Alibi V.28 No.42 • Oct 17-23, 2019 

Baked Goods

Labeled

DOH places warning on vapes

Baked Goods logo
Rob M.

Earlier this month, the New Mexico Department of Health ordered all licensed cannabis producers to start labeling their “THC vaping products” with warnings about the recent rash of vaping-related lung injuries striking THC cartridge users across the country.

In New Mexico, the number of vaping-related injuries has reached 15, and health authorities have yet to determine a cause. It seems that the majority of cases involve tainted THC cartridges—all of which were obtained through illicit channels. According to NMDOH representative David Morgan, none of the tainted cartridges came from state-approved dispensaries.

Nevertheless, the agency issued an emergency amendment earlier this month that compels producers and dispensaries to affix a label on all vaping products that reads: “Warning: Vaping cannabis-derived products containing THC has been associated with cases of severe lung injury, leading to difficulty breathing, hospitalization, and even death.” Anyone who doesn't comply could face disciplinary action and criminal penalty.

This might be a wise move on the part of the DOH—it's definitely playing it safe—but it's not likely to defend against any potential threats. As we saw earlier, none of the adulterated cartridges came from legitimate dispensaries, and unless the labeling rule applies to black market producers as well, it's doubtful that the labels will ever make it onto any dangerous products that actually need them.

It does imply that all THC vaping products are suspect, though, and will scare the bejesus out of patients who are already panicking as it is. In an age of headline-reading, many more people are going to be informed by that label rather than an article like this one. People are already being fed misinformation from their social media feeds and spreading it like wildfire. I'm just not so sure these labels will actually be helpful to anybody in the long run—maybe it will prove a boon for one of those billionaire label-producing families you hear so much about these days.

It is likely to cost a pretty penny for cannabis companies, though. And that cost will probably trickle down to the patients. But that's progress for you. Hi ho!

As of this writing, 1,299 vaping-related lung injury cases in 49 states, Washington DC and one US territory have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control. There have been 26 deaths confirmed in 21 states.

While health officials have not found a single, binding link across all the cases, the outbreak is believed to have been caused by an adulterant added to illegally produced THC cartridges. A number of theories as to the specific culprit have arisen, including those accusing vitamin E acetate, pesticides and the cadmium-containing solder used in cheap vape pens and cartridges. Who the hell knows?

Breath Tests On the Way

Authorities say new devices will make it possible to test whether someone has recently smoked marijuana.

According to The Sacramento Bee, Hound Labs in Caifornia and SannTrek in Canada are developing breath analyzing devices they say will be ready by 2020. Hound's device will reportedly show if a driver has smoked cannabis within a three-hour window.

We've been needing something like this for decades. Currently, tests can only show that a person has used THC over a window of months. That means a roadside THC test using current techniques would flag a driver who hasn't been high in months. That's completely useless. The introduction of technology along the lines being discussed by Hound Labs could potentially save both law enforcement and cannabis users a load of headaches.

But here's the problem: Even those uneducated in the current body of knowledge pertaining to cannabis (like WebMD) know that for some users, the effects from smoking marijuana last three hours at the longest. For most, the effects are over in less than an hour—and for daily or hourly smokers, the effects become even tamer and can be over in 30 minutes or less. For these patients, the choice to medicate or leave the house will become troublesome. Many cannabis users will switch to edibles, which can't be detected with breath analysis. And since edibles cause delayed, less predictable and much more potent effects, we're likely to see more cannabis-related car accidents as a result. Mark my words.

A better tack would be to use the breath analyzers to detect the presence of marijuana and then use a performance test to determine whether a driver is responding regularly to stimuli. Of course, this would require some extra training for officers (expensive). And it would also mean taking a more nuanced approach to solving a complicated problem. You know how much our authorities love expensive, nuanced approaches!

Developers also say the device will be useful in the workplace, which makes way more sense to me (so long as Weekly Alibi opts out).

Federal Study Shows Legalization Harmless

The US Justice Department paid researchers to study the effects of legalizing cannabis at the state level—and then published the report, littered with disclaimers, after it concluded that legalization wasn't harmful after all.

The authors of “Measuring the Criminal Justice System Impacts of Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization Using State Data” wanted to find out how legalization impacted law enforcement resources in both legal states and bordering, non-legal states. They also wanted to study its effects on drug trafficking. To do this, they examined arrest records in a number of states.

The conclusion: “Legalizing the recreational use of marijuana resulted in fewer marijuana related arrests and court cases; legalizing marijuana did not have a noticeable impact on indicators in states that bordered those that legalized; and, there were no noticeable indications of an increase in arrests related to transportation or trafficking offenses in states along the northern or southern borders.”

And on each and every page of the report is the disclaimer: “This resource was prepared by the author(s) using Federal funds provided by the U.S. Department of Justice. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Wocka wocka!

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