Patrick DeGrave’s brother was still in a medically induced coma in a Wisconsin hospital when he spoke to the local news. Standing before a crew from FOX 6 Milwaukee, he was ready to go public, and the vaporizer cartridge he held up for the cameras was the reason for his brother’s significant heart and lung damage.
The vapor product DeGrave showed to reporters was distilled from cannabis. But it was also apparently made by the “company” Dank Vapes — an elusive, black-market brand that’s as tricky to pin down as vapor.
They all seem to tell a similar story — that Dank Vapes may be fake. It’s a black-market “brand” that has inspired loyalty online but comes with serious risks.
“They act like a cannabis company, but they actually don’t exist. They’re in the packaging industry,” Mark Hoashi, founder of the Doja app, which is “Yelp for the cannabis industry,” tells Inverse.
“These are just people filling cartridges as ‘Dank Vapes.’ It’s not a singular facility. It’s just people in their garages filling them and selling them.”
Myron Ronay, the CEO of BelCosta Labs, a cannabis testing lab in California, tells Inverse that they often see black-market products that contain unsafe levels of myclobutanil — a fungicide. When myclobutanil is heated, it releases toxic fumes, one of which is hydrogen cyanide. Small amounts of HCN are released when smoking cigarettes, but larger doses are lethal. HCN was a major component of Zyklon-B, the gas used in Nazi gas chambers. Unregulated products, like black-market Dank Vapes, have no one checking to see where that line is drawn.
“That’s one of the most commonly discussed pesticides. That’s definitely one that we see frequently in the underground market,” says Ronay.