Jay Jenkins says he hesitated when a buddy suggested they vape CBD.
"It'll relax you," the friend assured.
The vapor that Jenkins inhaled didn't relax him. After two puffs, he ended up in a coma.
That's because what he was vaping didn't have any CBD, the suddenly popular compound extracted from the cannabis plant that marketers say can treat a range of ailments without getting users high. Instead, the oil was spiked with a powerful street drug.
Some operators are cashing in on the CBD craze by substituting cheap and illegal synthetic marijuana for natural CBD in vapes and edibles such as gummy bears, an Associated Press investigation has found.
The practice has sent dozens of people like Jenkins to emergency rooms over the last two years. Yet people behind spiked products have operated with impunity, in part because the business has boomed so fast that regulators haven't caught up while drug enforcement agents have higher priorities.
AP commissioned laboratory testing of the vape oil Jenkins used plus 29 other vape products sold as CBD around the country, with a focus on brands that authorities or users flagged as suspect. Ten of the 30 contained types of synthetic marijuana — drugs commonly known as K2 or spice that have no known medical benefits — while others had no CBD at all.
Among them was Green Machine, a pod compatible with Juul electronic cigarettes that reporters bought in California, Florida and Maryland. Four of those seven pods contained illegal synthetic marijuana, but which chemical varied by flavor and even location of purchase.
"It's Russian roulette," said James Neal-Kababick, director of Flora Research Laboratories, which tested the products.
Vaping in general has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks because hundreds of users have developed mysterious lung illnesses, and several have died. The AP's investigation focused on yet another set of cases, in which psychoactive chemicals are added to products presented as CBD.