There is a “tainted vape” health issue in the United States today. Readers who have only seen mainstream media coverage of this issue will still be completely uninformed on the subject.
This is because the mainstream media has only been interested in frightening people, sensationalizing the actual facts, and (as always) smearing the legal cannabis industry.
This is not a cannabis industry problem as reported by the broader media. It is a government problem. Specifically, it is a regulatory problem in the United States.
This is not a “crisis” or an “epidemic”, as sensationalized by the mainstream media.
Tobacco use is a crisis (and an epidemic). It kills over 480,000 Americans per year.
Alcohol use/abuse is a crisis. It kills over 88,000 Americans per year. And that number is rising sharply due to the lethal consequences of combining alcohol with prescription drugs.
Opioid abuse is a rising crisis. Opioid overdoses are responsible for over 40,000 American deaths per year.
The issue with tainted vape pens has caused only seven confirmed deaths, along with a few hundred illnesses. And many of those deaths/illnesses are due to tobacco vaping products – not cannabis products at all. This is a health problem. No crisis. No epidemic.
Why are tainted vape pens not a “cannabis industry” health problem? Why do we have consumer product regulations (and regulators) at all?
Governments regulate and (supposedly) inspect consumer products for two very important reasons.
The first is superior knowledge/resources. Government regulators are positioned to have access to the best information on consumer products, the inputs for those products, and the processes used to manufacture them.
Product manufacturers can (and have) created potential health hazards for consumers inadvertently, simply due to lack of understanding of what they were doing. No malice is necessarily involved.
There is also a second, more nefarious reason why consumer products need to be properly regulated and vigilantly inspected: corporate greed.
In any industry (including the tobacco and cannabis industries) if government refuses to exercise its own duty to properly regulate and inspect consumer products, there will always be unscrupulous manufacturers who will cut corners for profit. They will do so irrespective of potential safety risks to consumers.
That is what is occurring today with this U.S. health issue: regulatory failure resulting in either one or both of the two consequences of regulatory failure. Along with this is the ultimate consequence, illnesses and even deaths among consumers.
Shoddy products (illicit and legal) derived from shoddy regulation.
A new article from Leafly provides the closest look yet at the actual sources of product contamination, as well as how those contaminants entered the U.S. supply chain. It was ignorance and greed that has been able to (previously) escape detection due to the lack of proper U.S. product regulation.
In the case of the illicit products causing illness/death, there is also an additional ingredient: cannabis Prohibition itself. The cannabis black market is a creation of cannabis Prohibition.
Had cannabis Prohibition never existed (and it should have never existed), there would be no cannabis black market. Or, at worst, it would be some small fringe of overall commerce, as with other industries. Instead (according to Leafly), the black market still claims 78% of overall U.S. cannabis revenues.
More regulatory failure.
It’s the failure of the U.S. federal government to put a complete end to cannabis Prohibition, as is already the case in Canada and a handful of other nations.
It is also a state failure. Even in many of the states that have partially or fully legalized cannabis, the black market continues to dominate.
That’s the case in California, the U.S.’s single-largest cannabis market. California is also (according to Leafly), the nexus of the tainted vape problem.
Much of this is black market and gray market commerce in California. These are precisely the sort of commercial transactions that would have disappeared if the state had been more effective in legalizing (and regulating) its cannabis industry.
The U.S. federal government earns even more blame for these deaths/illnesses. Under Donald Trump funding has been slashed for U.S. regulators across the board.
You can pay me now. Or you can pay me later.
That old line from a Fram oil filter commercial conveyed basic common sense. Invest in basic maintenance today or risk a serious (and much more costly) breakdown tomorrow.
If the U.S. government won’t pay the price (now) for maintaining an effective system of consumer product regulation, American consumers will pay the price (later). In some cases, with their lives.
Donald Trump has clearly shown he is willing to roll the dice when it comes to the safety of American consumers. Now, for the victims of tainted vape pens, those dice are showing ‘snake eyes’.
It is not the U.S. cannabis industry that has failed American consumers. It is the U.S. government that has failed the cannabis industry and failed consumers.
Cannabis needs to be fully legalized in the United States today. A proper and comprehensive framework for regulating the cannabis industry must accompany this. And such regulation has to be funded.