Students worried of growing THC vaping black-market in Louisiana

Published: December 12, 2019

By: Ava Perego, Raymond Constantino, Kristen Singleton, Falcon Brown, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE —One LSU student walked through security and ID checks to purchase a legal vape cartridge filled with cannabis oil in Los Angeles. Another walked up to the back of a van off a dimly lit road somewhere in Louisiana to buy one illegally; no ID checks, no security and no certainty that the purchase was safe.

This is the reality of the so-called THC black market in Louisiana, the local part of the nationwide scare over deaths and illnesses related to vaping with electronic cigarettes. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana that causes users to get high.

The Louisiana Health Department reported that the state now has over 30 cases of lung injury – and one death — associated with vaping a combination of THC and nicotine. The combination of both substances contributed to 55% of the illnesses, more than the reported illnesses caused from both nicotine and THC independently.

Nearly 2,300 people nationwide have been diagnosed with lung illnesses related to vaping, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and 48 of them have died.

Most of those illnesses have been linked to the use of THC cartridges in states where marijuana is not legal and black-market dealers are substituting cheaper and possibly harmful chemicals for some of the THC oil.

The onset of lung illness comes suddenly. Nausea, abdominal pain, chills, cough and fever are only a few of the symptoms. In some cases, these symptoms can turn into a deadly sickness. One LSU student spent several days on a breathing machine at a Baton Rouge hospital after vaping THC.

Seeing these red flags, students at the state’s flagship university are beginning to open up about how easy it has been to obtain the cartridges on the black market, their growing hesitation about using them and why they vaped illegal cartridges in the past. From what their friends say the same problems are evident at other universities in the state.

“There is such easy access to THC cartridges, which makes it convenient for students to purchase,” said an LSU sophomore, one of several students who agreed to talk about the black-market vaping products as long as their names were not used.

The student said she started smoking THC cartridges, or carts, when she began college. She knew a friend who sold them for $40.

“I bought my first cartridge from a friend at a house party my freshman year,” she said. “That was the first time I ever had, or had even seen, a THC cart, so I was definitely not aware of the fake carts going around.”


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