As health officials scrutinize marijuana vaping, it’s increasingly on law enforcement’s radar, the Associated Press reports. From New York City to Nebraska farm country to California, authorities have seized at least 510,000 marijuana vape cartridges and arrested more than 120 people in the past two years, finds an AP tally derived from interviews, court records, news accounts and official releases. A Wisconsin mother, her two adult sons and five others were charged in a black-market manufacturing operation that churned out thousands of cartridges a day packed with THC, the cannabis chemical that causes a high. In neighboring Minnesota, authorities found nearly 77,000 illicit pot cartridges in a man’s suburban Minneapolis home and car in September.
In New York City, drug authorities have seized 200,000 illegal cartridges since this summer, often while investigating groups suspected of trafficking in traditional-form marijuana or other drugs. “We’re putting a lot more resources in pursuing these organizations,” said Ray Donovan, the agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York office. “This is where the market is going … These criminal organizations are going to jump on whatever the business model is and try to take advantage and exploit that.” Fueled by alarm over a deadly lung illness that health officials have linked to illicit THC vaping, the pursuit of pot cartridges has added a new layer to drug enforcement while authorities grapple with the opioid crisis and other drug issues. In states with and without legal marijuana, drug investigators, highway patrols and local police departments have been adjusting to seeking a form of marijuana that comes in small packages, doesn’t smell like pot and might look like legal nicotine vapes.