In 1989, a mysterious figure known as Dr. Lunglife sent High Times a set of detailed instructions for transforming a handful of easily obtained equipment into a low cost vaporizer. He included a guide to making a highly potent cannabis concentrate that optimized the contraption’s effectiveness.
Soon thereafter, the magazine published a letter to the editor from K.O. of Clarksville, Mississippi:
Just thought I’d let you know I built one of Dr. Lunglife’s vaporizers. Tell the good doctor that it has worked well for me. Now if I can just get a really long extension cord for the Hash Bash in Ann Arbor.”
Clearly, many cannabis enthusiasts must have started experimenting with vaporization around this same time.
Commercial products required a little more time to make it to market. The first Volcano vaporizer, made by Storz & Bickel, appeared in the US in 2003. The first pen-size vaporizers appeared around 2006. Cannabis vape pens hit the American scene starting around 2010.
That gives us—at the very least—a solid three decades of anecdotal user data to work with when evaluating any potential harms involved.
So when a rash of people started getting seriously or even fatally ill after using vape pens earlier this year, it was obvious that something other than cannabis must be the culprit. The overwhelming number of cases of VAPI, vaping associated pulmonary injury, have been attributed to counterfeit products produced and distributed illegally without any regulatory oversight whatsoever.
At Leafly, our reporting team tracked these dangerous counterfeit pens from production to sale. We found a supply chain operating wholly outside the law and with a blatant disregard for public health. Theories on what’s causing VAPI range from dangerous additives to poorly manufactured pens, or possibly some combination of the two. No evidence has emerged to show THC, CBD, or any other cannabinoid is to blame.