Marijuana Business Magazine February 2020

Marijuana Business Magazine | February 2020 6 From the Editor | Kate Lavin W ithin weeks of health officials confirming the nation’s first death from a mysterious lung illness last August, vape sales were starting to tank in states with legal cannabis markets. According to Seattle-based market intelligence firm Headset, sales were down sharply in each of the four recreational cannabis markets the company monitors. In Colorado alone, vaporizer market share dropped 24% in only two weeks. By the time sales data began to reflect the growing epidemic, the U.S. death toll had risen to five, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was reporting 380 suspected cases of vaping illness in 36 states. Researchers were stymied, but response from the PR machine was brisk: • These illnesses are being caused by nicotine vapes, not THC. • Flavored e-cigarettes are the culprit. • Any tainted cannabis products came from the illegal market. As it turns out, these statements were untrue. According to the CDC, of the patients who were hospitalized with vaporizer-related illnesses and offered information about substance use, 82% reported using vape products containing any amount of THC, and 34% reported using vape products containing only THC—not nicotine or added flavorings. Of the patients who admitted using THC vapes and shared the product source with health officials, 16% said they acquired products exclusively from commercial sources such as dispensaries and marijuana retailers. Additionally, the CDC reported, “THC is present in most of the samples tested by FDA to date.” In Oregon, for example, at least five people hospitalized with vaping-related illness had purchased marijuana at licensed retailers. Two of them eventually died. Unfortunately, while everyone from vape shops to oil and vaporizer hardware producers were busy claiming they weren’t responsible for the epidemic, the patient count rose. And the death count did, too. As of press time, the CDC reported 2,668 vaping- related lung illness, including 60 deaths in 27 states. And while researchers have pinpointed the additive vitamin E acetate as a likely cause, they have yet to rule out other possibilities. We Can Do Better For this month’s cover package, staff writer Omar Sacirbey looked at possible culprits for the vape crisis—from vita- min E acetate to vaporizer hardware including cartridges, batteries and heating coils. Reporter Bart Schaneman spoke with vape producers working to make products safer for the end user as well as oil extractors who are adding authentication systems so consumers can read lab results for the products they’re using. One of the greatest gifts state-legal marijuana programs provide is the ability for consumers to purchase products that have been tested and deemed safe by third-party labs. It’s a responsibility that should be taken seriously and one that should be cited when new markets are legalized and consumers unfailingly complain that prices are higher than they’re used to paying for product from illicit sources. Operating a legal company with integrity and offering a quality product can be incredibly expensive—even before business owners have factored in taxes, licensing fees and the myriad other costs of running a legal marijuana opera- tion. That said, the cost of the alternative is just too great. Sincerely, No Winners in the Blame Game Kate Lavin Marijuana Business Magazine Editor