What We Know About the Risks of Vaping... and What We Don't
Way to go, fuckboys.
We’ve all heard the ridiculous statistic that you’d have to smoke something like 1,500 pounds in 15 minutes or less in order to trigger a lethal overdose of cannabis and mankind has enjoyed thousands and thousands of years consuming the plant with no recorded fatalities from it. Cannabis advocates could even point to the federal Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) who were always a reliable source to back up the “zero deaths” claim whenever challenged… until now.
With a report earlier today of an alleged fifth vaping-related death in as many weeks, this time coming out of Los Angeles County and once again involving a cannabis based product rather than a nicotine based one, it appears that the age old argument that weed literally cannot kill you may be going up in smoke… or vapor.
WHAT WE KNOW (SORTA)
Along with the five recent deaths currently being tied to the use of vaporizers or vape pens, over 450 other individuals who have confessed to the use of a vaporizer have been hospitalized for acute lung issues in recent months.
These cases are spread across 33 states and include those who vaped nicotine based e-juices and those who vaped cannabis oil. It includes products bought off the streets and products bought in legal dispensaries. People have been hitting vape pens for years, so the sudden spike in supposed sicknesses has skeptics leery that maybe the mainstream media is just trying to fan the flames where there isn’t really a fire.
The thing is, the use and popularity of vape pens and cartridges is rapidly on the rise. Most cannabis industry prognosticators predict that this form of consumption will soon make up as much as 80% of all legal retail marijuana sales. The ease of use, the lack of flame or ash, the absence of telltale odors and the ability to choose from an endless menu of flavors have made vape carts the go-to for seasoned heads to soccer moms.
These latest headlines, however, are not limited to industry blogs and publications but are being bounced around the mainstream media as our nation’s largest news networks stumble past some key facts and questions on their race to break the “bad news” about this beneficial plant.
We know five people who used vape pens are dead from a mysterious form of acute lung disease. More than one of them was vaping cannabis oil, others were not. Common sense tells you that there are two very different denominators at play considering that both nicotine and cannabis based vaping were resulting in these same strange symptoms. So it makes sense to look at what those two things have in common instead, to hone in on a potential culprit.
This is where the fuckboys enter the story.
There are two main features that both cannabis and nicotine based vapes have in common that can both be potentially harmful to consumers – the hardware and the additives.
A CART IS A CART IS A CART… RIGHT?
The vast, vast majority of newly manufactured empty vaporizer cartridges are imported to the US from overseas, most commonly from China. As with anything else, the Chinese manufacturing market offers various levels of pricing that correspond directly with the level of quality the buyer demands.
Fuckboys with a weed hustle and a lack of morals have always gone the cheapest route on this hardware. This applied just as much to the legal cannabis market in Cali as it did to the street market until lab testing requirements began to catch up on the regulated side of things. Licensed companies were getting failed lab tests back on massive batches of pre-filled vape carts, forcing them to destroy thousands of dollars of product and hardware before it ever got to market.
It was soon revealed that cheap vape cart hardware had internal parts manufactured with poorly coated metal that could potentially be stripped off by the artificial terpenes added to most vape pen oil. Those metal coatings would melt into the oil and cause labs to flag the samples for excessive heavy metals.
Manufacturers with morals have sought out solutions that allow them to create a safe product, but far too many still don’t give a shit. Especially if they are selling solely on the streets where ain’t nobody gonna ask you for a lab test when they can save 60% off the dispensary prices.
That’s just for cannabis oil vaping. Can anyone name the regulations for vape juice lab testing? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Of course not, that shit is the wild fuckin’ west and has been for years. That basement brewed juice cooked up by Uncle Randy might be fine and dandy but once it hits that Shanghai Special you’re sucking on, all bets are off like a cheap metal coating.
‘STRAWBERRY COUGH’ SHOULDN’T SMELL LIKE STRAWBERRY KOOL AID
Another likely culprit, and one that all of these newfound vape detectives seem to be honing in on is the various products added to nicotine or raw cannabis oil (usually flavorless distillate) to give it a unique and desirable taste and to thin the product out.
Why thin it out? To make money, dummy! Oh, they’ll tell you it is to make the product flow better through the cartridge but don’t get it twisted, the more anything-but-cannabis they can jam into that cart, the better their bottom line looks. Too many self-taught extraction artists and e-juice extraordinaires have been experimenting with a squirt here and a squirt there of this flavor or that filler and we’ve all been the guinea pigs.
Some reports are pointing to “Vitamin E acetate" specifically as a potentially harmful, yet all too popular, cutting agent. These latest cases of acute lung disease are allegedly showing signs of fat or lipid buildup in the lungs. Cutting agents like Vitamin E Acetate and MCT Oil are fats. Additives like this are not regulated or tested for anywhere in the US, or likely worldwide, not even under California’s ultra-strict cannabis regs.
You might remember the fats/lipids craze coming up years ago, before the vape pen craze. That is when “winterizing” your oil post-extraction became a selling point and a visual reminder of just how much impurity remains in freshly extracted cannabis oil. These days, 99% of vape carts are filled with cannabis oil distillate, a highly refined version of cannabis oil, stripped of most of its natural spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes. Usually still ultra high in THC content, additives like terps or fatty cutting agents are then mixed in and suddenly weed is to blame for multiple deaths after thousands of years.
Like we said, way to go fuckboys.
Cannabis oil isn’t killing anyone. THC isn’t killing anyone.
Are poorly manufactured vaping products killing people? It sure is beginning to look that way.
The state of Michigan became the first in the nation to ban the sale of "flavored" nicotine-based vape products. Today’s death in LA prompted the California Department of Public Health to issue an official warning about ANY use of vaporizer products saying they are investigating 57 individual cases of vape-related lung disease.
This has many people putting down the pen for good and retreating back to a “flower-only” regimen of reefer consumption. Dabbing high quality BHO or rosin the old fashioned way – off of a perfectly calibrated Pelinail e-nail – is still as safe as it has been for the past 5,000+ years.
Even proper vape carts, sourced from companies that you KNOW are cutting no corners (or batches of oil), are still handy in certain situations BUT a wise man once said, “If you aren’t complaining about the price of your vape cart, it’s probably a fake” and those words ring more true than ever.
Be safe out there, terp hunters.