With an ever-growing demand for vaporizers in the legal cannabis industry, the black market wants a slice of the pie as well. One brand of vape cartridges (carts) that has risen to infamy, is famously known as “Smart Cart”.

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This counterfeit manufacturing company is supposedly produced by Smartbud, but neither name appears on the California Bureau of Cannabis Control's list of licensed cannabis businesses — which means that you are likely dealing with a phony and potentially unsafe product.

To keep you and your loved ones safe, read on for a closer look at these unlicensed products and how to protect yourself in the future. 

How to Spot a Fake

Many illicit cannabis brands, including Smart Cart, use sleek branding and clever packaging to lure potential buyers in. Lucky for you, there are some telltale signs that will instantly give away any fake. 

Someone holding up a fake Marlboro vape cartridge pack Source: Reddit (/r/fakecartridges) by user xBlackShadowsZz

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Proper Labeling

In order to be considered a legal cannabis product, each state has its own set of regulations that dictate what must be printed on the box, like lab results and THC concentrations. Similar to a price tag, legal brands will usually print a sticker that is stuck onto the finished product.

On Smart Carts, much of their packaging has THC contents printed directly onto the box, which is rarely done in the legal industry. Lab tests are certain to vary with each batch, so packages or products will have stickers presenting their most current and up-to-date lab test information; it should never be printed directly onto the box. 

Legitimate Logos

At first glance, the Smart Cart logo looks very similar to the Smart Water label — or more like a direct rip-off. Most legitimate brands understand copyright law, and will always create their own unique logo. 

Oil Texture

A responsibly made THC concentrate should have the thickness of molasses or honey, while a phony product will often be runny and watery.

That being said, illegal vape cart manufacturers will sometimes add thickening agents like vitamin E acetate to the oil, which may cause serious and dangerous side effects. Solely relying on the THC oil consistency is not always a sure thing but it is still an important distinction to understand. 

Purchase from a Legal Dispensary

Another way to prevent purchasing a phony vape cart is to make all of your purchases from a local licensed dispensary.

If a dispensary is legitimately licensed, all of their products should be responsibly sourced and safe to consume. However, it may be a good idea to do your own research on any new product added to your cannabis regimen to ensure that you are making the best decision for you and your health. 

Do Your Research

As previously mentioned, doing your own research and staying informed is the best thing you can do to protect yourself from counterfeit vape carts. Oftentimes, a simple Wkileaf or Google search will have all of the information you need. 

A real tried-and-true licensed vape company will have a website that lists a directory of all local retailers who are authorized to carry and sell their goods. There should also be a contact form or phone number where you can reach out to the company directly to confirm whether or not their products are licensed, lab tested, and completely legal.

Although Smart Bud appears to have a professional website, the dead giveaway is their shipping: Smartbud Shop claims to be a mail-delivery cannabis company, but mailing weed through USPS is illegal, even in legalized states. 

Why It Matters

While purchasing cannabis products on the counterfeit market may be tempting, it leaves you open to a whole host of potentially harmful side effects, especially when speaking on vape carts.

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is that you have no idea what is actually in them. Vape cartridges are usually filled with a cannabis concentrate that is created through a chemical process that requires skilled hands. Even in the best of circumstances, extraction can be a tricky process so you would be well advised to not skip any corners.

In order to make the phony concentrate look like the real stuff, many illegal vape brands look to thicken their product with a chemical called vitamin E acetate. This chemical, which can only be detected by lab testing, has been linked to a vaping lung illness that has hospitalized over 2,000 people and killed at least 54.

Even though Smart Carts may be cheaper than their legal counterparts, it is simply not worth it to put your health at risk. 

Bottom Line

With clever branding and misleading packaging, it can be easy to fall for the allure of fake vape carts — but with proper research, a keen eye, and licensed dispensaries at your disposal, you never have to fall for phony brands like Smart Cart.

If you are unsure where to begin, start with popular licensed brands like Canndescent or BAE that are lab-tested and legal. No matter what brand you decide to go with, you can rest easy knowing exactly what is in each puff.