In the past few months, the stream of alarming news about the dangers of vaporizer cartridges has put some cannabis consumers on high alert. Since March, more than 2,000 people have gotten sick, and 40 people have died from illnesses related to vaping (VAPI, or vaping associated pulmonary injury). It is believed that the large majority of those who had become ill had used THC oil carts bought from illicit markets.
Vaping has become popular with consumers in recent years because it is discreet, portable, and emits less odor than smoking. And the concentrate market — comprised of products like wax, shatter, rosin, and oils, including those contained in vape carts — has continued to surge, second only to cannabis flower sales.
According to estimates from cannabis-centric firm Arcview Market Research, in partnership with BDS Analytics,cannabis concentrate sales will reach $8.4 billion by 2022, while pre-filled vape carts — like those linked to VAPI — make up 58 percent of concentrate sales.
Even though VAPI is largely associated with products sold on the unregulated market, legal cannabis businesses have also seen a corresponding dip in vape pen and cartridge sales. Cannabis analysis firm New Frontier data reported a 15 percent drop in market share for vape sales for September, while in adult-use legal states like Massachusetts and Nevada,sales dropped by a third. In California, vape sales dropped by six percent.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have zeroed in on vitamin e acetate as the likely culprit behind VAPI. Vitamin e, when used as a supplement or topically as intended, is generally considered safe. But research has shown that inhaling vitamin e could interfere with lung function and cause the symptoms associated with VAPI: cough, shortness or breath, chest pain, and death.
So it begs the question: Why would vitamin e get added to vape carts to begin with? And is there a way for consumers to vape smartly and safely with all the uncertainty?
Civilized spoke with three experts working in various aspects of the cannabis industry: an extraction professional, the president of a cannabis business, and a medical doctor with cannabis expertise. Here are some of their thoughts on how to vape mindfully.
The Extraction Professional
Chuck Senatore, co-owner of Oregon-based Aardvark Extracts, says that making any cannabis concentrate is a multi-step process that starts with a butane, propane, or carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction method. The