San Diego Cracks Down On Marijuana Extraction Labs, Vaping

By Desiree Bowie 11/05/19

"It's a public health crisis," says the local DEA.

person in San Diego holding a marijuana vaping product
ID 121000076 © Dmitry Tishchenko |

Nearly 1,900 people across the country have been affected by mysterious vaping-related illnesses. In San Diego alone, 31 people have been hospitalized for vaping-related illnesses in the past couple months prompting local law enforcement to publicly speak out against THC vaping products. 

"It's a public health crisis," Colin Ruane, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, DEA San Diego Division, said during a press conference last Friday. "We're trying to get on top of it."

Raiding Illegal Labs

According to the San Diego Tribune, the DEA has spent the past year raiding 30 marijuana extraction labs that were operating out of homes and warehouses in the area. Over a six-week period starting in early May, officials raided seven highly profitable (explosion prone) labs.

"We know there is no regulation of the production of the cartridges, there is no quality control and they may be filled with contaminates people don't know about," Ruane said.

NBC7 spoke with a local dispensary owner to get their perspective on product safety.

Breton Peace, who co-owns the Mission Hills-based cannabis boutique March and Ash, stood behind his boutique's products.

"Anything we put on our shelves, we feel, is safe. Now, to say that there is no risk is just false and that's not doing a service to the community, or your customers or your business in the long term," he said.

Peace says that sales of vape products have dropped by 20% since news of the vaping-related illnesses and deaths broke a couple months ago.

Another dispensary owner believes that the blame should be cast on black market THC vapes, not all vapes. “The CDC has said to people not to vape. But that doesn’t take into account that this … is a black market THC problem," Division Vaper owner Paul Bates told OPB back in September. "And attempting to bootstrap into a negative opinion of e-cigarettes, seems a bit dishonest to me.” 

Flavored Vape Ban Coming Soon

Every Thursday the CDC releases the latest outbreak information surrounding the vaping health crisis. As of October 29, there have been 1,888 reported cases of what the CDC is referring to as EVALI, or e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury. There have been 37 reported deaths linked to vaping across 24 states. The FDA and the CDC remain unsure of the root cause of the vaping-related illnesses and deaths.

Axios reports that the Trump administration is expected to announce its plans to ban all flavored vape products except menthol and tobacco this week. 

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Desiree Bowie is a writer and movie lover from Los Angeles, California. Follow her on Twitter @dangerbowie