On Thursday, Oregon marijuana dealers began removing vaping products from their shelves and offering returns on previously purchased vape pens amid a nationwide scare of serious lung diseases and deaths related to electronic cigarettes.
The move came after the agency that regulates Oregon's cannabis industry told the Associated Press on Wednesday that it will soon begin asking retailers to voluntarily review their vaping deals and draw those who worry.
Kind Leaf Pendleton, a pot dealer with the largest warehouse in Oregon, said it has already withdrawn 68 weapons products from 1
"What would really hurt is to get someone to buy a product and die of gunfire," said Erin Purchase, chief operating officer of Kind Leaf. "Security is a priority here."
California-based Berkeley Patients Group, the oldest medical pharmacy in the country, also said it contacts all of its suppliers to make sure the products are additive-free.
Hundreds of people nationwide have suffered from severe lung disease associated with electronic cigarette use. Six of those people have died, including one person in Oregon.
In the midst of a lush black market in illegal marijuana vapes, the deaths in Oregon are the only public health authorities to have associated with a purchase from a legal cannabis retailer. The authorities have not released further details.
Most of the patients said they evaporated products containing THC, the compound in marijuana that causes high. Some said they only weapons nicotine, while others said they used both THC and nicotine.
After extensive testing, New York investigators have focused on vitamin E acetate, which has recently been used as a thickener, especially in vape cartridges on the black market.
Suppliers say that it dilutes vape oils without making them look watery. Vitamin E is safe as a vitamin pill or for use on the skin, but inhalation of fat drops of vitamin E can trigger pneumonia.
New York officials have sued three of the largest thickener manufacturers.
Kind Leaf stated that it identified all the products on the shelves that listed "non-cannabis-derived terpenes and artificial and natural flavors" on the label without specifying the ingredients in these additives.
Terpenes are the building blocks that give a plant its aroma and taste, such as lavender or tea tree oil. Some cannabis oil manufacturers add terpenes from other plants to their products for consistency and cost effectiveness.
When Kind Leaf discovered the companies that sold non-marijuana terpenes to vape pen manufacturers, they noticed that some of them also stock and sell the so-called cutters, or thickeners, that have been investigated.
"We can't prove that these products are not in these vape pens because we are dealers, not processors," Purchase said. "They are allowed to have trade secrets and proprietary information, so we just felt uncomfortable. It's disturbing."
Oregon Liquor Control Commission CEO Steve Marks told AP on Wednesday that his agency is not testing marijuana vapes sold in state-licensed additives stores. No state-licensed marijuana oil manufacturer has listed vitamin E acetate as an ingredient, which will trigger a safety review, he said.
Any company that has added an "undiscovered agent" to the weapon cartridges should tell regulators immediately or face "legal complications and probably additional obligations," he said.
"My concern is that some of these people may have gone around and put vitamin E in the products that we are not aware of," Marks said. "If it's in our products, it's out there, and we don't have a clear way of knowing who it might be."
– The Associated Press