• Majority of the deaths and illness in this marijuana vaping outbreak have been connected to the use of marijuana oils.
• At a time when we are investigating the causes of this rash of deaths and illnesses connected to marijuana oils and vapes, all marijuana legalization efforts and THC vaping oil sales should pause.
• When these tragic illnesses and deaths were first reported, SAM raised alarms on the connection to state-legal marijuana vapes while the industry pointed to the black market. SAM’s fears were confirmed in a recent report from Massachusetts which found that 6 patients in the state had purchased marijuana vapes from legal dispensaries within the state.
• This is not a black-market issue, it is the result of allowing Big Marijuana – an addiction- for-profit drug industry backed by Big Tobacco and companies like Juul – to mass produce these oils and vapes, along with candies, gummies, and other dangerously potent forms of the drug.
Is Vitamin E Acetate the source of the Pot Vaping Crisis?
The CDC has not concluded any source of the crisis at this time. A CDC study announced on November 8th, 2019, found 29 cases that involved Vitamin E acetate, however they concluded more research is needed. Other studies have not found Vitamin E acetate to be involved, such one done by the Mayo Clinic.
Is the Vaping Crisis a reason to legalize marijuana?
No. Many “licensed, regulated” pot shops are selling the vapes at the center of this crisis, such as a confirmed case in Delaware and a death in Oregon. This crisis is an indication that a legalized marijuana industry will be just as difficult to regulate and as detrimental to public health as the tobacco industry (which is now invested in marijuana). All legalization efforts should pause given this crisis only 6 years into recreational legalization in Colorado and Washington State.
What’s more, researchers are still quite unclear as to the culprit responsible for the illness and death. The only unifying factor in the majority of cases is the presence of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. As such, no amount of “regulation” or “testing” can guarantee these devices are safe to use. The CDC and the FDA seem to agree, as they have urged Americans to avoid using any marijuana vaping device
Is the vaping crisis exclusively a black-market problem?
No. The CDC and FDA are asking the public to stop using all THC vapes, whether from the black market or “licensed” pot shops. Many “licensed, regulated” pot shops are selling the vapes at the center of this crisis, such as a confirmed case in Delaware and a death in Oregon. A recent study out of Colorado found that in cheap marijuana vaping devices, a soldering material may leak harmful heavy metals into vaping liquids when heated. This backs up a recent study by the Mayo Clinic finding several lung tissue samples from victims of the illness feature what resemble chemical burns, similar to the effects of mustard gas.
Logically, cheap vaping devices make greater targets for diversion to the black market, given the possibility of a greater profit margin. We have long known that the legal market fuels the illegal market and it was recently discovered that a marijuana vaping device producer in Californiawas supplying devices that couldn’t pass inspections to the black market.
• At least 52 people have died from severe respiratory complications associated with vaping. At least 2,409 cases have been reported across the United States.i
• 84 percent of the deaths investigated have been associated with THC.ii
• Two of the deaths have been connected to marijuana products in Oregon, one of which was associated with marijuana oil purchased at a legal dispensary.iii A third death in Tennessee was linked to a vape purchased at a Colorado dispensary.iv No other states have released information about the kinds of vapes that were linked to the deaths.
• Reports link marijuana vapes to 80 percent of the lung illnesses being reported in the wake of the vaping epidemic, with 35 percent of victims interviewed using products that exclusively contained THC. The CDC has identified at least 152 different brands used by victims.v 5 cases of illness in Oregon have been linked to dispensaries in the state, according to state officials. An additional case in Washington state has been attributed to Washington’s legal marijuana industry.vi 6 cases of vaping-related illnesses in Massachusetts were linked to the legal marijuana industry in the state.vii
• Though the marijuana industry blames illicit vaporizers exclusively for using Vitamin E acetate, one source working within the industry, Andrew Jones of Mr. Extractor, has said that 60 to 70 percent of all vapes contain Vitamin E acetate. Even still, no health official has pointed to any individual cause.viii
• New York state has issued subpoenas to several vape companies as the investigation mounts; one of these companies is owned by a marijuana business owner who is legally licensed in Michigan.ix
• Medical marijuana users in Maryland have reported symptoms consistent with the lung illnesses resulting from vaping.x
• According to the CDC, 16 percent of the victims of the vaping-related illnesses are under the age of 18. 54 percent of the victims are under the age of 24.xi
• A recent study showed adolescents who vaped were 3.5 times as likely to smoke marijuana.xii
• Since Monitoring the Future (MTF) first began recording vaping trends among young people in 2017, the survey has demonstrated significant increases among key demographics. In 2017, 1.6 percent of 8th graders, 4.3 percent of 10th graders, and 4.9 percent of 12th graders reported past-month marijuana vaping use. In 2018 the numbers increased to 2.6 percent, 7 percent, and 7.5 percent respectively.xiii
• The MTF notes that “the doubling from 5.2 percent in 2017 to 10.9 percent in 2018 of 30-day prevalence of vaping marijuana among college students is among the largest one-year proportion increases for any substance” in 40 years.xiv
• In Arizona, a survey of 50,000 10th and 12th graders found that one quarter (25 percent) of teens were using has used highly potent marijuana concentrates at least once.xv
i See https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html
ii See https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p1028-first-analysis-lung-injury-deaths.html
iii See https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2019/09/05/vaping-death-oregon-man-dies-thc-vape- dispensary/2218501001/
iv See https://www.wkrn.com/news/local-news/minnesota-man-identified-as-tennessees-first-vaping-related-death/
v See https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1911614
vi See https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/first-vaping-lawsuit-filed-in-washington-state-by-police-officer-who-says-he-fell-ill-after-vaping-thc/
viii See https://www.inverse.com/article/59207-vitamin-e-acetate-thc-vapes
ix See https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/09/09/new-york-subpoena-firms-selling-substances- linked-illicit-vaping-products/
x See https://www.baltimoresun.com/health/bs-hs-vaping-illness-information- sought-20190912-6rxcuar5afhwznvlknlhlkizxi-story.html
xi See https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html
xii See https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2748383
xiii See http://www.monitoringthefuture.org//pubs/monographs/mtf-vol2_2018.pdf
xiv See page 23, http://www.monitoringthefuture.org//pubs/monographs/mtf-vol2_2018.pdf
xv See https://www.livescience.com/marijuana-concentrates-teen-use.html