Updated: 5:45 p.m. Wednesday | Posted: 2:18 p.m. Tuesday
Police in Anoka County on Monday seized over 76,000 vaping cartridges containing THC, the compound in marijuana that produces a high.
The bust took place at a house in a residential area of Coon Rapids, according to a search warrant. Investigators also seized nearly $24,000 of counterfeit money, New Hope Police Chief Tim Fournier said. The THC cartridges were estimated to be worth $3.8 million on the illicit market.
Police say the seizure was a “record amount” of the cartridges, and it comes as vaping-related health concerns persist nationwide. Police arrested 22-year-old Valentin Andonii, of Champlin, on Monday after searching the Coon Rapids home.
The cartridges “are believed to have come from out of state for distribution in Minnesota,” the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said in a statement. The cartridges came in flavors including “cherry pie” and “fruity pebbles."
According to the criminal complaint, police contacted Andonii through a confidential informant. On two occasions, an undercover officer allegedly paid $1,500 for 100 THC cartridges. Prosecutors say labels on the cartridges indicated that they contained 94 percent or more THC.
Andonii is charged with two felony drug counts. An Anoka County judge on Wednesday set bail at $1 million for Andonii.
Hundreds of severe lung illnesses and, media reports say, at least nine deaths, including one in Minnesota, have been tied to vaping.
Minnesota Department of Health Assistant Commissioner Daniel Huff said that there was no confirmed link to the recent vaping related illnesses and the cache of vape cartridges authorities found Monday, but he said that there was a link between THC vaping and the 43 confirmed illnesses and 24 cases under review by health officials.
"We have many Minnesotans who are vaping and it’s an unknown product ... We just do not know what is in these products, and we do not know what happens when you heat these products up in vaporize them," Huff said. "It's not a safe product to use."
Photos of Monday’s bust supplied by Minnesota public safety officials show “Dank Vapes” brand packaging on the seized cartridges. That’s a widely counterfeited label in the illicit cannabis market and has been tied to some illnesses.
Empty, bulk packaging for Dank Vapes and other brands is available for purchase through online retailers, making it easy for anyone to manufacture fake cartridges. Amazon was selling empty THC vape packaging until earlier this month when it pulled the products.
Some cannabis advocates see the recent rash of lung illnesses as a case for legalizing the drug, arguing that widespread legalization and regulation would make marijuana safer for consumers.
Correction (Sept. 24, 2019): A previous version of this story misspelled Assistant Commissioner Daniel Huff’s name. The story has been corrected and updated.
Correction (Sept. 25, 2019): An earlier version of this story misstated where the search took place.