FDA and DEA seize 44 websites allegedly selling illegal THC-containing vapes

On Friday, officials from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sieved the domain names of at least 44 e-commerce sites allegedly selling contraband THC-enhanced vapor products.  The website shut downs are part of a new government effort named Operation Vapor Lock which was created, in part, as a result of the recent surge in “vaping related” lung injuries.

“In the wake of recent injuries and deaths caused by vaping products, these seizures send a message to anyone seeking to capitalize on this dangerous trend.  DEA will continue to work in lockstep with FDA and other federal, state, and local partners to use all our authorities to pursue anyone that violates our laws and puts Americans in harm’s way.”
- Acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon.

In a December 13 press release, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally acknowledged that of the nearly 2000 patients across all 50 states diagnosed with the respiratory disorder, none could be directly attributed to the usage of nicotine-based vapes.  However, over 150 THC-containing products were linked to the medical condition with the Dank Vapes brand being used by approximately 56 percent of all patients.   The press release issued the following statement.

“Nationally, Dank Vapes were the most commonly reported THC-containing product by hospitalized EVALI patients, but a wide variety of products were reported, with regional differences. Data suggest the outbreak might have peaked in mid-September.”

According an FDA press release issued last Friday, many of the websites caught up in Operation Vapor Lock were seized by law enforcement because they were illegally taking customers’ payments without any intentions of sending the products.    

“The websites that were seized directed people to order illicit THC vaping cartridges and make payments for orders through various financial services. Some of the websites seized were determined to exist solely to fraudulently obtain payments from people without ever intending to mail any product. For all of the other websites seized, investigators were able to complete a purchasing transaction for illicit THC vaping cartridges, but to date have not received any of the product ordered.”

The FDA presser did not list the names of the 44 e-commerce sites.  However, visitors to each of the websites involved with now be redirected to a new webpage clearly stating that the website has been seized by U.S. authorities for alleged legal activities. 

Possible contradictions in DEA policies for THC vapes

It was only six short months ago in June 2018 when the DEA officially recognized hemp-based cannabinoid, otherwise known as CBD, as legal.  The move was a pushed through the congressional approval process by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY).

Thanks to the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp is now considered an agricultural product rather than a federally controlled substance.    Black Market CBD cartridges are the most popular products purchased and used by the patients diagnosed with the “vaping related” respiratory ailment. 

Related Article:   DEA legalizes hemp-based CBD: Senate designates ‘Hemp History Week’

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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