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October 3, 2019
4 min to read

Weed Industry: Throw Out Black Market THC Oil Carts

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Jim McDonald

A letter to Congress from the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and more than 800 cannabis industry members urged lawmakers to legally regulate cannabis to prevent more health problems caused by black market weed products. The letter was delivered today to House and Senate leadership, according to Marijuana Moment.

The plea was prompted by the national outbreak of lung injuries, apparently caused by adulterated THC oil in black market cartridges. Vitamin E acetate—used to dilute cannabis oil by some THC oil producers—is the target of many state investigations. As many as 17 people have died from the outbreak, and more than 800 have been hospitalized.

Cannabis remains federally illegal. The cannabis industry stakeholders are asking Congress to “deschedule” the drug (remove it from the Controlled Substances Act) and shift oversight from the Drug Enforcement Administration to the FDA or another agency dedicated to public health and safety.

"The cannabis industry has been upfront and honest from the start about black market THC oil being the likely source of the lung injury outbreak."


“Descheduling is the only way to truly reform federal cannabis policy in a sensible manner so that state regulatory programs can most successfully ensure consumer safety and to pave the way for appropriate federal regulations,” says the letter.

The illegal black market for cannabis is estimated to be $41 billion, and cannabis oil cartridges account for a large portion of that. Federal legalization and regulation of the market would make production and sale of unregulated, untested products more difficult and less attractive, and regulated products less expensive and more widely available.

Recommendations from the NCIA include:

  • Congress should remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and regulate it in a manner similar to alcohol
  • Consumers should stop using oil cartridges bought on the black market
  • Encourage licensed vape cartridge producers to stop using “thickening agents” until they have been studied
  • Licensed producers are “strongly encouraged” to voluntarily recall products containing vitamin E acetate
  • Licensed retailers (dispensaries) should “take steps to ensure none of their available vape cartridge inventories have been sourced from a producer that uses Vitamin E acetate”
  • The NCIA, along with the Cannabis Trade Federation, made similar recommendations last month, according to Marijuana Moment. Members of the legal cannabis industry were the first to point to adulterants in the black market supply as the likely source of the lung injuries.

    "The illegal black market for cannabis is estimated to be $41 billion, and cannabis oil cartridges account for a large portion of that."


    “These unfortunate illnesses and deaths are yet another terrible, and largely avoidable, consequence of failed prohibition policies,” NCIA executive director Aaron Smith said. “Current federal laws interfere with research, prevent federal regulatory agencies from establishing safety guidelines, discourage states from regulating cannabis, and make it more difficult for state-legal cannabis businesses to displace the illicit market.”

    The cannabis industry has been upfront and honest from the start about black market THC oil being the likely source of the lung injury outbreak. The earliest reporting on the outbreak that wasn’t focused on nicotine vaping products came from cannabis industry media outlets like Leafly, Merry Jane and Marijuana Times. Leafly’s David Downs has been a month ahead of the mainstream press in reporting the probable cause of the lung injuries, and has maintained a page with the latest updates.

    But mainstream press outlets have until recently focused exclusively on nicotine vaping products—mirroring the stated concerns of the CDC—leading to a misplaced national panic that has resulted in a wave of vape product bans by governors using emergency health powers.

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    Jim McDonald

    Vaping since: 13 years

    Favorite products:

    Favorite flavors: RY4-style tobaccos, fruits

    Expertise in: Political and legal challenges, tobacco control haters, moral panics

    Jim McDonald

    Smokers created vaping without help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and I believe vapers have the right to continue innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I’m a member of the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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