In response to an outbreak of respiratory illnesses primarily associated with unregulated cannabis vape cartridges found in the illicit market in recent months, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) Policy Council, with the help of experts in several fields, has produced an extensive report that explores the known and potential causes of the condition and offers ways for producers, regulators, and lawmakers to prevent such issues from occurring in the legally regulated market. NCIA is also sharing this report with key congressional committees.
The report – titled “The Key to Consumer Safety: Displacing the Illicit Cannabis Market – Recommendations for Safe Vaping” – discusses topics such as vaporizer liquid formulations, vaporizer delivery devices, possible contaminants, and best practices for testing. It also recommends ways to displace the illicit market and make sure that unregulated products don’t find their way into the legal market, including decreasing the financial burdens that prevent legal providers from being competitive with the illicit market, methods for identifying counterfeit products, creating more accessible pathways for unlicensed operators to enter the regulated market, and increasing non-criminal enforcement against illegal cultivation sites.
“The cannabis industry has a serious and disruptive illicit market problem that is directly affecting public health and safety. While the Center for Disease Control has not yet definitively determined the proximate cause for every injury or death, the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence points to additives in illicit market products,” the report states. “NCIA’s Policy Council urges consumers to only purchase regulated and tested cannabis products from the state-legal market. Reliable vaping products manufactured using suitable vaporizer hardware and liquid formulations created from high-quality ingredients are common in the legal cannabis market. The same cannot be said for the unregulated market. We must stop the flow of illicit, unregulated, and untested products to consumers… We also need to lower taxes, so that the legal market can fairly compete with the illicit market. This effort will take a collaborative approach, with law enforcement, state-legal cannabis businesses, and state cannabis taxing and licensing authorities working in concert.”
Earlier this month, the CDC ended its “state of emergency” regarding this illness, known as EVALI, as the number of new cases being reported has sharply declined. While discussing the sources for the products linked to specific cases, the agency inaccurately grouped regulated cannabis businesses with completely unregulated businesses such as illegal pop-ups and unlicensed storefronts as the sources for 16% of the cannabis products associated with EVALI cases. This is even though only a handful of cases have been associated with licensed businesses, which are greatly outnumbered by unlicensed stores in California.
Cannabis is legal for adults in eleven states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of CNMI and Guam, and 33 states, as well as several territories, have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states. Dozens of states are set to consider cannabis-related legislation or ballot initiatives this year.