Regulators in more than six states are taking a cautious approach while the industry and public health officials work to identify the root cause of recent health problems associated with vaping, and THC vape cartridge sales are starting to take a hit. As the epidemic continues to grow, it’s assumed that regulatory backlash will follow. So what does this mean, and how are canna-legal states handling the issue? A Marijuana Business Daily survey reviews what actions state cannabis regulators are taking across the country. Let’s check out how regulatory bodies are responding to the vaping health scare.
California has come down more decisively against all forms of vaping. California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed an executive order, launching a crackdown on the vape industry as a whole. The order increases enforcement against counterfeit e-cigarettes and cannabis products — and it also focuses on those selling these products to minors. The order includes recommendations on mandating additional warnings on packaging and at retail locations, and it creates a public awareness campaign that highlights the dangers of vaping (both tobacco and marijuana). The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has not issued specific notifications to licensees.
According to Shannon Grey, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Revenue, the Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), their priority is to protect public health and safety while also staying vigilant to reports of illnesses linked to vaping.
As reported in Marijuana Business Daily, Grey was quoted as saying, “If a direct link is found specific to Colorado regulated marijuana, marijuana product and/or marijuana concentrate contributing to the reported vaping illnesses, MED will take action to alert licensees and consumers, and identify and segregate impacted inventory through our marijuana inventory tracking system to prevent further sales of affected product to consumers.”
State regulators in Massachusetts are currently proposing a measure that would require marijuana companies to disclose all the ingredients in vape cartridges sold in stores. Additionally, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) is also requiring all health workers to report suspected cases of vaping-induced lung disease. This comes hot on the heels of a Boston Globe report that the MDPH was investigating approximately 10 lung illnesses linked to vaping.
While Michigan has not addressed marijuana products, Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered the state health department to issue emergency rules, prohibiting the sale of flavored nicotine vaping products. According to the Associated Press, Gov. Whitmer’s order also focuses on the misleading marketing of e-cigarettes. In a related issue, the Associated Press recently published its own investigative report on advertised vs. actual levels of CBD reported in products. The investigation revealed huge inconsistencies, something that is bound to be re-addressed in the future.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently announced a task force on vaping that will file recommendations on the issue within the next few weeks, and last week Politico reported that Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney moved to ban the sale of all vaping products, including vape products containing THC.
On September 7, Jill Montag, spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health, advised the state’s cannabis companies to inform patients who express concern that the Department of Health has been in touch with state-licensed companies, and that state-licensed pharmacists are on staff to assist patients. Montag also noted that the stringent testing conducted by the state’s Medical Marijuana Program reflects confidence in product safety. She also pointed out that there have been no adverse events reported to the department involving vaped Medical Marijuana Program products.
Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for a statewide ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) is asking retailers to post consumer information bulletins based on information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On September 12, the OLCC provided guidance to recreational marijuana licensees focused on inventory and sales of marijuana products that are being looked at as it relates to national vaping health issues.
Licensed retailers are encouraged to review their stock of vaping products, and if the retailer feels the product labels aren’t informative enough, they should consider asking the product manufacturer to provide more information on the contents. In a letter to recreational marijuana licensees, OLCC Executive Director Steve Marks requested that processors and retailers voluntarily take steps to review various vaping devices and cartridges containing additives that might concern the public. In response, some stores started taking vaping cartridges off the shelves and offered returns to customers for prior purchases of vape pens. Additionally, Marks asked licensed processors to report any undisclosed additives in their marijuana products, including seemingly innocuous vitamin E oil to the more serious-sounding tocopheryl acetate or alpha-tocopherol.
Pennsylvania authorities were investigating more than 40 illnesses connected to the vaping crisis, although none were attributed to medical marijuana sold at a state dispensary. Meanwhile, in a release sent directly to medical marijuana licensees, the Pennsylvania Department of Health warned the public against vaping illegal products. “One of the largest concerns with vaping is that we do not know many of the chemicals and additives contained in the products,” Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said in the release.
Brian Smith, the spokesperson for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB), said they will be meeting soon with other states and industry representatives to coordinate the most effective steps to take. He noted that state regulators are working closely with the Department of Health on the topic.
Across the country, health officials are trying to identify the root of what’s causing hundreds of illnesses — and as of this writing — seven deaths connected to marijuana vaping devices and e-cigarettes obtained in both legally and on the black market.
Meanwhile, the industry is starting to respond. Max Simon is CEO of Green Flower Media, a cannabis educational platform based in Ventura, California. He told Marijuana Business Daily that the cannabis industry and state marijuana regulators need to present a united front, and join together behind a public education campaign to help consumers differentiate between illegal and legal vape products. Simon urged regulators to focus on the sheer amount of regulatory compliance and strict testing standards legal cannabis products are under, adding, “That should be the whole impetus behind why people shop in the regulated market and why regulators should open up more opportunities for regulated markets to thrive.”