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Dave and Dujanovic: the dangers of THC vape pens

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A Utah DEA agent is warning parents about the dangers of illegal THC cartridges for vape pens.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

On Dave & Dujanovic this week, host Dave Noriega said he researched the potency of marijuana and found during the Woodstock era the strength of the drug was less than 1%. By 2013, the average potency for marijuana was 9.6 percent.

The potency of the illegal THC vape cartridges is between 60%-90%.  Also, the drug in the illegal cartridges is odorless, colorless and tasteless.

“You could be sitting next to someone smoking a THC cartridge and not even know it,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Keith Martin of the Cleveland/Akron area.

He said the oil is extracted from the marijuana plant, mixed with another substance and placed into the cartridge and sold on the streets.

DEA agents seized more than 15,000 THC cartridges in the Cleveland area earlier this year.

Officers in West Jordan seized $30,000 worth of THC cartridges and $57,000 in cash in January.

Host Debbie Dujanovic asked DEA Agent for Utah Brian Besser if the illegal THC cartridges had arrived on the streets of Utah.

“We’re definitely seeing it here,” Besser said. “I’m not seeing it like it’s proliferated in Ohio.”

He said the drug cartels are producing the illegal THC cartridges in northern Sinaloa, Mexico, where most of the methamphetamine and heroin smuggled into the United States originates.

“We’ve had some overdoses locally,” said Besser. “We’re starting to see ER [emergency room] admissions with kids who are smoking vape cartridges that have everything from meth, spice, opioids and this newer [drug] flakka, which we see a lot now if Florida. We’ve had overdose admission with those four drugs,” Besser said.

Dave asked Besser how law enforcement tracks down a drug that is odorless and tasteless.

“That has become the conundrum for us now because they [drug cartels] are able to synthesize and mix them in with oils and they are becoming colorless and odorless. That’s the danger,” said Besser.

“If someone is able to vape these types of psychoactive drugs while they’re driving a vehicle, that’s going to pose another new problem when it comes to driving under the influence. And we need to get ahead of that here in the state,” he said.

Debbie asked Besser about the cost of the drugs and how teens are getting them.

“Cost is a variable” and depends on the quality and how it’s manufactured, Besser said.

“The cartels are masters at trying to market their products,” he said. “I’m concerned about the availability of it because it can end up being ubiquitous. It could be just about anywhere you could get anything on the black market, that’s what concerns me,” he said.

Dave asked Besser what parents can watch for?

“Our job as parents is to. . . stay in our child’s grille,” he said. “I know it sounds funny but it’s true. Just be astute to what your children are doing. Who they are hanging out with…and what they are buying online. We need to be alert, we need to be observant and we need to be in their grille. Know what’s going on,” he said.