Vape Crisis Sparks Industry-led Crusade for Federal Cannabis Reform
Currently, at the U.S. federal level, cannabis is still considered a controlled substance that falls within the control of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
But more than 800 cannabis industry leaders are hoping to change that.
As a response to the emerging health risks associated with illicit THC vaping products, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) has led the creation of an open letter that was delivered to the U.S. House and U.S. Senate leadership last week. The letter makes the case that the recent slew of vaping-related respiratory illnesses and deaths (the majority of which appear to be the result of using unregulated products) underscore the need for strong federal regulations — which can’t be implemented until cannabis is no longer a federally banned substance.
“Make no mistake, the legal state-regulated cannabis industry knows that any death is one death too many,” the NCIA-led letter states. “Fortunately, we have policy tools that can be employed to help limit the illicit market, implement uniform good manufacturing practices, and prevent future harms. Descheduling is the only way to truly reform federal cannabis policy sensibly so that state regulatory programs can most successfully ensure consumer safety and to pave the way for appropriate federal regulations.”
In addition to NCIA, co-signers of the letter include representations or organizations such as Leafly, Foria Wellness, SPARC, Berkeley Patients Group, Weedmaps, 4Front Ventures, and Vicente Sederberg LLP. Together they argue that the American public “needs accurate and actionable information from the government, particularly about illegal, untested, and dangerous illicit market consumer products.”
Executive Director of the NCIA, Aaron Smith, echoed the letter’s urgent call for cannabis reform at the federal level:
“It is absolutely vital for members of Congress to understand that this vaping illness outbreak is directly tied to failed prohibition policies that support the unregulated underground market,” said Smith. “There is a reason there are no illness outbreaks related to tainted alcohol in this country: the substance is regulated at the federal and state levels, and licensed producers have almost entirely replaced bootleggers. Descheduling cannabis products and regulating them effectively is essential to improving on successful state regulatory systems, allowing more comprehensive research, and displacing the illicit market.”
Policy Recommendations Stated in the Letter
To ensure that people are no longer exposed to unregulated and potentially dangerous vaping products, the NCIA-led letter laid out the following five policy recommendations:
- “Congress is urged to immediately remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and begin to sensibly regulate this substance in a manner similar to alcohol and other consumables, and to make funds immediately available to state medical authorities to investigate these cases.”
- “Licensed vape cartridge producers are encouraged to halt the use, if any, of additive thickening agents until more data is available.”
- “Given the preliminarily reported association of some illness cases with Vitamin E acetate, any licensed producer that has included this additive in recent vape product batches is strongly encouraged to issue a voluntary recall of those products.”
- “Licensed cannabis retailers are encouraged to take steps to ensure none of their available vape cartridge inventories have been sourced from a producer that uses Vitamin E acetate.”
- “Cannabis vape cartridge consumers are urged to immediately cease the use of any product obtained from the illicit market and to limit any future purchases of vape cartridges and other cannabis products to state-licensed, regulated businesses.”
Health Concerns Mounting; No Time to Waste
The reforms being advocated for in the letter would ensure that unethical and unregulated players are undermined by legitimate, state-approved, and accountable businesses. And with the recent public health concerns mounting, there’s an urgency to the call for action.
“The legal cannabis industry is extremely concerned about these reported illnesses and deaths. It is clear that the American public wants quality-controlled cannabis products made available for adults and patients. The recent news is, unfortunately, yet another reminder that there is no time to waste. Our industry wants to provide the products voters demand with a tireless focus on improving consumer safety. We are at the ready to work collaboratively with federal lawmakers, the same way we have at the state level for over a decade. Please let us know how we can help move the ball forward on descheduling legislation. Lives are literally at stake.”
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