Today, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), the nation’s leading nonpartisan organization advocating for science-based marijuana policy, sent a comprehensive letter to Congressional leadership outlining the fact that cases of severe respiratory illness and subsequent deaths from vaping are decisively tied to marijuana products and linked to purchases made in state “legal” stores. Additionally, the letter outlines several recommended courses of action to address the crisis.
“We have a marijuana vape epidemic in the US, and we urge Congress and the Administration to act now. Across the country, this outbreak is proving fatal and health officials are struggling to identify the single element or contaminant responsible for these illnesses and deaths,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of SAM and a former senior drug policy advisor to the Obama Administration. “Two deaths in Oregon and a number of cases tied to products purchased from marijuana dispensaries tell us this is more than just a nicotine or underground market issue.”
The letter, signed by members of SAM’s science advisory board, comprised of researchers from such universities as Harvard, Yale, and Johns Hopkins, points out that while governments and agencies have been quick to use this crisis to implement bans on nicotine vapes, an overwhelming majority of cases in this outbreak have been tied to the vaping of THC, the intoxicating ingredient in marijuana. What’s more, the letter highlights several of the cases of illness and at least two deaths have been tied to products purchased at “state-legal” marijuana dispensaries, negating the argument that underground market products are solely responsible.
The letter calls on Congress to:
• Pass resolutions supporting the Food and Drug Administration using existing authorities to remove dangerous products from store shelves;
• Conduct oversight hearings to encourage federal and state officials to release as much information as possible regarding the sources of these vapes and the kinds of vapes used by victims, including connections to state regulated products; and
• Halt any legislation that will greatly expand the marijuana industry’s sales of potentially fatal products, including the SAFE Banking Act.
“Both the CDC and the FDA have unequivocally warned the public to specifically avoid the use of marijuana vaping products,” continued Dr. Sabet. “It is time for these government agencies to take action to remove these products from circulation and protect public health. We urge Congress and the FDA to move swiftly.”