The vaping crisis is spreading…
A couple of weeks ago, I gave you the early heads up on a potential issue for cannabis companies.
A sickness is spreading across the country that’s affecting people who have been vaping. At the time, it was known to have affected around 150 people. Investigators did not know what the cause was, or even if the illness came from vaping nicotine, cannabis, or other products.
Now, the mystery illness is spreading further.
There are as many as 450 cases in 33 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. So far, five people have died from the illness.
At the time of my first report, I told you that “this will most likely turn out to be an ingredient problem – that all or most of the people affected will have vaped something they shouldn’t have.”
The mystery is not yet solved. But investigators are getting closer, and more parties have joined the hunt for a solution.
And, it’s increasingly looking like I was right. The vast majority of cases seem to be associated with vaping illegal cannabis products.
What We Know
Some press reports specifically link the disease to a company called Dank Vapes.
However, the New England Journal of Medicine reported about that issue, and it tells me that Dank Vapes simply seems to be the most common brand of illicit cannabis and not that the disease is specifically tied to that company.
Dank Vapes is also among the most commonly forged labels for illicit cannabis, so some people may think they used Dank Vapes but, in fact, used an entirely different product.
Another issue that I think the press may have wrong is the association with Vitamin E Acetate, a chemical that resides in many food-grade oils and is sometimes used for vapes. It’s definitely not something people should be inhaling, but I think it’s still an open question whether it is the culprit in these cases.
I think the best analysis of this illness came from former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. He opines that we are really looking at three illnesses all caused by a contaminant in illicit THC and CBD products. There’s even a chance illicit nicotine e-cigarettes have a contaminant that is causing health issues.
The exact agent causing the illness has yet to be uncovered with certainty, but we can be fairly certain that it is something that illicit vape manufacturers are introducing into their products – not something that comes from legitimate vaping companies.
What’s Ahead for the Vape Market
Unfortunately, legitimate vaping companies are not in the clear just yet.
Even though it’s extremely unlikely that legal vaping products – cannabis or nicotine – are related to the illness, there is growing political and potential regulatory backlash occurring.
The illness came just when the FDA started attacking Juul – the largest nicotine e-cigarette company – for improper marketing of its product.
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The CDC is recommending that people do not vape at all until it has completed its investigation, and some state and local health authorities are echoing the recommendation.
The folks in Congress are starting to talk about more regulation of vape devices or even a nationwide recall.
Even Dr. Gottlieb is agitating for more regulation.
This illness is widespread enough that it can reasonably be called an epidemic, and it calls for swift action.
But any time regulators act swiftly, there’s a chance they will also swiftly overreact. Politicians and regulators can take measured scientific information and turn it into incorrect policy decisions.
This is going to be hanging over the vaping industry for quite some time. I don’t think it will slow the growth of the cannabis industry, but it may affect some vape makers, and it may cause some inventory adjustments among dispensary owners.
I’ll continue to track those developments and let you know as soon as I learn anything new.
Executive Director, National Institute for Cannabis Investors
14 responses to “What’s Ahead for Vape and Cannabis Companies”
September 11 2019