What will happen to 620,000 quarantined marijuana vapes?
Cannabis commission says they can be retested and sold
WHAT DOES ONE do with 620,000 quarantined marijuana vapes?
The answer, according to the state Cannabis Control Commission, is retest and resell them; use the material in another product; or destroy them.
That answer was arrived at after the commission took the unusual step of acknowledging that it had no idea what to do with the quarantined vapes. Commissioners asked the public for advice, soliciting a wide range of comments on all sides of the issue.
Executive director Shawn Collins said at a recent public meeting that the commission recognized that the longer vapes remained in quarantine, the more risk there was of inventory expiring and wasting the money that went into vaporizer production. At the same time, Collins said, “Our primary concern was always public health, consumer health, and patient safety.”
In September 2019, amid a national outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses, Gov. Charlie Baker ordered all retailers to stop selling nicotine and marijuana vapes. After some legal wrangling about Baker’s authority, the Cannabis Control Commission imposed its own quarantine of all marijuana vapes. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later fingered vitamin E acetate as a “chemical of concern” among people with vaping-related lung injury.
Collins said testing of licensed vape products has not turned up vitamin E acetate. But storing the unsold material for months can create another problem: heavy metal contamination that builds up over time. “This new order seeks to strike a balance between those products that can be retested or remediated safely for sale or repurposing with proper warning to patients and consumers, and those that cannot,” Collins said.
Under the new order, quarantined products can be tested for both vitamin E acetate and heavy metals then sold if they pass the testing, with a warning stating that the product was previously quarantined.
Alternatively, marijuana oil can be reclaimed from the vape and used in another product, as long as it is tested and labeled.
Or the vapes can be destroyed, an outcome that is mandated for any vaping product that fails tests twice.
Several individuals involved in the cannabis industry had urged the commission to let the vaping products be retested and resold.
Louis Silverstone, a compliance officer at INSA, an Easthampton marijuana company, wrote in a public comment that vaporizers should be tested for heavy metals and vitamin E acetate, then sold if no contaminants are found. “The fact that the vaporizers have been under quarantine this long without action or demonstrable cause is absurd and poses an unreasonable burden on operators,” he wrote.
Ellen Rosenfeld, president of CommCann, a Millis marijuana company, said her firm planned to remove the marijuana oil from the quarantined vapes, then reprocess and retest it.
But several public health advocates spoke out against allowing the vapes to be resold. In an apparently coordinated campaign, a number of comments included the statement, “Contaminated quarantined vapes should be destroyed, not returned to the retail market.”
Ornella Quinn, an advocate with the Massachusetts Addiction Prevention Alliance, which has warned of the dangers of marijuana use, wrote that testing has shown that contaminant content in the products is inconsistent. “Allowing the sale of these products puts consumer health and safety at risk, with legal responsibility sitting with the CCC and the state,” she wrote, referring to the Cannabis Control Commission. Numerous commenters wrote in with nearly identical wording, in comments that also warned of high levels of lead in products left sitting for months.
Several commenters worried about the health impacts of vaporizer products generally.Theresa Hoggins, of the small Worcester County town of Harvard, wrote that given the current risk of COVID-19, which can damage a person’s lungs, “Why take a chance with questionable vape products that may also damage the lungs?”