Last Friday, Michigan regulators banned the sale of marijuana vape products currently on shelves until they are further tested for the presence of vitamin E acetate. This emergency action comes after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a ban on flavored vaping products with tobacco in early September, citing a “public health concern.”
The products in state licensed medical marijuana dispensaries have previously been tested state licensed safety compliance facilities (laboratories). However, a sample batch of each vape from every dispensary must be retested. Previous testing did not test for vitamin E acetate, but rather contaminates such as heavy metals, solvents and pesticides.
Vitamin E acetate found in black market vapes
The Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) also issued emergency rules on Friday banning the use of vitamin E acetate in recreational marijuana concentrates used for vaping. The emergency rules also require all vaping distillates list additives on the packaging.
The majority of vaping related illnesses, injuries and deaths among young people have been linked to black market marijuana. Most of these products also contain vitamin E acetate. Vitamin E acetate is a cheap cutting agent which is often used to thicken or dilute THC vaping liquids by illicit marijuana suppliers.
The effects of vitamin E acetate
Vitamin E acetate melds well with THC oil and is difficult for consumers to detect. While it does not appear harmful when ingested or applied to the skin, it can interfere with normal lung function when inhaled. The oil can become sticky and linger in the user’s lung.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suspects vitamin E acetate of causing 47 deaths and 2,990 lung illnesses nationwide. 1 death and 55 illnesses are linked to Michigan. Their findings have been based upon patient’s lung fluid samples. Additionally, various health departments such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advise users against vaping until further notice.
Several safety compliance facilities stated that they have not found evidence of vitamin E acetate in legal Michigan marijuana products. However, they did discover this in black market products. Testing the product’s THC potency could point to the addition of vitamin E acetate as the potency would be lower.
Regulating the marijuana black market
Generally, uncut vaping products contain an excess of 65 percent THC. Highly cut black market products contain about 20-30 percent THC. Of course, consumers of black-market marijuana products do not typically know the actual potency of the product. Therefore, they could purchase vapes containing vitamin E acetate without any knowledge.
In addition to retesting, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) plans to inspect processing facilities twice a month to ensure vitamin E acetate is not being added. Currently, there is no estimate available for how long the product retesting will take.
However, much of the legalized marijuana market and vaping industry is optimistic that once finalized, regulatory agencies and law enforcement will focus on ending the dangerous and prevalent black market.