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Cannabis industry calls for legalization and regulation to snuff out underground vapes



But, some people in the industry believe, the problem can also represent an opportunity, both to help people and to push for greater legalization in the United States.

On Wednesday, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) called on Congress to deal with: dealing with gun-related illnesses, legalizing cannabis and regulating us.

Cannabis' status as a federal illegal substance fuels illegal products, hinders research and restricts the ability to develop consistent rules, the head of the cannabis trade association said Wednesday.

"These unfortunate illnesses and deaths are probably a terrible, and largely avoidable, consequence of failed prohibition policy," said Aaron Smith, NCIA's executive director, in a statement.

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Federal and state health officials are striving to identify the causes of a multi-state outbreak of lung disease associated with the recent use of e-cigarettes and weapons devices. More than 450 people have been reported sick and six people have died, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No companies or products have been involved in the outbreak, but some of the products in question have contained cannabis compounds, especially the psychoactive THC, according to the CDC. The suspicion has fallen on illegal or bootleg THC weapons units as well as additives, and many of the diseases and deaths reported have been in states that have not regulated cannabis recreation programs.

"We are still in a bad-gin era of cannabis where there are many people without access [to legal cannabis] and people who are not in the regulated market are taking advantage of this, and people who are new to the market are taking advantage of this, "said AC Braddock, CEO of Seattle-based Eden Labs, a 25-year-old plant oil extractor manufacturer.

Although the problem is rooted in the black market, the situation can become a serious threat to the legal cannabis industry as more authorities warn against gunfire or move to crack it. Through July, vape products accounted for 25% of licensed cannabis sales in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon, according to cannabis research firm BDS Analytics.

  City of Milwaukee urges anyone living there to stop vaping immediately

"This is, I think, a wake-up call to the industry and also to consumers about the fact that a very safe product can be made unsafe if the people who treat it are not held accountable, "said Taylor West, former vice president of NCIA, a founder of it strategic communications company Heart + Mind Media.

But it is not entirely clear that THC products sold by lawful companies are blameless.

In Oregon, one of the deaths involved a person who had recently purchased a vape product at a licensed dispensary, said Delia Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Board of Health. The investigation is ongoing and on Wednesday, health personnel asked the stores to review the inventory.

Some industry members are not waiting to take hold. At the Urban Farmacy dispensary in Portland, Oregon, owner Margo Amala said she pulled products with any additives or unknown ingredients.

"We have definitely researched all the products on our shelves," she said, adding that she is considering drawing more.

Jonathan P. Caulkins, a drug policy researcher and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said this outbreak hopefully could spur the US Food and Drug Administration to regulate cannabis and its derivatives as drugs and vape pens as drug delivery devices.

One goal of regulation may be to help ensure that products have consistent quality and properties, he said.

"I don't see this as reverse legalization overall," he said. "I hope this pushes us toward a more cautious legalization. The amount of naivety the country has had about legalization is quite alarming."


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