In the wake of a nationwide epidemic of illnesses associated with vaping, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed an executive order launching a new crackdown on the burgeoning industry, both for tobacco-related companies and those in the cannabis industry.
The move appears to be the first state regulatory backlash against vaping that includes the cannabis industry and could spur others to do the same.
While the governors of Michigan and New York have moved to ban flavored e-cigarettes, as has the mayor of Chicago, no other states have yet targeted marijuana businesses or products.
- Jump-starts a new public awareness campaign focused on the potential dangers of vaping both tobacco and marijuana.
- Asks for recommendations on mandating additional warning signs for vaping product packaging and at retail locations.
- Ramps up enforcement against counterfeit e-cigarettes and cannabis products as well as those who sell to minors.
Specifically, the order:
- Requests the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) begin developing recommendations for warnings on vaping products and at retail locations – possibly including cannabis retailers – and increasing enforcement against retailers that sell vaping products to minors.
- Requests the state Department of Tax and Fee Administration to examine a possible tax increase for e-cigarettes, and to increase enforcement against retailers that sell to minors.
- Instructs the CDPH to allocate at least $20 million from tobacco and cannabis revenues to state coffers to fund a vaping awareness marketing campaign.
Deadlines for recommendations
The recommendations from the CDPH are due to Newsom by Oct. 14; the deadline for the CDTFA’s recommendations is Oct. 29.
Newsom reiterated that at least 63 respiratory illnesses and at least one death in California have been linked to vaping.
He intimated that perhaps another vaping-related death had been confirmed over the weekend but said he couldn’t share further details.
While the order and Newsom’s comments focused primarily on e-cigarettes, he emphasized that the marijuana industry was not being left out of potential actions to address the vaping health crisis.
“This is about these vaping products that are used for both cannabis and tobacco products,” Newsom said.
“We’re getting serious about this issue and we’re going to drive these issues as far as we can through executive authority.”
The governor said new consumer warnings, whether signs in stores or on product packaging, may very well apply to the cannabis industry as well as the tobacco industry.
“A lot of it is in the cannabis space, not just in the tobacco space. I see this agnostically, and I think … the issue of vaping, because it’s used for not only cannabis products but tobacco products, will ultimately advance the goal of addressing both at the same time,” Newsom said of his approach.
The marketing campaign, he added, is being funded by both tobacco and marijuana tax revenues.
Marketing campaign to begin next month
Slated to launch in October, the campaign will target families and children about the possible dangers of vaping overall, said California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly.
“In the next few weeks, the public should see a swell of ads and campaigns that really target schools and families, parents and children directly, about the risks of vaping, not just tobacco but cannabis as well,” Ghaly said.
Newsom said that if he had the legal authority, he would ban flavored e-cigarettes, but that he’ll have to wait for the Legislature to pass such a ban before it can become law.
“I’d like to see that bill on my desk,” Newsom said.
The governor also said that Weedmaps – one of the most well-known online advertisers for both licensed and illegal cannabis retailers in California – now has a “legal responsibility” to remove all unlicensed shops and delivery services from its site by the end of the year.
“They’re doing it in real time,” Newsom said when asked why Weedmaps had been given until the end of the year by his administration to remove the ads.
“They have a legal responsibility to get it done by the end of the year,” he added.
“But every day, they better be dropping folks, and we’ve been monitoring that. So this is a day-to-day occurrence, and we want to see everybody off that platform.”
For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the vaping crisis, click here.
John Schroyer can be reached at email@example.com