by Andrew Kline, NCIA’s Director of Public Policy
In response to the recent wave of vape-related illnesses, NCIA’s Policy Council has formed a Safe Vaping Task Force. The purpose of the task force is to unify the industry by communicating clearly in response to press reports and state/federal governmental actions, and by clearly articulating the state-legal cannabis industry’s obligation to act with integrity as responsible actors. The task force is publishing summaries of recent developments and the cannabis industry’s response, producing and publishing a white paper on safe vaping, unifying the industry’s response, and engaging federal and state/local governments as appropriate. Members of the task force include medical doctors, scientists, cannabis license holders, and relevant ancillary businesses.
Here’s the latest about safe vaping from the news this past week:
- As of October 22, 2019, 1,604 (up from 1,479) lung injury cases associated with the use of vaping products have been reported to CDC from 49 states (all except Alaska), the District of Columbia, and 1 U.S. territory. 34 deaths (up from 33) have been confirmed in 24 states. The CDC is updating this information every Thursday. The good news is that it appears that illnesses and deaths are slowing down. The bad news is that we still don’t know the proximate cause and the federal government has not communicated a timeline by which we will have better information.
- Since the specific compound or ingredient causing lung injury is not yet known, the CDC continues to recommend refraining from the use of all vaping products. NCIA’s Safe Vaping Task Force is hopeful that the CDC and FDA will act swiftly to ascertain the proximate cause of the vaping problem, expose and address those specific issues head-on, and communicate clearly the specific dangers to the American consumer.
- Although cannabis has only been legal in Massachusetts for less than a year, the state is already putting on the breaks. Massachusetts is the first state to ban the sale of all vape products, unleashing a major financial blow to the state’s marijuana businesses and sending consumers to the dangerous, unregulated and untested illicit market. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker secured approval from the Public Health Council to issue an emergency regulation to maintain the statewide retail ban on the sale of all vaping products. A local judge simultaneously issued a ruling allowing for medical cannabis patients to purchase crushed flower for use in vaporizers. The emergency regulation keeps the vaping ban in place while also creating a three-month timeline for rulemaking and public hearings.
- California lawmakers are also considering an outright ban of all vape products, including nicotine and THC. This potential action comes on the heels of Charlie Baker, Governor of Massachusetts, banning all vaping products for four months.
- Marijuana became legal for adults over 21 in Colorado in 2014, yet even with 5 to 6 years of regulatory experience, Colorado has not banned all vape products. Instead, Colorado has conducted public hearings to determine what specific products or ingredients should be banned, based on scientific evidence. Colorado is in the final stages of finalizing permanent rules for adoption of a prohibited ingredients list (due Nov 5). It should also be noted that Colorado has not attributed any deaths to THC vaping, an indication that the state regulatory regime is working.
- A judge in Utah ruled on Monday that the state cannot immediately ban flavored e-cigarette products. The state had justified emergency restrictions on flavored nicotine by arguing that they were a gateway to vaping THC products. This leaves the state with a 120-day rule-making process.
NCIA Task Force Recommendations
- NCIA’s Safe Vaping Task Force believes that a more thoughtful approach based on science, like the one undertaken by Colorado, will yield better results for policymakers and patients alike.
- NCIA continues to advocate for descheduling, federal oversight, regulation, and standardized testing.
- NCIA recommends that manufacturers avoid untested additives and flavorants.
- NCIA recommends that when creating novel formulations, manufacturers conduct a scientific analysis that leverages the knowledge base of other inhalation products.
Andrew Kline is the Director of Public Policy for the National Cannabis Industry Association and Chair of the Policy Council’s Safe Vaping Task Force.