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Cannabis vapes still selling, even as illness toll rises

Oct 07 2019 06:00

Sales of legal pot vapes have stabilised in key states even as the number of injuries related to the device has topped 1,000 and a growing list of jurisdictions seek bans.

Cannabis vape pens lost significant market share in the legal recreational markets of California, Colorado, Nevada and Washington between late August, when the first illness was reported, and mid-September, according to data from Seattle-based cannabis analytics firm Headset Inc.

Those declines have steadied in the past three weeks except in Colorado, where vape pens accounted for just 11% of total recreational cannabis sales as of Sept. 30, down from 19% in June.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said most affected patients used cannabis vaping products, with many of those obtained from illegal and unregulated sources. Legal products are less likely to contain the “toxic chemicals” that appear to be causing the lung injuries, so sales may begin to climb again if fearful consumers turn from the illicit to the legal market.

“We could see vapor pen sales increase if consumers in adult-use states move their purchases from the black market and into licensed dispensaries where they can be confident they will be able to purchase fully regulated and tested products,” Headset said in its report.

Interestingly, sales of dried flower haven’t benefited much from the decline in vape demand. In fact, flower’s market share in Nevada actually fell in September, while it was more or less flat in California and Washington.

Other categories seem to be growing instead, with pre-roll sales up 8% in Washington and edibles sales up 9% in California in recent weeks, according to Headset.

In Canada, where cannabis vape devices won’t be legally available until Dec. 16, one vaping-related illness has been confirmed. The government will “establish several regulatory controls for this category of products to help lower risks and better safeguard the health of Canadian consumers and to enable Health Canada to respond to emerging health issues in a timely manner,” according to the department responsible for cannabis regulations.

In the U.S., the National Cannabis Industry Association last week urged the federal government to take a similar regulatory approach by removing cannabis from its list of controlled substances and treating it in a manner similar to alcohol, while also making funds available to state medical authorities so they can investigate the illnesses.

In a letter signed by about 800 cannabis executives, policy experts and advocates, the NCIA also called on consumers to immediately stop using illicit-market vape cartridges.

“If it is confirmed that Americans are being hurt because of unregulated, illicit market cannabis vape products, it is yet another reason for real, comprehensive federal cannabis reform that will allow the regulated, tested cannabis industry to displace illicit market actors,” the NCIA wrote in the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “Lives are literally at stake.”

cannabis  |  vaping respiratory illness


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