More than 800 cannabis industry players signed a letter calling on U.S. Congress to deschedule cannabis to help reduce the ongoing vape-related health crisis, according to a Marijuana Moment report.
With more than 800 reported vape-related lung disorders and at least 17 confirmed deaths, the coalition of pot companies—led by the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA)—delivered the letter Thursday to House and Senate leadership arguing the vaping medical issue requires tighter regulations that aren’t currently possible because marijuana remains a federally controlled substance.
The industry leaders cite the majority of lung illnesses in question are due to chemicals and additives found in black market THC vape cartridges.
“Make no mistake, the legal state-regulated cannabis industry knows that any death is one death too many. Fortunately, we have policy tools that can be employed to help limit the illicit market, implement uniform good manufacturing practices and prevent future harms,” the letter reads.
Kaiser Health News, a non-profit media outlet that focuses on health policy, also said adulterated cannabis vape products are the main cause of the recent outbreak.
“Officials are narrowing the possible culprits to chemicals or additives in vaping products that use THC, the component in marijuana that makes users high, as well as adulterants in nicotine vaping products,” the news outlet said in a summary report.
In New York, health officials have have been investigating 34 cases of severe pulmonary illnesses who all used at least one cannabis-containing vape product from the black market before they became ill. Of the products submitted for testing, all contained vitamin E acetate, a cutting agent that is considered dangerous when heated.
The letter is backed by some big names in the industry, including Canopy Rivers (TSX:RIV), the subsidiary of Canadian pot giant Canopy Growth, as well as Leafly, 4Front and Weedmaps.
“Descheduling cannabis would end many of the federal policies that make it difficult for legal cannabis businesses to eﬀectively compete with illicit operators. Eliminating the undue burdens caused by outdated laws would help ensure that unethical actors are increasingly disrupted by legitimate, responsible businesses,” the companies said.
Hundreds Of Companies Sign Letter Calling For Marijuana Descheduling To Prevent Vaping Injuries: "Please let us know how we can help move the ball forward on descheduling legislation. Lives are literally at stake." https://t.co/7pjKQ398e3 pic.twitter.com/y23ZjLsttE
— Marijuana Moment (@MarijuanaMoment) October 3, 2019
Regulate cannabis like alcohol, says industry
Aaron Smith, NCIA’s executive director, told Marijuana Moment the reason there are no illness outbreaks related to tainted alcohol in this country is because the substance is regulated at the federal and state levels, and licensed producers have almost entirely replaced bootleggers.
“It is absolutely vital for members of Congress to understand that this vaping illness outbreak is directly tied to failed prohibition policies that support the unregulated underground market,” he said
“Descheduling cannabis products and regulating them effectively is essential to improving on successful state regulatory systems, allowing more comprehensive research, and displacing the illicit market,” Smith added.
The letter also outlined several policy recommendations to help consumers stay away from dangerous products, such as advising that licensed vape cartridge producers avoid additive thickening agents, and those who have used vitamin E acetate in vape cartridges should voluntarily recall those products. Consumers are also urged to avoid purchasing cannabis vape products outside of regulated and tested channels.
The NCIA, along with Cannabis Trade Federation, made a similar call for cannabis legalization to Congress last month in order to keep cannabis vape consumers safe.