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Real vs. Fake THC Vape Cart: How To Tell The Difference

by Angel Ferrer 5 min read

Real vs. Fake THC Vape Cart: How To Tell The Difference

How To Spot a Fake THC Vape Cartridge

It’s been all over the news, making headlines as a growing number of individuals have experienced illness and even death as a result of the THC cartridges (aka THC Carts) that are designed to look legitimate, but are actually fake. 

These contaminated cartridges are generally bought online and sold for much cheaper than authentic THC cartridges. In order to keep yourself safe from faulty cartridges, make sure that you know what to look out for when buying your next cart.

By understanding how to differentiate a real THC cartridge from a contaminated one it might just save your or your loved one’s life. Keep reading for tips from


Any cartridge that isn’t bought from a licensed dispensary has a high risk of being dangerously faulty or contaminated. Even seemingly harmless additives can result in dire consequences when heated and combined with other ingredients. 

Licensed dispensaries have products that are all legally tested to assure your safety. Any THC cartridge that is bought illegally or even online will most likely not have been tested. THC cartridges are required by law to have a license number on their packaging. This license number assured that the product is legal, tested, and safe for use. Any product that does not have this unique should not be used and thrown out immediately. A product that fails to have a license number is a product that is not part of the legal market. If a cartridge lacks this proof of quality, toss it.

Valid THC products are also required to publicly print their products lab results online specifically for proof of authenticity. If your product does not have information about their lab results, then the cartridge is usually fake. 


Every THC cartridge should come with certain information on the packaging that is important for proof of its authenticity.

Official THC products will have the following information: 

  • Package date
  • Batch number 
  • Manufacturing date
  • Lot number

One of the biggest things to look for is a packaging icon. These icons are mandatory icons that the state requires each package to have printed on it. If the brand has a QR code printed on the package, use it for further proof. Especially with this vast trend of copycat brands, a QR code is usually a good indication that the product is legit, tested, legal, and safe. Any package that lacks any of the information above is most likely a fake, illegal THC cartridge and should never be used.

Along with QR codes that allow you to see further information about the product, the serial number on the package is important as well. Simply compare the serial number on the package to the one on the product's website. If the numbers don’t match, the cartridge is fake. 


Fake THC cartridges often contain ingredients that have not been investigated and deemed as safe for human consumption. For example, a thickener called Vitamin E acetate is an ingredient that is predominantly found in fake products as it is cheaper to make, yet results in the same oil consistency that legit cartridges have. Vitamin E acetate is currently being investigated as one of the prime reasons for vape causing illnesses and deaths.

Another ingredient-based clue is if the cartridge contains anything less than 60% THC. Any package that contains less than 60% THC is most likely laced with other harmful ingredients which makes that cartridge harmful and fake. On the other hand, packages that have an extraordinarily high percentage of THC are also fake cartridges and should be treated as such.

When in doubt, look for those vape cartridges from companies who conduct third party, independent testing on all of the ingredients that are going into their carts. Ideally, this testing should take place at a reliable FDA approved or licensed facility. It is not all that uncommon for some Chinese manufacturers to falsify the levels of harmful contaminants or additives in their products.

Signs of a Fake THC Cartridge

A lot of times, the clues that help you spot a counterfeit cartridge come merely from experience as well as common sense. Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t look or feel right, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. 

Here are some other red flags that will help to differentiate a real THC cartridge from a fake one:

  • If you can taste it, throw it out. Any THC cartridge that has a burnt flavor, a metal aftertaste, or that makes you cringe is a good sign that the cartridge is counterfeit. These “off-flavors” should not be present and may indicate that it has contaminants or other additives that are causing a bad reaction when heated up into vapor.
  • Make sure that the product’s lab results include screening for pesticides and heavy metals. Fake carts are generally filled with pesticides or heavy metals can cause serious and sometimes debilitating or life-threatening long term health issues. If the lab results do not include pesticide screening, then your cartridge is not safe to use. 
  • Along with Vitamin E Acetate, a cartridge that has Polyethylene glycol, Propylene glycol, or Vegetable glycerin could be extremely dangerous to your health. Although these cutting agents are FDA approved for consumption, they are not approved for inhalation.
  • These ingredients, along with Vitamin E Acetate, have consistently been among those ingredients that were found in black market and counterfeit cartridges and thus a key indicator that you should stay clear of them.
  • If you are purchasing a THC cartridge online, then make sure that the company you are buying from is verified. If the company is not a verified brand, then the cartridge has not been approved as a safe product. 
  • Be aware of pricing. THC products are not particularly cheap, so if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Legitimate THC cartridges usually start at around $80 per cartridge, so any cartridge being sold that is significantly less than $80 is usually a huge red flag pointing towards counterfeit. We’re not saying that you need to pay top dollar to get a good reputable cart, but we’re also not saying you should shop for bargain-basement deals that may indicate an inferior and potentially dangerous product.
  • Packages that have popular cartoon characters or superheroes on them are generally a clue that the cartridge is fake. Most, if not all, legit cartridges have packaging that is simple, uncluttered, and easy to read.

Stay Safe From Fake Vape Carts

THC cartridges are a wonderful innovation, allowing cannabis users to enjoy the effects of their favorite herb discretely with a powerful, portable vaping device. An argument can even be made that they are safer than smoking cannabis because they lack the tar, smoke, and carcinogens associated with combustion. While we don't carry any cartridges, check out our vape pens to find something for your cart.

That said, it is important that you are aware of the red flags for identifying a counterfeit THC cartridge as outlined in this guide. Doing so can help keep you and others you care about safe from sometimes serious or dire health consequences.

The best way to assure your safety is to avoid making purchases on the black market, and instead, stick to local dispensaries or verified online brands. Double-check every package and ingredient before using any cartridge, and do not be deceived by cheap products or ingredients with particularly long names.

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