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Why Are Cannabis Vape Cartridges Risky In The UK?

Spice laced cannabis vape cartridges

Spice laced cannabis vape cartridges have become a hot topic in the UK recently. Several cases of Spice laced vape devices have become much publicized within the country due to the tendency for these devices to get in the hands of young and new cannabis users. 

Recently, a 16 year old from Barnsley took a few drags from a laced vape device and had to be taken to A&E after convulsing and going unconscious. There are countless other similar cases in the UK that show a strong need for us to have a discussion about what is going on in the black market regarding vape devices. 

What Is A Spice Laced “Cannabis” Vaporiser?

Firstly, let’s define Spice. Often, when we read about Spice in the papers, they do a poor job at distinguishing it from natural cannabis. Spice is not a cannabis derived compound. It is a synthesized compound that is engineered to have similar effects to cannabis. Whilst that may sound similar to cannabis, it is not… at all. Unlike cannabis and it’s extracted cannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids like Spice have completely different levels of potency compared to psychoactive cannabinoids like THC. 5mg of THC will have a completely different effect to 5mg of Spice - and it can be a hundred times more potent than cannabis. 

Spice laced vaporisers are taking advantage of a popular, emerging cannabis product range - the distillate vaporiser. These are usually sold as pre-filled cartridges, raw, or in disposable pens - similar to The Goods Distillate Pens. Due to a lack of regulation and higher profit margins, unscrupulous black market vendors are known to use synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice instead of real cannabis distillate to fill their “cannabis vapes”. 

What Does A Spice Laced Vape Feel Like? 

Spice binds to the same nerve cell receptors as THC because it is synthesized by its molecular structure. However, it binds to our cannabinoid receptors much more strongly than THC which often leads to much stronger effects. Its effects can be unpredictable and dangerous. 

Short Term Effects:

  • Relaxation
  • Elevated mood
  • Altered Perception
  • Psychosis

Common Bad Reactions To Spice:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Throwing up
  • Extreme anxiety or nervousness
  • Hallucinations
  • Feeling confused 
  • Violent Behavior 
  • Suicidal Thoughts

Unlike cannabis, Spice can become physically addictive - meaning coming off the drug can cause withdrawal symptoms. This means that users can’t stop using it even when they want to, leading to further damaging effects on health and other parts of their life. 

Withdrawal Symptoms Include: 

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability

Can Spice Laced Vapes Kill You

You can overdose from Spice. In recent years there has been a rise in the number of emergency department visits related to Spice, and some deaths. 

Where are Spice Laced Cannabis Vapes Found?

Unfortunately, Spice laced vapes can be found in all areas of the UK cannabis market. This is due to prohibition, which has left the cannabis market without the controls and regulations that could prevent a problem like this from developing in the first place. Online and real-life dealers have been found to have Spice laced “cannabis” products, often unknowingly. 

We recently heard of a Cannabis Consultant by the name @CBD_Sciatic_James on Instagram, who detected Spice laced cannabis products at a popular cannabis event. Due to his discovery, they were able to prevent the product from being consumed by unknowing cannabis enthusiasts, and draw attention to the issue. 

The only way you can guarantee your cannabis vape is not laced is to either make it yourself, watch the vape being made, or purchase it from a legal and regulated source that can offer lab reports. 

How To Spot A Spice Laced Vape?

Cannabis distillate is often the type of vape that gets replicated by Spice laced counterparts. Cannabis distillate is naturally amber and thick in consistency. Often, Spice laced vapes are colorless and runny. Unfortunately, we’ve seen Spice laced vapes that have attempted to look just like distillate, using colourings and thickeners to avoid detection. 

Sometimes, the proof is in the price. If any cannabis product seems too good to be true, we usually advise to avoid it - cannabis vapes are no different. Good vape hardware has a set price, and the cost of cannabis extraction is high. 

If the cartridge claims to originate from a legal, regulated jurisdiction, check the labelling. Some legal brands print unique codes on their products that can be scanned to confirm authenticity. If the labelling leaves you asking many questions, we advise to proceed with caution. 

Head over to r/fakecartriges if you have any cartridges that you'd like their community to check out for you. It's also a great place to discover some of the common traits that laced cartridges share. 


Until the UK legalizes cannabis in an effective way, so that vendors cannot get away with selling laced cannabis products to unsuspecting users, this problem will remain. We’ve found more people are trying to avoid Spice than acquire it, and the black market is doing a poor job at self regulating itself. 

Rather disappointingly, many news outlets report on the UK Spice issue without differentiating it from real cannabis. We want to draw attention to both the issue with these products that are causing people to fall seriously ill, while also letting people know that cannabis continues to be mostly harmless, and very much different to Spice. Until cannabis is fully legal, we recommend staying away from unregulated “extracted” cannabis products unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate and unlaced. 

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