Vaping-related Illnesses & Potential Impact on the Cannabis Industry

October 7th, 2019, Adult-use, Federal, Regulatory

Vaping illnesses have been making headlines across the country for weeks now, as the total number of affected patients continues to climb, spurring conversations at both the state and federal level about government intervention.

In response to the more than 1,000 potential cases (as of early-October) of illness linked to vaping, the Trump Administration indicated a potential ban on flavored vaping products, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were called to testify before Congress, and states are exploring banning vaping products altogether, such as in the case of Massachusetts, which has temporarily suspended sales of all products statewide.

In Maine, State Senator Rebecca Millett announced she would introduce legislation for the second session that would ban the sales of vaping products until the FDA could deem whether or not e-cigarettes are effective in tobacco cessation. Millett is still working on final language of the bill.

While health officials have yet been able to link a single vaping product or ingredient to the illnesses, some officials are focusing on vitamin E acetate or other additives. Not all illnesses are linked to cannabis vaping, but in an update from September 19, the CDC reported “most patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC. Many patients have reported using THC and nicotine. Some have reported the use of e-cigarette products containing only nicotine.”

While CBD is regulated by the FDA, since it is an active ingredient in an FDA-approved drug, one issue lies in the pervasiveness of mislabeled or counterfeit products that may contain little to no CBD, or contain other products. For example, if products labeled as CBD contain narcotics, the case is turned over to the Drug Enforcement Agency, which readily admits it has “bigger priorities on enforcement.”

Given the complex overlap of federal jurisdiction, the recent changes to hemp law, and the remaining status of Schedule I for marijuana, it is unclear how, if at all, the federal government will choose to intervene- further creating a patchwork of rules at regulations at the state level.