Massachusetts links vaping illnesses with state-regulated marijuana

Massachusetts links vaping illnesses with state-regulated marijuana
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Six Massachusetts patients with probable cases of vaping-related lung injuries reported using regulated marijuana products from state-licensed dispensaries, according to new state data.

The Department of Public Health posted the information online late Thursday night as part of its weekly update. The cases mark the first time legal marijuana vaping products in Massachusetts have been linked to the outbreak of a vaping illness that has sickened nearly 2,300 people in every state. 

However, state officials did not release any information about which products the patients used or which retailers they visited. 

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Federal health officials have mainly pointed to black market THC products as a likely culprit of the mysterious vaping illness, though at least one death has reportedly been linked to oil bought legally at a dispensary in Oregon. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), products containing THC, particularly from “informal sources” such as friends, family or in-person or online dealers, are linked to most of the cases and have played a major role in the outbreak.

CDC officials have homed in on an e-cigarette cutting agent called vitamin E acetate. According to experts, vitamin E has been used in unregulated, illegal vaping products to dilute THC oil in order to maximize profits.

However, while most of the illnesses have been linked to illicit THC vapes, CDC officials have said they can’t rule out any “infiltration” of tainted products into state-licensed marijuana dispensaries. 

Massachusetts health officials listed a number of THC products that were named by patients with either probable or confirmed lung illnesses, including products labeled as “Dank.” The state did not distinguish which products were regulated and which were not.

Massachusetts legalized marijuana last year, but the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, which regulates marijuana, has banned the sale of all THC vaporizers, with the exception of medical use devices designed to exclusively vaporize the marijuana flower.

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In a statement to The Hill, the agency said it was reviewing the state’s announcement.

“Immediately, the Commission will use this new data toward its ongoing investigation into whether marijuana products manufactured by Massachusetts licensees contain substances or contaminants of concern and thoroughly explore the origin of the products identified by DPH,” a spokesperson said.

Marijuana advocates argue the lack of federal regulation around the drug puts people at risk, and the lack of information from states about the products or retailers is not helping.

Marijuana is illegal at the federal level, so companies are left to navigate a patchwork of state laws for their own marketplaces. There are 11 states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and 33 that allow medical marijuana.