Colorado marijuana regulators finalizing ban on certain additives in cannabis vape products

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Colorado’s marijuana regulators are finalizing a ban on certain additives in cannabis vape products, a significant step given new urgency by a national crisis over a mysterious lung disease linked to e-cigarettes and marijuana vape pens.

The state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division proposed finalized rules include prohibiting certain ingredients in marijuana vaping products that will be discussed in a Tuesday public hearing. The proposed changes were crafted with information from industry stakeholders’ discussions and recommendations, said Shannon Gray, marijuana communications specialist at the Colorado Department of Revenue.

The proposed prohibitions in ingredients used in marijuana concentrates or products intended for inhalation include:Polyethylene glycol (PEG);Vitamin E Acetate; andMedium Chain Triglycerides (MCT Oil)

THC oil, in its natural form, is too thick to be atomized or vaporized. These additives are sometimes used as thinning agents to cut the oil and make it possible for vaporization and inhalation. While the research is still in its infancy, multiple studies have shown that polyethylene glycol breaks down into carcinogens when vaped at high temperatures.

Another rule change mandates that additives within concentrates or products intended to be inhaled through a cannabis vape would need to be listed on the product label. And vaping devices containing the product or concentrate would need to be labeled as “Not approved by the FDA.”

The rule, if approved, will go into effect Jan. 1.

“I think it’s a good first step and positive sign,” said Tyrell Towle, director of chemistry at the state’s first licensed cannabis research facility MedPharm. “It shows MED is willing to take a strong action and go as far as banning a substance that could be harming people’s health in an acute way, which is terrible. This lung disease comes quickly, and it can be devastating. To me, we should be doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen in Colorado.”

Colorado has one of the highest youth vaping rates in the country and is one of dozens of states responding to a mysterious vaping-related lung disease that has sickened more than 1,000 people and killed at least 18 across the nation. There were nine cases of the vaping illness in Colorado as of Wednesday with seven people hospitalized, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested the public refrain from using e-cigarette products, particularly those containing THC.

“I made a strong push at this time in response to recent news,” Towle said.

Stephen Goldman, owner of cannabis testing company PhytaTech, was surprised the additive bans made it into the final proposed rules this quickly.

“Probably some pressure from what we see from other states that is putting the impetus to make these moves,” Goldman said.

Kristi Kelly, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, said these changes are “not very surprising” in light of the concerns presented as part of the federal government’s investigation into vaping.

The public has a final chance on Tuesday to weigh in on the rule changes. The proposed rules then head to the State Licensing Authority, which decides whether to make them official.

Multiple members of the rule-making committee said the final proposed rules rarely see significant changes once they’re sent to the Licensing Authority.

“At this point, I don’t see it not going through,” Towle said.

He said cannabis manufacturers were resistant to the proposed changes. The additive ban was brought up more than a year ago in one of the MED’s committees, Towle said, but was dropped in order to focus on “less controversial” issues.

“Everybody should not be using additives, because they’re totally unnecessary to the manufacturing process,” Towle said. “Why add things that could be harmful, or probably are harmful, when you don’t need to?”

Towle hopes more additives are banned in the future, such as vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol.

“They need to do more soon,” Towle said.

Goldman agreed, adding that, if passed, the ban would be “the tip of the iceberg.”

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