Dank Vapes, a brand of black-market THC vaporizer cartridges whose products have been linked to the outbreak of vaping-related lung diseases, has an official verified account on Instagram — despite the fact that it may not even be a real company.
The brand claims “nothing is for sale” in its Instagram bio. However, users can buy products with flavor names like “cotton candy” and “banana split” through third-party distributors advertising their services in the comments of Dank Vape’s verified Instagram posts.
According to a report the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday, a number of patients affected by the vape-related lung diseases reported they used cartridges from Dank Vapes.
“Dank Vapes appears to be the most prominent in a class of largely counterfeit brands,” the CDC says, “with common packaging that is easily available online and that is used by distributors to market THC-containing cartridges with no obvious centralized production or distribution. The report comes from health officials in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Dank Vapes may not even be a real company at all. An Inverse report in August concluded that the brand is “one of the biggest conspiracies in all of marijuana” — a packaging company “with no quality control or oversight.”
The Instagram account appears to be registered in Los Angeles. But there are no California state marijuana licenses in its name. The California Cannabis Industry Association does not recognize Dank Vapes as a registered brand.
And that means Dank Vapes is slipping through the cracks of regulation. The state of California mandates rigorous testing from cannabis labs to legally sell products. But as Vox found when it looked into online vaping communities, just about anyone can make and distribute their own vape juice.
The Dank Vapes account, which first posted in September, advertises various flavors and doesn’t directly link to distributors. The account’s comments are filled by people trying to buy flavored cartridges — and by Instagram users warning others.
Instagram did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But to obtain verification an account has to be “in the public interest,” according to Instagram’s verification page. The account must “represent a real person, registered business, or entity.” The company also says that to qualify for verification, the account in question has to represent a “well-known, highly searched for person, brand, or entity.”
The verification process requires some form of identification, like a government-issued ID, which means Instagram may have the identify of an individual who claimed the Dank Vapes brand.
Inverse points to one Jake Lindsey as the individual who filed trademarks for Dank Vapes with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The only account that Dank Vapes follows on Instagram is Dankwoods, another trademark belonging to Lindsey. It’s a blunt pre-roll distributor that, contrary to its Instagram bio, does appear to sell and ship products online.
The Dankwoods store accepts payments through Western Union, Moneygram, Zelle, Bitcoin, Amazon gift cards, and CashApp. Dankwoods’ site also sells Dank Vapes’ cartridges.
The domain name Dankwoods.org is registered to an office and retail building in San Francisco’s SOMA district, a block from the Giants’ ballpark.
In a section titled “Is Dank Vapes Safest for Health?” the Dankwoods site says “We are professionals: we have no mind to spoil your life.” Here’s its bizarre, barely-English disclaimer in full:
Dank Vapes is not safe for health. People who are taking this already cannot understand those words. They take this to consummate the bodily desires or the habits, which they previously developed.Buy Dank Vapes Online.
Due to a high concentration of the chemical, they surely damage t [sic] deliver to perform well. Some studies show the statement that Dank Vapes has health effects on the heart.
Damage the esophagus slowly that effects on the stomach activity.”
The site does not make any mention of the ongoing vape-related lung disease crisis, which claimed seven lives. The Centers for Disease Control, Federal Drug Administration, and Health and Human Services recommend immediately throwing away black market vapes bought on the street, instead of in a regulated store, regardless of whether it contains CBD, THC, or nicotine.
Leafly reported that a diluent referred to as Honey Cut, which dilutes THC oil without affecting the viscosity, contains Vitamin E oil. The cutting agent makes vape juice production cheaper, but also comes with a slew of unknown side effects. Health officials in New York suspect Vitamin E oil may cause severe lung damage seen in patients hospitalized for vape-related disease symptoms.
The Dank Vapes Instagram account has not responded to request for comment, and calls to numbers listed on Dankwoods.org went unanswered.