Law enforcement agencies in California and around the country are struggling to contend with a flood of THC vaporizer cartridges that have been linked to deadly lung diseases. Drug users like vaporizing marijuana because it is discrete and avoids the distinctive aroma produced by smoking it, but many of the THC cartridges being sold on the street and in unlicensed dispensaries, which are often made in basements and backrooms, have been linked to serious health problems.
The popularity of THC vaping has led to a surge in law enforcement seizures. According to the Associated Press, more than 120 individuals have been arrested and at least 500,000 THC cartridges have been seized in the last 24 months. Many of these seizures are made in states where the recreational use of marijuana is legal. In October 2019, 7,200 marijuana cartridges were seized when police raided a Los Angeles warehouse. State officials have since revoked the license of the company that made the cartridges.
The cartridges sell on the street for between $20 and $50, and it is estimated that they generate about $2.5 billion each year for drug dealers and drug traffickers. However, those who use black-market THC products often pay a far higher price. THC cartridges have been linked to a surge in lung disease and at least 47 deaths. Health officials believe vitamin E acetate, which is often used to thicken THC fluid, is likely responsible.
Illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia are often discovered by police during warrantless searches. When their clients are charged with committing drug crimes based on evidence found during such a search, experienced criminal defense attorneys may study the sequence of events carefully to determine if the police officers involved acted with sufficient probable cause. When rights protected by the Fourth Amendment appear to have been violated, attorneys could seek to have the charges dismissed.