While legal cannabis businesses in California are on track to bring in over $3 billion in sales this year, that's less than half of what the $8.7 billion illegal industry is expected to make in 2019. One aspect of illegal sales which contributes to the illicit market is the counterfeiting of packaged cannabis products being made by legal entities. As noted in this LA Times article, "A proliferation of counterfeit cannabis products (is) cutting into the profits and reputations of some of the state’s most popular legal brands while boosting sales in a thriving black market."
One major concern related to these fake items, outside of their illegality and their sale through unlicensed dispensaries and delivery services, is that they pose a potential risk to consumers. Fake products are not subjected to the rigorous testing standards set forth by the State of California; they are not checked for pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants. Further, without the state mandated analysis, buyers have no way of telling whether the product they're purchasing is more or less potent than what the label states.
The problem is difficult to approach. One issue is that law enforcement officers are hard pressed to catch fakes. Vito Ceccia, a detective who investigates illegal cannabis activity for the LAPD, said they are focused on shutting down illegal dispensaries and that fake products are "uncharted territory for us... most of our field investigators don’t know the difference between a legitimate vaping pen and a knockoff pen.” Additionally there's the reality that counterfeit products continuously update their look to mimic whatever packaging brands use.
One brand which has been faced with extensive illegal copying of their flagship product has opted for a different approach. As notes in the LA Times article, "Loudpack was once again rebranding its Kingpen vape in the hope of rendering counterfeiters obsolete, this time adding a code to the packaging that customers can scan on their phones to guarantee the product’s authenticity." Hopefully such technological solutions will provide a way to prevent the further spread of questionable fake copies of their products.