2009, Masters of Public Health Nutrition from Liberty University in 2014, and Bachelors of Science in Food and Environmental Sciences from the University of Alabama in 2018. Her dietetic background is in Public Health, Medical Grade Supplements, and Childhood Nutrition.

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