Because cannabis is still a federally illegal substance that drives the sale and distribution of illicit products, the head of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) called out Congress to act, and to do it quickly: Legalize cannabis and regulate the industry in order to deal with vaping-related industries. The group said the end result of the current climate limits the ability to develop consistent regulations and prevents research.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 450 people have been sickened and six people have died. No businesses or products have been blamed for the recent outbreak. The CDC said that some of the products in question have been discovered to contain cannabis compounds (like THC). Many of the illnesses and death reported come from states without regulated recreational adult-use marijuana. It is suspected that the source might be from illicit or bootleg THC vaping devices, including additives.
The current situation involving vaping-related illnesses and deaths could mean a crisis for the legal cannabis industry. Cannabis research firm BDS Analytics estimated that in five states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon) the industry is dependent on vaping for twenty-five percent of total business. LIke the NCIA, some believe that there is a bright side to the current problems; an opportunity to help people and make the case for legalization across the U.S.
“These unfortunate illnesses and deaths are yet another terrible, and largely avoidable, consequence of failed prohibition policies,” Aaron Smith, the NCIA’s executive director, said in a statement. Federal and state health officials are working overtime to try to identify the cause of an outbreak of pulmonary diseases in multiple states associated with recent use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices. If the issue stems from the black market, the situation could become even more threatening to the legal marijuana industry as regulators clamp down on vaping.
It remains to be seen if THC products sold by legal businesses are without blame. In Oregon, a spokesperson for the Oregon Health Authority noted that there is an ongoing investigation into a death involving an individual who had recently purchased a vape product at a licensed dispensary. Meanwhile, health officials have asked stores to check their inventory, and some went even further than that, pulling products with additives or unknown ingredients from their shelves.