Massachusetts cannabis regulators have quarantined all medical marijuana vaping products that use oil-based vape cartridges, while allowing sales of flower-based vapes to continue.
In September, Governor Charlie Baker announced a temporary ban on all vape products sold within state lines, in an attempt to control the outbreak of vaping-related lung illness responsible for killing dozens of people and sickening thousands more. This four-month emergency ban applies to all nicotine and cannabis vape products, including medical marijuana vapes.
This latter issue outraged medical marijuana patients, advocates, and business owners — several of whom sued the state over the ban. Last week, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins ruled that the state Department of Public Health “very likely exceeded its authority” by banning medical marijuana vapes, MassLive reports. According to Massachusetts law, the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) has “exclusive powers” over medical marijuana regulations, not the health department.
Judge Wilkins ordered that the state ban on medical marijuana vapes be lifted as of noon on November 12. “The court therefore allows the [Cannabis Control Commission] time to adopt the [medical marijuana vaping ban] in whole or in part, or decline to adopt any ban at all,” the ruling states.
This Wednesday, the CCC announced that they would continue the ban, but only for oil-based vaping products.
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The Commission announced that they will quarantine all “devices that rely on vaporization or aerosolization, including, but not limited to: vape pens, vape cartridges, aerosol products and inhalers, in order to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Massachusetts.” This ban does not “prevent the display, sale, or distribution of devices designed to exclusively vaporize marijuana flower for medical-use patients,” however.
CCC Executive Director Shawn Collins said that he “has determined that additional testing of certain products for vitamin E acetate and other substances of concern and the development of additional regulatory and policy safeguards is necessary to protect the public health, safety and welfare,” WWLP News reports. “Based on current manufacturing processes, it is possible that legal marijuana products sold in the state could contain vitamin E acetate or other potential ingredients of concern,” the CCC said in a statement.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now believe that Vitamin E acetate, an additive sometimes added to black market THC vapes, is likely responsible for this illness — which is now officially known as EVALI (e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury). A recent study found that this additive was present in lung fluid samples of 29 EVALI patients from 10 different states.
The CDC now reports 2,051 confirmed cases of EVALI, and at least thirty-nine deaths have been linked to this illness. Although most people diagnosed with vaping-related lung problems eventually recover, the consequences can still be severe. In Michigan, doctors only just barely saved a 17-year-old EVALI patient’s life by performing a double lung transplant.