As Trump flavor ban looms, Arizona sees major increase in illegal THC vapes crossing border

According to recent comments by officials of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s department in Arizona, law enforcement is beginning to see a significant rise in illegal THC products flooding across the U.S. border.  Detectives are saying that a new product with the street name “crude oil” is the most concerning.

Unlike legalized marijuana-based oils which can contain up to 30 percent THC maximum, this newly emerging Black Market version is known to contain as much as 80 percent.  Due to its enormously high potency, vaping of the contraband crude oil without proper dilution beforehand is quite deadly.

Related Article:   CDC issues updated warning: Most lung patients purchased THC vapes from ‘informal sources’

Fox News is reporting that this unlawful substance is being purchased by “illegal processing labs” before supposedly being distilled, cleaned, and then repackaged into Black Market THC vapor cartridges. Many of these contraband products are also being sold by nefarious dealers through social media accounts at an average price of $50 per cartridge.  Sheriff Paul Penzone issued the following statement.

“This is a social issue that is going to lead to the loss of lives, we know we’ve seen things such as suicides, we’ve seen young adults die from the implications of the chemicals themselves, we’ve seen mental health challenges from this drug itself, therefore, everyone should be concerned.”

According to Detective Matthew Shay, an astonishing 25 gallons of crude oil and about 10,000 illegally imported THC cartridges were confiscated in a single arrest.  The man charged allegedly had his own laboratory, warehouse, and a thriving criminal business using several social media platforms. 

Illegal THC oils: Not just an Arizona problem

The vaping community has seen this sort of criminal activity before, and it is not just confined to Arizona and other border states.  On September 12, 2019, Jacob and Tyler Huffhines were arrested amid accusations that they were running an illegal drug ring out of Wisconsin.

Their contraband product of choice was allegedly THC-vapor cartridges.  At the time of the brothers’ arrests, law enforcement estimated that the Huffhines were selling between 3000-5000 illegal THC cartridges per day at an average cost of about $20 each.

Related Article:  ARRESTED: Wisconsin man accused of running illegal THC vape cartridge op

The irony about this surge in illegal activity at the border is that it is precisely what President Trump was worried about as he was deciding whether to enact a federal flavor ban on nicotine-based vapes.  On the day before the Huffhines’ arrest, Trump first announced his intentions to ban all flavored vapes during a White House press conference while sitting alongside the First Lady.  His announcement was met with instant backlash from the vaping community – many of which are believed to be Trump supporters or at least Republican-leaning. 

Trump, the flavor ban, and vaping voters

By November, it became clear that Trump was waffling on his initial decision.  Then came the news of a special meeting between the President, several members of the medical community, anti-vaping activists groups like the American Lung Association, and pro-vaping advocacy agencies like the Vapor Technology Association (VTA) and the American Vaping Association (AVA).

During the President’s extended conference which was partially broadcast by ABC News Live, Trump expressed his concern that banning vaping would likely lead to an increase in Black Market “poison” entering the United States.

 “The one thing I see though, you watch prohibition, you look at, with the alcohol, you look at cigarettes, if you don’t give it to them, it’s going to come here illegally. Okay.  They’re going to make it.  But instead of Reynolds or Juul or legitimate companies, good companies, making something that’s safe, they’re going to be selling stuff on the street corner that could be horrible.   That’s the one problem I can’t seem to forget.  I’ve seen it.  You just have to look at the history of it. And now, instead of having a flavor that’s at least safe, they’re going to be having a flavor that’s poison.  That’s a big problem.”

Trump’s worst fears may be becoming a reality if the reports out of Arizona are true, and signs of the President’s frustration are beginning to filter out into mainstream media.  Just last week, Axios reported that Trump expressed regret over his personal involvement with the flavor ban issue.  “I should never have done that f-cking vaping thing,” Trump reportedly said during an Oval Office conference call with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar – a driving force behind the creation and implementation of the ban.  

The Trump flavor ban will only affect closed-tank systems cartridges and pods.  It is slated to go into full effect near the end of the month.

Related Article:   CDC caused unwarranted ‘national panic’ over nicotine-based vaping, says tobacco control expert

(Image courtesy of Tucson.com)

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