NCIA Letter to Congress Calls for Federal Action in Vaping Epidemic

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WASHINGTON, D.C. The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) today delivered a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives urging Congress to take federal action in order to mitigate the nation’s ongoing epidemic of vaping-related illness.

The letter, signed by approximately 800 individuals, included signatories from dozens of cannabis businesses such as SC Labs, Greenlane, Ionic, and Cova Software; industry advocates; and several legal experts, all calling for the immediate removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. The NCIA argued that descheduling would pave the way for adequate research and proper regulation at the federal level. Legalization could also help eliminate black market sales, from which many of the contaminated vaping products are thought to have originated.

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“This outbreak of illnesses is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy, and the direct result of failed prohibition policies,” NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith said in a statement. “It is imperative that lawmakers understand this, and know that the cannabis industry is committed to working with them to help solve this issue and prevent further suffering. We have the tools to protect cannabis consumers and improve public safety, and are ready to help Congress implement them without delay.”

Although several actions may need to be taken, NCIA argues that removing cannabis from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of banned substances should be the first move by federal authorities.

“Descheduling is the only way to truly reform federal cannabis policy in a sensible manner so that state regulatory programs can most successfully ensure consumer safety and to pave the way for appropriate federal regulations,” NCIA stated in the letter. “Our proposal calls for cannabis products, like other consumables, to be descheduled and regulated by the government agencies that currently oversee most food and drugs, primarily the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. If vaporized products were to fall under the FDA’s purview, for example, that agency could approve ingredients that are safe to be vaporized, similar to how the FDA recognizes food or alcohol ingredients as safe.”

Since cannabis is still illegal federally, each state that has legalized it for either medical or recreational use has its own unique set of laws, making it difficult to create a uniform set of safety regulations. Currently, thirty-three states have legalized either medicinal-use, recreational-use, or both. 

“The current patchwork of state regulations highlights the need for uniformity. And uniformity comes with descheduling and federal regulation,” the letter continued. “It is time to identify and ban whatever contaminants or adulterants are causing these illnesses—if they are not banned already—on a nationwide basis.”

In addition to the call for federal legalization, NCIA made several other recommendations:

  • Licensed vape cartridge producers are encouraged to halt the use, if any, of additive thickening agents until more data is available.
  • Given the preliminary reported association of some illness cases with Vitamin E acetate, any licensed producer that has included this additive in recent vape product batches is strongly encouraged to issue a voluntary recall of those products.
  • Licensed cannabis retailers are encouraged to take steps to ensure none of their available vape cartridge inventories have been sourced from a producer that uses Vitamin E acetate.
  • Cannabis vape cartridge consumers are urged to immediately cease the use of any product obtained from the illicit market and to limit any future purchases of vape cartridges and other cannabis products to state-licensed, regulated businesses.

Although the vaping epidemic has caught many off guard, NCIA believes sensible regulation could prevent others from becoming ill. 

“Make no mistake, the legal state-regulated cannabis industry knows that any death is one death too many. Fortunately, we have policy tools that can be employed to help limit the illicit market, implement uniform good manufacturing practices, and prevent future harms.”

The full NCIA letter is accessible here.

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