By Bruce Linton and Kyle Kingsley, M.D.
The recent wave of vaping-related lung illnesses and fatalities has understandably been a source of concern for millions of cannabis users throughout the United States. Our heartfelt condolences go out to all those that have been harmed by these unsafe products.
Fortunately, this past Friday, thanks to the combined expertise and investigation of some of the best U.S. health officials and institutions, a likely definitive source was identified. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released findings that Vitamin E acetate, often used as a thickening agent in illicitly manufactured THC vaporization cartridges, is the likely culprit.
Despite this development, it is a mistake to interpret this news as closing the chapter of another troubling public health epidemic. Regrettably, we expect the number of people harmed to only continue to grow. Let’s not fool ourselves -- those parties illicitly producing cartridges will not change their dangerous practices in response to a well-researched CDC bulletin, nor will consumers stop using illicit vapes when legal options are not readily available.
In other words, while harmful to inhale, Vitamin E acetate is not the real problem. The root cause of this unnecessary suffering is the federal prohibition of cannabis. The vaping crisis will not therefore be solved by scientists (even the most talented and well-intentioned) working in state-of-the-art labs, but only by members of Congress voting to legalize and appropriately regulate cannabis.
Lives are at stake and the time for bi-partisan legislation is now. Congressional action ought to be guided by history. The current public health risk related to vaporizers is reminiscent of the 1920s Prohibition era, when countless people died or suffered from irrevocable injuries from drinking homemade moonshine or “bathtub gin.” Local newspapers reported on December 26th, 1922 that five New Yorkers had died from drinking “poisoned rum.” By the end of Prohibition, reports showed that hundreds of New Yorkers – including 41 on New Year’s Day 1927 alone – perished from illicit-distillation related poisonings, often caused by drinking industrial methanol.
So long as the federal government resists common-sense legislation to legalize and regulate cannabis, unnecessary illnesses and deaths will likely continue. Let’s learn from the public health mistakes of the past and acknowledge that manufacturing vaporizer cartridges without regulatory oversight and quality control is akin to the gin bathtubs of yesteryear.
Legalizing cannabis is the only way to ensure that cannabis products will be manufactured safely and subject to rigorous third-party testing. We are particularly confident of this because our company, Vireo Health, has produced nearly 300,000 vaporization cartridges in accordance with strict state-based regulations and helped tens of thousands of patients since 2015. Even more important, since our inception, we have instituted a 24/7 post-market surveillance program (the only in the nation) to monitor our patients’ side effects closely and act quickly when, and if, required. Fortunately, to date, none of our patients have been affected by this threat.
It’s time to pave the way for well-regulated cannabis as a viable alternative to opioids, tobacco, alcohol – each of which represents a greater risk to public health. Recent public recognition of the vaping health crisis ought to be the impetus for building a broad coalition of stakeholders to legalize cannabis and ensure its safety. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the real problem are prohibitionist policies that create a market for illicit vapes. Vitamin E acetate has caused irreparable harm. Unfortunately, only more harm will follow unless we act quickly and decisively as we have done in the past.
See Also: Vireo Health Gets New CFO
Bruce Linton, former CEO of Canopy Growth Corp (NYSE: CGC), serves as Executive Chairman for Vireo Health International Inc (OTC: VREOF), among other roles he holds in the cannabis industry.
Kyle Kingsley, M.D., a board-certified physician, is Vireo Health's Chief Executive Officer. The company is licensed to manufacture and distribute cannabis in 10 states and Puerto Rico.
Lead photo by Javier Hasse.
The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.