Author: Katie, Dispensary Technician
Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine has released a statement on vape safety, which can be found here:
Illnesses and deaths linked to vaping have been ever-present in our news-cycle, both for tobacco and marijuana related products, specifically cartridges, leaving many patients with questions. What is causing the vape scare? Is my vape product safe? Are medical marijuana products safe for vaping? Vaporizer cartridges are one of the most commonly purchased, convenient, and user-friendly products patients buy, so the concern surrounding them is completely understandable. With that in mind, the vape cartridges sold at Pennsylvania dispensaries have some notable differences from the ones discussed in the news and linked to the vaping illnesses.
The Bad Cartridges
Though there is a great deal of time and research going into investigating the specifics of vaping related illnesses, there still isn’t a conclusive answer as to what is causing these reactions. However, a few possibilities have been rolled out and should be considered by consumers.
So far, the use of additives in e-cigarettes, black market marijuana cartridges, and cartridges that are generally less regulated, seem to be the most common theories between researchers. The additives are solvents which dissolve nicotine and marijuana to create a better viscosity for the vaping liquid. These additives, specifically vitamin E and MCT, can re-solidify in the lungs even after they are vaporized.
As previously mentioned, most of the cartridges in question come from very loosely to completely unregulated markets (like the black market). Similar to how unsafe additives can be used to cut the cartridges, growers and distributors of these cartridges may also be using harmful pesticides and fertilizers when growing their product. Consuming such chemicals can possibly be dangerous to one’s health.
Another possibility is unregulated markets can import cheaper hardware for their cartridges. Some of the casings and atomizers made and imported from China can have up to 4% lead present, creating a higher risk of lead contaminating the vaporizer liquid and thus becoming a major health concern.
The issue with vaping-related illnesses brings legalization and regulation into question. Black market vape cartridges can be sold in larger quantities and lower rates than legal markets, and due to this, they may be appealing to some. However, not only are these cartridges illegal, those products aren’t regulated and there is no way for marijuana consumers to know what’s in them. We can speculate that increased legalization may make the purchase of safe and legal cartridges much more accessible, however that is still at the discretion of the state and/or federal government. *deep sigh*
The Better Cartridges
Pennsylvania has one of the most highly and strictly regulated cannabis markets in the country. Because of this, we can be sure to keep our products as safe to use as possible. None of the cartridges that come from PA regulated grower/processors have dangerous additives in them. All marijuana products must go through two rounds of lab testing, including third party lab testing, and all test results are accessible to the dispensaries. If patients have any questions related to testing for specific products, we are able to answer with full transparency. All of the growers that supply products to Keystone Shops have also released statements in regard to concern about their vape carts which can be found here.
Again, there are no conclusive results about what causes the illness associated with vaporizing; what we can say for the well-regulated PA products is none have been linked to any of the additives, pesticides, or hardware that has so far been connected to vaping illnesses. That being said, this is still a new investigation, so while the user risk may be reduced, without conclusive results we cannot 100% guarantee anyone’s health. While you may certainly rest a bit easier, the use of vape cartridges is still at the discretion of the patient. Patients are always welcome to ask as many questions as they need so to feel as comfortable as possible with their products.
If anyone has medical concerns that they may believe are connected to vape carts, we encourage you to first seek out medical attention from a licensed medical professional. If you are interested in medical marijuana but wish to do so without vaping, ask any of our friendly and knowledge staff about alternatives today.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been reviewed for accuracy by the FDA. As always, seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider when considering trying a new treatment. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your doctor first.