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Marijuana Industry Groups Urge Congressional Action Amid Vaping-Related Injuries

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Two major marijuana industry associations issued statements on Wednesday responding to the recent spike in severe lung injuries that seem to be linked to contaminated cannabis or nicotine vaping products obtained on the illicit market.

About 450 vaping-related injuries, including six fatal cases, have been reported in recent weeks. Though an exact cause has not yet been determined, experts suspect that products causing the injuries have been either contaminated or altered, possibly with thickening additives such as vitamin E acetate that can be deadly when inhaled.

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) urged Congress to legalize and regulate cannabis so that federal health agencies are able to enforce quality control standards and address illegal sales.

“These unfortunate illnesses and deaths are yet another terrible, and largely avoidable, consequence of failed prohibition policies,” Aaron Smith, executive director of NCIA, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Current federal laws interfere with research, prevent federal regulatory agencies from establishing safety guidelines, discourage states from regulating cannabis, and make it more difficult for state-legal cannabis businesses to displace the illicit market.”

The Cannabis Trade Federation (CTF) said it supports a “full investigation into the cause or causes of the incidents to ensure the well-being of all consumers” and said its members should make themselves available to help public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by providing any information that could aid in their review.

“We are troubled and saddened by reports of an outbreak of pulmonary-related illnesses associated with the use of vaporization products, including those that reportedly contained cannabis,” CTF said. “As an industry, our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our consumers.

“The Cannabis Trade Federation supports strict regulation of the cannabis industry at both the state and federal level. Consumers and communities will benefit when all cannabis products are subject to rigorous production, safety, and testing standards at the federal level. We urge Congress to act now so that the federal government can serve its proper role in regulating cannabis as a consumer product.”

Both NCIA and CTF made a series of recommendations to consumers and industry stakeholders to mitigate the risk of worsening the problem.

First and foremost, consumers shouldn’t purchase or use vape products from the illicit market, the groups said.

Most of the products that appear to be linked to the vape injuries were purchased from illegal producers, though one Oregon man visited two licensed marijuana dispensaries before falling ill and dying. Investigators are hoping to analyze remnants of the products he obtained to determine whether they were the cause.

โ€œIt doesnโ€™t necessarily mean the individual got sick from products that they had purchased at these dispensaries, we just know that the individual shopped at a couple of dispensaries prior to getting ill,โ€ a health official told Willamette Week.

NCIA said that licensed vape cartridge producers should suspend the use of any thickening agents until more information is known about the cause of the injuries. If such producers have used vitamin E acetate in their products, they’re “strongly encouraged to issue a voluntary recall.”

Retailers should also take steps to ensure that any products they’re selling do not come from producers using vitamin E acetate.

CTF also said it supports educational outreach efforts and urged states “to review their warnings on vape products and their required disclosures about non-cannabis ingredients included in vape products to maximize consumer knowledge and awareness.”

Though the vaping issue seemed to fly mostly under the radar in its early phase, with federal health agencies facing criticism over their muted response to the problem, there’s been a significant increase in attention on the federal level since the first vaping-related deaths were reported.

Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has been especially vocal about the injuries and has seemed to suggest over the past week that federal regulation of marijuana products is necessary to avert such instances.

The agency’s current acting commissioner appeared beside President Donald Trump and the secretary of Health and Human Services on Wednesday to announce that flavored e-cigarette cartridges would be banned.

Prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana said in a tweet that the e-cigarette ban should be followed up with a national moratorium on cannabis legalization.

Federal Health Agencies Say Researchers Should Test Marijuana From Dispensaries

Image by Lindsay Fox from Pixabay.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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