Vape Cart Additive Makers Pull Products as Others Go Dark

(Julia Sumpter/Leafly)

Updated 7:37 a.m. PST, Monday, Sept. 9

After a rash of suspected vape pen-related lung disease cases nationwide, the chemical makers responsible for selling new cannabis additives appear to be reacting, and evidence of their sales practices are emerging.

The website for Honey Cut, the diluent that started the 'thickener' craze last year, has gone dark.

According to recent web searches by Leafly, the website of suspicious diluent thickener maker Honey Cut has gone offline. Honey Cut’s manufacturer is unknown, and it was previously available only by ordering through its website.

Meanwhile, the Michigan-based terpene maker Floraplex has pulled down the sales page for its product Uber Thick, which was also mentioned in Leafly’s story on next-gen thickeners last week.

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Also, the diluent thickener maker Mr Extractor, based in Tigard, Oregon, has pulled sales of its Clear Cut product. A video, below, appears to show Mr Extractor founder Drew Jones pitching Clear Cut earlier this year for use in vape pens. Jones told Leafly this afternoon that Mr Extractor is no longer selling Clear Cut. He confirmed the video’s authenticity.

The video was posted to YouTube Sept. 5 by diluent thickener critic and watchdog Extract Ninja. It is not posted on the Mr Extractor YouTube page, but it matches other video content from Jones.

It’s important to note that the video’s YouTube host claims that Clear Cut contains vitamin E acetate. Jones confirmed in a letter to Leafly that Clear Cut contained tocopheryl-acetate. Jones wrote Leafly that he had permission to use it from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and thought it was safe. As Jones makes clear in the video, the manufacturer considers the formula for Clear Cut to be a highly guarded proprietary secret.

Deaths and Concern Mounting

On Monday morning, officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control reported that as many as five deaths and 450 cases of suspected acute respiratory distress syndrome have been associated with vaping THC products. Illicit market vape carts tainted with unapproved additives are a leading suspect in the outbreak, which may have begun as early as April in Illinois.

The FDA is testing some 120 seized products for a variety of potential contaminants, chief among them synthetic vitamin E oil (tocopheryl-acetate) and other additives and thickeners. New York health officials and FDA officials have found tocopheryl-acetate in most tainted carts from New York and in many others submitted to the FDA.

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Honey Cut Goes Offline

The popular illicit market diluent thickener Honey Cut, based out of Los Angeles, may contain vitamin E oil, according to independent tests by the Portland, Oregon, terpene maker True Terpenes, and Jones. Leafly previously chronicled Honey Cut’s introduction in Los Angeles in late 2018 and its subsequent dominance of the market for vape cart cutting agents.

As of today, Honey Cut’s previously functioning website at honeycutvapes.com has disappeared. Error notices have taken its place. Honey Cut officials have not responded to Leafly’s requests for comment.

Mr Extractor Pulls Clear Cut

Mr Extractor’s Clear Cut diluent, meanwhile, has also been pulled from sale on the MrExtractor.com website. The video of Drew Jones pitching Clear Cut appears to position the product as an ideal cutting agent for vape pen carts. Jones subsequently told Leafly dozens of brands are selling it, and it may be in 60-70% of all street vape carts in the US. Floraplex CEO Alec Riffle told Leafly he estimates 50 million US carts may contain something labeled “vitamin E oil”.

One thickener maker previously boasted that his product was “a far healthier alternative” to other diluents. This week the product disappeared from the company website.

Jones notes that the thickener is not subject to any state or federal regulations. There is nothing “to keep you from putting this in every head shop, gas station, dispensary in the country,” he says. “It tastes great, and to be honest with you, it tastes better than any e-juice on the market. … We’ve made juices out of this that are amazing. This product right here is going to revolutionize the e-juice industry.”

“If you want it, you’re going to have to come and get it,” Jones tells his prospective customers. “If you own a large company, we offer this in gallons. We offer this in barrels. We offer very, very competitive pricing on this. For example, the pricing structure of other dilutants from other companies: $10 a gram, $5 a gram. We offer things at $4 a gram. This product is going to start at $2 a gram and work its way under $1 a gram.”

Jones claims that Clear Cut is “a far healthier alternative” to other cutting agents on the market. “This product is something that your body needs, it’s been around for a long time and it’s been tested for a long time.” He stops short of naming any of the chemical components of Clear Cut, though. “Eventually it’s gonna come out,” he says. “But it ain’t gonna be today.”

Expert chemists have come out against the use of forms of vitamin E oil in carts.

Dumas de Rauly, chairs of the ISO Committee on Vaping Standards and CEN Vaping Standards Committee, deplored the use of vitamin E acetate in MJ Biz Daily. “In no case is this a product that you should be inhaling.”

“When you add products like vitamin E … when you add different kind of lipid solvents to the mix, you’re making all of that oil stickier, and that stickiness is going to create these lung illnesses we’re seeing,” he said.

New Zealand pharmacist and chemist Eliana Golberstein Rubashkyn added Friday on twitter:

https://twitter.com/ElianaGolber/status/1170104303656194048