E-cigarettes and cannabis vaporizers have been on the market for years. Manufacturers tout them as a healthier alternative to smoking, but a surge in the mysterious vaping-linked illness has caused health officials and lawmakers alike to sound the alarm. The Center for Disease Control has counted 450 cases of potential vaping related illnesses across 33 states and one U.S. territory.
People with it usually experienced shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pain before they deteriorated to the point that they needed to be hospitalized. Many victims ended up with acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening condition where fluid builds up in the lungs and prevents oxygen from circulating. Some have even died.
But the cannabis industry is fighting the push to stop consumers from vaping.
“There have been currently 62 reported cases in California of this mysterious lung illness and none of them currently are being linked to the regulated cannabis market,” says Lindsay Robinson, the Executive Director of the California Cannabis Industry Association.
The CCIA says that strict regulation of legal vaping products can protect users from any contaminants that make them sick. An audit from the United Cannabis Bureau Association found that 2,835 illegal dispensaries and delivery services were operating in California. There are only 873 licensed sellers. Even though the state has the biggest cannabis market in the world, the black market outsells it at a rate of almost 3 to 1. An industry audit found that illegal cannabis sales are projected to reach $8.7 billion to the legal industry’s $3.1 billion.
“We're seeing these illnesses kind of pop up on the unregulated side where manufacturers sometimes, and certainly consumers, really don't have any idea what's in those products,” Robinson says.“[The black market] is a huge threat not only to the legal businesses, it is also a public safety risk.”