The letter, sponsored by the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), points out recent evidence linking the recent outbreak of acute lung disease to black market THC vapes. Unlike state-legal cannabis vapes, which are tightly regulated and thoroughly tested for contaminants, illegal vapes are often homemade concoctions that can contain toxic pesticide residue, heavy metals, or dangerous additives.
“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 NCIA executive director Aaron Smith to Marijuana Moment. “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.”
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“Descheduling is the only way to truly reform federal cannabis policy in a sensible manner so that state regulatory programs can most successfully ensure consumer safety and to pave the way for appropriate federal regulations,” the letter states. The NCIA also notes that federal prohibition limits state-legal businesses from effectively competing with the black market. Federal legalization would remove these barriers, however, ensuring “that unethical actors are increasingly disrupted by legitimate, responsible businesses.”
The letter underlines five recommended policies to help put an immediate end to this crisis. The first item asks the federal government to “immediately remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and begin to sensibly regulate this substance in a manner similar to alcohol.” Companies that make legal vape carts are also being asked to halt the use of Vitamin E or other potentially dangerous additives, and to voluntarily recall any existing products containing these additives.
The letter also asks licensed cannabis retailers to investigate their supply chain to ensure that none of their raw materials have been sourced from producers that use illegal additives or pesticides. Cannabis consumers are also advised to cease using any illegally-sourced vapes or vape carts, in favor of legally-purchased, regulated vaping products – or good, old-fashioned cannabis flower.
“Our industry wants to provide the products voters demand with a tireless focus on improving consumer safety,” the letter concludes. “We are 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.”