Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on December 27, 2022

The cannabis industry is in a state of perpetual development as an increasing number of cannabis consumers browse through the market and look for their ideal strain and method of consumption. After all, nowadays, the market is filled with a variety of cannabis products that can meet the wants and needs of the majority of customers.

But when we talk about ease of use, practicality, dosage control, and portability, one cannabis product has won the approval of many, and that’s the cannabis vape. In the history of weed use, vape pens are a fairly “new” method of consumption on the market, but they have quickly become highly sought after.

This also meant that the production of THC oil and concentrates has significantly gone up. By 2022, the sales of cannabis concentrates on the legal market are expected to reach $8.4 billion, where more than half of this profit is from the pre-filled vape carts. But what about the black market?

There are many counterfeit cartridges and fake THC oil being illegally sold that have been proven to be hazardous to public health, and many people who have used them have been deceived.

Our topic for today is fake THC oil cartridges and THC oil refills. We’ll discuss what they are, why they are dangerous, and give you some tips on how to spot the red flags to avoid getting scammed.

What’s In a Vape Pen?

A vape pen is a small and portable device designed to be used for vaping cannabis oils and distillates. Its two main components are the vape cartridge that holds a gram or half a gram of cannabis or THC oil, and the battery, which powers the heating element in order to vaporize the oil.

The oil contains concentrated amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes. Most oil vape cartridges, though, contain THC dominant oil, but CBD and THC balanced concentrates are also easily found.

Why Knowing the Difference Between the Real THC Oil Vapes and Fake Products Is Important

In 2019 there was an outbreak of hundreds of people across the United States reporting symptoms of lung illnesses that were later revealed to be due to vaping fake THC oil. These products have many additives that the authentic ones don’t, which can cause some real consequences. Following these incidents, since 2019, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control has implemented lab testing of vape cartridges for heavy metals.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that as of February 2020, there were thousands of “hospitalized cases or deaths from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands).” However, they also report that compared to the previous year, the emergency department visits due to pulmonary problems related to vaping and/or smoking e-cigarettes have been continuously declining. This is probably the result of increased quality control, as well as the raised awareness of the negative effects of counterfeit products. 

Nonetheless, this has caused a major concern about the hazardous health effects of fake THC cartridges and THC oil since they’re still being sold on the market. It has become a pressing issue for cannabis consumers, vape cartridge manufacturers, and retailers alike to become informed about where and how these counterfeit products were made. It’s also equally important for consumers to learn how to differentiate between authentic THC oil vaporizers and fake ones.

How to Spot Fake THC Oil and Vape Cartridges

When you’re buying online, there aren’t that many ways to tell whether the product is authentic or not, and you may notice something’s not right after you’ve already paid and it’s in your hands. Therefore, be very cautious about the sellers you buy from. When you’re not buying online, though, there are some things you can pay attention to, to avoid getting scammed.

The Packaging May Be the First Indicator That It’s a Knock-Off

Counterfeiters most often copy the packaging of legal cannabis vape manufacturers, and this is how they fool customers into thinking that their products are authentic. Brands like Brass Knuckles, Dank Vapes, Moon Rocks, and Heavy Hitters are well known on the market. You can find them being sold online for very few bucks on Amazon. Additionally, many of these counterfeits have typos or grammar errors on the packaging.

Check the Consistency of the THC Oil

Generally, high-quality and authentic THC oil should be thick with a vivid and clear gold color, and it should move very slowly in the cartridge. If the oil is thin and watery and moves easily in the cart, and the color is either darker with an orange overtone, or if it’s lighter than it should be, then it’s most likely a fake THC oil.

The Ingredient List Can Tell You Whether It’s the Real Thing

One major problem with fake THC oil vaporizers is that they contain significant amounts of pesticides and heavy metals that when inhaled in large concentrates can be hazardous. There are some cutting agents that are commonly added to fake THC oil to improve the consistency of the oil or the intensity of the vapor.

You’ll most commonly find these on the ingredient list:

  • Polyethylene glycol (PEG)
  • Propylene glycol (PG)
  • Vegetable glycerin (VG)
  • Vitamin E acetate (also called tocopheryl acetate)

These additives have been approved by the FDA, but for other uses that do not include vaping, and therefore are deemed unsafe. Vitamin E acetate, specifically, was the most commonly found ingredient in illicit THC oil cartridges. This is a different compound than the vitamin E naturally found in foods and supplements and it’s thought to cause inflammation when inhaled.

Real THC Vape Carts and Genuine THC Oil Don’t Come That Cheap

THC vape carts and THC oil aren’t simple to produce and a lot goes into the process – therefore, it makes no sense for them to have a low price. Low-quality products, on the other hand, contain cheap, filler ingredients that are not safe to be consumed. This is why their price is so low. If you come across a vape cart whose price seems too good to be real, don’t buy it, it’s probably fake. And the same goes for THC oil refills.

How to Avoid Buying Fake THC Cartridge and THC Oil

Staying informed about what goes on on the market is the best way to avoid getting scammed. Let’s see what you should pay the most attention to.

Buy From Licensed Dispensaries

When it comes to cannabis products, buying from licensed dispensaries is important, but even more so when it comes to vape carts and THC oil. Licensed dispensaries sell products from trusted retailers and brands that test their products before they put them out on the market.

Look for Licensed Cannabis Brand Names

Similarly, buying licensed cannabis brands is the safest option. These brands provide test results from third-party labs to their retailers, so the budtender in your dispensary should have the certificate of analysis (COA). Do your research and look for brands that have been around for a while.

Sometimes fake brands will photoshop this information. If anything seems fishy to you, you can always check with the lab to see if the product has really been tested.

Final Thoughts on Fake Vape Cartridges and THC Oil

Fake products are obviously a nuisance on the market, but thankfully, their numbers have been dropping since stricter regulations have ensued. However, there are still many being illegally sold, so that’s why raising awareness is highly important. If you’re planning to buy a THC oil vape, make sure to thoroughly research the brands and buy from already established manufacturers.

A passionate advocate for the benefits of cannabis. Fraser Horton, who has a background in botany and a strong love of nature, has spent years researching how cannabis affects the body and mind. He established Leaf Nation in 2020, where he has devoted himself to educating people about the legalisation of marijuana and its safe and responsible use. Fraser is committed to highlighting cannabis’ potential for improving wellness and working to dispel the stigma associated with its use.


The information presented on this page is provided as a public service to aid in education and is derived from sources believed to be reliable. Readers are responsible for making their own assessment of the topics discussed here. In no event shall Leaf Nation be held reliable for any injury, loss or damage that could happen if using or abusing drugs.