Californian cannabis users have been urged to stick to legal dispensaries after authorities found a potentially deadly cutting agent in THC vaping products at unlicensed stores.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that vitamin E acetate was to blame for a lung illness that killed 60 people and left 2,700 injured. Illicit dealers used it as a thickening agent in THC vape cartridges. It is legal to buy and harmless when eaten or rubbed on the skin, but it can be fatal when it enters the lungs.

Authorities seized more than 10,000 vape pens during raids across Los Angeles and then performed tests on them. They found that 75% of contained undisclosed and potential harmful additives, including vitamin E acetate.

The California Bureau of Cannabis Control said it highlighted the dangers associated with buying marijuana products from unlicensed stores and delivery services.

“The prevalence of dirty and dangerous vape pens at unlicensed cannabis stores demonstrate how important it is for consumers to purchase cannabis goods from licensed retailers, which are required to sell products that meet state testing and labeling standards,” said Bureau Chief Lori Ajax.

Last week the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency was forced to issue a recall on 9,380 cartridges after they were found to contain vitamin E acetate. The products were sourced before a ban on the substance was implemented, and the MRA faced delays in conducting tests. Authorities across the country are scrambling to protect Americans from products containing vitamin E acetate.

The vast majority of the products seized in California had the incorrect THC content on the labels, according to BCC. Often they contained far less THC than they claimed, meaning many cannabis users are being ripped off when they turn to the illegal market.

Last week, BCC launched a campaign encouraging consumers to look for and scan a QR code when they visit a licensed cannabis retailer. Smartphone users can use their camera to scan the displayed QR code, which automatically links to the Bureau’s Online License Search and informs them of whether it is a legal, licensed retailer.

The move is designed to help consumers identify licensed cannabis retail stores, assist law enforcement and support the legal cannabis market where products such as vape cartridges are routinely tested to protect public health and safety.

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