It’s the biggest bust of its kind in Minnesota history.
Police in Minnesota confiscated 76,972 THC vape cartridges, estimated to be worth about $4 million, on Monday. Along with the illicit cartridges, law enforcement officers seized $23,000 in counterfeit cash and arrested a suspect who allegedly dealt the cartridges on Snapchat.
The problem isn’t the THC itself, as medical marijuana is legal in Minnesota. Authorities are concerned that these unlicensed vendors are driving a growing scourge of vaping-related illnesses, possibly due to unknown additives in counterfeit cartridges.
“We have no idea what is in these cartridges,” said Brian Marquart, an official from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
This particular bust comes hot on the heels of the death of an elderly woman who was vaping THC to manage back pain. The Minnesota Department of Health says her August death marks the first time anyone in the state has died from a vaping-related lung injury.
On a national scale, there have been 13 vaping-related deaths and 805 vaping-related illnesses, which has been pushing more states to ban vaping in some shape or form.
States Banning Various Types Of E-Cigarettes
Massachusetts has temporarily banned the sales of all vaping products.
“One of the experts said that, ‘We don’t have time to wait. People are getting sick and the time to act is now.’ I couldn’t agree more,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said.
Michigan and New York have banned flavored vapes. New York in particular is zeroing in on vitamin E acetate, a particular additive found in many THC vape cartridges. Minnesota feels the same way.
“We just don’t know the impact of when you inhale it,” said Daniel Huff, Assistant Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health.
Feds Focus on Youth Vaping
The crisis has even garnered attention at the federal level, with the Trump administration moving to ban flavored e-cigarette products.
“The Trump administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a statement this month.
According to Azar, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the process of finalizing a compliance policy to remove all flavored e-cigarettes from the market, including legacy flavors like mint and menthol.