How To Keep Yourself Safe When Vaping Cannabis

There’s no way you’ve been on social media the last few weeks and missed the headlines dealing with the vaping related illnesses that have plagued our country over the Summer and continues as Fall takes its place. Vaping panic is taking the internet by storm and was pushed into overdrive when President Donald Trump suggested that fruity E-cig flavors be banned in order to quell the problem. However, potential legislation like this just adds to the noise of what people think is happening and what’s actually going on. Let’s try and decipher what’s going on with the mysterious vape illnesses now climbing over 530 cases, NPR reports.

Vapes and E-Cigs

First, we need to break down what vaping is and the differences between a vaporizer and an electronic cigarette (e-cig).  Vaporizers are usually battery-operated handheld devices that use a heating element to heat up cannabis or nicotine-based oils so the user can inhale them and enjoy the effects of the respective chemicals. E-cigarettes are just another type of vaporizer, many times these are one-use disposable vaporizers that can’t be fitted with refill cartridges like another type of vape pens. Just saying that “vaping makes people sick” isn’t an accurate way of talking about the problems. What’s making people sick are contaminated and fake cannabis and  CBD. While some say that they got sick from nicotine-based products, the vast majority of reports are pointing to contaminated CBD and cannabis-based products, according to an AP investigation.

Suspected Contaminants

Officials have not identified a single leading culprit in all of the vape illness cases, but all of the tainted samples that were tested have pointed to two main contaminants; synthetic THC known as K2 or Spice and a chemical cutting agent called Vitamin E acetate. K2-Spice used to be much more prevalent before states and the federal government increased regulations around 2015 regarding drugs like synthetic cannabinoids. They’re marketed as safe from producers, but caused one teen to overdose in 2016 and made numerous others sick, even before the latest vaping related illnesses started occurring. Vitamin E acetate is a cutting agent used in all kinds of products from lotions to various food products. While the chemical has been tested by the FDA for topical and edible uses, it has not been approved as an inhalent which is where the problem lies

What’s happening to people?

K2-Spice and Vitamin E acetate affect the body in different ways. Vitamin E acetate is essentially an oil, which is why it’s used to cut other types of cannabis oils. After the Vitamin E acetate is heated and inhaled into your lungs, as it cools down its coats the inside of your lungs like saran wrap, according to Leafly. K2-Spice is a synthetic psychoactive chemical that’s associated with both mental and physical side effects. Adverse reactions such as anxiety, seizures, and respiratory failure have been reported from K2-Spice use. 

Where Are The Illegal Vapes Coming From?

Contaminated products are mainly coming from unregulated CBD and cannabis markets. Last year’s farm bill essentially legalized hemp and CBD for commercial use. This is created a firestorm of CBD brands racing to grab some market share. Regulations and enforcement agencies are racing to catch up with the industry and there’s a lot of snake oil salesmen that are conning money from people looking for medicine, making hundreds of people sick in the process and killing as many as seven people so far. Contaminated products can come from gas stations, convenience stores, even un-licensed cannabis dispensaries masquerading as legal operations, a problem places like California and Michigan.

Keep Yourself Safe

Knowing all this, what can you do to keep yourself safe? 

First of all, only buy CBD and cannabis products from regulated markets. If you live in a place with legal cannabis markets, the chances of contaminated products making onto the shelves are much lower, but it's still possible, which is where the next tip comes in. You can order products online, but you need to do your homework first.

Do your research. Only buy CBD and cannabis products from brands that are transparent with their entire operation. From where they source their CBD to how they make the oil and if their oil is tested and third-party certified. Brands that aren't forth written with their products don’t deserve your money. 

Don’t believe what people tell you. There’s so much misinformation about vaping right now, you need to double and triple check the brands you buy from. Even if a knowledgable budtender tells you its safe, better to research the brand yourself just to make sure. At the end of the day, safe products exist, you just have to arm yourself with enough information to see through the smoke and find reputable producers who are only interested in selling you the medicine you’re looking for. 

Legal Purchasing Limits for Cannabis Products

Adults 21 and over can purchase up to one ounce of usable cannabis flower, 16 ounces of cannabis-infused edibles in solid form, 72 ounces of cannabis drinkables, and 7 grams of cannabis concentrates.

Three ounces of usable cannabis flower, forty-eight ounces of cannabis-infused edibles in solid form, two hundred sixteen ounces of cannabis drinkables, and twenty-one grams of cannabis concentrates, per the Washington State Department of Health.