The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finally acknowledged Friday that a large majority of the mysterious, vaping-related lung diseases are related to cannabis products – not nicotine.
The outbreak has confused consumers, largely because politicians have paid most of the attention to vaping nicotine. On September 4, Prime Minister Gretchen Whitmer was the first to announce a ban on napot flavored napot, while remaining silent on painted black market cannabis oils that are vaped. Massachusetts and New York followed their own ban on gunfire.
Metro Times & # 39; cover story this week put the spotlight on the dangers of illegal cannabis cartridges.
On Friday, the CDC announced that lung disease has shown no signs of subsiding, sickening 806 people in 46 states and killing 1
Over the past 10 days, the number of confirmed or probable cases in Michigan has nearly doubled to 20, and a further 10 cases are under investigation, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. In a majority of these cases, patients reported cannabis oil arming, state health officials tell Metro Times .
Despite the early link to cannabis, Michigan and the CDC have been reluctant to point to THC and instead focused on nicotine, drawing criticism from many health experts. While other states have provided warnings, Michigan has remained largely silent.
"This confusion leads to bad public policy," Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of community health services at Boston University, told the Metro Times last week. Instead of intervening to try to curb the distribution of illegal, black-market oil-filled THC vape cartridges, policy makers prohibit flavored e-cigarettes, which, as far as we know, are not clearly linked to the outbreak. Banning these products will cause many ex-smokers to return to smoking, and will also create a new black market for flavored e-liquid. Worst of all, it will cause many young people to switch from flavored e-liquid to marijuana vaping, making the outbreak much worse than it already is. "
A recent Morning Consult study highlights the confusion surrounding lung disease. Of those surveyed, 58 percent of Americans said they thought nicotine was to blame, while only 34 percent thought cannabis was responsible.
A small portion of the market two years ago, cannabis vape cartridges represent about a third of the market, according to New Frontier Data, an economic analysis firm tracking the legal cannabis industry. The cartridges are popular because they are discreet, affordable, easy to use and do not stink up a room.
As many as 50 million cannabis cartridges are obsessed with lead, pesticides, vitamin E acetate or residual solvent butane, according to Leafly, a website dedicated to marijuana.
In another report released Friday, health professionals found that two-thirds of the 86 patients interviewed in Illinois and Wisconsin said they bought their cannabis cartridges from the black market before they became ill. Most of the illegal cassettes were sold under the name "Dank Vapes," a counterfeit brand that was also found in cases in Michigan and New York. Other brands include Off White, TKO and Moon Rocks.
"Dank Vapes seems to be the most prominent in a largely counterfeit brand, with commonly available online packaging used by distributors to market THC-containing cartridges without obvious centralized production or distribution , "the report states.
CDC has not identified a single product or substance that causes lung disease, but health experts are increasingly focusing on vitamin E acetate, a thickener used to dilute cannabis cartridges in the black market. Introduced to the market late last year, Vitamin E has become a popular and relatively inexpensive way for illicit drug dealers to maximize profits by adding a much more expensive cannabis oil connection. Vitamin E acetate and cannabis oil look very similar, so it is difficult for consumers to detect the cutter.
Food and Drug Administration investigators found vitamin E acetate in samples collected from patients across the country. The same compound was found in nearly all cannabis samples from patients in New York who have been ill in recent weeks, according to the state health department. Most of the samples tested by CDC found vitamin E acetate.
News about lung disease has dampened sales of cartridges in the legal market. In the first week of September, sales fell by 15 per cent nationwide. In Oregon, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Nevada and Montana, sales fell by more than a third in each state.
It is unclear whether sales in Michigan's state-sanctioned dispensaries go down because the state's Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) has declined to provide that information. The Metro Times has filed a Freedom of Information request for records showing how robust sales of cannabis cartridges are.
In order to convey fear, some dispensaries in other states are beginning to require manufacturers to list their ingredients. And some state-sanctioned laboratories are voluntarily testing for vitamin E acetate.
In Michigan, all marijuana products sold at licensed provenance centers must be tested for pesticides, toxic metals, bacteria, and residual solvents from extraction methods. But like other states with a regulated marijuana industry, MRA does not require vitamin E acetate testing, nor does vape cartridge manufacturers disclose the ingredients.
In Oregon and New York, dispensaries are now required to notify potential hazards of vape cartridges. In Massachusetts, cartridge manufacturers will soon have to list the ingredients used in their products.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission also urged dispensaries to remove potentially problematic cartridges from their shelves and offer returns on previously sold weapons products.
Massachusetts banned both nicotine and cannabis products, and California urges people not to buy gun cartridges.
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