As the FDA Prepares to Drop a Bomb on E-Cig Hardware, Cannabis Takes Cover

Looking back on legal cannabis revenues across the United States in 2018, retail sales of concentrates, flowers and cannabis-related products continued blazing a trail to set new records for years to come.

Leading consulting and research firm, ArcView/BDS Analytics, forecasts that legal U.S. retail sales of cannabis flowers/buds will exceed $8.5 billion by the year 2020. Even more compelling is the fact that they predict the sales of cannabis concentrates will rise to match that number in the same timeframe.

By the end of 2018, cannabis concentrates alone pulled $2.9 billion in retail sales. This represents a 49% jump from 2014 when the category made up just 10% of overall cannabis sales.

Of those sales, 58% were from pre-filled vape pens.

The crazy part is, it's only going higher.

Experts agree that number will only rise and they predict that by 2020, 80% of all cannabis concentrate sales will be in the form of pre-filled vape cartridges.

That’s $6.5 billion per year for those of you without a calculator nearby.

By all estimations this appears to be a long-term trend that seems to appeal to the masses, particularly those new to cannabis like Soccer Moms & Baby Boomers that may be turned off by the natural aromas of the plant and the smoke.

Long term, that is, unless the FDA has a say in the matter.

Last week, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb went on the record with this quote that should send shivers down the spine of anyone in the vape pen game:

“I’ll tell you this. If the youth use continues to rise, and we see significant increases in use in 2019, on top of the dramatic rise in 2018, the entire category will face an existential threat…It will be game over for these products until they can successfully traverse the regulatory process.”

The “youth use” that Commissioner Gottlieb mentions is in reference to recently released U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showing that there has been a 78% increase in e-cigarette use by U.S. high school students. The study concludes that 3.6 million high school and middle school students now use e-cigarettes.

The “existential threat” that he refers to is really quite simple, and this is how it ties into the cannabis industry.

The FDA swings a mighty powerful stick in our federal government and absolutely has the authority to block e-cig hardware sales indefinitely and force manufacturers to go through the formal (costly, arduous, nitpicky) FDA approval process.

If their angle is to attack or even outlaw the hardware, then cannabis vape pen manufacturers, distributors, and retailers could see those projected billions of dollars in revenues go right up in smoke.

The FDA argues that the ease of use of e-cigs attracts kids, but they are also on a witch hunt against “candy” flavorings, that they say are aimed directly at our youth. Good luck trying to justify “Blue Dream” or “Girl Scout Cookies” cannabis oil to them.

Whether you love them, hate them, or have no opinion on them, any kid puffing on an e-cig is doing far, far less harm to their body than if they were sucking on a cigarette.

In an ideal world, teens wouldn’t see a need or have a desire to seek out illegal nicotine products. But in the real world, they do, just as they seek out alcohol and cannabis before they come of legal age. Using Commissioner Gottlieb’s logic then all booze and buds need to fall back under prohibition as well – but we won’t see that happen in our lifetimes.

What we are seeing, right now in real time, is teen cigarette use plummeting to all-time lows. And even in states where cannabis has been legalized for adult use, we are not seeing the dramatic rise in teen use of the plant that critics warned us would happen.

In fact, according to the website, “Daily, past-month, past-year, and lifetime marijuana use declined among 8th graders and remains unchanged among 10th and 12th graders compared to five years ago, despite the changing state marijuana laws during this time period. Past-year use of marijuana reached its lowest levels in more than two decades among 8th and 10th graders in 2016 and has since remained stable.”

This is great news for those of us advocating further cannabis reforms and who are sick and tired of the played out argument of “What about the kiiiiiiiids?” that our opponents on the issue continue to lazily deploy.

Unfortunately, there is a razor in that apple.

From the same site, “As with other vaping measures, marijuana vaping increased significantly from when it was first measured in 2017 to 2018. While past month marijuana vaping is fairly low—reported by 2.6 percent of 8th graders, 7.0 percent of 10th graders, and 7.5 percent of 12th graders—these numbers represent respective increases of 59.7 percent, 62.7 percent, and 50.6 percent over 2017 rates.”

The CDC released a report in November of last year which stated that between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 American teenagers – or 2 million nationwide – have used a vape pen of some sort to smoke weed or wax. This report is flawed in that it supposedly surveyed just 20,000 teens, but like most bogus polls it then attributes those miniscule sample size findings to the population at large.

Though Commissioner Gottlieb has not yet specifically singled out cannabis vape pens, he is surely aware of the stats posted above and has them stashed in his ammo belt for the day that battle begins.

The FDA has given the Top 5 tobacco dealers in the game 60 days to present a plan to the feds for how they hope to curb consumption of their products by American kids.

The fact of the matter is, if they were held to even half of the standards as “legal cannabis” is, they’d all go out of business overnight.

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