Vape scare

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

I hear people are getting sick from vape pens. Is this true?

Yes. It is true. People all over the country have been experiencing what is known as “acute respiratory distress syndrome”—which is a fancy way of saying folks are having a really hard time breathing—and it has been linked to vapor pens sold by unlicensed cannabis vendors.

Fortunately, it hasn’t been many people, only about 150 around the country so far (and no one has died), but this is still a serious matter. Listen: Vapes are cool, discreet and easy to use, but I cannot recommend buying any old vape cartridge just because it’s inexpensive and the person selling it to you says it’s OK. Remember last year when a bunch of lead-tainted vape cartridges caused a small panic? You probably forgot because there are a lot of things happening in this country right now, but believe me when I tell you that a lot of these vape carts are not good. We are long past the days where companies would just press the resin from a weed plant and pour it into a cartridge. Today’s disposable cartridges are made with THC distillate and a bunch of artificial terpene flavors. I love the grey market, but I think it’s OK for me to ask that you only buy cartridges from licensed dispensaries. That way you can be relatively sure that you are getting a product that has been rigorously tested. Be kind to your lungs.

What is the most expensive weed you’ve ever heard about?

There used to be a club in Los Angeles that would sell its OG Kush for $100 an eighth. That works out to a retail price of $12,800 per pound. However, I believe the city of Rohnert Park has it beat.

Last week, Rohnert Park officials agreed to settle a case brought by a man named Zeke Flatten. In 2017, Rohnert Park police officers detained Flatten and confiscated three pounds of cannabis. The officers involved have been fired, and the city of Rohnert Park settled the case for $415,000, or $138,000 per pound. But wait, there’s more. Just a little while ago, five more people have filed lawsuits against Rohnert Park, alleging illegal stop and seizure. One person claims that the cops stole 26 pounds of cannabis destined for a dispensary in Santa Cruz.

It is good to see corruption exposed. Big ups to “Redheaded Blackbelt” blogger Kym Kemp for being the first to cover this story; independent journalism is hella important. And while I feel kinda bad for the taxpayers who will ultimately be on the hook for the money, I have no sympathy for crooked cops and the cities that empower them. When we first started our legalization campaigns, the cops would always tell us: “If you don’t like the law, get it changed.” Well, we changed the laws, and now it’s the cops who must adjust to the new reality.