Massachusetts state regulators seek advice from the public on how to deal with more than 600,000 THC vape confiscated last year due to vaping-related lung disease.
After four months of death and destruction of life due to the COVID-19 crisis, last year, there was an outbreak of vape-related lung disease (EVALI), which felt like a decade ago.
Starting from the end of last summer, doctors across the United States began reporting strange cases of mysterious lung diseases. Eventually, the data showed that 68 people died, and more than 3,000 people were sick. Researchers have never figured out what caused this sudden outbreak, but solid reports link most cases of this disease to illegal cannabis vapors. Federal health officials now believe that toxins or additives cause the disease in the illegal market weed vape. Legal cannabis production in a few states is also related to the EVALI case.
Last September, as the death toll began to rise, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency and announced a temporary ban on the sale of all vaping products, including tobacco and cannabis products. During last year’s ban, which took effect from September 25 to December 12, the state confiscated more than 619,000 vaping products.
The seizure of these products has caused a major economic blow to the state’s recreational cannabis industry, which is still in its infancy. Ellen Rosenfeld, president of CommCan, a company that manufactures and sells pot products for medical and adult uses, said that national regulators currently have 35,000 vaping products in quarantine from companies with a value of $2.4 million. Close to the due date.
The state conducted a test of vitamin E acetate (a disease-related additive) on samples of each product and conducted heavy metal contamination tests. Independent testing laboratories have not found vitamin E in any quarantined products. However, testing did find that many of the seized vape carts contained unacceptable levels of lead and released toxic fumes when heated. But after another round of testing, the results were completely different.
“Our testing that we’ve conducted as a commission did not detect any vitamin E acetate, which is obviously a good sign and encouraging news, but we did identify some pretty concerning levels of lead,” said Shawn Collins, executive director of the state Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) to Cannabis Business Times. “Upon retest though, the results are a little all over the map. Something that might have failed for lead – and failing for us would be above 500 parts per billion – didn’t fail the second round. So, it’s sort of a hit or miss environment.”
“There were really concerning levels of lead, and that’s what prompted us, we better try to wrap our heads around this,” Collins explained. “It’s annoying; we went looking for [the presence of] vitamin E acetate and stumbled upon another concern,” Collins said that in a special case, the initial test found that the lead concentration was 27,000 ppb, much higher than the 500 ppb allowed by state law. However, the second test conducted on the same sample did not detect the lead content at all.
Currently, the state wants to know how to deal with the millions of dollars of weed products they seized. The CCC recently posted an online question to solicit public feedback on how to handle these confiscated products.
“Continuing to restrict the sale of the quarantined vaping cartridges is a financial burden on licensees and creates a potential risk of diversion,” the CCC wrote. “Before making a dispositive decision regarding cannabis vaporizer products subject to quarantine, the Commission invites public comment regarding what, if any, conditions would allow for the retesting and safe sale of vaporizer products that were prohibited for sale or subjected to quarantine.”
“We haven’t come up with an answer or a solution, so the idea behind [the public comment period] is, let’s ask a question and see what we can get for answers and figure out what ultimately to do with this inventory,” said Collins to Cannabis Business Times. “Sometimes, the answers take time. … We’ve worked through this with the industry as cooperatively as we can, but we’ve been searching for some of those answers that just haven’t appeared .”
Collins suggested that the state government can retest and sell these vape, allow the reprocessing and resale of hemp oil in vape carts, or destroy all seized products. The CCC will continue to listen to public comments, and after considering these comments, it will announce the final decision on the matter.
This article is issued by Merry Jane.