Cannabis can use some positive PR right now, as the industry is being bombarded by an onslaught of negative press.
While media outlets and public personalities are using recent reports of vaping-related illnesses and deaths to revive prohibition rhetoric, public health and safety demand proper regulations to ensure consumers are not inhaling toxic products.
Legalization has often been viewed from the lens of potential harms but the unfortunate barrage of vaping-related issues should strengthen the case for building a legal framework that will protect consumers.
Unfounded calls for vaping bans
The tragic news of unsafe additives and hardware leading to death and illness has led to a media frenzy calling for the ban of vaping, with a particular focus on THC products.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported “1,080 lung injury cases associated with using e-cigarette, or vaping, products”, along with 18 confirmed deaths in the US.
The first confirmed case of severe pulmonary illness related to vaping was reported in Québec. Also, a possible case has been reported in Ontario, which is still under investigation.
Beyond this, we don’t have much to go on. The US federal and state investigators have reported that most of the vaping products containing THC tested as a part of this ongoing investigation contained a significant amount of Vitamin E Acetate. However, there is not enough data to conclude that Vitamin E is the cause of the lung illness. Sensationalized media coverage of these tragedies has led to calls for reactionary regulation, while off-the-cuff musings from public figures have muddled the science and blurred the lines between fact and fiction.
Banning vape cartridges and accessories poses a greater risk to public health and safety than bringing these items to the regulated market. Through stringent testing and strict rules regarding allowable additives, we can mitigate the risks of consumption rather than forcing people to buy products from the illicit market.
According to a 2019 report from Deloitte, value-add cannabis products are projected to boost the Canadian market by up to $2.7 billion, demonstrating a strong consumer demand. Currently, Canadians are forced to purchase products like edibles and extracts from unlicensed producers who are not bound by quality control and regulations.
Updated regulations on the horizon
Pre-legalization consumers notice a large lack of product diversity in the regulated system. Almost a year since coming into force, The Cannabis Act has only allowed for dried flower and ingestible oils to be sold by licensed retailers. Legislation for topicals, edibles, and extracts will be implemented on October 17, 2019 but these amendments only allow licensed processors to submit new products. There is still a two-month approval process, which means products won’t be hitting shelves until December at the earliest.
Although new offerings will still be limited compared to the unregulated market, consumers can expect quality tested and assured items that fit within Health Canada’s updated regulations.
Product formulations cannot contain nicotine, caffeine, or added vitamins, minerals, sugars, sweeteners, or colours.
Edibles will be limited to 10 mg of THC per packaged dose, and vape cartridges and topicals will be limited to 1000 mg of THC.
Cannabis accessories are also subject to regulations regarding the prohibition of contaminants and the potential for physical dependence or increased toxicity of the cannabis product.
Committing to quality and safety
All players in the emerging adult-use cannabis market have a responsibility to help build an ethical, sustainable industry.
The best way for us to do that is to inform research and policy, be compliant, hold each other accountable, and support each other to build a stable, trusted industry together.
As we mature towards legalization 2.0, Adastra is committed to building a GMP-compliant facility responsible for manufacturing and testing upwards of 3 billion milligrams of cannabis distillate in its first year of licensing, with the opportunity to scale to meet demand.
Chemia, Adastra’s on-site lab, will allow us to maintain quality control throughout production, including testing for trace contaminants in raw materials for vape formulations and final products.
Not everyone is favourable to cannabis, and we need to be mindful of those looking for the industry to fail. Corruption and bad apples exist across all industries, but cannabis faces more intense scrutiny due to nearly a century of suffusive stigma.
We look forward to serving as an ally in the industry by supporting licensed producers and processors in bringing safe, quality-controlled products to the market.