The vaping health crisis sweeping the U.S. is highlighting how little scientists and health officials know about the marijuana being consumed on a daily basis by millions of Americans.
That lack of research, which stems from a longstanding federal prohibition on marijuana, is becoming a problem for the $10 billion legal weed industry, where vaping products have been the fastest-growing area.
Even as marijuana rules have loosened in more than 30 states, there’s little information available on the new products that are appearing in stores across states like Colorado and California. Researchers are restricted from walking into a marijuana store in Denver or Los Angeles and buying products for testing because their funding could be jeopardized if they run afoul of federal regulations.
“It’s an absurd situation,” said Matthew Johnson, an addiction expert at Johns Hopkins University. “It hampers our ability to know the good, the bad and the ugly about cannabis use.”
Health officials have attributed more than 500 mysterious illnesses and at least eight deaths to vaping. It’s not clear exactly what’s causing the illnesses, but they’ve been reported most often in patients inhaling products containing THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Regulators are cracking down on e-cigarettes and on Sept. 24, Massachusetts also temporarily banned both cannabis and tobacco vaping products.
Published: September 26, 2019