Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Marijuana Reform Organization Issues Warning Against Vaping THC Oils Obtained from Unlicensed Sellers; CDC Does Not

It is a sad state of affairs in public health when we have to rely upon a marijuana law reform organization to issue a critical health warning on the severe risks of vaping unlicensed THC oils, while the CDC remains silent.

According to an article in USA Today, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) warned consumers "not to buy THC vape products from unlicensed retailers." The organization's Deputy Director--Paul Armentano--explained the danger associated with the use of illicit THC vaping products: "Unregulated illicit market cannabis products, like products in any unregulated marketplace, are of variable quality and may put some consumers at risk. These incidents linked to the use of unregulated, illicit market vapor cartridges reinforce the need for greater market regulation, standardization, and oversight ... Consumers must also be aware that not all products are created equal; quality control testing is critical and only exists in the legally regulated marketplace."

In response to the occurrence of seven cases of acute respiratory distress syndrome that were linked to the use of THC or CBD oil extracts purchased from the illicit market, the Hanford (CA) health department issued a very specific warning to the public not to vape cannabis or CBD oils obtained from an unlicensed seller. The warning was issued in no uncertain terms: "Under no circumstances should you vape cannabis or CBD oils obtained from a “pop-up shop."

The Rest of the Story

The CDC continues to remain silent, even though it has become clear that vaping THC oils, particularly those obtained on the street from unlicensed sellers, is a risk factor for the "mysterious" respiratory illness that has affected close to 200 individuals. The CDC has yet to issue any kind of warning, preferring instead to continue to scare people about the dangers of all vaping products, making no distinctions whatsoever between the myriad types of vaping products on the market.

The Office on Smoking and Health continues to hammer home its meaningless mantra that e-cigarette aerosol is "not harmless." In its August 23rd media briefing, the Office on Smoking and Health not once but twice reiterated the earth-shattering statement that "e-cigarettes do not emit a harmless aerosol."

And then once again in the excellent USA Today article from yesterday, the Office on Smoking and Health once again offered the extremely helpful information that "e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless."

In addition, the Office on Smoking and Health continued to harp on the dangers of "traditional nicotine vape liquid." And even when given the opportunity to emphasize the dangers of vaping THC oil, the Office on Smoking and Health tried to divert attention from that concern back to the thousands of other vaping products that are not causing any problem: "Though the government knows people use substances including THC in vape pens, King said, "the bottom line is there’s a variety of things in e-cigarette aerosol that could have implications for lung health."

This is completely irresponsible. People are dying or having severe, life-threatening illnesses and instead of warning people about the risks of using illicit THC oils that have been linked to many of the cases, CDC is more concerned about making a political statement demonizing e-cigarette aerosol without any evidence that traditional e-cigarette aerosol has been associated with any of the reported cases.

In fact, it appears that the Office on Smoking and Health tried to imply that traditional nicotine e-liquids could cause respiratory disease before acknowledging that none of the cases has been linked to traditional nicotine e-liquids but then warning anyway about the respiratory risks of the traditional vaping of retail e-cigarette products: "Dr. Brian King of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health told reporters that harmful ingredients in traditional nicotine vape liquid had been identified that included ultrafine particulates, heavy metals such as lead, cancer-causing chemicals and flavoring used in e-cigarettes to give it a buttery flavor. Those ingredients had been related to severe respiratory illness, he said. While they haven't been linked to the current cases, 'we know that e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless,' King said." 

Why is the CDC pointing the finger at every constituent in normal e-cigarette aerosol, implying that any of these chemicals could be the cause of acute respiratory distress syndrome, but protecting illicit cannabis vaping?

The rest of the story is that in its zeal to demonize electronic cigarettes, the CDC is actually protecting illegal drug dealers at the expense of the protection of the health of our nation's youth.

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