We have devoted a lot of coverage to the health problems and several deaths reportedly caused by vaping products in the United States, as have most other cannabis news outlets. Not only is the fact that people getting sick and dying from products that may contain cannabis a huge story, but many of us feel a sense of duty as well. After all, a lot of the people most likely to try something like an illegal vape product may also read publications like The Marijuana Times. If I can warn people away from bootleg vapes, then I have accomplished something important.
The Trump Administration has also weighed in on the problem, but while many in the cannabis community have urged a push for federal legalization as a way of undercutting the black market that has produced most of the “tainted” vapes, the White House has decided to go in a different direction: what basically amounts to a nationwide recall of all flavored e-cig products. The companies that make them will have 30 days to pull them off the shelves, then they can submit an application to the FDA for permission to begin selling them again.
The White House also points out that the process will better protect younger people from exposure to e-cig vaping, but all it really does is make black market products even more valuable. They are pretending to fix one problem by fixing an unrelated problem, but they aren’t really fixing either. The vast majority of illnesses seem to be from illegal THC vapes, and for now, all people like me can do is spread the information as far as possible.
I got a chance to talk to Morgan Fox, the Media Relations Director for the National Cannabis Industry Association, and as he pointed out, without legalization there is nothing the government can do to address the actual problem. When I asked him about whether or not the vaping issue was making legalization more likely, he said it was really too early to tell.
“It’s tough to tell if it’s really bending the needle at this point,” Morgan told us. “First, because it’s still a pretty low-priority issue for most politicians, but also they’ve only been back in session [about] 4 days now and they’re dealing with all sorts of other stuff, like gun control, border issues, trying to figure out the national budget.” But, he’s hopeful that educating lawmakers and others can have an impact.
There will be some who use the issue as an excuse to advocate for “slowing down” legalization. They will claim that since most of the tainted vapes have cannabis in them, then that means cannabis is making people sick. But that’s like saying if you buy meat from a guy selling it door-to-door and you get sick, then meat is making people sick. It may just be that the meat you bought was spoiling. Maybe, if a guy is selling cheap meat door-to-door, it’s too good to be true and you should send him on his way.
For now, all we can do is keep fighting for legalization and warning as many people as possible about the danger of bootleg vapes.