Consumers Are Still Unknowingly Buying Fake Vape Cartridges

holding cartridge

Consumers beware!

Fake oil cartridges are bringing a dark cloud on the current marijuana industry as more and more phony cannabis carts make it into the hands of consumers across the nation. While the legalization of cannabis is spreading like wildfire in the United States, so are the ridiculous product scams and unethical bootleggers. Fake oil cartridges not only harm the industry but put thousands of consumers at risk of consuming unhealthy cannabis products.

It is up to the leaders in the industry to educate consumers and local communities of the harms behind fake oil cartridges and how to avoid them.

Fake Oil Cartridges on the Market Today

two marijuana vape cartridges

Unfortunately, the list of fake cannabis carts on the market is longer than expected. However, this problem is nothing new and has been an issue within legal marijuana for a few years. Even though many of the legitimate marijuana brands that are being rebranded as fake oil carts know of this problem; uneducated consumers are still falling for these scams around the nation.

Unsurprisingly, a majority of the fake oil cartridges are utilizing existing marijuana brands, based in California, to gain trust with consumers. The scammers are acting like they purchased these cartridges in a licensed dispensary and are now selling them on the black market to consumers throughout the nation. Some are even using Instagram and other social media outlets to sell these fake oil carts.

Common Fake Oil Cartridge Brands:

  • Supreme
  • Mario Kart
  • DankVapes
  • Brass Knuckles (legal brand that gets ripped off)
  • Heavy Hitters (legal brand that gets ripped off)
  • King Pen (legal brand that gets ripped off)
  • Cereal Carts

The above brands are the most common fake oil cartridges on the market, but there are many other smaller brands used for fake oil carts as well. It is remarkable just how easy it is to produce a fake oil cartridge. The scammers merely need to purchase the same packaging as these licensed brands above from online retailers. Heck, they can even buy them on eBay! Many of these packages will come with an empty cartridge ready to be filled with whatever fake cannabis oil they’d like.

The crazy part about all of this is that the packaging for these fake oil cartridges come from the same Chinese manufacturers that produce the legal marijuana brand’s packaging. The fake oil cartridges look practically the same as the licensed marijuana brands. For this reason, it is challenging for an average consumer to recognize a fake oil cart from a real one.

How Are Fake Oil Carts Making Their Way to the Consumer?

pill bottle with marijuana with cart on wood table

Cannabis cartridges are one of the most popular products in most legal marijuana markets. Consumers find vape carts to be easy-to-use, discreet, and potent. It is the best way to consume cannabis concentrates, which can range from 60 to 99 percent THC. Cartridges are in high demand, and an average consumer is likely to look for the cheapest, most potent product.

Many of these fake oil cartridges are found online, in head shops, or even in licensed and unlicensed marijuana dispensaries. In California, the brands that are knocked-off by the fake oil carts companies can commonly be found in unlicensed local dispensaries across the state. These fake carts may be cheaper, but they are unregulated, untested, and illegally branded.

Why Fake Oil Cartridges Sell:

  • The branding of these cartridges uses a well-known, legal cannabis brand to gain the trust of consumers.
  • The packaging looks exactly like the currently licensed marijuana packaging and contains similar verbiage.
  • Some of the fake oil cartridges use childish or nostalgic branding like, Mario Karts, which is illegal and non-compliant in most legal states.
  • Other fake oil cartridges use ridiculous flavors like confetti cake to catch the consumer’s eye. (Mario Karts and DankVapes)
  • The fake oil cartridges will provide fraudulent testing which some consumers trust blindly.
  • Many fake oil cartridges will brand themselves as a hemp-derived CBD cart to get head shops and convenience stores to carry the brand.
  • Even in states with new legal marijuana programs, some dispensaries are falling for the fake oil cartridges and putting them on the shelves as if it is a licensed marijuana product.

Sadly enough, if a consumer were to go to Weed Map’s website and type in Brass Knuckle carts, they will find that even medical dispensaries in Michigan have these fake oil cartridges on the shelves. If you go to the licensed Brass Knuckle’s website, it states they are only in California and Nevada.

How are even legal dispensaries falling for the fake oil cartridges? It is a bit shocking to think these fake carts could be reaching such a significant consumer pool. Nevertheless, it is easy to see why consumers are falling for the fake oil carts considering even industry professionals can’t tell the difference.

The Risk of Consuming Fake Oil Cartridges

vape cartridge and pill bottle of cannabis bud

There is quite a bit of risk that comes to both the consumer and the marijuana industry if these fake oil cartridges continue to make into the hands of consumers. Not only does the legal industry hope to keep the push for legalization moving forward, but it is on a constant mission to change the way the public and government officials see legal cannabis. Fake oil cartridges are a significant problem the industry must address.

1. Fake Oil Cartridges are Untested and Unregulated

The number one problem with fake cannabis carts is that they are untested and unregulated. Consumers have no idea what they are consuming and are at risk of inhaling harmful materials. All legal marijuana products undergo a detailed lab test to ensure the quality and safety of the marijuana product before they ever reaches a dispensary’s shelves. These fake oil carts never undergo testing and may very well not even contain cannabis.

Potential Harmful Materials:

  • Heavy Metals
  • Foreign Materials
  • Pesticides / Herbicides
  • Residual Solvents

In California, where many of these fake oil cartridges originate, there is a remarkable number of cartridges failing the heavy metal testing. Inhaling heavy metals into our bodies is extremely dangerous and has the potential to cause long-term issues. It is common for fake oil cartridges to contain heavy metals and other foreign materials.

2. Fake Oil Cartridges Can Contain Non-Cannabis Substances

Scammers producing the fake oil cartridges have the discretion to put whatever they’d like into the oil for the carts. Many of the counterfeit carts are coming back containing either trace amounts of cannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids, or solely solvents like vegetable glycerin. It is also possible for the fake oil cartridges to contain illegal and harmful substances. Nevertheless, the uncertainty leaves the door open for far too many concerns, and the consumers are the ones at risk.

3. Consumers are Risking Health, Money, and Time on Fake Oil Cartridges

Marijuana products serve a purpose for many consumers, and some even consider it their medicine. When a consumer purchases a fake oil cartridge, they not only risk their health, which is the primary concern, but they risk wasting time and money. Many consumers budget out their expenses to know what they can spend on their marijuana. Wasting money on fake oil cartridges wastes consumers hard-earned cash and keeps them from gaining access to the quality cannabis products they desire and deserve.

4. The Industry Takes the Blame for any Harm Done by Fake Oil Cartridges

While it isn’t fair, nor does it make sense, the perceived legitimacy of the legal marijuana industry will take a hit if these fake oil cartridges continue to thrive on the black market. Cannabis professionals and leaders have fought this battle and continue to do so, but it’s scammers and frauds like this that make it a constant uphill struggle to legalization. It is essential for the industry to find solutions to this problem or the backlash could be drastic. Professionalism is what the legal marijuana industry strives for, and the fake oil cartridges do nothing but halt its progress.

Solutions to the Problem and Tips for Consumers to Avoid Fake Oil Cartridges

filled and unfilled vape cartridges

There is no easy answer to the problem that fake oil cartridges created. The easiest solution would be to fully legalize marijuana on a federal level and regulate the industry. It would make quality marijuana products easily accessible to the public which would diminish the need for fake oil carts on the black market. Granted, it is still possible for fake oil carts to exist in legal markets; just look at California and Michigan!

Another potential solution is one that legal brands in California and across the nation are beginning to use. These brands are continually updating their packaging to create a noticeable difference in the legal carts from the fake oil cartridges. Nevertheless, the scammers merely print another round of packaging to match the new ones which keep the problem going.

The best solution to this problem is to educate consumers and local communities on fake oil cartridges and how to avoid them. Here are some tips to avoid purchasing a fake oil cartridge:

    • Only buy marijuana cartridges and concentrates from a legal and licensed marijuana dispensary.
    • Never purchase cannabis or cannabis products from Instagram or any social media.
    • Turn in all social media accounts reaching out to you about fake oil cartridges to get them to shut down.
    • Beware of the knock-off, fake oil cartridge versions of these brands listed above and refrain from purchasing these brands unless from a licensed dispensary. Also, check out the brand’s website to make sure it is a licensed product in that state.
    • Do not purchase any marijuana products unless they are produced in that state.
    • Utilize an at-home lab test to check the quality of the cartridge.
    • Beware of any childish packaging or wild flavors on cannabis cartridges.
    • Ask as many questions about the brand and product before purchasing; if a shop cannot answer your questions, do not purchase the product.

It is now up to the consumer to make sure they don’t purchase a fake oil cartridge. The industry is doing everything in its power to stop fake oil carts from reaching consumers, but they can only do so much with federal prohibition. As legalization continues to spread and consumers become educated on quality marijuana products, we can hope to see the fake oil cartridges disappear.

Looking for deals on real carts from legal dispensaries near you? Head to our deals page!


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Justice Council
Justice Council is a freelance writer, CBD specialist, and cannabis enthusiast located in Denver, Colorado. His wide range of experience as a budtender, delivery driver, and CBD sales rep has given him a unique look into this new world of cannabis. Throughout his career in the industry, Justice has written many pieces on culture, economics, product knowledge, and career opportunities within the cannabis space. He takes pride in being part of a truly pioneering industry.