In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker issued a ban in September that covered all vaping products for both tobacco and cannabis. Soon after, a judge ordered that the ban either needed to be lifted in part or kept in place. A further ruling stated that medical cannabis should be exempt.
As of Tuesday, November 12, 2019, oil vape cannabis cartridges are quarantined, while a provision is in place for medical cannabis patients, allowing them to purchase products that create a vapor directly from the cannabis flower. These products are not linked to any reports of illness. Unfortunately, though, this may not be enough to keep local vape retailers’ doors open.
Vaporization with Cannabis Flower
Medical cannabis patients still have a vaping option to continue to combat their chronic health issues. Vaporizers used with dried cannabis flower are not included in reports of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury, or EVALI. The only ingredient is the dry, ground cannabis flower. It takes a bit more work than using prepared cartridges, which may not be as easy for some consumers.
Often, it'a possible to purchase a dry flower vaporizer at a local vape retailer. Instead of attaching a vape cartridge to a battery and using it that way, the process is a bit more involved. The dry flower is ground and packed into a small oven, which is then placed inside the vaporizer. The vaporizer heats the ground cannabis flower, and the resulting vapor is then inhaled. This method is said to be safer for consumers than oil vape cartridges, as there are no additives, only botanical material.
How This Affects Local Vape Retailers
Twenty percent of cannabis consumers say they use vape cartridges, which until recently accounted for one third of overall cannabis sales within the legal cannabis market in the U.S. Between 2017 and 2019, vaping product sales amounted to $9.6 billion. However, since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued its report about vape-related lung injuries, consumers have been less likely to use these products. The CDCreleased additional information, as did companies that manufacture the oil vape cartridges, but many consumers are afraid to take a risk.
In light of this, vape product sales have dropped by fifteen percent nationwide, with some states seeing larger reductions, up to sixty percent. Oregon has seen a drop of sixty-two percent, while New Mexico, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Montana each saw drops in sales of one third or more.
Retailers at an October cannabis expo were understandably frustrated, with one noting that they had $100,000 in product that they could not sell as a direct result of the ban.
Vitamin E Acetate
Vitamin E acetate, when added to cannabis oil in some counterfeit vape cartridges, thins the cannabis oil. Vitamin E acetate has caused severe health ramifications as a result, with the CDC has naming vitamin E acetate as the main culprit in reported cases of EVALI. Within samples of fluid in the lungs, vitamin E acetate was found directly in the areas of injury inside victims’ lungs.
While most vape cartridges that have caused illness in consumers were not purchased from reputable sources, that was not the case in Oregon. However, it has yet to be determined in that instance whether the vape cartridge was contaminated or if the consumer made any changes to it. The CDC’s finding has led several manufacturers to release public statements that their vape oils contain pure THC.
Flavored e-cigarette and Vaping Product Ban
The President has announced a national ban of all flavored e-cigarette and vaping products containing nicotine as well as those containing THC. Also, the legal age for vaping products will be twenty-one.
In addition to the cases of vaping-related illness, there has been legal action against Juul in regard to their flavored tobacco products, which they have since stopped selling. Their products, and others like them, reportedly led to an epidemic of teens vaping. With fruity flavors, the cartridges appeared to be marketed directly to youths.
The state of Washington has also issued a four-month ban on vaping products as a result of the health scare. It appears that the four-month bans are initially put in place to protect consumers, but also to allow lawmakers the time to iron out the details of impending legislation.
Local Vape Retailers Are Suing Over Product Bans
Retailers are filing lawsuits in Massachusetts and New York, citing “irreparable harm to them as well as consumers.” Local vape store owners claim the ban will cause them to lose $4,000 to $5,000 per week, which will eventually lead them to close their doors. Without safe, legal products available, consumers could turn to using unregulated products, further endangering their safety. The governor’s administration has since allowed retailers to sell to out-of-state consumers via the Internet.
It’s possible that, within new legislation for early next year, the Massachusetts government can make an agreement with specialized labs to test oil vape cartridges more thoroughly for substances like vitamin E acetate and other potentially harmful substances. Medical cannabis patients could then go back to visiting their local vape retailers to purchase their preferred products.
This article was originally published on RxLeaf and is republished with permission.
Photo credit: Leo Reynolds