Cali Lawmakers Call Emergency Hearing on Vaping - Here's How to Make Your Voice Heard

This past Sunday marked the official end of the 2019 legislative session here in California, with many cannabis-friendly bills successfully earning the governor’s signature of approval, but state lawmakers are not done just yet.

In the wake of the kneejerk reaction from the public and the media regarding the sudden slew of vaping-related illnesses and reported deaths, politicians from the President of the United States down to state and local governments are considering some bold steps in hopes of containing the problem.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of a week ago today on October 8, 2019, 1,299 lung injury cases associated with using vaping products have been reported from 49 states and one U.S. territory. So far, twenty-six deaths have been confirmed in 21 states, including three in California.

As the federal government drags its feet on the topic, ignorantly insisting the entire time that all we need to do is get rid of the different flavors, states are taking it upon themselves to take action but, in their haste, are often missing the bigger picture as well.

Case in point, this rolling wave of bad news for vaping convinced California’s Governor Gavin Newsom to do what he tends to do best – throw money at the issue. On September 16th of this year, the governor pledged to put $20,000,000 toward a billboard and digital ad campaign aimed at dissuading Cali’s youth from any urge to vape. That is slack-tivism at its finest.

But as the WORLD’S 5th largest economy, and with a burgeoning regulated cannabis market just beginning to get its legs under it, the state of California cannot rely on a lack of Mango flavorings or a twenty million dollar dart thrown blindly at the board. So tomorrow lawmakers from California Assembly Committees on Governmental Organization, Business & Professions, and Health will hold the first of two joint hearings specifically on the topic of vaping including the health effects and the regulatory landscape surrounding both THC and nicotine-based vape products.

This first meeting will take place tomorrow, October 16th, 2019 in Sacramento at the State Capitol. This hearing will take place at 1:00pm sharp in room 4202. There, lawmakers will hear from experts from UC Davis and the Department of Public Health, they’ll hear from industry regulators like Lori Ajax from the Bureau of Cannabis Control, and they’ll hear from industry insiders, but who they really need to hear from is YOU.

Time for public comments directly to the lawmakers in attendance will be provided. You’ll only get one minute to speak, so being prepared and having a clear, concise message is a key, but we need as many people as possible to show up to these hearings and respectfully get our point across that we do not ban or prohibit cars, or firearms, or anything based on the fact that a kid might mishandle it. A discussion about how to keep vape products away from children is really a discussion about shitty parenting, and nobody wants to have that discussion, right?

Our concern is for cannabis-based vaping, which plays an essential role for many consumers, including medical patients. The problem, as we see it, is trash vape carts from the streets where cheaply made hardware combined with a propensity to cut corners AND oil with viscous fillers. That is the only way that anyone under the age of 21 can get their hands on a THC-filled vape cart since California’s regulated industry has strict laws regarding age restriction. No legal, licensed cannabis company is going to risk the hundreds of thousands of dollars and the years of time it took them to get legal just to push $40-50 carts to kids. It’s just not happening.

If you can make it to this crucial hearing tomorrow, here are a few ideas to help you formulate the most effective script for your 60 seconds of spotlight. Remember, our focus is on putting a good face and voice behind cannabis, and reminding these lawmakers that the legal market already has rules in place. Of course, feel free to manipulate this proposed set of talking points to match your voice and your goal, but this should help you get started.

  • Briefly but confidently introduce yourself, where you live, and (if applicable) what type of cannabis license you hold.

  • Remind the room that cannabis-related vaping illnesses are a product of the illicit market which is already fueled by de facto prohibition across the state.

  • 75% of CA cities and counties voted in favor of Prop 64 in 2016, but now in 2019 75% of cities and counties have banned legal access to regulated cannabis. Anywhere those bans are in place provide wide open markets for untested and unregulated products that will continue to do harm.

  • A full-scale ban on vaping will almost surely lead to more consumers using unregulated vapes from unlicensed sellers.

  • If the goal is to protect the public health and safety of Californians, then banning licensed, taxed, and tested vape products which by law must be free from pesticides, heavy metals, residual solvents, mold, and bacteria will not achieve that goal.

  • Remind the room that nobody is more committed to understanding the true underlying reasons for vaping illnesses than the legal cannabis industry and its consumers. We all want products that are safe for consumers and patients.

  • Thank everyone for their time and their consideration.

History has proven time and again that prohibition is a lazy tactic and it never works – cannabis is a prime example. This is an industry born from equal parts compassion and ingenuity, and these illnesses are the first time in history that cannabis has been linked to the death of a consumer. Of course, we know that these illnesses and deaths have absolutely zero to do with the THC cannabinoids floating around inside the vape carts, but again these naïve lawmakers don’t know shit about any of this and so what they decide to be their next move can potentially have dire consequences for the legal cannabis market in California.

Since the state’s regulated weed industry left the gates in 2018 it has faced a handful of jarring changes to regulations that many insiders referred to at the time as possible “extinction events” for the struggling legal market. Alas, it made it through the edibles potency fiasco and the lab testing crackdowns, but if pre-filled cannabis vape cartridges are eliminated from the regulated market altogether, not only will that rapidly rising stream of revenue vanish immediately, it will go across the street to the neighborhood dealer.

If you can make it to tomorrow’s hearing in Sac-town, please do and please represent this plant properly. The second hearing has not been scheduled yet but the tone of tomorrow’s will be telling.


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